Monday, November 29, 2021

898 Westminster Avenue - Commercial Building

© September 2021, Christian Cassidy


Name: Commercial Building
Address: 898 Westminster Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1932
Architect: Unknown
Uses:
1932 - 33: W. Colish Grocery
1933 - 35: Westminster Drug Store
1935 - 36: Trillier's Drug Store
1936 - 37: Variety Bake Shop
1938 - 39: Parker's Bake Shop
1939 - 43: Your Handy Store
1943 - 44: Kearne Grocey
1944 - 45: Ron Glass Grocery
1946 - 60: Gil's Grocery
1960 - 05: Gil’s Automatic Wash and Dry
2005 - 18: The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café
2019 - 21: The Ruby West
2021:         Bonnie Day


May 1932, Winnipeg Free Press

A $2,000 building permit was issued to Isaac Colish to construct a 22-foot by 28-foot commercial building at 898 Westminster Avenue in May 1932. At the time, it was the only building on this block of Wolseley Avenue between Lenore and Ruby streets. It was joined the following year by a Safeway store at number 894. 

It is unclear why this block of land remained vacant for so long after the Wolseley neighbourhood was formally subdivided by the city around 1910. There is nothing to suggest that the neighbouring house at 127 Ruby Street had a large side yard for stables or an industrial shop. In fact, there was a beauty salon on Ruby between the house and Westminster Avenue.

McPhillips’ 1910 map of Winnipeg, which was part map and part development plan, shows Wolseley as it was transitioning into a modern neighbourhood. It suggests that the land may have been owned by the city as it notes a "school site" at Ayr Avenue, now Westminster Avenue, at Ruby Street.

The general practice at the time was that the school board identified potential school sites and the city would purchase and hold the land and later transfer it to the board.

The area’s elementary school, Laura Secord School, ended up being built a block away on Wolseley Avenue and Ruby Street, not here.  With the land no longer needed for a school, it appears the city tried to make it the home of Wolseley’s fire hall. 

In March 1913, the Fire and Light committee of city council chose the intersection of “Westminster and Ruby” as the home of Fire Hall No. 14. The decision was forwarded to city council to ratify so that the tenders could be let for its construction. For reasons that don’t appear to have been reported in the newspapers, the fire hall ended up being built on Lipton Street at Westminster Avenue instead. 

The land is not mentioned again in newspapers until Mr. Colish’s building permit was issued in 1932. This suggests the city may have held onto it until it became clear that there would be no other civic uses for it.

Isaac Colish was born in Lithuania in 1878 and came to Winnipeg in 1907 with his wife, Anne, and their four children. They settled in West Kildonan and opened the municipality’s first grocery store at 1969-1973 Main Street, (now best known as home to Blondie’s Burgers). The family lived upstairs until the early 1920s. 

The Colishs became pillars of their community. Isaac served on the West Kildonan municipal council in the 19-teens. He was also a Justice of the Peace and was appointed Manitoba’s first Jewish police magistrate. 

How Isaac Colish, or son William who would manage the new store, became interested in constructing land in Wolseley in 1932 is unclear.  Prior to operating the store, William was a clerk at the Main Street store and lived in the residence above it. He was also secretary of Northern Grocery on Jarvis Street which appears to have been a consortium of independent grocers with a joint warehouse.

W. Colish Grocery on Westminster Avenue did not last long. Street directories indicate that it closed in 1933, likely to coincide with the opening of the Safeway store next door.

The next business to call 898 Westminster home was Westminster Drug Store. 

Winnipeg-born Daniel M. Salak graduated in 1928 from the U of M's School of Pharmacy. His yearbook described him as “A good worker, square shooter, and, in all, a real asset to the class.” 

After graduation, Salak became manager of the Brathwaite Drug Store chain's Main Street branch. In July 1931, he took over McBurney's Drug Store at 499 Ellice at Spence and renamed it Salak's Drug Store. He moved his business to Westminster Avenue in 1933.

At around 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, 1934, Salak was robbed at gunpoint. Armed holdups of drug stores, usually for narcotics, were commonplace in the 1930s. This was the fourth one that month.  

Salak had been robbed at least once before in February 1926 when a gunman burst into Moyer's Drug store where he worked as a clerk and yelled “Hold up your hands or I'll blow your brains out” and dragged him into the dispensary area.  

The 898 Westminster Avenue robbery went much the same with Salak being told “stick ‘em up” by a “glassy-eyed gunman” who made off with $60 and a stash of narcotics. 

