Sunday, May 12, 2019

785 Dorchester Avenue - Panama Court

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

Place: Panama Court
Address: 785 Dorchester Avenue (Map)
Opened: July 1913
Architect: Hooper and Davis (John Hooper)
Contractor: Unknown

Panama Court was one of a number of upper-middle class apartment blocks constructed in the city between 1910 and 1913 as Winnipeg's middle class swelled during its greatest boom years.

Its developer, William W. Colledge, first appears in local street directories as a business partner of Thomas Sharpe in the contracting firm Sharpe and Colledge. By 1910, Colledge was working solo and in 1914 moved on to Vancouver.

The architect of Panama Court was John S. Hooper, the son of Manitoba's first Provincial Architect Samuel Hooper. The younger Hooper tended to work under his father's wing and there are only around ten building designs credited to him. Most are higher-end apartment blocks and all were designed in the couple of years after his father's death. (See below for more about John Hooper.)

The building's name was surely inspired by the Panama Canal which was in the news on almost a daily basis during its construction in 1912 - 1913.

Under construction, April 19, 1913, Winnipeg Free Press

Panama Court initially contained 26 units. These ranged from three room suites up to more generous six-room suites with quarters for maids or nannies.

The building was touted in rental ads as being "absolutely fireproof". This was because the walls, interior partitions and even the floors were constructed of tile rather than wood. Another selling feature was its access to fresh air owing to the fact that each suite had its own balcony.

The interiors were finished to a high standard with mahogany detail, fireplaces and refrigerators. It was also a "soft water building". (In the pre-Shoal Lake Aqueduct days the city's central water supply was drawn from a series of large wells. If one wanted soft water, it had to be treated after it reached the building and kept in a cistern located on-site.)

July 15, 1913, Winnipeg Free Press

The occupations of the heads of households of the first batch of Panama Court tenants shows what you might expect from a building of this stature.

They included: Frank Adams, general manager of Adams Bros. Harness Manufacturing Co.; Frederick Banks, an insurance inspector; Harold Brockwell, chief engineer for Manitoba Government Telephones; John Gage, vice president of International (grain) Elevator Co.; John Garland of the law firm Garland and Anderson; Leslie Head, a manager at Head and Shannon lumber yard; George Lawson, an accountant with S. T. Handscombe brokerage; Charles Kelly of Kelly and Sons Construction; Gordon A. Millar, assistant department manager at Eatons; John A Nelson, manager of The Traders real estate firm; and Robert Grant, assistant editor of the Farmers' Advocate newspaper. 

William Mallon was the building’s first live-in caretaker and lived in suite 10.

The building appears to have had a quiet existence. There are no newspaper stories about fires or major crimes taking place there. Even in wartime, though some residents served overseas they all appear to have survived. What it did have was countless wedding and baby showers, society teas, small recitals, etc.

Here are some of the more notable early tenants of Panama Court:

Charles B. Kelly

December 16, 1913, Winnipeg Tribune

Charles B. Kelly of the Thomas Kelly and Sons construction company was amongst the first tenants of Panama Court in suite 22. Though the firm had many great achievements during its existence it will always be remembered for the Legislature building scandal.

Kelly and Sons won the 1913 construction contract for the Legislature. It turns out that Thomas Kelly systematically overbilled the provincial government for the company's work and substituted inferior quality materials wherever possible. When this was discovered, construction was immediately halted.

Thomas Kelly fled to Chicago to avoid arrest but was captured and extradited back to Winnipeg to face trial. The Crown alleged that the total value of his fraud amounted to $1.2 million, (about $27 million in today's dollars.) Much of that money was funneled back to the ruling provincial Conservative party's coffers and to select government officials.

August 15, 1916, Winnipeg Free Press

Even under subpoena, Charles Kelly refused to produce any documents that would incriminate his father. This led to a raid on his suite on September 2, 1915 where police found an $802,000 contract said to be between Thomas Kelly and premier Rodmond Roblin.

