Sunday, July 15, 2018

115 Maryland Street - Tivoli Theatre / FOODFARE

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
https://www.flickr.com/photos/christiansphotos/6828869860/
Place: Tivoli Theatre / FOODFARE
Address: 115 Maryland Street (Map)
Opened: November 3, 1927
Architect: Max Zev Blankstein
Contractor: Fraser and Macdonald

Raymond Kerhsaw, ca. 1927

The Tivoli theatre was constructed in 1927 for Kerhsaw Theatres Limited, a local company run by Raymond Kershaw and his son, Frank.

Born in Sri Lanka to British parents, Kershaw Sr. came to Canada in 1888 at the age of eighteen to work on a farm at Kenora, Ontario. In 1904, he settled in Winnipeg and five years later was the owner of the Strand Pool Hall and Bowling Alley on Garry Street.

Kershaw got into the theatre business in 1913 when he operated the Wonderland on Sargent Avenue. Five years later, he purchased the burned-out ruins of the Osborne Theatre and rebuilt it into an 800-seat movie house.

Soon after, he was appointed president of the Motion Picture Association of Manitoba, the theatre owners’ trade association.

July 20, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1927, while still the owner of the Osborne, Kerhsaw funded the construction of the 900-seat Tivoli movie house on Maryland Street at Westminster.

The site had been a large hole for thirteen years. In 1914, construction began on an apartment block and the foundation dug, but the project was abandoned when the war started.

Despite the state of the site, a number of area residents and the congregation of Westminster Church fought the theatre's construction. They claimed that it would create additional traffic and that the theatre's lit exterior would detract from the beauty of the church.

The Kershaws argued that Maryland was already a busy regional street on its way to becoming a mini-highway connecting Winnipeg and its southern municipalities. The traffic created by the theatre would be negligible.

In the end, the city had no reason to deny a permit for the construction of the theatre.

Blankstein, ca. 1931

The Tivoli's architect was Max Zev Blankstein. He was well known for his theatre designs, including the The Palace on Selkirk Avenue, The Roxy on Henderson, The Lido in Dauphin, and The Uptown on Academy Road.

The Tivoli was built to be as fireproof as possible in accordance with new city building codes for theatres. The structure and floor are reinforced steel and concrete. Even the projectionist’s booth with its hot equipment was enclosed in concrete and sealed with fireproof doors to separate it from the hall. 

Inside, the hall was back lit to give a cozy feeling. The 900 seats were arranged in a slight curve facing the screen so that everyone had a good view. There was extra space between the rows so patrons did not have to get up from their seat to let people pass.

The theatre's exterior is red brick with a Tyndall stone facade. The lobby, which featured a marble floor, ran the full width of the building.

The Tivoli also featured a pipe organ that was custom-built by the Cassavant Brothers of Quebec. It wasn't installed until some weeks after the theatre's opening.

November 2, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

The Tivoli was opened on November 3, 1927 by Mayor Ralph Webb.

The first film shown was the romantic comedy Swim Girl, Swim featuring Bebe Daniels. (It is sadly one of many thousand "lost films" of the silent movie era.) Music was provided by the five-piece Tivoli Orchestra.


Raymond Kerhsaw became the manager of Famous Player’s handful of suburban theatres in 1930. Six years later, he sold his Osborne and Tivoli to the company he worked for.

The ink was barely dry on the deal when Famous Players sold its suburban theatres, including Kershaw's, to Western Theatres Ltd.. The deal made Western the largest theatre chain in Western Canada with 25 locations in Manitoba alone.

Raymond worked briefly for Western before retiring to Victoria, B. C... Frank also relocated to B.C. and went on to have a career with Famous Players in Vancouver.

July 29, 1959, Winnipeg Tribune

The 1950s was a tough decade for neighbourhood theatres as television became the entertainment medium of choice for most people. Many of them closed and were either demolished or converted to other uses.

In early November 1959, it was announced that the Tivoli had been purchased by Canada Safeway. Its last film was the Danny Kaye comedy Me and the Colonel shown on November 29.