What is noteworthy about the 1934 robbery is who the bandit was.

George “Shea” Jayhan, 34, a heroin addict according to newspapers, carried out a string of robberies that year to feed his habit. His spree came to an end in late July when he held up the Norbridge Pharmacy on St. Mary’s Road.  

Police were on the scene shortly after the robbery took place and gave chase to Jayhan. In the resulting shoot-out, Jayhan killed Sergeant John Verne of the St. Boniface Police Department and the father of six children. 

Jayhan confessed to several robberies, including that of the Westminster Drug Store, and was put on trial for the murder of Verne. He was found guilty and hanged at Headingley Gaol in February 1935.

Salak sold the business in 1935 and relocated to Toronto. For about a year or so, the business was was known as Trillier's Drug Store owned by Toble Trillier of 541 Boyd Avenue. 

In 1936, it became Variety Bake Shoppe with George R Thomas as proprietor. The business was put up for sale in October 1937 and appears to have sat empty for about a year before it became Parker's Bakery owned by Mrs. Marie Clark.

In 1939, the building became home to “Your Handy Store”, a small grocery and confectionery shop. This may seem an odd choice of business with a Safeway still on the block, but the chain store was preparing to move to a larger location at 775 Westminster Avenue the following year.

Your Handy Store had a couple of proprietors. For the first year or two it was Mrs. Audrey E. Lockyer of 73 Arlington Street. The store was put up for lease in October 1941 and was taken over by George Stevens. It closed around 1943.  

It then became William Kearne Grocery in 1944, and Ron Glass Grocery in 1946.

In 1946, Gil’s Grocery, owned by brothers Nathan and Harry Gilfix of 426 Bannerman Avenue, opened at 898 Westminster.

Nathan was born in Winnipeg and attended St. John’s High School, though he left before graduating to work at Oretzki’s Department store on Selkirk Avenue. He served with the RCAF in World War II and soon after returning met Riva whom he married in March 1953. The couple had twin boys, Murray and Perry.  

In 1956, Nathan left the grocery business to work at Modern Headwear Ltd., a company started by his father-in-law. His two sons eventually worked there and the company, now known as Modern Promotions, is run by a third generation of the family. 

Harry Gilfix was also born and raised in Winnipeg and attended St. John's High School. He also served in the RCAF from 1939 to 1945. It seems that Harry did not marry. His obituary mentions leaving to mourn his “loving companion Annette” and daughter, Doris.

In 1960, Harry changed the business from a grocery store to Gil’s Automatic Wash and Dry laundromat. He then went into the real estate business with a small firm called Gil’s Realty.  

Harry tried unsuccessfully to sell the laundry in 1969 then began to lease it out. It is likely that Gilfix owned the building until 1983, the year before he died at the age of 65.  In 1983, D. G. West received approval from the city to construct an extension to the rear of the building which expanded the laundromat from about 620 square feet to the present 1,100 square feet. 

The building remained a laundromat until 2005.


Source: The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café Facebook page

The next owner of 898 Westminster was Bill Fugler.  

Fugler, from Pointe Claire, Quebec, came to Winnipeg in 1992 to be the writer-in-residence at the St. Norbert Arts Centre. After a three-year stint in Japan teaching English, in 1999 he and his now ex-wife, Mari Campbell, moved to Arlington Street in Wolseley. 

In 2005, Fugler saw a for sale sign on 898 Westminster that read “Thanks for 16 years of business, if you forgot your pants give us a call.”  He recalled his conversation with Mr. West, “He told me that the machines were being vandalized too often. He also said that the place would be packed on hot days but there would be only one machine running, everyone else would be relaxing in the air conditioning.” 

Fugler says, “I opened the store because I had seen a lot of people talking on street corners in Wolseley and I wanted to provide people with somewhere to hang out. I loved books and used bookstores, so I added that in the mix. I was partly inspired by the former Heaven Book and Art Cafe on Corydon.” 

Bill and Mari Fugler ran the business together from its opening in 2005 until about 2009, then Bill ran it on his own. 

The Neighbourhood Bookstore and Café, which became a popular neighbourhood hangout, as Fugler hoped, and live music venue, closed in August 2018.


Source: The Ruby West Facebook page

In December 2018, Erin and Peter Keating and Laura and Jamie Hilland purchased the building. After a few months to receive the necessary permits and an extensive, five-month-long renovation, The Ruby West restaurant opened on November 15, 2019.  In 2021, Brian Johnson and Rachael King purchased Erin and Pete's shares of The Ruby West.