In the end, the Roblin government fell due to the scandal and Thomas Kelly was sentenced to 2 1/2 years at Stoney Mountain, though he got out early for good behavior. The partially built Legislature's contract was re-awarded to a new company and construction was started almost from scratch due to the questionable quality of the foundation work.

It appears that Charles Kelly was not charged with any crime. He moved from Panama Court to an apartment at 19 Carlton Street the following year and died there of pneumonia in 1920 at the age of 33. (Perhaps a holdover from the "Spanish" influenza epidemic of 1918 - 1919?)

Annie McClung

Anne Elizabeth "Annie" McClung, a pioneer in Manitoba's earliest temperance and suffrage movements, lived at Panama Court from the time her husband died in 1916 until her death in 1926 at the age of 85. She resided with her daughter, Mrs. Percy Anderson, and family.

In 1890, McClung and her husband, Reverend James A. McClung, came from their native Ontario and soon settled in Manitou.

From the late 1890s through the 19-teens, McClung was a member of the executive, often president, of the Manitoba chapter of the Western Christian Temperance Union. She was made a lifetime honourary president in 1920.

An example of her commitment to helping women: McClung and her husband happened to be in San Fransisco at the time of its great earthquake in 1906. She did not, as one might expect, flee the city after the disaster. Instead, she stayed behind to work on behalf of women and children who were made homeless.

May 5, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1892, a young woman named Nellie Moodey came to Manitou to teach at the local school and lodged at the McClung house. She and McClung's eldest son, Wesley, fell in love and were soon married.

Nellie McClung would no doubt have met some of the leaders of the women's movement of the day, such as Dr. Amelia Yeomans, through her mother-in-law. Nellie also credits Annie McClung with prompting her to submit a short story to Colliers magazine in 1900. This became her first published work and launched a writing career that gave her a national voice.

Annie McClung's achievements are now little more than a footnote in her daughter-in-law's success, but to an earlier generation of Manitobans she was one of the most formidable forces of the province's early women's movement.

Marjorie Barrack-Beliveau
February 10, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

Violinist Marjorie Barrack began making name for herself in 1910, around age fourteen, as one of the most promising young students of local music teacher Camille Couture. That year, she began appearing in regular recitals and small concerts around town.

In 1914, she spent the summer in Dresdin, Germany as a student of Leopold von Auer.

Barrack-Beliveau singned a deal in 1920 with the Orpheum Theatre chain to be part of a vaudeville show that toured their theatre circuit through Western Canada and the U.S.. Though vaudeville was waning as an entertainment form thanks to the growing popularity of film, Orpheum was trying to keep it alive by offering a
"more refined and artistic" level of entertainment.

The following year came another Orpheum tour. Barrack left in September 1921 on a 20-week engagement that took her as far south as Sacramento, California. The headliner for part of that tour was Helen Keller.  (The two kept in touch by letter.)

September 23, 1922, Winnipeg Tribune

Upon her return from the 1921 tour Barrack-Beliveau
settled into apartment 20 of Panama Court. She divided her time between local performances and teaching from her suite. In 1923, it appears she was off on another tour and stayed in the U.S. for an extended period.

For such a well known public figure little was written about Barrack-Beliveau's private life. She married Antoine Beliveau in Winnipeg in 1916 and may have married a second time in 1928, though kept Barrack-Beliveau as her stage name.

Every few years, Barrack-Beliveau appears back in the city, teaches for a while, then seems to disappear again. She likely died in 1971.

Albert V. Hodges

Panama Court's caretaker for much of the 1930s was Albert Hodges of suite 10.

Hodges was a veteran of the First World War and a member of the Old Contemptibles, a fraternal society of British soldiers who fought at Flanders in 1914. In fact, Hodges was long-time president of the small local chapter and his wife was chair of its Ladies' Auxiliary. Their suite was host to many teas, executive meetings and charity whist tournaments related to the organization.