Safeway converted the building into a  grocery store to replace its ca. 1930 outlet located across the back lane on Sherbrook Street. A house was torn down to make way for a parking area.

The new Safeway opened in February 1960 as the 38th Winnipeg store in its chain. Its first manager was Andy Champagne, who was transferred from their 615 Ellice Avenue outlet.

The store underwent extensive renovations in 1971 but it was clear that its time was limited. As Safeway continued to open newer, larger stores, the Maryland location soon became one of their smallest outlets.

October 26, 1988

Safeway finally closed the 115 Maryland store on January 3, 1981, but not before finding a new buyer. Merchants Consolidated announced that the store would become part of its chain of independently owned grocery stores operating under the FamilyFare banner. The new store opened on February 2.

In 1988, Merchants Consolidated went bankrupt and ten of the former FamilyFare owners joined together under the FOODFARE name.

In 1989, they added a additional outlet when Wajih “Moe” Zeid's Payfair on Lilac and Corydon joined the fold. Zeid came to Winnipeg from Palestine in 1967 and purchased the Payfair a  decade later.

Over the years as FOODFARE owners retired, Zeid purchased some of the stores, including the Maryland store sometime after 1995. In 2007, he also bought Harry's Foods on Portage Avenue.

There are currently five FOODFARE locations across the city.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

905 Portage Avenue - Former Safeway / FOODFARE

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Safeway / FOODFARE
Address:
905 Portage Avenue (Map) 
Opened: July 26, 1951
Cost: $97,000

Safeway opened its first store on this block at 893 Portage Avenue on November 2, 1929, just months after entering the Canadian market.

In the fall of 1950, the company announced a multi-year, $1 million expansion for its Manitoba region. In Winnipeg, this meant four new stores would be added in 1951 alone. This brought the total number of Safeways in the city to 31.

http://spldatabase.saskatoonlibrary.ca/csdata/images/lhr/web/PH/2014/PH-2014-164.jpg
Variation of 1950s model store, Saskatoon Public Library

Every few years, Safeway introduced a new, larger model store and phased out its oldest generation of buildings. These "cookie-cutter" stores were important as they ensured that the same range of goods could be displayed in the same locations at each outlet. A customer could walk into any Safeway in the province and it would be a familiar, convenient place to shop.

Most of the early 1950 stores were of this "big fin" design. Though designed at Safeway's U.S. head office, local architect Lloyd Finch was hired to fine tune the size and shape of each outlet to fit its site.

Costing about $100,000 each, these were simple, single-storey red brick buildings with a full basement served by a dumb waiter. Outside, there was an overhang that partially covered the sidewalk and the 40 x 18 foot, metal clad "fin" displaying the Safeway name.

One noticeable variation from store to store appears to have been the size of the front windows. Images of other stores of this style show small front windows whereas 905 Portage has large windows.

The only similarity between the old and new stores was the mezzanine over the meat area that served as the manager's office.

https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=696013&page=2&q=safeway
Top: 1951 Safeway interior, Utah DHA
Middle: Interior of new store, 1952, Waco Tribune
Bottom: 1951 Safeway interior, Saskatoon Public Library

The new store was about 8,000 square feet in size, more than double that of the old store. The size difference increases even more when you factor in its full basement.

The larger stores accommodated a wider range of goods and the modern way customers shopped. This was an era of increased self-service options, such as picking out your own pre-packaged meats and dairy products from coolers. Frozen foods were also becoming a popular grocery item and space was required for open-top freezers.

Other original features of this store included seven check outs, space for shopping cart storage and "electronic eye" doors.

July 25, 1951, Winnipeg Free Press

A store preview was held on the evening of Wednesday, July 25, 1951 with the Manitoba Pipers' Association Pipe Band playing in the parking lot. It opened for business at 9:00 a.m. the next morning.

