Monday, May 11, 2015

666 Arlington Street - Brown Bros. Block

Brown Bros. Block
Place: Brown Bros. Block
Address: 666 Arlington Street at Sargent (Map)
Architect: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

Top: Google Street View ca. July 2012
Bottom: Feb 26, 1907, Winnipeg Free Press

George and Hanna Brown came to Winnipeg from Barrie, Ontario in the late 1890s. They had five children and in 1906 sons Robert J., Stephen G. and Samuel E. opened Brown Bros. Bakery at 532 Notre Dame Avenue at Spence Street, (demolished ca. 2013).

Not long after they opened, the city's health department began a crackdown on the conditions of bakeries and other food processing facilities throughout the city. The Notre Dame Avenue building was cited for having improper lighting and ventilation.

The brothers decided to relocate to a custom-built facility of their own and in October 1907 took out a $2,600 building permit for the property at 666 - 668 Arlington Street.

ca. 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

The three-storey brick building was completed in early 1908. The first two floors housed the bakery, offices and retail shop. The top floor contained two residential suites where at least one of the brothers or a bakery employee usually lived. There were also stables at the rear.

By 1916, with the bakery still in operation, the main floor retail space became a grocery store called Arlington Grocery. The first proprietor was Herbert Parratt, followed by Arthur Lock who also moved into one of the residential units. The store lasted just a couple of years.

In 1920, Brown Bros. Bakery had about 15 employees, though Stephen G. appears to have been the only brother directly involved in running it. By this time, most of his siblings had moved elsewhere in Canada and he lived with his widowed mother lived in the suites upstairs.

Top: Lögberg, October 6, 1921
Bottom: May 23, 1913, Winnipeg Free Press

Around 1921, it appears that Stephen sold the bakery to the larger Speirs Parnell Bakery which turned it into one of their specialty divisions called Quality Cakes.

Stephen stayed on as quality manager and he and his mother continued to live upstairs until 1925. They then moved to Vancouver where he opened another Browns Bros. Bakery. (For  the Vancouver bio of Stephen.)
In 1925, Quality hired contractors Langford and Burch to do a three week, $12,000 renovation of the building that included installing new baking equipment.
The bakery continued on with  F. J. Foster as manager until 1930 when it closed, perhaps a victim of the Depression.

ca. 1933 (source)

The building sat vacant until around 1933 when it became a fur production facility called Western Fur Dressers and Dyers Ltd. They were one of a handful of Winnipeg companies that did such work for the province's $700,000 a year raw fur industry.

Western Fur kept a very low profile as did its proprietor Jacob Gilman. In 1946, Western Fur closed when Gilman became president of Sterling Furs Ltd. on Logan Avenue.

The building again sat vacant for a couple of years until a pair of tenants related to the garment industry moved in. In 1950, Mid West Quilting, a textile manufacturer set up on the second floor and in 1951, JayDee Products, an embroidery firm, took up the third floor.

April 10, 1962, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1951, the new main floor tenant was Stearn Automotive Products.

Del Richardson and a couple of business partners from Saskatchewan purchased the name and equipment of a defunct Minnesota-based company. They decided to re-estabish it in Winnipeg.

Stearn's manufactured car frost shields, bug shields and defrosters. The parent company, Richardson Manufacturing, had a tool and dye shop and did other automotive and agricultural related manufacturing.

In 1958, the tenants were gone as Richardson took over the entire building. That same year, he added a 1,500 square foot warehouse area to the rear, replacing the old stables, and a 1,200 square foot garage and shipping area built adjacent to the building at 668 Arlington.

By the end of the decade the company was shipping its frost shields around the world.

Stearn's continued add more product lines and soon needed a bigger building. In April 1962, they relocated to  92 Gomez Street. The company is now called Richardson Great Northern Manufacturing and is located on St. Matthews Avenue.

Old Sign

In 1959, the building became home to Motor Parts and Supplies Co., a company created by Bert Nicholls and Alan Frank. It offered custom machine shop service and did everything from piston service and crankshaft grinding to hydraulic machinery repairs and electrical testing. There was also a small retail shop.

Motor Parts ended up being the building's longest term owner from 1962 to 1992.

The building's address does not appear in newspaper ads after 1992. This suggests it may have been used for storage or residential purposes.

In 2012, Roseman Corp. 7 1060482 Alberta Ltd., owners of the building since at least 2006, applied to the city to get 666, 668 and 672 Arlington consolidated into a single “CMU” Commercial Mixed Use District zoning.

As described in the city's administration report on the rezoning matter, the building will also be renovated: The main floor of this building will be used by the purchaser for a commercial business (artisan studio). In addition, the second floor of the building will also be developed into commercial space. The third floor is slated to become a residence for the owner of the commercial business located on the main floor. There will be an unspecified but limited number of parking stalls provided internally off the lane at the rear of the building for the occupants of the building.

Brown Bros. Block

In 2014, Roseman Corp. sold the building to Assiniboine Interiors while it was still in the early stages of renovation. It is unclear if their plans for the building are the same as Roseman Corp's.

Scaffolding went up on the building in April 2015 and renovations are underway.

My photo album of 666 Arlington Street
666-672 Arlington Street rezoning report City of Winnipeg
Remember those car frost shields? West End Dumplings

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