In late July 1933, Hodges was on an outing with a fellow Old Contemptible, 47-year-old constable Henry Portman of the Winnipeg Police Department. The two were fishing near Seven Sisters Falls when Portman slipped off a rock and into the river.

Hodges, a strong swimmer, jumped into the water to save him. He almost drowned as the current washed him up onto the rocks. After gathering himself on shore Hodges tried a second rescue. This time, the current pulled the pants off his torso and he had to be rescued by an onlooker who held out a pole.

Portman drowned that afternoon, but Hodges was hailed as a hero for risking his life twice to try to save him.

Dr. M. Stuart Fraser
October 30, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune

Dr. McGillivray Stuart Fraser was a Brandon, Manitoba physician who became the first permanent staff member of the province's newly created board of health in 1916. He served as its secretary and the provincial epidemiologist.

One of Fraser's first acts was to establish a team of public health nurses to visit rural schools. The aim was to alleviate the needless suffering of children from diseases that could be prevented through a better understanding of good hygiene and sanitation. The program eventually fanned out across the province and was considered a Canadian public health first.

During the "Spanish" Influenza outbreak of 1918 - 19, Fraser provided daily press updates on the number of cases and deaths in the province. In October 1918, his department issued a proclamation ordering the province-wide closure of all gathering places - schools, theatres, halls and even churches - for a period of weeks until the epidemic waned.

Widowed in 1910, Fraser moved to suite 22 of Panama Court in 1923 and relocated to suite 11 in the early 1940s. He was made an Honourary Life Member of the Canadian Public Health Association after his retirement in 1931.

Fraser died October 26, 1949 at the age of 89 at Winnipeg General Hospital.

More about John Simpson Hooper:

John S. Hooper worked with his father in his architecture firms, but it seems that he preferred the challenges of the family business, Hooper Marble and Granite. The company had an important role in city's construction industry providing material for countless building facades, hallways, lobbies, monuments and gravestones.

In the 1907 street directory John Hooper is listed as the company's manager and when the Winnipeg Builders Exchange was created in 1910 he joined it a "marble contractor" rather than an architect.

Hooper was also a player in the city's building industry through a variety of organizations. He was an executive member of the Builder's Exchange into the early 1920s. He was also at times on the executive of the Winnipeg chapter of the Association of Building and Construction Industries and the Winnipeg Building Owners Association.

In the 1930s, Hooper seemed to drift from the family business and worked for other companies. In 1931, for instance, he was an architect with the CPR. In 1938 -39 he was a building inspector for construction company Northwood and Chivers. He also did a stint working as a city building inspector.

As for his personal life, Hooper married Margaret Bell of Dominion City in 1899 and they had three daughters. Hooper was working in Red Deer, Alberta when he died on August 7, 1940 at the age of 65. His body was returned to Winnipeg and he was buried at St. John's Cathedral Cemetery.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

634 - 640 Portage Avenue - McNaught Motors

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: McNaught Motors
Address: 636 Portage Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1928 (W. A. Irish and Co., contractor)
1949 (Moody Moore, architects and Baert Construction, contractor)

Top: Feb. 23, 1928, Winnipeg Tribune.

This building, which is currently being demolished, spent most of its 91 years as a car dealership.

In 1928, Universal Motors Ltd. opened a dealership for Canadian-made Durant Motors, (also see), and American-made Falcon-Knight automobiles at 640 Portage Avenue.This original section of this building building, nestled next to the Casa Loma Block, was 55 feet wide and around 100 feet deep. The contractor was W. A. Irish and Co.

Universal began adverting as early as February 3, but the official opening took place on February 19 after the Winnipeg Auto Show was held.