That 32-car parking lot was another feature that the older stores did not need. The goal of the new outlets was not just to attract people within walking distance, but also to bring in commuters who were traveling home to new, residential suburbs.

This parking lot hosted a number of events in its early years, including a legion service in 1951, a "hoe down" by the Square Dance Club of central YMCA in August 1952 and a square dance by Hicks' KC Kids from Kansas City in 1954.


Managers of this store included Mike Phillips from at least 1960 until he was transferred to the Isabel at Notre Dame store in 1962. He was replaced by Reg Bedard, who managed it until at least 1969 when he, too, moved on to a bigger store.

By the mid-1970s, a number of generations of model stores had come and gone and 905 Portage was one of a dwindling number of early 1950s stores left in the chain.

Starting around 1975, Safeway ads featuring "bulk buys" and non-grocery items such as picnic chairs and steam cleaners came with an asterisk noting that these items were not available at 905 Portage due to lack of space.

The store lasted until the mid-1980s when Safeway decided to close it in favour of an expanded Polo Park location. The retailer gave Safeway employees the first option to purchase the building.

Top: Halbesma, ca. 1965
Below: Harry's Foods, ca. 1993

Harry Halbesma had been a manager at the Isabel at Notre Dame Safeway in the 1960s and at the Portage and Ferry Road store in the 1970s. He decided to take the plunge and along with a number of family members, including his wife, three sons, two sisters and some cousins, opened Harry's Foods on October 2, 1985.

Catering to a neighbourhood where car ownership rates were low, Harry's offered telephone shopping and a delivery service. It also prided itself in carrying many Manitoba-made products.

In the 1990s when Sunday shopping became legal in Winnipeg, Harry's opted not to open.


In 1996, Harry and his wife, Shirley, retired and son Stan and his wife, Debbie, took over the store.

September 30, 2000, Winnipeg Free Press

In the 1990s, the Halbesmas purchased a former automobile repair shop located behind the store's parking lot 444 Burnell Street. In 2000, it became the short-lived Harry's Urban Market offering an expanded range of fruits and vegetables and other products.

In April 2005, Halbesma approached the city to purchase the back lane between 905 Portage and 444 Burnell Street to allow for the expansion of the grocery store. It appears that the application was approved and the city was going to declare the lane surplus, (see bylaw 162/2006.) For whatever reason the sale never took place.

In December 2006, the Halbesmas announced that they had sold the store to FOODFARE, owned by the Zeid family. Stan Halbesma said in a newspaper story that he had a number of inquiries about the building but wanted to ensure that it remained an independent grocery store.

The reasons given for selling were to "slow down and enjoy life a little more" and to concentrate on the second Harry's Foods store, purchased in 1999, on Highway 9 in St. Andrews, Manitoba, near where the couple lived.


FOODFARE was created by Moe Zeid when he purchased a former Payfair Store, which also used to be a Safeway, on Lilac Street in 1977. This would be the fifth store in its independent chain.

Though the transfer to the Zeid family took place on January 1, 2007, the store was not rebranded until January 2, 2008.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

740 Dufferin Avenue - Winnipeg Casket Company Building

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Winnipeg Casket Company Building
Address: 740 Dufferin Avenue
Constructed: 1907
Cost: $40,000
Architect: Herbert E. Matthews
Contractor: Sveinn Brynjolfsson

The original Winnipeg Casket Company was created in July 1903 and operated from a two-storey factory on Manitoba Avenue until it was destroyed by fire in 1904.

In early 1907, a new company by the same name was created under directors: president W. H. Antes of Des Moines, Iowa; , F. C. Bell of Spencer, Iowa and Charles H. Enderton, C. P. Bell, Charles W. Fillmore  and P. W. Fillmore from Winnipeg. It appears that C. P. Bell also acted as factory manager.

Weeks later, the company took out a $40,000 building permit for a new factory on Dufferin Avenue and Parr Street designed by Herbert E. Matthews.

