Friday, February 20, 2015

301 Burnell Street - Former Grey Goose Bus Lines Garage

Scenic Crusier
Fmr Grey Goose Bus Garage

Place: Former Grey Goose Garage (demolished)
Address: 301 Burnell Street (Map)
Date: 1920, 1944 (demolished), 1971 (demolished)
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown


Much of Burnell Street from Portage to St. Matthews Avenues did not develop until after 1910. Prior to that, it consisted of a dairy farm and pasture land for cows and horses. In 1912 Canada Bread built a large commercial bakery with a garage and stables. Houses began to appear on the east side and apartments along St. Paul Avenue, but a gap remained between number 291 and 307, possibly a remnant of pasture land.

February 7, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

The first development on this site came in 1920 when Gray-Ogletree Motors built a 14,000 square foot, 140' x 100', car showroom, garage and service station at number 297 - 305. The company was the local dealer for Hupmobile, a line of cars founded by Robert and Louis Hupp in Detroit in 1908.

Frank A. Ogletree of Ruby Street and  Harvey L. Grey of Canora Street were both involved in other dealerships when they came together to form this new partnership. Robert Gair of Banning Street was their head mechanic.

Construction of the building was underway by June 1919 with an expected opening date of December 1. For some reason that was delayed and they had to set up temporary offices in the Somerset Building on Portage Avenue. The dealership did not open until mid-March 1920.

A factor in the delay may have been securing stock. A small item in a February 1921 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune mentions that Mr. Ogletree had just returned from Hupp plant in Detroit and was only able to get 100 cars for the 1920 model season and that customers needed to order in advance.  Whether this actually indicted production delays at the plant, or just an advertising gimmick, is unclear.

June 26, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

When the business finally opened, the dealership also offered car storage, used car sales and a filling station.
By the end of the year the partnership had dissolved and it was known simply as Grey Motors. they alss opened a separate showroom space at Portage and Sherbrook, leaving the Burnell site as their warehouse and garage.

Gray Motors' demise came with the fall of Hupmobile Corporation in the early months of the Depression.

May 17, 1925, Winnipeg Free Press

When Grey moved its showroom to Portage Avenue, the building was subdivided.

In 1921 the north portion was home to West End Auto Livery, featuring seven passenger cars for hire. In 1922 the White Motor Company moved from their old location at 666 Portage Avenue. They sold and serviced White Trucks trucks built at the company's plant in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1931 White built an assembly plant in Montreal giving them a larger presence in the Canadian market.

In the mid 1940s White Trucks had relocated to Horace Street in Norwood.

February 4, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1940 Grey Goose Bus Lines became a tenant alongside White Trucks.

The roots of Grey Goose go back to 1924 when Jack Smith began a single bus route, using a second-hand touring car, between Winnipeg and Carman. He later sold it to Gary Lewis who, in 1929, joined forces with Elmer Clay who ran a service between Morden and Winnipeg.The duo  purchased a couple of 30-passenger buses.

In the ensuing years, other independent bus lines and rural routes were brought into the partnership and in 1934 the company was incorporated under the name Grey Goose Bus Lines with Alfred Hurshman as president and Gary Lewis as vice president. By 1937 they operated a fleet of 21 buses offering regular service throughout Manitoba as well as a charter service.

In 1944 Grey Goose built an extension to the south of the building, essentially a duplicate of the original structure.

Bus Grey Goose April 10 1962 WFP
April 10, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1961 Grey Goose was acquired by Thiessen Bus Lines.

Thiessen's story was similar to that of Grey Goose. It began in 1946 when Abaram J. Thiessen began a bus route from Gretna and Winkler  to Winnipeg. Over time, he absorbed other bus routes and companies, including Interlake Bus Lines and Transcona Bus Lines, making him a large player on the Manitoba scene. 

In 1969 the new company, Grey Goose United, purchased Manitoba Motor Transit Limited of Brandon, making it Western Canada's largest inter-urban bus company and one of the five largest in the country, with 50 buses in operation.

Grey Goose Bus Garage
In the 1950s and 2010s

In 1971 Thiessen constructed a new garage on the site of the old one. He also announced that Grey Goose United would go public, selling 220,000 shares at $2.50 each to help fund the garage, the purchase of new buses and, possibly, acquiring more companies.

Just as Grey Goose grew through a series of acquisitions and mergers, it disappeared the same way.

When the shares went on sale, Laidlaw Motorways Ltd. of Hamilton, Ontario purchased the majority of them, announcing the acquisition in August 1972. They kept the Grey Goose name and the Thiessen family as managers.

In 1997 Laidlaw purchased Greyhound Canada Ltd. and its parent company Greyhound Lines Inc., though continued to operate Grey Goose as a separate subsidiary.

Demolition of Former Grey Goose Garage - afternoon

The end for Grey Goose came in 2007 when British-based FirstGroup purchased Laidlaw's transportation assets. The following year they merged Grey Goose's operations with Greyhound at their garage in Point Douglas. The Grey Goose name disappeared and the Burnell garage was closed.

The garage, which sat on contaminated land, was difficult to sell. Non-profit groups such as the Manitoba Transit Heritage Association and Santa Claus Parade were allowed to use it as storage. Finally, in 2012, it was demolished, the land remediated, and sold.

Phase one proposal

In 2014 a group called Business Concern Canada Ltd. announced a new residential development for the site. The first phase consists of 16 duplex, townhouse-style buildings consisting of three bedroom units. A phase 2 will include another 100 units.

Construction began on phase one in February 2015. 

My Grey Goose Garage Flickr album
Switch Iron MTHA (page 4)
A.J. Thiessen Fonds Mennonite Church Archives
History of Inter-city buses in Manitoba

Public Hearing of proposal - 301 Burnell City of Winnipeg

Old Grey Goose Coach
September 15, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

Burnell Street, Winnipeg
December 29, 1939, Winnipeg Free Press

 Former Grey Goose Garage
Interior, 1971 garage, ca. 2012


  1. Nice! Hopefully a good development for the neighborhood.

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