An initially unrelated news item from February 1928 was that E. E. Lehigh Motors of Brandon was named the Manitoba distributors for Durant and its subsidiaries. In September, Lehigh bought out Universal. It rebranded the dealership to Durant Sales and Service and the distribution department was E. E. Lehigh Ltd.

In February 1931, Lehigh moved the business to a larger location at 700 Portage at Sherbrook.

As a Hudson Essex Dealer, 1933

Over the next couple of decades a number of dealerships came and went.

In May 1931, it became home to Manitoba Hudson-Essex Ltd. which was the distributor for Hudson and Essex cars in Manitoba. The company's president was L. H. Leavins, a long-time Hudson dealer from Stonewall. The vice president was George Cobbs, that former Manitoba sales manager for Hudson Essex for a dozen years.

Hudson-Essex also operated a used car lot adjacent to the building.

The last ads for the dealership, by the end known simply as L H Leavins, appear in April 1936.

April 18, 1936, Winnipeg Free Press

The next dealership to call the building home was Ellis Motors. It was established in April 1936 by Arthur M. Ellis and sons, Mortimer and Arthur Jr.

Ellis was the Manitoba distributor for Graham line of automobiles. A year after they opened, they also became the Manitoba distributor for Studebaker and, like Lehigh, moved to larger premises at 700 Portage Avenue.

There was a brief respite from the automobile industry when Maytag Appliances came to town.

In May 1937, they opened their Winnipeg sales office and showroom here. It is at this point when the lot next door, 636 Portage, became a stand-alone used car lot. It was used by Breen Motors until the early 1940s, then became Leonard McVicar's Liberty Motors into the 1950s.

In February 1947, the building was purchased for $42,500 by Wright Motors Ltd. Wright operated REO Motor Sales Ltd from this location for a couple of years.

July 19, 1951, Winnipeg Tribune

Big changes were in store for the block after Dickson Motors was established in early 1948. It was the successor to Western Canada Motors Ltd., a Pontiac, Buick and Cadillac dealership, service centre and parts depot located in a three storey, 50,000 sq ft building at Graham and Edmonton Street.
Harry Dickson, the company's president, had been western zone manager for GM for some years.

Not long after Dickson began operating, it announced that it was constructing a 30,000 square foot new and used car show room, service centre and parts depot here at Portage and Furby.

Designed by architects Moody Moore and constructed by Baert Construction, the $200,000 structure  incorporated the existing 640 Portage Avenue building and the neighbouring used car lot under one roof. The entrance was changed to the intersection of Portage and Furby and a 200 foot long wall of glass was created along Portage Avenue.

Other features of the building included a large customer lounge and a lunch room and shower area for employees. (It is unclear if it was during this renovation that the 60-car rooftop parking lot was added.)

Dickson opened here on December 19, 1949. Mayor Garnet Coulter cut the ribbon at the official opening on February 2, 1950.

Within a couple of years, Dixon was operating three more used car lots, including a two-storey showroom, (the "Carorama") at Portage and Beverley, and a newly-built Esso station at Broadway and Sherbrook.

March 15, 1966, Winnipeg Tribune

In March 1966, Raymond Du Bois bought Dickson and renamed it Towne Pontiac Buick. (This included the Portage Avenue showroom and the Carorama.)

His son, John,was a popular drag racer in the 1960s and 1970s racing under the Towne name.

September 25, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

The building's last incarnation as a car dealership began in 1975 with McNaught Pontiac Buick Cadillac, (Your Little Cheaper Dealer), with Gordon McNaught as president.

In the spring of 2003, the dealership moved to moved to 1717 Waverley and the old location became home to Brent McNaught Automotive Centre, which sold used cars and operated the body shop and service centre.

In 2005, McNaught introduced a Vespa dealership with a show room in the original section of the building.

The building was listed as "for sale" as early as August 2011, though McNaught continued to operate the Automotive Centre until at least the summer of 2012. It was still listed as "for sale" in April 2016 with an asking price of $2 million. It was marketed as a "redevelopment opportunity".