Matthews had well over 100 projects to his name in his native London, Ontario before setting up practice in Winnipeg in 1905. Primarily a residential architect, this appears to have been one of his largest Winnipeg commissions. His other non-residential works, which came years later, include the original St. Matthews Church -  West End Cultural Centre (1909); Granite Curling Club (1912) and the Rothesay Apartments (1912).

The general contractor for the project was Sveinn Brynjolfsson. He came to Winnipeg from Iceland in the 1890s and like many of his countrymen set up shop as a mason.


Top: Architect's drawing, May 18, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom: circa 2018

Construction was underway by May 1907 and completed in November.

The brick and stone 60 x 150 foot building stands four storeys tall with a full basement. Adjacent to it was an engine house and a 42 x 50 foot wood drying kiln, both long since demolished.

Perhaps because of the nature of its work, the exterior is devoid of ornamentation, something noted by a Free Press reporter writing about its completion: "...its appearance is that of a hundred other warehouses in Winnipeg and the outside calls for no special comment.”

An odd feature about the building is its address, or lack of it. For many decades it is listed in the Henderson Directory not by street number but rather as “Dufferin, corner of Parr” which is very unusual as the area was quite urbanized and the buildings around it had numbers. The odd time the business was mentioned in newspapers, the intersection is also used.

March 5, 1908, Winnipeg Free Press

Disaster nearly struck in March 1908 when a fire in the adjoining kiln got out of control and began to spread into the building's workshop. Crews from four fire halls were called in fight the blaze.

They managed to get the steel fire doors separating the kiln and building closed, containing the blaze. In the end, damage was limited to $5,000 mostly to the kiln and the destruction of five rail cars of lumber parked next to it.

http://www.toeppner.ca/baechler/Toronto%20A-G/imagepages/image91.html
Company Letterhead ca. 1928, toeppner .ca

In 1913, there was a shakeup in Canada's casket industry when five companies in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the Winnipeg Casket Company merged to form a national entity called Dominion Manufacturers based in Toronto. It dealt in caskets and a full range of undertaking supplies.

One of the companies, Semmens and Evel of Hamilton, already had a plant branch in Winnipeg.

For more than a decade all three companies were listed at 740 Dufferin Avenue. It appears that Winnipeg Casket Co. operated under its own trade name in the local market until at least the 1960s.

The new Winnipeg Casket Company was called into service not long after the merger when it was contracted to provide caskets for the nearly 200 victims of the Hillcrest, Alberta mine disaster. The factory worked around the clock to process the order.

May 1, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

The company also made the news in 1919 when its 60 casket makers walked off the job during the Winnipeg General Strike after the company refused to recognize its recently created union. They were demanding better wages than the industry average of  $9.94 per week.

Being such a small group there wasn't any follow-up media stories about how things went for them.

August 29, 1944, Winnipeg Tribune

There was at least one employee of Winnipeg Casket who lost his life on the battlefield.

Painter Robert Dey, 30, of Midwinter Avenue enlisted with the RCAF in 1942. The following year he went overseas leaving behind a wife.

In July 1944, his bomber was shot down near the village of Ferte-Saint-Cyr, France but his charred remains could not be immediately identified. He was originally listed as "missing on active service after air operations", then "missing and presumed dead."

Eventually, he was identified and he is buried in Orleans Main Cemetery at Loiret, France.

1915 catalogue ad, (source)

The company manufactured and warehoused caskets at this site until at least the mid-1960s. The fact that it didn't advertise to the general public makes it difficult to determine when it went out of business.

Through the late 1960s and 1970s the only mention of the company in newspapers was in obituaries for former workers. Some were long-term employees such as Alexander Smith, who changed his name from Schmidt in 1944, who began as a woodworker and worked his way up to factory manager, spending 52 years with the company.

January 7, 1983, Winnipeg Free Press

By 1983, the vacant, unheated building was still owned by Dominion Manufacturing and had been up for sale for "three or four years" according to a company spokesperson.

