Saturday, April 18, 2020

10 Charles Street - Tessler's Iron and Metal (R.I.P.)

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Top: Google Street View. Bottom: Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service

On Friday, April 17, 2020, the vacant former Tessler Iron and Metal scrap yard at 10 Charles Street at Sutherland Avenue was destroyed by fire.


In the early 1920s, Michael Tessler of 671 Stella Avenue was manager of Canadian Excelsior Mills at 305 Sutherland Street. (Excelsior is a type of wool made from wood shavings.) The company closed around 1925 and Tessler, 48, decided to become a scrap dealer. He had previously been manager of the Dominion Metal Exporting Co. so had experience in the scrap metal business.

In 1926, he set up Tessler's Rag, Iron and Metal Company at that former excelsior mill site on Sutherland Street.

The address was 305 Sutherland, which today is three blocks away near Powers, but the street may have been renumbered. This address appears in street directories well into the 1940s, though newspaper mentions through the 1930s describe the company as being on Charles Avenue at Sutherland.

July 20, 1934, Winnipeg Free Press

Tessler didn't advertise in the daily papers but did make the news in the 1930s for a pair of long strikes.

Tessler's eight employees went on strike July 10, 1934 demanding better working conditions and pay. It was one of a number of strikes, particularly among garment workers, to take place that month.

The picket line was peaceful until July 18th when strikers tried to prevent one of Tessler's trucks from entering the yard. One man was arrested. Then, at around 3:00 am on he morning of July 30, stones were thrown through five windows of the Tessler family home on Stella Street.

The strike ended on August 7 when the workers accepted a 5 cent per hour raise and reduced work week.

In the fall of 1937 Tessler's now 30 employees went on strike again seeking a 5 cent per hour raise, an eight hour work day instead of nine, and recognition of the Metal Workers Union. This strike ended on October 22 with workers agreeing to a 44-hour work week, a wage increase, overtime pay, but no recognition of the union.

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Google Street View
In August 1938, Tessler took out a $1,500 building permit to erect two metal buildings at Charles Street and Sutherland Avenue. The following year, another $500 permit was given to expand a warehouse building.

By this time, Tessler's son, Barry, had joined the business. He took time off during the war and graduated as wireless air gunner from the RCAF training school at Mountain View, Ontario in September 1944.

After the war, Barry rejoined the business and in 1948 Michael Tessler retired.

Michael Tessler was known for being more than just a businessman. He and his wife were very involved in the Jewish community. At times he was president of the Jewish Old Folks home, Winnipeg Hebrew Free School and board member of Jewish Orphanage of Western Canada.

Upon his death on November 5, 1951 at the age of 74, the Jewish post described him as a "very creative and colourful force in the Jewish community."

Google Street View
Barry married Eileen Goldberg in February 1950 and they settled at 570 Waterloo Street in River Heights.

Barry retired from the business in 1982 and died January 2, 2001. His obituary described him as "a creative and entertaining raconteur with a great sense of humour".


The business did carry on under the Tessler name. In 2004, the company purchased the remaining lot on the block, a grassed in section along Jarvis Avenue, from the city.

The land was for sale in 2016. It is unclear who purchased it, but news reports indicate that the site was vacant at the time of the fire.

© 2012, 2020 Christian Cassidy

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