The building is currently being demolished. It is unclear what will replace it.

More images of 634 - 640 Portage

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

191 Ellen Street - The Gardener's Co-op / Jansen Produce

© 2019, Christian Cassidy. Please respect my research.

Place: The Gardener's Co-op / Jansen Produce
Address: 191 Ellen Street (Map)
Constructed: 1946
Architect: Unknown

This building, soon be demolished, was part of Winnipeg's "Fruit Row" and housed a predecessor of what we know today as "Peak of the Market".

September 9, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

The Gardener's Wholesale, a co-op of 36 Winnipeg-area gardeners, was created in 1936. Its purpose was to bulk purchase seeds for members and to sell the produce they grew. Bill Daman of St. Vital was elected president and James Connery of St. Vital was vice president. Interestingly, around 70 per cent of the co-op members were of Dutch heritage.

In March 1946, its wholesale and trucking divisions were granted a new charter under the name The Winnipeg Gardeners Cooperative Ltd. and set their sights on becoming an even larger player in the city's wholesale vegetable market.

That summer, the co-op spent $100,000 to purchase land at the corner of Ross Avenue and Ellen Street and construct a new processing plant and warehouse. The location of the new facility was almost inevitable as Ross Avenue from Princess to Isabel Streets had been known as "Fruit Row" since the early 1900s for the many fruit and vegetable wholesalers it housed.

Work began in autumn on this single-storey, cinder block 100 x 50 foot building with basement. It was built so that the main floor could be extended, (which it has been as the current building measures 184 x 111), and a second storey added. It was completed by the end of the year, though its official opening took place on August 13, 1947 when the plant in full production.

July 9, 1947, Winnipeg Tribune

The co-op's pride and joy was the bunch vegetable washing machine. Operated by four people, it could clean 400 bunches an hour. It also had the city's only potato grading machine and a root washing machine for root vegetables.

A large cold storage room could store produce for up to a month. This allowed for a steady supply of produce to is customers.

The vegetables sold by the co-op were marketed under their newly created brand name "Peak of the Market".

December 31, 1949, Winnipeg Tribune

The new venture was a success. By 1954, there were 47 members and sales topped the $750,000 mark. The co-op retired the small, $20,000 mortgage on the building that year.

In 1957, the co-op created a marketing division called Gardeners Sales Ltd.

The co-op soon outgrew its building. It leased additional warehouse space at 20 Derby Street, then, in 1961, announced that it was consructing a whole new facility on King Edward Street.

The provincial government's Manitoba Vegetable Marketing Commission, created in 1965, bought out the assets of the Gardeners Sales Company Ltd. / Gardeners Co-operative. In 1972, it was announced that the commission would be changed to a producer-led marketing board. This lives on today as "Peak of The Market".

May 11, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

After he co-op vacated the building in 1961 it soon became home to Jansen Produce.

Jansen began as Jansen Bros. in the early 1930s. John, Karel and Wilhelm Jensen from Arnhem Holland came to Manitoba in the 19-teens and each went into farming and became market gardeners. The main Jansen Bros. farm was in Headingley.

They joined forces in the early 1930s as Jansen Bros. wholesale market gardeners and rented a small storage space in a building on William Avenue in Winnipeg through which they could sell their produce.

Thanks to landing some large contracts, like supplying CNR passenger train service / VIA Rail, in 1938 they moved to a larger warehouse at 398 Ross Avenue on Fruit Row.

Jansen Bros. was a family affair as sons of the founders joined the firm when they got old enough. (To give a sense of how much a family firm it was, there were eight people with the last name Jansen listed as working at the company in 1962.)

In late 1961, with the next generation of Jansens firmly in place, including Edward and Wilfred, the company made another move to the much larger 191 Ellen Street at Ross Avenue.

November 30, 1972, Winnipeg Free Press

The name of the firm was changed to Jansen Produce in 1965.