In January of that year, a pipe burst on the fourth floor which caused extensive water damage. It was one of a number of pipe breaks over the years.A spokesman for the company called the building "jinxed" and said that the latest burst would likely cause them to significantly reduce the sale price.


They just may have drooped the price as the building sold soon after the news story.

By July 1983, ads appear for Eldar Window Industries Ltd. It featured a showroom on the main floor and warehouse upstairs. The company only lasted until 1985 when it was replaced by Factory Outlet Furniture.

Through the late 1980s and 1990s the building was was increasingly subdivided into a myriad of office, workshop and warehouse spaces, which is how it remains today.

Related:
For more images of 740 Dufferin.

Friday, April 27, 2018

108 Osborne Street - Former Osborne Theatre

©2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Osborne Theatre
Address: 108 Osborne Street
Opened: December 14, 1912
Architect: Ross and MacFarlane
Contractor: Carter Halls Aldinger

Ca. 1911, a gap on left side where the Osborne Theatre would be built (winterbos)

What we now call the Osborne Village neighbourhood of Fort Rouge transformed from a rural enclave into a city suburb between 1895 and 1905. After a few more years, there were enough residents to warrant its own neighbourhood theatre.

In August 1912 the Osborne Street Theatre Co. took out a $30,000 building permit to construct such an amenity. The company's principals included Edmund Burke, M. J. Williamson and Bruce Eggo.

November 16, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

The architects were Ross and MacFarlane of Montreal. The firm had just designed a series of signature hotels for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, including the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton, and Hotel Fort Garry in Winnipeg. In later decades, it would count Maple Leaf Gardens and the Hotel Saskatchewan to its credit.

The building's design was considered to be Sullivanesque with its symmetrical windows and ornamentation, though in this case stucco and plaster were used on the facade rather than terra cotta. The pattern on the front of the building was described as "oriental" with bands of red, blue and gold bordering the banks of windows and main entrance.

The 600-seat auditorium was meant to feel spacious with extra-wide aisles and additional space between seats so that patrons could spread out. A Free Press story called it "a new standard in interior arrangements."

1912 and 1916 offerings at the Osborne

The theatre opened on December 14, 1912 with a quadruple-bill of "photo plays" accompanied by a five piece orchestra. Interestingly, the Osborne was built as a cinema, or "photo play house", not a live theatre venue or a hybrid. It was among the first handful to be built in the city.

The third floor included space for offices and three apartments and there was a main floor retail unit that opened onto the street.

December 13, 1917, Winnipeg Free Press

In the early morning hours of December 12, 1917, fire struck the Osborne Theatre.

Newspaper stories carried the dramatic accounts of the residents of the three apartments, all women with children, escaping the building into the freezing cold in their night clothes. One had to jump with her child from the roof of the theatre building to the lower commercial block next door. They were taken to Augustine church for shelter until arrangements could be made with loved ones to take them in.

The fire, caused by an iron that was left plugged in, gutted the theatre and cost an estimated $80,000 in damages.

M. J. Williamson, the owner of the building, vowed to rebuild "bigger and better", though he wouldn't be the one to see the project through.

Raymond Kerhsaw, ca. 1915

While the building was still in ruins, Raymond Kershaw purchased it.

Kershaw was well known in theatre circles, having run the Wonderland theatre on Sargent Avenue for a number of years and as vice president of the Motion Picture Association of Manitoba, the theatre owners' trade organization.

Not long after taking over the Osborne he became the organization's president and opened the Tivoli on Maryland Street in 1927.

May 10, 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

The Osborne's interior was rebuilt using steel lathe and hard plaster to make it "virtually fireproof" and the latest in air filtration systems kept patrons comfortable. The size of the main floor retail space was decreased to make a more spacious lobby.

A horseshoe-shaped balcony with two private loges could hold 250 more people than the old theatre.

Being independent theatres, Kerhsaw, who was joined in the business by his son Frank, did not have access to first-run studio films. To differentiate itself, in 1933 the Osborne specialized in showing British films.