In November 2021 it was reported that Rachel King and Brian Johnson, King's partners and Ruby West's Kitchen manager since it opened, had purchased the business and rebranded it Bonnie Day. they told the Free Press that they plan to "ramp up the cosiness and elevate the menu."

The new restaurant had its 'soft opening" on November 22 and will have its grand opening on December 1, 2021.

Thanks to The Gilfix family, Bill Fugler, and Jamie Hilland for contributing to the content of this blog post.


July 21, 1984, Winnipeg Free Press


February 6, 2002,
The Jewish Post

Friday, November 26, 2021

655 Main Street - Manwin Hotel

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Windsor Hotel / Maple Leaf Hotel / Roosevelt Hotel / National Hotel / Manwin Hotel / National Hotel
Address: 655 Main Street
Opened: 1889
Original Architect: Unknown
Rooms: 30

It seems that the ManWin Hotel may not be long for this world. It was closed down in February 2021 by health inspectors for a lack of heat and in November 2021 owners are fighting as much as $150,000 in fines for a list of other health violations that they say they cannot afford to pay. (For more information about their failed appeal of $38,400 of those fines, see here and the attached exhibits in the agenda page.)

It modern-ish exterior and numerous name changes over the decades makes it a difficult business to research. Here's a look back at its history.


December 16, 1890, Winnipeg Tribune

Most Main Street hotels celebrated their opening and ongoing existence with with frequent ads promoting their reasonable rates, comfortable rooms and in-house restaurant. The hotel at 655 Main, just a couple of minutes from the CPR station, rarely advertised throughout its 130+ years, preferring instead to be a primarily residential hotel for railway workers and labourers.

The first iteration of the hotel was known as the Windsor Hotel.


Windsor Hotel (right) in March 1906. (Canafornian on Ipernity)

There were many Windsor Hotels in Winnipeg at different addresses in the 1870s and 1880s. This one appears to have opened in 1889 by the Spence Brothers. William acted as manager but there were at least two other brothers, Robert and George, who also lived at the hotel and had other business interests. Samuel, who ran another hotel called Gault House, was also likely a brother.

The Windsor from its earliest days appears to have been a residential hotel. The 1893 street directory captures the three Spence brothers, a porter, a brakeman with the CPR, and five labourers living upstairs.

In 1897, the hotel changed hands as the liquor licence was transferred to Clara, then William, Burton. Mr. Burton was a Nova Scotia native. Sadly, he died suddenly in April 1901 of congestion of the lungs at the age of 36, leaving Clara with three young children.


January 18, 1904, Winnipeg Free Press

The next owner was Jerry Russell. Under his tenure, the number of alcohol related incidents in the bar reported in the papers - fights and whatnot - seemed to increase. This included the serious stabbing of one of his bartenders in August 1903.

In January 1904, a liquor inspector got access to the residential portion of the hotel and according to the Free Press, "discovered a well-stocked bar doing a thriving business, and by the number of empties around the place sales must have been good."

It was the last straw for the liquor board that had previously dealt with Russell. His liquor licence was pulled by the end of the month.

The hotel could not make money without a liquor licence, so it was sold to Joseph Bearnhart. He left in 1907 when he purchased the Winnipeg Hotel further south on Main Street.

The next owner of the hotel was Nathan Rosenblat. He would be associated with the building for nearly three decades and is responsible for expanding it to the size it is today.

Rosenblat, a Russian Jew fleeing tension in his homeland, came to Winnipeg around 1885. A couple of years later, he opened a hardware and clothing store at the neighbouring 651 Main Street.

The newspapers reported on the sale in May 1907. Rosenblat vowed to "immediately remodel the building and make it up to date". The renovations would start with the interior with the bar and the addition of a restaurant that he wanted to be "one of the finest dining rooms in the city". He would also expand the rear of the building nearly doubling its size.


August 8, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

According to the Winnipeg Tribune, Rosenblat applied for an $81,606 building permit in August 1907 - a huge sum and one of the larger permits for a renovation in the city to that point in the year. It was to add a multi-level extension to the back of the building.

Tenders for the construction of the extension were advertised by Eade Brothers architects and Carter Halls Aldinger won the contract.

The work may have been scaled back as an August 31 newspaper story reported that $25,000 worth of work was being done to construct a 92-foot x 37-foot extension that was two storeys in height with basement. It was noted that the expansion was built so that as many as four more storeys could be added at a future date.