Various newspaper ads in the 1960s and 1970s show that Jansen supplied many large companies,  including VIA Rail, The Keg, University of Manitoba and A & W.

The company was also a supporter of women's curling. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, the runner-up award for the Manitoba Ladies Curling Association City Championship was the Jansen Produce Cup.

Jansen Produce was bought by Codville Company in 1977, though Codville kept the Jansen name and Wilfred continued to manage it until his retirement in 1984. It was at that time that "Jansen Produce" disappears from newspapers.

Since that time, the space has been used off an on as warehouse space.

Architect's drawing from rezoning application

The building was sold in 2017.

In April 2019, a rezoning application will be heard to rezone he property to “RMF-L” Residential Multi-Family (Large) to allow for the building's demolition and the construction of a three storey, 47 unit, non-profit housing block.

Friday, April 5, 2019

502 Selkirk Avenue - Montreal Furs R.I.P.

© 2019, Christian Cassidy
Place: Montreal Furs
Address: 502 Selkirk Avenue
Constructed: ca. 1903. Demolished 2019

The house at 502 Selkirk Street was likely constructed in 1903. Its first owner was Jacob Dick, a conductor with the CPR. John C. Ward, a fellow conductor, was his lodger.

October 1917 ad

Around 1908, it became home to Louis Miclowsky and family. A tailor by trade, he initially worked in a shop at 612 Ellice Avenue. By 1917, he had a small shop at 253 Sherbrook Street.

Other owners over the next decade included:

1923 - Samuel Block and family
1925 - Louis Kelin and family. He was foreman NorthWest Hide and Fur.
1930 - fruit dealer Benjamin Rabinovich and family
1932 - carpenter Mike Kovel and family

In 1934, Hymie Kleiman, cabinetmaker, and family moved in. It appears that it was Kleiman who had the retail front added to the building in 1937. From the store portion he operated the Winnipeg Bentwood Chair Co.

The store lasted just a couple of years, but he continued to work as a cabinet maker and used the store front as his shop.

The Kleimans usually had lodgers.

In 1939, it was Harry Wener and wife, Tillie. He was a salesman for Perths Cleaners and Tillie worked at clothing manufacturer Freed and Freed. The following year he enlisted to serve in the war. When he returned in 1948, they moved on. 

April 4 1963, Jewish Post

In 1948, it appears that Kleiman, by then retired, sold the building. The new owner was Steve Kushnir who opened the Montreal Fur Co. in the retail space and lived in the residential portion wih his wife, Mary, and two young daughters.

Born in Ukraine, Kusnir came to Winnipeg in 1929 and soon began working for Montreal Fur Co., a fur manufacturer that had been in business since at least 1920. (Interestingly, in 1937, of the ten employees listed, all with different last names, they all listed their residential address as 117 Selkirk Avenue.)

Kushnir became a partner in the firm in 1938 when it was located at 223 Dufferin. By 1941, he is listed as the proprietor. That same year he married Mary Sanko who cad come to work for him.

In 1987, Kushnir retired and sold off the building. Mary died in 1980. He died in 1994.

The next long term tenant was gift shop Yorkdale Imports owned by Sam Victor. He closed the store in summer of 2011 citing the decline in Selkirk's fortunes as a retail street.  (The Selkirk BIZ noted in a 2011 study that between 2005 and 2011, 75 of the 125 businesses on the street disappeared.)

Aside from a short-lived restaurant venture in 2017, the retail portion of the store has remained vacant. Suites for rent had been advertised in the residential portion as late as September 2018.

The house portion was destroyed by fire on April 3, 2019.

Czas, May 3, 1950

Thursday, April 4, 2019

500 Selkirk Avenue - The Donut House

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

Place: The Donut House
Location: 500 Selkirk Avenue (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1959
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Miller Construction

The "Do-nut House" first appears in Henderson's street directory of 1952 located at 496 Selkirk Avenue. It was the same building that housed the original Windmill Restaurant until it moved further west in 1949.