In 1936, the Kerhsaws sold the two properties to Famous Players Ltd. and Raymond moved to Victoria.

Famous Players did not keep the theatres. Right after their purchase it bundled them with their other small theatres and sold them as a block to J. Miles' Western Theatre chain, who also owned the Roxy and Uptown. After the deal, Famous Players owned and operated just the Capitol and Metropolitan.


Likely the most famous patron of the Osborne Theatre was British actor Charles Laughton.

Frank Morriss, the Tribune's entertainment reporter, recalled in a 1968 column that while in Winnipeg on a tour, (no year was given but it was presumably in the mid-1930s while it was showing British fare), Laughton told him that he desperately wanted to see a film that was showing there.

He swore Morriss to tell no one so that he could be anonymous but Laughton was a very recognizable stars and was spotted immediately. Morriss recounted that "when we left the theatre we were pursued by a throng of curious fans."

October 20, 1958, Winnipeg Tribune

As with most neighbourhood theatres, television brought about the Osborne's demise in the 1950s. It stopped advertising in 1956 and in 1957 was put up for sale.

The building was purchased in 1958 by the 300-member Winnipeg Elks Lodge No. 10. Before it could be used as a clubhouse, the interior was completely gutted and the floor leveled. Architect Roy M. Lev and contractor Bird Construction were in charge of the transformation.

The main floor contained a lounge, dining area and cocktail bar. The second floor was the hall for 250 people that was also rented out for banquets. The top floor was the caretaker’s suite and offices.

The renovations cost about $135,000 and the Elk's Hall opened in February 1959.

The rental of the hall for rock concerts became an issue in late 1960s. Merchants petitioned to have them stopped, claiming that they attracted hippies and other undesirables to the area.

This was ironic as it was the hippie subculture that put what would become known as Osborne Village on the map. The merchants, however, were now trying to distance itself from the past and make the area more upscale.

The merchants and Elks battled it out at city hall in 1969 and 1970. The Elks left Osborne Street in 1971.


The building then became a retail block.

In December 1971, Vita Health, a health food shop that had operated on Kennedy Street for nearly 40 years, opened the “Garden of Eden” restaurant on the main floor of 108 Osborne. It specialized in  health-food dishes and only lasted about a year.

In 1974, Dennis Stewart bought the building and relocated his Floating Ecstasy from 127 Osborne. The store specialized in waterbeds and wicker furniture. Around 1980, a branch opened on St. James Street and in 1984 the Osborne Village store was converted into the Sofa Shop by the same owner. When it closed in September 1986, the Floating Ecstasy reappeared for another year.

In November 1986, the second floor of the building became Yuk Yuk's Komedy Kabaret, the twelfth branch of the Toronto-based club.

Another tenant in the building from 1974 until at least 1987 was the Winnipeg Bridge Club.


Yuk Yuk's closed in January 1991 but by April the space was home to the Tom Tom Club. It was owned by Dominic and Mario Amatuzio and Rob Margeson of Civita on Corydon. The following year they converted the top floor into the Alternative Cabaret.

In 1995, the night club was remade into Die Maschine by Gren Ross and Mark Janssen. In 1996, they turned the main floor into a second dance club called the Collective Cabaret.


Above: 2006 as Collective Cabaret (A Lorde) and in 2018

The clubs closed in August 2007 after the building was sold to a new owner. It was later announced that the space would become home to Winnipeg's first American Apparel store, which took up the main floor from December 2007 to December 2016, closing after the retailer's parent company went bankrupt.

In late 2017, the main floor space became an Anytime Fitness gym. The second floor remains a club.

Friday, April 6, 2018

624 - 626 Balmoral Street - Rooming House

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
 
Place: Rooming House (now closed)
Address: 624 - 626 Balmoral Street (Map)
Built: 1895
Architect: Unknown

http://pastforward.winnipeg.ca/digital/collection/robmcinnes/id/3676/rec/10
City Hall looking west ca. 1898 (Past Forward)

This 2.5-storey, 5,552 square-foot, 22-unit rooming house was constructed in 1895. 

