Tuesday, March 20, 2018

415 Graham Avenue - Lonely House

c 2018, Christian Cassidy
Address: 415 Graham Avenue, 250 - 252 Kennedy Street 
Architect: Unknown
Constructed: 1900 - 1901

At the core of the cluster of commercial buildings at 415 Graham Avenue and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street is one of the last, lonely houses in Winnipeg's central downtown area, a hint of its residential past. Other examples can be found at 130 Fort and, until its recent demolition, 175 Donald.

The house first appears in the Henderson Directory of 1901 with Wilford Phillips as the owner. it is unclear if he had the house built for him.

Phillips came to Winnipeg in August 1900 with his wife to be superintendent of the Winnipeg Street Railway, the city’s streetcar service. He had held similar jobs in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls before coming here.

The couple did not stay long at this address. By June 1901 they had relocated to a home on Assiniboine Avenue.

June 1901
May 1918
April 1922

The house then became a rooming house run by Mrs, J. Matthews (or Mathies), widow. Classifieds advertising "rooms for rent" began appearing in local papers as early as June 1901.

Initial tenants of the rooming house included: A Murray, schoolteacher; Mrs. J. Mathies, widow; and B. Hamilton CPR land department clerk. It continued on as short-term lodgings for office workers, students and the like for more than three decades. Few tenants stayed for more than a year or two.

Bertha Goggan was a resident in 1930. She appeared in a testimonial ad for Sargon stomach remedy, claiming that for 25 years she had such terrible stomach issues that even eating bread was a chore. Sargon, she claimed, changed her life.

Angie Petroni, left, and Sam, right, Wolfe in the middle.
June 28, 1937, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1936 - 37 the Petroni family roomed here.

In June 1937, two of their children, Angie (12) and Sam (27) and a companion, Josephine Wolfe, went on a house boat excursion along the Red River to Lake Winnipeg. They ended up getting stuck on a sand bar and were stranded for most of the day.

Wolfe swam to shore through the marsh to flag down help and the group was rescued safely. For her trouble, she later received a Royal Canadian Humane Society medal for heroism.

Top: both houses, ca. 1935 (source)
Bottom: September 8, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

In September 1937, the house was put up for sale by owner Jack Nelson. The ad noted that the nine-room house had a 33 foot frontage and would make an "ideal business site", which was true as ten months earlier the Bay's downtown store opened at the end of the block.

The purchaser was William R. Lane who already had much to do with transforming that corner of Kennedy Street and Graham Avenue.

In 1935, he bought the neighbouring house at 252 Kennedy Street at Graham and hired architect  Edgar Prain to build two attached retail units that fronted onto Kennedy.

Lane lived at the 252 Kennedy house before and after the construction, suggesting that this house was also incorporated into the retail units.

 Top: June 25, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

For 415 Graham Avenue, Lane turned again to Prain to design a $2,300, single-storey retail extension to the front of the house which brought its footprint to the sidewalk. The interior of the house also got an "extensive" renovation.

A May 1938 newspaper mention stated that the work would be done under Lane's supervision using day labour, but the work either turned out to be too complicated or Lane fell ill as a June 25, 1938 mention states that contractor A. E. Hawkings would do the work.

Five days later, on July 1, 1938, William Lane died at his home on 252 Kennedy.

The work was completed, excavation began in late July, and his estate sold off 415 Graham and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street as a single property. (Today, they are still one legal property under "413 Graham Avenue.")

Part II: The Retailers

September 23, 1939, Winnipeg Free Press

The first retailer to call this space home was the Hobby Craft Centre. Little is known about the company and in September 1940, it went bankrupt.

October 11, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

On October 26, 1940, Hollingsworth and Co. opened a girls' fashion shop here.

Hollingworth's was a well-known clothing retailer in the city. Its women's wear store was established in 1915 by George H Steweart on the main floor of the Boyd Building. By the 1930s, it had branches in Regina and Calgary.

In 1947, the company was bought out by Alex Mitchell who would go on to build the Dayton's Department Store on Portage Avenue.

The girls store remained at this address until 1953 while the women's wear store in the Boyd Building lasted until the early 1970s.

Top: April 30, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press

In April 1955, the space became home to Mario's Beauty Salon.

Mario Zava was born in Italy during the Depression and came to Canada in with $18 in his pocket. he knew no English but was a skilled hairstylist. He married Estela Spiwak in the early 1950s and opened his flagship beauty salon here.

Marios' grew into a chain of four salons by the mid-1960s, attracting many other stylists who only went by their first name.

The 415 Graham location closed circa 1970.

February 6, 1971, Winnipeg Free Press

The next retailer to move in was Regent Optical in 1971. Like Hollingsworth, it also had a store in the Boyd Building.

The company celebrated its 25th anniversary at this address in 1986 and remained until 1989.


In 1991, a shift from retailing came when SKY, Street Kids and Youth, opened. It was a two-year pilot project run by the YM / YWCA to help children who were experiencing homelessness. When funding ran out in 1993, the program closed.

The property was for lease through most of the 1990s.

In 2000, it became the home of Bridal Elegance, which lasted until around 2013. The store has remained vacant ever since.

In 2017, the facade of the retail portion of the building got a makeover along with the rest of the stores on the property.