Also in August, a separate $2,400 building permit was granted to Reosnblat for the interior work to reconfigure the bar on the south side of the new front entrance and add a restaurant to the north side.

The project was expected to be completed in December 1907, though no grand reopening announcement or ad can be found.


March 23, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

Rosenblat kept a fairly low profile and the Windsor Hotel was a pretty quiet place. He seemed content with his one hotel and neighbouring Rosenblat Hardware and Clothing and didn't get involved in the ownership of other establishments as most hoteliers at the time did.

The Rosenblat family, which included Sara and their five children, resided at 51 Lily Street, which now faces Disraeli Freeway. He was involved with Rosh Pina Synagogue and in 1911 headed a committee to make improvements to its cemetery.


January 10, 1910, Winnipeg Free Press

The end of the Rosenblat as the public face of the business came following a scandalous event at the hotel in January 1910.

The Free Press reported that a woman who was already well known to police "with two (other) women and three men started visiting saloons and finally ended up in one of the side rooms off the bar at the Windsor Hotel. There the gang drank themselves stupid and the whole performance was in plain sight of the street."

Women at the time were not allowed in saloons and by Victorian standards their public display of drunkenness was shocking. The matter was so serious that the liquor board suspended the hotel's licence "subject to an investigation". 

There was  no follow-up to the liquor licence story so it is unclear what exactly happened at the hearing. Rosenblat may have been told he wouldn't get his licence back or he may have just been tired of the ongoing issues with running a hotel and saloon. Either way, the hotel had a new proprietor the following month, though Rosenblat continued to own the business and building.


February 16, 1910, Winnipeg Tribune

The man who leased the hotel from Rosenblat in February 1910 was William "Doc" Whaley, a businessman and hotelier who had run the Sutherland Hotel through 1909.

. He ran the Sutherland Hotel in 1909and in August 1912 he applied for a hotel licence for 652 Main, what would be known as the Club Hotel.

Whaley promptly changed the name to the Windsor to the Maple Leaf Hotel and the address changed to 659 Main Street. (Over the decades, the hotel's address has changed from 655 to 657 to 659 and back.)

Again, there was no advertising for the hotel even after the changeover. The 1911 street directory lists Whaley, bartenders Robert Harris and Harry Carpenter, and hotel clerk David Buchanan, all living at the hotel.

Whaley made an application for a hotel licence across the street at 652 Main Street, an establishment that would become known as the Club Hotel. When it opened in 1912, he left the Maple Leaf.


Maple Leaf Hotel circa World War I (Berman Postcard Collection)

The next operator of the business was David Hayes.

It seems that Hayes and the entire staff lived at the hotel. The 1912 street directory shows Hayes, Miss U. Snowplough - maid, J. Nord - hotel porter, John Joyce - hotel clerk, James McDonald - bartender, Miss M. Hooper - hotel employee, Miss J. Burne - hotel employee, Miss M Chorma - maid, Joseph Allen - bartender, Mrs. P Arlie - hotel nurse, Mrs. T. Furst - waitress, Mrs. L. O. Powers - cook, Edward Davis - bartender, Miss V. Clark - employee.

Others listed as living there in 1912 were T. J. Welch - telegraph operator CPR, John Sloan - clerk at Labour Employment Office, W. Phillips - switchman with CPR, B. McPhee - switchman CNR, W. A. Kirkland - brakeman CPR, L. Frost - switchman CPR, George Brown - ironworker, Charles M. Berg - steamfitter.


August 17, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

August 1914 was a sad month in the hotel's history.

In the wee hours of August 1, 1914, a fire broke out in the basement of the hotel. Nobody was hurt but one newspaper story reported that "the rear portion was badly gutted".

One of the people displaced by the fire was Mary Kissock, 22. She had come from Ireland a couple of years earlier and lived at the Maple Leaf Hotel where she worked as a maid. She went to live with her sister in Elmwood while the hostel was being renovated.

Kissock became pregnant and she and her boyfriend went to the Beverley Street home of Dr. Russell and Maude Dumas to have an abortion on August 6. A week later, Mary became ill and died at her sister's house on August 17.

The doctor and his wife were charged with murder. At their trial in November, a jury found them not guilty.


May 29, 1915, Winnipeg Tribune

The year 1915 was a tumultuous one for the Maple Leaf Hotel.