At the time, what was then two single-family homes would have been on the outer edge of the city's urban development. The above image taken from city hall looking west in 1898 does not include Balmoral Street, which is off to the left, but shows that after just a few blocks urban development gives way to open land.

The nearest urban feature to the house is Central Park. That land was only purchased by the city in 1895 and it took a few years for it to be developed into a green space and for housing to be rise around it.

The West End, behind the house, was not subdivided for residential development until 1904 – 05.


The rear elevation (above) shows two distinct houses that are joined together by a common frontage. Exactly when the two were linked is unclear, though I suspect it was ca. 1905.

Both homes have had a connection with members of the Methodist Church, one was the home of a retired minister and the other the home of a widow of a minister. This could mean that the church was the ultimate owner of the buildings in their earliest years and leased or sold them.

Here is the early history of each home:

624 Balmoral Street (the taller house)

Howard Kirby spent ages 5 - 12 at the house.

Number 624 Balmoral Street first appears in the 1895 Henderson Directory with the Kirby family as its first owners.

Thompson Kirby was born in Yorkshire, England and came to Milton, Ontario with his parents when he was a toddler. In 1878, he went to Douglas, Manitoba to homestead and married Ina. By the 1890s, the couple were living in Winnipeg and had two sons, Howard T. Kirby (b. 1890) and Kenneth C. Kirby (b. 1897).

http://pastforward.winnipeg.ca/digital/collection/berman/id/1961
 
Top: Canada Permanent Building, bottom left (Past Forward)
Bottom: April 29, 1897, Winnipeg Free Press

Mr. Kirby was a lawyer and a collection agent specializing in the agricultural industry. He had an office and small staff in the Canada Permanent Building on Main Street at Graham Avenue, now demolished, and occasionally took out classified ads listing assorted machinery for sale. (His obituary, perhaps to avoid the negative connotation of his profession, stated that after moving to Winnipeg, he “became prominent in business circles.”) 

After seven years, the family relocated to 311 Edmonton Street at Graham Avenue, now demolished. Perhaps it was a desire to be closer to the office or nearer the commercial and retail centre of town.

Soon after the move, Kirby began working for the Merchants Bank and was transferred to Victoria, B.C.. He retired from the bank in 1924 and died in 1942.

December 14, 1905, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1903, the home was converted into a rooming house. Classified ads in December advertise eleven "just finished" rooms for rent.

The owner, according to the Henderson Directory, was Mary Moran, widow of Methodist Rev. John X. Moran, and her two sons.

There were seven roomers noted during the Henderson Directory's 1906 visit. They were: John Lee, student; William Harper, clerk at Robinson and Black; N. B. Finn, clerk Robinson and Co.; Maggie Bunton, clerk at Carsley’s; Elgin Moran, clerk at Robinson and Co.; E. J. Moran, student; Mary Moran, widow.

 626 Balmoral (the shorter house)

http://pastforward.winnipeg.ca/digital/collection/robmcinnes/id/6389/rec/7
Source: Past Forward, Rob McInnes collection

Number 626 Balmoral first appears in the 1895 Henderson Directory as home to retired Methodist minister Rev. John Stewart and family. 

Stewart was born in Ireland and his family settled in Ontario when he was a teenager. After being ordained, he worked in Quebec then came to Manitoba and preached at churches at Morden, Melita and Treherne. In 1894, he retired from his administrative duties and moved to Winnipeg with his wife and at least two of his three grown children.

Here, Stewart remained active in the temperance movement as a member of the Prohibition League, sometimes speaking at rallies and events. He stayed involved in church affairs through Grace Methodist Church in a volunteer capacity.

The Stewarts also rented out rooms. The 1895 Henderson Directory notes three lodgers: E. C. Kessell; Bert Gordon, student; John Cooke, student; and Duncan Cameron, shoemaker. The 1896 directory notes three students as rooming there.