The proprietors were Sam Gilman and Alvin Slotnikov, (later shortened to Slotin).

A 1993 Free Press "advertorial" said the bakery was about to celebrate its 46th birthday, which would put its founding in 1947. Neither Gilman nor Slotin appear in Henderson Directories before 1952 as bakers. In 1950, for instance, Slotnikov is listed as a butcher and Samuel Gilman appears to have just opened a novelty shop in a former piano store at the 496 Selkirk Avenue address.

August 28, 1958, Winnipeg Tribune

It appears that their intention was to create a bakery chain with the Selkirk Avenue shop doubling as the head office.

By 1956, there were branches at 1795 Portage Avenue and 131 Marion Street. In 1958 there were five. "Peak Donut House" seems to have occurred in the mid-1960s with seven locations. (It is unclear if these were all full bakeries or just shops selling goods baked at the central location.)

The chain began to shrink in 1970 when it went back to three locations. By 1971 there was just the one. Doonut House goods were sold through department and grocery stores, likely negating the need for their own branded shops.

June 25, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press

The current Selkirk Avenue building appears to have been built on the site of the old one in early 1959. Ads in June 1959 invited people to come and see "one of the brightest and smartest looking retail shops in Winnipeg". The new address was 496-500 Selkirk Avenue.

In 1974, the founders retired and sold the bakery to Erhard Meier.

Erhard Meier, February 27, 1993, Winnipeg Free Press

Born in West Germany, Meier trained as a baker and came to Canada in 1953 at he age of eighteen. He worked at some smaller bakeries before joining Dominion Stores for thirteen years.

By 1993, the bakery had 53 employees. Its menu included 150 products, including buns, cakes, bread, scones, sausage rolls and pies. They also baked fifteen types of donuts, anywhere between 350-650 dozen a day. Much of their trade was wholesale, selling to restaurants, hospitals, VIA Rail, etc.. (They still actively work with he WRHA, for instance.)

Meier, who insisted on sticking it out on Selkirk Avenue despite its steady decline, was seriously injured in 2008 when, at the age of 73, he was attacked by three people in the lane behind the store with a baseball bat.

Meier's son, Russ, is the general manager.

December 16, 1965, The Jewish Post

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

270 Morley Avenue - Rubin Block

For more about the buildings of South Osborne, come to my presentation at the Fort Rouge Library on March 28, 2019 !

Place: Rubin Block / Morley Apartments
Address: 270 Morley Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1914 - 1915
Architect: Max Zev Blankstein

This three-storey, mixed-use building was constructed for Reuben Cohen, (1865 - 1955).

Cohen came to Winnipeg from London with wife, Jessie, and brothers, Abe and Solomon, in 1906. Despite having family here and settling on Selkirk Avenue in the heart of the city’s Jewish immigrant community, the Cohen brothers felt lonely and sought to create an organization "in which we could find comradeship and simultaneously deal with some of our mutual problems". 

That organization was the Hebrew Sick Benefit Society which was created in October 1906. It was part fraternal aid society (into which members paid an annual membership fee and got benefits such as health coverage, funeral costs, disability payments in the days before the social safety net.) It also served as a cultural institution, establishing a large hall on Selkirk Avenue that was home to banquets, festivals, speeches, and live theatre. 

The HSBS was an important cornerstone in Jewish community that lasted until the 1960s.

Cohen was a founding member of Mount Carmel Clinic and instrumental in establishing the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Winnipeg, serving as president of the latter for around 40 years until his death in 1955.

Around 1913, Cohen branched out into property development. His name can be found in relation to about a dozen single family home building permits in the Crescentwood / Fort Rouge area. The following year, he decided to go big and hired architect Max Zev Blankstein to design the Rubin Block for him.