What may have started it all off was the April arrest of Hayes for selling liquor after hours to undercover inspectors. An indication that this might not have been his first run-in with the authorities is that rather than an automatic fine, he was first remanded for a week.

The timing could not have been worse as the following month the city was about to begin a crackdown on poor conditions at some hotels. Of the 79 establishments who applied to renew their licence in May 1915, 29 had the renewal decision deferred. This included the Maple Leaf Hotel.

Part of the licence issue was related to a dispute between Rosenblat and Hayes over renewing their lease agreement. A May 31 newspaper article noted that "difficulty between the owner of the place and Mr. Hayes had been fixed up" and a two-month extension on the old licence was given as they sorted things out.

Four days later, another story appeared noting that the lease deal had fallen apart and Hayes walked away from the hotel. As Hayes was the holder of the hotel's liquor licence, the bar was immediately closed.

The 1916 street directory lists Rosenblat listed as the proprietor of the hotel again. The following year, son Charles was installed as the hotel manager.


April 6, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1918, Rosenblat's two businesses were caught up in a murder that shocked the city.

Sometime before 1:00 am on Saturday, April 18, 1918, burglars broke into Roseblat's store. A passing patrolman, Constable Bernard Snowdon, 30, noticed the back door of the store was open and walked inside. He got about six feet into the building when he was shot dead. Another patrolman found him not long after.

Snowdon left a two-year-old baby and an ill wife who was still recovering from surgery and went into shock when she heard the news.

The ensuing manhunt found the two men and one juvenile responsible for the murder were guests in room 4 at the Maple Leaf Hotel. They had registered the day before and the two men went to the hardware store to buy a flashlight and presumably case the place.

The ensuing manhunt found the men drinking at the Savoy Hotel with stolen merchandise on them. Guns and spent casings were found back at the hotel. Phillip Johnston and Frank Sullivan were hanged in Winnipeg on October 2, 1918. The juvenile, 17, was sentenced to life in prison.

Rosenblat continued to own the hotel until his death on March 17, 1931, at the age of 75. In fact, he worked at the hotel earlier that day. His son, Allan, ran "The Rosenblat Hardware" at 651 Main by that time and it remained in business until at least 1959.

Starting in 1933, the hotel went through a number of proprietors. it is unclear if it was owned and leased out. Newspapers don't mention sales.

Samuel G. Last is listed as the hotel's manager in 1935 and its proprietor for the next two years.  He lived at the hotel during his tenure. (A William C. Last ran the Waverley Hotel - they may have been from the same family)

From 1938 to 1942, Mike Hollfelder is listed as its proprietor. He moved on to work at the Royal Alexander in 1943.

Later that year, Dave Ellis of Machray Street, manager of the Club Hotel across the street, took over as proprietor.  He introduced a new name for the building in 1944: the Roosevelt Hotel.

Street directories show for the first time a pool hall, Nick's run by Nick Donesuk, listed on the main floor. This suggests some internal renovations, perhaps the dining room became a counter cafe freeing up space for the new business. (The business disappears from the listings the following year which suggests it may have been absorbed by the hotel.)


Maple Leaf Hotel, undated (Rob McInnes Postcard Collection)

In 1945, Alan Lennett of 341 Lansdowne comes on the scene. He was an operator at CN Telegrams the previous year, then became manager of the Roosevelt in 1945. In 1946, he took over proprietorship of the hotel as Lennett Hotels Ltd.. Oddly, during his time as manager and proprietor he is also still listed as being an operator at CN Tels.

1946 Directory: George Wagner - painter, Owen Virgil - employee of Devonware Ltd., Mike Travis, mechanic, Fred Simmons - operator at CN telegraphs, A. E. Nickelson - barber, Dave mature - hotel clerk, George Mackie - welding instructor, George Ledergerber - mink farmer, Michael Kuraliak - employee at Rogers Sheet Metal, Ed Kurtz - hotel waiter, Peter Krawec - employee at Burns, J. A. Johnson - elevator operator, Rudolph Haines - tailor, and Harold Bartlett - hotel clerk.

In late 1947, the liquor licence was transferred from the Lennett Hotels to Harry Ewashuk. He is listed at times as proprietor or manager, so it was likely corporate-owned.


March 13, 1950, Winnipeg Tribune

New ownership came in 1950 with a new name: National Hotel.

No proprietor is ever listed in street directories, just managers. The first one in 1950 was Peter Chernecki. This suggests that the hotel was corporate-owned.

