Thursday, December 7, 2017

489 Furby Street - Patricia Court Apartments R.I.P.

Source: Google Street View, 2016

Place: Patricia Court Apartments
Address: 489 Furby Street (Map)
Constructed: 1911 - 1912
Architect: Unknown
B. Minkevich, Winnipeg Free Press

On the night of December 4, 2017, 489 Furby Street, once known as the Patricia Court apartments, had a major fire. It is believed that the building cannot be salvaged. Before it is gone, here's a look back at its history.

This fifteen-unit apartment block opened in 1912 with the unfortunate name "The Favonius" but within a year was rechristened Patricia Court. The builder may have been J. T. Bergman who received a permit for a $50,000 apartment went overseas with the building on this block in April 1911.

The initial roster of tenants were what you would expect in a middle-class block. They included Francis Alfred who was the secretary of the Winnipeg branch of the North American Life Assurance Company, Edwin Brownlee a salesman at Alaska Bedding, Stewart Cuthbert an electrician at Eatons, and Francis Megarry who worked as a clerk a Eatons.

During the first World War, Patricia Court was home to Robina Walker. She relocated there after her husband, David Campbell Walker, enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders in 1915.

Walker was injured twice during the war but survived and was able to return and live out a full life with Robina.

Another  woman who lived at Patricia Court during the war was Irene Chadwick. She was the wife of William Francis Chadwick, a newspaper man who had worked at Winnipeg papers and had recently taken a job as circulation manager at the Moos Jaw Daily News. When it came time to enlist, the two returned to Winnipeg.

In April 1916, Chadwick received a gunshot wound to the head. He survived, thanks to the fact that he was wearing his helmet, but initial reports indicated he might not survive.

He spent six weeks in a British hospital and was eventually declared unfit for service and returned to Canada in August 1916.

What became of the Chadwicks is unknown.

1924 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1924, Mary Scarlett Knox briefly moved in with her son who lived at number 9 and taught music from the suite.

Knox had been a was a well-known pianist since her teenage years, playing at recitals and weddings or accompanying singers at benefit concerts. After studying in Canada and overseas, she turned her hand to teaching and went on to have long, local career.

Her time at Patricia Court only lasted a year and by 1926 she had a proper studio in the U of M's music and arts building.

June 21, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

Not everyone had a happy time at Patricia Court.

Peter Carroll of suite A was one of five people who attended a drinking party on Ellen Street in June 1923. Their choice of drink was something called Sterno Canned Heat, a combination of ethanol and methanol mixed with parafin wax that was sold as a portable heat source.

There were crude methods of processing Canned Heat into a beverage. It would be watered down, supplemented with additional ethanol, infused with some fruit, (or in this case, ginger), to kill the taste, and then finely strained to remove the wax.

Drinking Canned Heat was not an uncommon practice during prohibition, when hard liquor was scarce, or for the destitute who couldn't afford anything else. Its was a problem for cities across North America.

In Winnipeg through the 1920s about ten people died and dozens were blinded each year from drinking it.

1928 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

On that night, the Ellen Street partiers got their mixture wrong and two of them died.

Police tracked down Carroll at his Patricia Court apartment and found him complaining of a severe stomach ache and completely blind. He died the next day in hospital.

Carroll had difficulties with alcohol for some time. His name appears in the papers a few times in the 19-teens and early 1920s after being arrested on vagrancy or alcohol-related charges.

He did appear to be turning his life around, though.

His last arrest for vagrancy was in 1921 but by 1923 he had his own apartment and a job as a clerk with the Winnipeg Grain and Produce Clearing House.

Sadly, his addiction or bad choice of friends, or both, cost him his life.

1937 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

There were other musicians who called Patricia Court over the years.

In the early 1950s it was Palmi Palmason, a violinist and violin teacher whose career started in the 1920s. 

One of his earliest students was his sister, Pearl Palmason. She was such a talent that in the 1930s she went on to London and New York to perfect her craft and returned to have a 40-year career with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She is considered a trailblazer for women in classical music. (Pearl stayed with Palmi at patricia Court in 1953 during a visit.)

Palmi played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s and 1950s before eventually moving to Toronto.

1927 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

The name Patrica Court began to disappear from rental ads in favour of "489 Furby" starting in the mid-1960s.

In October 2013, Patricia Court was put up for sale with an asking price of $1.4 million.

Winnipeg Fire - Paramedic Service update
West End fire sends six people to hospital Global News
Firefighters battle Furby Street blaze Winnipeg Free Press

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