Blankstein was born and trained in Russia, came to Canada in 1904 and was practicing in Winnipeg by 1907. In his 25-year career he designed numerous commercial buildings and and apartments. One of his best known early works is the Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel on Selkirk Avenue in 1913, (which bears a resemblance to the Rubin Block), and a series of neighborhood theatres later in his career, the best known of which is the Uptown Theatre on Academy Road which opened the year of his death in 1930.

Most sources say that the Rubin Block opened in 1914. That may have been the year the building permit was issued, but the Henderson Directory of 1915, which would have been compiled early in the year, lists it as simply a "new building" with no tenants, meaning that it was not yet completed. It was likely finished in mid or late 1915.

In 1924, Cohen went into business with his brother and appears to have sold off the Rubin Block. Notices in the newspaper and street directories state that the building's name had been changed to the Morley Apartments. The inscription in the cornice was never changed, so it is still referred to as the Rubin Block.


The Rubin Block has two distinct facades.

The Morley Apartments face Morley Avenue. The 1916 Henderson Directory lists 21 apartment units. Interestingly, there is no suite number "13", just a 12 and 12 1/2.

Its original lineup of heads of households of  had jobs such as travelling salesmen, a well driller, a fireman, an administrator at the nearby municipal hospital, and and various positions within the CNR.

The commercial side of the block facing Osborne Street contained three retail spaces and it took some time for the spaces to fill. The only early tenant listed in street directories is the South Baptist Sunday School. That space became Allan Reid’s Drug Store from 1922 to around 1952.

The Sunday School was joined on November 18, 1918 by the city's third Merchants Bank branch. (Despite its name being carved in stone above the doorway, the bank was not an original tenant.) When the Merchants was taken over by the Bank of Montreal, it remained a BMO until 1951 when it moved to a building across the street. 

Another long term tenant was Whitlock's Confectionery, from 1923 - 1950.

The third and smallest unit was a watchmaker and barber shop. Sometimes both being listed at the unit at the same time.

Throughout most of the 1950s the main retail tenant was Arlyne’s fashion shop. The entire main floor became home to a Good Will Industries thrift shop from 1962 to 2000.

The 2000s have not been kind to the building. A basement fire in 2006 damaged some of the suites and a more devastating third floor fire in 2014 damaged the roof and forced the shut down of the building. It has been vacant ever since.

More about the retailers:
In 1923, the retail space numbered 554 became home to Whitlock Confectionery. Ernest E. Whitlock was born on Brackley, England and came to Winnipeg in 1911 when he was around 20 years-old.

Initially, he wrote the civil service exam and worked for a year in post office before deciding to go into business. His first shop, from 1913-15, was Cuncliffe and Whitlockon Notre Dame Avenue. After a couple of years working at the Bay, by 1918 he opened Whitlock Confectioners at 531 Osborne Street.

In 1923, he relocated to the Rubin Block. His wife, Mary, was a store clerk. The couple lived nearby at 118 Ashland Street. In the mid-1940s, the store was also the area's post office.

Around 1950, Whitlock moved to 550 Osborne Street. He died at his store in 1954 at the age of 64.

Reid's Pharmacy was owned by Allan B. Reid. He attended the school of pharmacy at the U of M and played on its curling and hockey teams before graduating in 1920 - 21.  By 1923 he already had his own shop set up at 556 Osborne Street.

Arlyne's Fashion Shop was operated by Molly Rosenblat. She started selling clothes out of her North End home and eventually had two retail stores. She got out of the clothing business in 1974 for a career with the provincial government.

The Barber Shop was run by William (Bill) Davis from at least 1916 to 1920. He was a strong supporter of the Independent Labour Party of Manitoba and his shop was home to numerous party meetings and election rallies during this time.

'Dear Owner' letter turning heads Global
Looking for oprtions on Rubin Block Sou'Wester
Neighbours pack meeting on boarded up Rubin Block CBC
My Flickr album of the Rubin Block