The sign had barely been installed when the hotel's new name was tarnished by another shocking murder.


March 13, 1950, Winnipeg Tribune

On the night of March 11, 1950, Mrs. Martha Perrault visited the hotel. She was a widow with six children who lived in temporary housing at an old wartime wireless school in Tuxedo. The man she was there to meet was Walter Stoney, 38, a cook who lived in room 45.

The following morning, police found Stoney in serious condition at the nearby CPR tracks after having thrown himself in front of a moving train. When they visited his room, they found Perrault dead under his bed. She had been stabbed 18 times with a pickaxe.

Stoney eventually admitted that he thought she was poisoning his food and killed her in retaliation. He threw himself in front of the train because he thought he would soon die a more painful death. (He also accused staff of poisoning his food during his long stay in hospital.)

Stoney was found guilty and was hanged at Headingley Gaol on January 17, 1951.


September 5, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

The 1970s were particularly dangerous ones at the hotel.

In April 1972, a fight between two men in one of the rooms left 44-year-old Walter Young dead.

In September 1975, a man who was booted out of the bar returned with a gun and shot five people. All of them survived.

There were other serious assaults and attempted murders by the end of the decade.

By 1982, the hotel had been rechristened the Manwin Hotel. Despite the change, its reputation as one of the city's most dangerous hotels continued through to the 2020s.

It was purchased by a numbered company in 2016 and soon after was renamed the National Hotel, (even though the signs still read Manwin).

The murals out front were painted in 2009 by Chris R. Easton.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

546 Sherburn Street - Crecent Creamery Dairy (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Carson's Hygienic Dairy / Crescent Creamery / Modern Dairy
Address: 546 Sherburn Street (Map)
Constructed: 1912
Demolished: 1988
Architect: Unknown

546 Sherburn is a barely noticeable gap in the residential streetscape of Sherbrun Street. At one time it was the driveway into a bustling dairy operation that operated from 1912 to 1986.


March 6, 1906 and July 16, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

The dairy origins of the site go back to a food scientist named William J. Carson.

Canadian-born Carson was inspector for the Eastern Ontario Dairy Association and a teacher in dairy chemistry at Kingston Dairy School before taking a job as chair of dairying at the Wisconsin Agricultural College. In May 1905, Carson accepted a position as head of dairy husbandry at the Manitoba Agricultural College's dairy school.

Carson set up a laboratory and mini-dairy at the college where milk, cream, cheese and butter were produced. His aim was to produce these items with as little contamination as possible. Periodically, the college sold off excess product to the public. Carson even placed ads in April 1908 seeking someone willing to deliver the items to households.

The administration may not have been keen on Carson setting up a business through the school as three months after those ads ran he tendered his resignation. The Tribune reported that there were rumours of "an unsatisfactory condition of affairs existing between Prof. Carson and Principal Black."


Top:  Ice Trade Journal, Jun - Dec 1909
Bottom: March 13, 1909, Winnipeg Tribune

Carson decided to go into business for himself and in December 1908 the Carson Hygienic Dairy Ltd. was incorporated with $40,000 in capital. The Carson Hygienic Dairy opened on March 16, 1909 at 257 Maryland Street, (south of Portage near the present-day Tim Hortons).

The dairy initially offered milk and cream and by 1910 added butter and ice cream to the lineup. Pasteurized milk was introduced in 1911.

Business appears to have gone well, no doubt thanks in part to a 1912 outbreak of typhoid fever in Winnipeg that the city's health officer traced back to the sale of contaminated, unpasteurized milk.


November 1, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

In February 1912, construction was underway on a new, much larger building at 546 Sherburn Street.

Details about the size of the building were not reported on by the daily papers, but it was large enough to contain the company's entire dairy production plant, a laboratory and corporate offices. It would have also had a sizeable stables for the dozens of horses and wagons used to deliver their product.

The new plant was in operation by November 1, 1912.

The dairy was likely not very popular with the neighbours. (The residential development of the street took place in 1912 - 13, so they all appeared on the scene around the same time.) There would have been the constant smell of horses and a crack-of-dawn start to the business day for the dairy to get its products delivered to stores and homes.

A delegation of residents from Sherburn and Garfield streets attended a board of control meeting at city hall in June 1913 to complain about the inconvenience and damage caused by smoke emanating from the plant, (which would have been coal heated). Some claimed it was so bad that it was blackening the exterior paint jobs on their new homes.

It is unclear if there was a resolution to the problem. The city's smoke inspector was told to investigate and if there was a concern he could force the dairy build its chimney taller to let the smoke dissipate over a wider area.


November 9, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

Another city dairy also had an impact on this site.

Crescent Creamery, a dairy established in 1906, had outgrown its Lombard Avenue home by 1912 and the site was land locked by office buildings.

It looked to the suburbs and purchased a large plot of land on Burnell Street in on which to build a new headquarters consisting of three buildings. The first of the buildings, an ice cream plant, was completed in 1913. Before work could get underway on the others, Crescent Creamery bought out Carson in March 1914.

Crescent decided to keep the ice cream plant on Burnell but move the rest of its operations to Sherburn Street. It announced that it would take a few weeks to "thoroughly remodel" the Carson building and add more equipment. The expected move-in date was sometime in April 1914.


Eastern Dairies Ltd. 1928 - 29 Annual Report (Source)

On April 1, 1927, Eastern Dairies Ltd. of Montreal purchased Crescent Creamery as part of its bid to become a national dairy operation. F. J. Donegani was appointed its vice president and Managing Director.

At the time of the takeover, Crescent had the dairy on Sherburn, ice cream plant on Burnell, a storage facility of Lombard, and branches at Killarney, Portage la Prairie, Swan River, Vita, and Yorkton SK.  By the end of the decade it also had distribution depots at The Pas, Fort William ON, and Pine Falls, as well as receiving stations (small, railside huts in which their products were dropped off for a local distributor or retailers), in Giroux, Ste. Anne, Oak Island, Letellier, Steinbach and La Broquerie.

Crescent boasted that in 1937 it delivered 10 million bottles of milk, cream and buttermilk, and over 2 million pounds of butter.

Like many dairies, Crescent Creamery continued to use the dray for deliveries well after motor vehicles became the norm on city streets. A 1938 ad called the horse and wagon still "the most efficient method of distributing fluid milk to customers". This served them well come wartime when vehicles and gasoline were heavily rationed.


March 31, 1978, Winnipeg Tribune

A group called Commercial Assets Ltd. began buying up the public shares of Crescent Creamery in 1955 and in Eastern Dairies, (by then called Dominion Dairies), sold its shares in January 1956.

The purchase was actually made by Modern Dairies of St. Boniface. Over the next decade or so, Modern also acquired Royal, Crescent, Standard dairies and a number of smaller facilities. Their various products were brought under a single Modern Dairies name and packaging in 1978.

The Sherburn dairy and some of its equipment was upgraded between 1957 and 1959. This included a state-of-the-art quality control laboratory.

Beatrice Foods Co. of Chicago, through its Toronto-based Canadian subsidiary, purchased Modern Dairies in 1970. By that time, Modern was Manitoba's largest dairy products company.

Beatrice announced in October 1986 that the Sherburn Street plant would close at the end of the year. Its operations, including the production of cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt done on Sherburn Street, would be centralized at the main plant in St. Boniface.


August 18, 1988, Winnipeg Free Press

The province purchased the building after it closed in 1986 and had it demolished in 1988.

It was reported in the Free Press in November 1990 that the intention was for two thirds of the land to be sold to a religious organization, the Jehovah's Witnesses, for a senior complex and the remaining third would become additional parking for what was then the Motor Vehicles Branch on Portage Avenue. The driveway into the former dairy on Sherburn would become housing. The city gave provisional approval for the redevelopment.

The city and province were criticized for not first consulting with the community on what it wanted, so in April 1991 a meeting was set up where the church and province would present their plans to the public at Isaac Brock Community Centre. A church and parking lot were mentioned in the preview for the meeting but there was no mention of a housing complex.

The Free Press reported on the meeting and noted that "much of the talk was about traffic", speeders and parking complaints rather than the topic of the redevelopment of the land. Some demanded that the Motor Vehicles Branch be moved, others demanded a two-hour parking limit on the street.

In the end, the Jehovah's Witnesses purchased a third of the land and built a Kingdom Hall (which faces Wolever Avenue) and the province built a parking lot on the rest of the site. It is unclear whether the parking and traffic complaints scuttled new housing development on the site and on Sherburn.

The Sherburn lots remain empty lots to this day.

