Friday, November 2, 2018

448 Sherbrook Street - Oddson House

Place: Thorstein Oddson House
Address: 448 Sherbrook Street (Map)
Constructed: 1905 - 06
Architect: Paul Melsted Clemens

Oddson House was built in 1905 - 06 for Thorsteinn Oddson.

Born and raised in Iceland, Oddson came to Manitoba in 1887 with wife Rakel. After working as a carpenter and running a hardware store in Selkirk, the family moved to Winnipeg in 1901.

Oddson then partnered with fellow Icelanders Skuli Hansson and John Vopni in a real estate, investment and insurance firm. Though their offices were located downtown, the company concentrated most of their efforts on the West End.

In 1905, Oddson purchased the large lot at 448 Sherbrook Street on which to build a new family home.

May 17, 1897, Winnipeg Tribune

The lot had always been extra wide. The original house that stood here, ca 1896 - 1904, was that of Henry and Lizzie Buley and took up even more than the two lots it occupied when Oddson bought it, indicating it was also a hobby farm or had pasture land for horses.

Buley was the business agent for the city's typographical union and the family was very involved with Holy Trinity Anglican Church. When the church decided to create "St. Matthews Mission" to serve the West End in 1897, the Buley home was its first location hosting evening worship services and a Sunday school for 40 children.

It was the Buleys that purchased land at the corner of Sherbrook and Ellice on which the mission built its first church. A new building was constructed in 1908 and is now the West End Cultural Centre.

Paul Melsted Clemens fonds, Archives of Manitoba

The architect of Oddson's new home was fellow Icelander Paul Melsted Clemens who designed dozens of buildings, mostly apartment blocks, for Oddson and other developers. 

Melsted's drawings for the proposed residence can be found at the Manitoba Provincial Archives. They show a two-and-a-half storey, 2,856 square foot structure with two parlours a den, dining room and kitchen on the main floor. Upstairs, there were five bedrooms and a bathroom. There are no drawings for the partial top floor.

A generous veranda skirted two sides of the house and a master bedroom balcony, now removed, overlooked Sherbrook Street.

The Oddson family continued living in the home until 1924 when Thorstein and Rakel retired to Los Angeles.

The house then began its life as a boarding house offering rooms to rent with light housekeeping service.

Initially, it appears to have had a two-room suite on the main floor and the rest of the house was one unit. In 1927, it had as many as four residents at a time. Most renters were short-term and none appear to have lived there for more than a year.

August 27, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

By the Second World War there were as many as eight people listed as living at this address, though some were away on active duty and at least one was the wife of someone on active duty. This was common during the war years for families or couples to downsize their living accommodations to boarding houses when the "man of the house" went off to war for little pay.

One such woman was Mary McConnell. Her husband, George, and sons, George Jr. (23) and Bill, were all part of the Dieppe raid in August 1942. Twice in 1942 George Jr., who was described by his mother as "all legs", was listed as missing in action but later discovered to be safe. In late August, though, he was listed as wounded.

It appears that all of the McConnell men survived the war.

One woman at 448 Sherbrook who wasn't as lucky was Jeanette Murray. Her son, Cyril, who also listed 448 Sherbrook as his home address was killed in action.

Murray was a Kelvin grad who enlisted in August 1940. Initially, he trained troops in anti-gas warfare here in Canada before joining the Winnipeg Light Infantry and going overseas in March 1942. There, he was transferred to the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and died on December 7, 1943. He is buried in the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery.

After the war, the home continued on as a rooming with with three to six residents listed each year. They had occupations such as taxi driver, retail clerk, mechanic, telephone operator and all stayed for brief periods.

One exception was retired couple Walter and Emily Baldwin.

Thorvaldur (Walter) was born in Baldur in 1890 and came to Winnipeg at the age of 20. He was a mechanic by trade who worked on garment industry machinery at places such as the Northern Shirt Company and Rice Knitting.

Ingeborg Arina (Emily) Oddleifsson was born and raised in the Arborg area and attended school at Geysir.  In 1905, at the age of thirteen, she came to Winnipeg to continue her education.

The two married in 1916 and had three children. They were members of First Lutheran Church on Victor Street and long-time residents of 1065 Dominion Street before moving to 448 Sherbrook in the early 1950s where Walter's occupation was listed as retired.

The Baldwins are sometimes listed in the annual Henderson Directories as "residents" and sometimes as "homeowners". They could have been the live-in caretakers who performed the light housekeeping advertised in classified ads or they may have been the owners and rented out the five or so rooms as Mr. Baldwin would have only been around 60 when they moved in, which is quire early for retirement.

The couple were still living at the home when Walter died in 1968. Emily died at the Tudor Nursing home at Selkirk in 1982.

Top: Boarded up in 2018. Bottom: Under renovation in 2009

The house continued on as a rooming house, offering no services like housekeeping, until the 2010s. During this time it appears to have had a quiet existence with no newspaper reports of fires or major crimes taking place there.

It was listed for sale in 2006 and was likely vacant by that point as the ad states that it was a "former rooming house". The local neighbourhood association noted that the house was "vacant, derelict and under repair" in January 2008. Those repairs continued through the summer of 2009.

The house was sold in late 2009 for an unknown price and again in 2016 for $277,000.

In October 2018 the house was boarded up and is expected to be demolished.

Oddson House to be demolished? West End Dumplings
Thorstein Oddson's West End West End Dumplings
My photo album of 448 Sherbrook

1 comment: