Friday, November 20, 2020

53 Maryland Street - Bella Vista Restaurant

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Place: Bella Vista Restaurant
Address: 53 Maryland Street
Constructed: ca. 1907
Summary:  ca. 1907 to 1914 - Residence
                    ca. 1914 to 1933 - Grocery store
                    ca. 1933 to 1968 - Drug store
                    ca. 1968 to present - Restaurant

The residential portion of 53 Maryland Street existed before the commercial extension. it is unclear who took out the building permit.

The house first appears in street directories in 1907 owned by John Nicholson, a driver by trade. To help pay the mortgage he had roomers. A constant one from 1907 to 1910 was
Henry M. Bathurst, a partner in West, Porteous and Co. Real Estate. The company dissolved in June 1909 and the following year he and Nicholson were gone.

It became home to the Naylor family in 1910.
Harry P. Naylor was director of Harry P Naylor and Co. Real Estate. The 1911 census shows he and wife Jennie, both 41, lived there with their six children ages 6 to 17.

By 1914, the family of Murray M. Kellough resided there. Kellough was the first to operate a commercial establishment from the site: M. Kellough Grocery. The family lived in the residential portion at the rear of the store.

George T Mayes took over the grocery store in 1917. He also operated a store at 1588 Pacific in the Weston neighbourhood. Mayes ran it until 1920 when he sold up after buying another store on Portage Avenue.

1920s developments near Maryland and Wolseley

In 1920, the store became known as Campbell Grocery Ltd.. The proprietor was John A. Campbell who lived at 132 Evanson Street with his wife, Cora, and daughter, Ruth.

Campbell took over the store at the dawn of a very busy decade for the intersection.

The original Maryland Bridge, built in the 1890s, had long been crumbling. By 1920, vehicle traffic on the bridge had been limited so that cars not could travel within 250 feet of each other and at a speed no greater than 5 miles per hour. Street car traffic had also been banned. That changed in 1921 with the opening of a new, multi-lane bridge.

The 20-classroom Gordon Bell Junior High School was constructed in 1926 kitty corner from the store along Maryland Street.

Misericordia Hospital opened a new 75-bed wing on Wolseley Avenue in 1927.

Campbell's business did well with all this new development around it. Around 1932, still in the depths of the Depression, he relocated to larger premises just a block away at 55 Sherbrook Street, now Cousin's Deli.

In 1933, the store became home to a drug store called Campbell Drug Ltd. operated by Charles W. Campbell and J Frank Holland. (It is unclear if the two Campbells were related as it was a very common name in early Winnipeg.)

C. W. Campbell was already the proprietor of Campbell's Drug Store at Hargrave Street at St. Mary's Avenue. Holland, originally from Dugald, Manitoba, graduated from the School of Pharmacy at the U of M in 1928, and worked for him. In this new venture Holland managed the store while Campbell continued to run the downtown location.

1933 was a particularly good year for Campbell as he also married Helen Dougall that July. She was a teacher by trade and, according to a student roll published in a 1921 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune, both attended St. John's Technical High School together in different classes. It is unclear if that is when they first met.

They were certainly an item by 1931 as they attended a Canadian Pharmaceutical Association gala dinner at the Hotel Fort Garry together. 

After their marriage, Helen resigned her teaching job, as required at the time, and the two settled at 701 Wolseley where they raised at least one child, Trevor.

Armed robberies of drug stores were a fairly common occurrence at the time.

The downtown store had a high profile robbery in 1931 that resulted in a female customer being shot in the abdomen. She barely survived. and barely survived. Holland's store was held up at gunpoint at least twice. Once was in 1941 when a dimwitted bandit got off with just $3. A 1949 robbery was more serious as Holland, his wife, a delivery boy, and a customer were forced to lie on the floor at gunpoint while the robber stole $130 in cash.

Holland became sole owner of the store in 1958 and the name was changed to Holland's Pharmacy. By this time he and Helen lived at 76 Cornish Avenue.

Holland was also involved in both the Manitoba and Canadian Pharmaceutical Associations, serving as president of the former from 1960 to 1962. He was also a founding member of the Broadway Optimist Community Club.

Holland retired from business in 1968 and died at his home on August 24, 1970 at the age of 65. Helen died in October 1983.

With Holland's retirement the building's more than half century as a retail store came to an end.

August 29, 1968, Winnipeg Tribune

It didn't take long before the space got a new owner. Help wanted classified ads began appearing in June 1968 looking for staff for a new Gondola Pizza restaurant. It opened in August as the ninth store in the local chain.

The last ads for it as a Gondola Pizza location come in February 1979.

December 1, 1980, Winnipeg Free Press

The building continued on as a restaurant in August 1979* with the opening of Bella Vista Restaurant a and Pizzaria by Armand Colosimo along with an uncle and brother.

(Note: a couple of modern newspaper articles say that 1976 is the year the restaurant opened, which can't be true. It was advertised regularly as a Gondola Pizza until early 1979. It likely wasn't Colisimo and co. who ran the Gondola restaurant as its owner and manger were both arrested in December 1977 and neither had that last name.)

October 4, 1979, Winnipeg Tribune

The first restaurant review for the Bella Vista can be found in an October 1979 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune. The reviewer described it as "A small, intimate room with about 32 seats, it has an extensive menu, attentive service and a developing clientele of Italian families." (See above.)

As the 1980s progressed, you were more likely to see a reference to the Bella Vista in the "Who's Playing" section than the
"Dining Out" section of the paper. By 1986, it had gained a reputation as an intimate live jazz spot on weekends. As time went on, the scope of performers expanded to include blues, folk and rock music.

In 2019, Colosimo, 66, sold the Bella Vista to former cafe owner Ross Jeffers, though he remained on staff. The property was put up for sale in 2020 and its purchase was announced in November 2020.

It is unclear what will become of the building. Under construction next door, and taking up the remainder of the block, is a ten-storey seniors residence that may want the property for loading or parking.


  1. Loved reading this- J. Frank & Helen Holland were my grandparents, and Trevor was my Dad- he was an only child, although I have been told my grandmother lost several pregnancies and they also lost 1 infant daughter shortly after birth.

    Great piece of history ! I have a copy of the article from Oct .6, 1949 about the robbery referred to in this article. After this threat to the lives of himself, his wife and staff, he purchased a small ivory handled hand pistol which he kept hidden in the store. We came across it after my grandmother's death in 1983- she resided at 76 Cornish until she passed, also at home. Thank you for these memories!

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