The students were likely attending Wesley College, which began in the basement of Grace Church before moving to its very own building on Portage Avenue near Balmoral Avenue in January 1896.

September 30, 1898, Winnipeg Tribune

The Stewarts moved on in 1926 to 326 Spence Street.

Around September 16, 1898 one of the Stewarts' daughters, Jennie, died at the age of nineteen. Her obituary stated only that "she had been suffering for some time." Her death weighed heavily on Reverend Stewart.

On the night of September 29, 1898, he performed a wedding at Selkirk, Manitoba and returned home not feeling well. Just after midnight the next morning he died of heart failure.

Stewart's death was mourned by the temperance movement. At the Western Christian Temperance Union conference in Winnipeg the following June, one of its keynote speakers, Nellie McClung, "...spoke in a touching way of the death of Rev. John Stewart and his daughter, which took place last fall."

June 13, 1895, Winnipeg Free Press

When the Stewarts moved out, or sold up, in 1896, 626 Balmoral briefly became home to the "Evans Institute", a private drug and alcohol treatment facility. It was founded in 1895 in a house on Young Street before moving to this address and was likely an imitation of the popular Dr. Leslie Keeley’s Gold Cure Institute in the U.S..

The cure for alcohol or morphine addiction centred around drinking what later was found out to be a poisonous syrup. It cost a staggering $75 for a treatment and lasted four days. Clients could receive the cure at their home or stay at the institute.

The cure must have had some success as it was endorsed by many community leaders and, though it lasted just a year at this address, the Evans Institute opened branches in Alberta and B.C..
was around until the 19-teens at various addresses.


The house then reverted back to being a single family dwelling.

From 1899 - 1902 it was home to Frank Morrison and family. 

Morrison came to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1897 at the age of 45 with his wife, Mary, and three children. Already an experienced printer, he started F. Morrison and Son printers.

The son, Frank Jr., who would have lived at the house from the age of six to nine years-old, was killed in World War I.

The Joining


It is possible that the houses were connected around 1905 with the joining of the Lund and Moran families.

In 1903, 624 Balmoral was converted to a rooming house with Mary Moran, the widow of Methodist minister Rev. John X. Moran, listed as the head of the household, which means she could have been the owner or manager. She resided there with her two sons, O.T. and E. J., both clerks at Robinson's.

According to Mary's obituary, she married R. J. Lund in 1904. The couple would go on to have two children together.

In 1905, the neighbouring 626 Balmoral was purchased by R. J. Lund, a miller, and converted into a rooming house. A Moran or Lund was listed as an owner of 624 Balmoral until 1911.

After this point, as a 22-room rooming house, thousands of people called these addresses home over the next 112 years.

The Downfall

Through the 1970s and 1980s the rooming house appears to have catered to seniors as obituaries regularly appeared in the papers for people ranging in age from their sixties to their nineties.

In the 2000s things changed.The house was the scene of three murders in 2008 - 2009.

At that point, a new owner took over vowing to renovate and clean the house up. The place was already on the city's radar with a long list of citations under the Neighbourhood Livability Bylaw.

After another murder in 2013, the owner tried to sell but was unsuccessful.


The house then had some calm years.

The owner set up an office in the building and was replacing flooring and windows in some of the suites. He says that in 2017 a street gang began harassing the property and its tenants. In December of that year a fire caused extensive damage to the building and the renters were evacuated.

In February 2018, it put up for sale a second time and I got a tour of the property by the owner.


Inside, little of the building's architectural history could be found as it was covered under layers of renovations. The only glimpses were in broken parts of walls revealing plaster and lathe, heating grates and some of the original woodwork in the stairwells.

Fire damage could be seen at the rear of the house, including in some rooms and a hole in the roof. Other suites, though, looked like people had just left for the day.

At the time, the owner said that he was resigned to demolishing the house and selling the land, though was holding off as he had one party interested in buying the land with the house.


On April 5, 2017, another fire took place in the building. Due to structural concerns, it was ordered demolished.

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