Tuesday, March 20, 2018

415 Graham Avenue - Lonely House

c 2018, Christian Cassidy
Address: 415 Graham Avenue, 250 - 252 Kennedy Street (Map)
Architect: Unknown
Constructed: 1900 - 1901

At the core of the cluster of commercial buildings at 415 Graham Avenue and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street is one of the last remaining houses in Winnipeg's central business district. A hint at its once largely residential past.

Other examples of lonely houses can be found at 130 Fort and, until its recent demolition, 175 Donald.

The house first appears in the Henderson Directory of 1901 with Wilford Phillips as the owner. It is unclear if he had the house built for him.

Phillips came to Winnipeg in August 1900 with his wife to be superintendent of the Winnipeg Street Railway, the city’s streetcar service. He had held similar jobs in Toronto and Niagara Falls before coming here.

The couple did not stay long at this address. By June 1901 they had relocated to a home on Assiniboine Avenue.

June 1901
May 1918
April 1922

The house then became a rooming house run by a widow named Mrs. J. Matthews (or Mathies). Classified ads in the "rooms for rent" section began appearing in local papers as early as June 1901.

Initial tenants of the rooming house included: A Murray, schoolteacher; Mrs. J. Mathies, widow; and B. Hamilton, CPR land department clerk. It continued on as short-term lodgings for office workers, students and the like for more than three decades. Few tenants stayed for more than a year or two.

Bertha Goggan was a resident in 1930. She appeared in a testimonial ad for Sargon stomach remedy, claiming that for 25 years she had such terrible stomach issues that even eating bread was a chore. Sargon, she claimed, changed her life.

Angie Petroni, left, and Sam, right, Wolfe in the middle.
June 28, 1937, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1936 - 37 the Petroni family roomed here.

In June 1937 two of their children, Angie (12) and Sam (27), along with a companion named Josephine Wolfe, went on a houseboat excursion along the Red River to Lake Winnipeg. They ended up getting stuck on a sand bar and were stranded for most of the day.

Wolfe swam to shore through the marsh to flag down help and the group was rescued safely. For her trouble she later received a Royal Canadian Humane Society medal for heroism.

Top: both houses, ca. 1935 (source)
Bottom: September 8, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

The house was put up for sale by owner Jack Nelson in September 1937. The ad noted that the nine-room house had a 33-foot frontage and would make an "ideal business site". This was true given its proximity to the Bay.

The man who purchased the house was William R. Lane who already had much to do with transforming that corner of Kennedy Street and Graham Avenue.

In 1935, he bought the neighbouring house at 252 Kennedy Street at Graham Avenue and hired architect  Edgar Prain to build two attached retail units that fronted onto Kennedy.

Lane lived at the 252 Kennedy house before and after the construction which suggests that this house was also incorporated into the retail units.

 Top: June 25, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

As for 415 Graham Avenue, Lane turned again to Prain to design a $2,300, single-storey retail extension to the front of the house which brought its footprint right to the sidewalk. The interior of the house also got an "extensive" renovation.

When the building permit was granted in May 1938 the intention was to have the work done by day labour supervised by Lane. The plan changed when Lane became ill and he hired contractor A. E. Hawkings to complete the job.

Days after hiring Hawkings, William Lane died on July 1, 1938 at his home at 252 Kennedy Street.

The work was completed and his estate sold off 415 Graham and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street as a single property. (Today, they are still one legal property with the address "413 Graham Avenue.")

Part II: The Retailers

September 23, 1939, Winnipeg Free Press

The first retailer to call the new retail space out front of 415 Graham Avenue home was the Hobby Craft Centre. Little is known about the company and it went bankrupt in September 1940.

October 11, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

Hollingsworth and Co. opened a girls' fashion shop here on October 26, 1940.

Hollingworth's was a well-known clothing retailer in the city. Its women's wear store was established in 1915 by George H. Stewart on the main floor of the Boyd Building. By the 1930s, it had branches in Regina and Calgary.

In 1947, the company was bought out by Alex Mitchell who would go on to build the Dayton's Department Store on Portage Avenue.

The girls' store remained at this address until 1953 while the women's wear store in the Boyd Building lasted until the early 1970s.

Top: April 30, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press

In April 1955 the space became home to Mario's Beauty Salon.

Mario Zava was born in Italy during the Depression and came to Canada in with $18 in his pocket. He knew no English but was a skilled hairstylist. He married Estela Spiwak in the early 1950s and opened his flagship beauty salon here in 1955.

Mario's grew into a chain of four salons by the mid-1960s attracting many stylists who only went by their first name.

The 415 Graham salon closed circa 1970.

February 6, 1971, Winnipeg Free Press

The next retailer to move in was Regent Optical in 1971. Like Hollingsworth, it also had a store in the Boyd Building.

The company celebrated its 25th anniversary at this address in 1986 and remained until 1989.


A shift from retail came in 1991 when SKY, Street Kids and Youth, opened here. It was a two-year pilot project run by the YM / YWCA to help children and youth who were experiencing homelessness. When funding ran out in 1993 the program closed.

The property was for lease through most of the 1990s.

The space was home to Bridal Elegance from 2000 to about 2013. The unit then sat empty for a number of years.

The facade of the retail portion of the building got a makeover in 2017, along with the rest of the storefronts on the property.

Resource Assistance for Youth (RAY) opened a thrift store in the space in 2018. That closed permanently in August 2021.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see pictures of the inside of this place.