Related:
The Dairy Industry in Manitoba 1880 - 2000 Province of Manitoba Historic Resources Branch
Crescent Creamery's involvement in the Winnipeg General Strike Spirit of the Strike

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

2 Point Douglas Avenue - Office Building and Industrial Site (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Building Products of Canada / Gateway Soap and Chemical building
Address: 2 Point Douglas Avenue (Map)
Constructed: Various years


The paper mill. November 12, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

Building Products Ltd., a division of Imperial Oil of Montreal, first entered the Winnipeg market in 1934 when it purchased a shingle manufacturing factory on Midland Avenue. Two years later, it added an insulated brick and shingle siding plant to the site. The facility served the entire Western Canadian market.

In April 1940, the company's western manager, H. E. Pringle, announced that it purchased 6.25 acres of city land on Point Douglas Avenue at the Red River for $3,600. On it, they would build a $250,000 paper mill and insulation board manufacturing plant.

The building, designed by Alex Melville of the fire hall Melville brothers and built by Beaver Construction Co. of Winnipeg, officially opened on November 12, 1940, by Lieutenant-Governor R. F. McWilliams, Premier Bracken, mayor John Queen of Winnipeg, and various members of the local business community.

The land, surrounded on two sides by the river and another by the CPR's main line, created a perfect manufacturing site with quick waste disposal into the water and direct rail service through a couple of spur lines.


The paper mill and shingle plant in 1949

With additional land purchases, the site grew to 8.5 acres and in October 1941 the company began construction of a new shingle manufacturing plant to replace the one on Midland Avenue.

The 45,000 square foot addition included a small office building and was designed by the company's engineers in cooperation with Green Blankstein Russell Ham architects of Winnipeg. It was built by Beaver Construction of Winnipeg at a cost of about $60,000.

By 1949, Building Materials Ltd. had 250 employees in Winnipeg.


January 16, 1971, Winnipeg Tribune

Through the 1960s a new era of environmental awareness had dawned. Manufacturing plants across the province had to get a "license to pollute" from the newly created Clean Environment Commission of Manitoba. Building Products Limited's turn came in January 1971.

It was a relief to some as there were complaints going back as far as the 1950s that the company dumped its waste material on the bank of the river and burnt it.

A 1974 correspondence from the Clean Environment Commission described the operation as still being  used as "a paper mill, roofing mill, and asphalt storage."


October 17, 1974, Winnipeg Tribune

The nature of the manufacturing done on this site meant mishaps did happen.

There were a few fires. One in 1956 injured two firefighters when waste paper caught fire and burned out of control. Another fire inside the plant in October 1974 destroyed 200 tons of paper.

There were also couple of industrial accidents involving workers.


January 28, 1983, Winnipeg Free Press

The recession and resulting slowdown in building activity in the 1980s caught up with the plant.

In January 1983, Building Products' head office in Montreal announced that the shingle plant would close on March 31st putting 39 people out of work. By the end of the year, the paper mill with its 59 employees would follow.


April 29, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

In November 1984, Sheldon Blank, president of Gateway Industries and vice president of Gateway Packers, announced that the company had purchased the site from Building Materials Ltd.. Calling it a "unique facility", Blank wanted to use it to increase the company's manufacturing footprint and in the process keep most, if not all, of the jobs.

Gateway Packers started out in the 1950s as a meat packing plant in St. Boniface owned by Archie Blank. In the 1960s, it created a waste paper division which eventually became its sole focus.

Gateway Soap and Chemicals seems to have been established in the early 1980s and manufactured soap, industrial chemicals, and cosmetic products such as shampoo.

Gateway did keep the paper mill operating as a paper recycling facility and employed about 60 people. A 1993 Free Press story said took in about 30,000 tonnes of used paper a year and turned it into 1,000 tonnes of roofing felt and other products.

In 2008, the nearly forgotten industrial site received a great deal of attention when South Point Douglas was named as a potential site for a new 40,000 seat football stadium. Though the proposal did not include the Gateway property, it was expected that it could become the home of new housing, retail, and transportation developments if the stadium was built adjacent to it.

In the end, the stadium was built on the University of Manitoba campus.


Site in 2012 (C. Cassidy)

By the 2000s, the paper mill had closed and the property was the scene of numerous fires. The largest took place in October 2011 which caused $1.5 million in damage and destroyed the mill and numerous outbuildings. (For fire photos.) By that time, only about ten people worked there making soap and shampoo.

Another fire in 2014 caused $100,000 in damage.

On September 28, 2021, another large fire destroyed the 25,000-square-foot warehouse building on the site and took days to extinguish.

According to the Gateway Industries website, it still made soap but was "currently liquidating assets."