Sunday, January 3, 2021

640 Ellice Avenue - Huxley's Cartage

© 2021, Christian Cassidy


Place: Former Huxley's Garage / West Central Women's Resource Centre
Address: 640 Ellice Avenue
Constructed: 1927
Architect: Unknown


December 1, 1922, Winnipeg Free Press


Today, this building is home to the West Central Women’s Resource Centre, but for much of its existence it had more to do with motors than mentors.

The building first appears in street directories in 1927 as the office and garage for Huxley’s Cartage, a company that started business in 1922 at 351 Bannatyne Avenue by William F. Huxley. As the name suggests, it was a moving company but also delivered coal, soil and manure and did small excavation jobs such as digging driveways and levelling land for landscaping projects.

Huxley was born in Barford, England in 1884 and came to Winnipeg in 1902. Edith Dalton was born in Norfolk, England in 1882 and came to Winnipeg in 1905. the two were married in December 1905 by Rev. Samuel Fea at St. Peter's Anglican Church on Selkirk Avenue. , author of Irish Ned, in December 1905.

The couple initially settled at 318 Ellen Street where he was a teamster and she ran a boarding house for lodgers in the upstairs bedrooms. Eventually, they would have three children: daughter Irene and sons William Jr. (Bill), Frank, and John.


Fleet on Ellice Avenue ca. 1932. Far right, Huxley Sr, to his left is son Bill.

(Western Canada Pictorial Index, Herman Holla Collection No. 26391)


In 1922, the family were living at 351 Bannatyne Avenue when William started Huxley Cartage, a moving business that also delivered coal and wood, from the same address. As the company grew, new premises were needed and in 1927 a building permit was issued to construct a new garage and office at 640 Ellice Avenue. The architect and contractor are unknown.

Huxley had to be innovative to keep the company afloat during the Depression. It took on bigger excavation jobs such as the foundations of commercial buildings. (Its biggest contract was the excavation of the Winnipeg Auditorium foundation which required 700 men at a time to dig by hand, but Huxley asked to be released from the contract shortly before work began.)

The company also bid on many government delivery contracts, one of which caused great controversy.

December 6, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune

Huxley’s Cartage won the city contract to deliver firewood to the 269 families on Winnipeg’s Depression relief rolls in late 1931. The company promised quick and efficient service with its fleet of trucks.

Through the 1920s the motorized vehicle was becoming the king of the road, though many industries, including bakeries, dairies, breweries, wood  coal yards, still relied on the old faithful horse and wagon to deliver their products. The contract to deliver wood by truck touched off what the Winnipeg Tribune called “warfare between horse and truck”.

The teamsters who drove the rigs packed council meetings to protest and on several occasions took to the streets to block traffic with as many as 100 rigs. The city negotiated a compromise by making Huxley promise that any of the work his trucks couldn’t handle would be offered to teamsters rather than him buying more trucks. Huxley agreed, but it made no difference in the end. His fleet easily handled the deliveries and no work was available for teamsters who showed up at the city's St. Boniface wood lot each morning.


February 1, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1936, Huxley’s Cartage heralded the end of another horse-drawn era when they won the Dominion Post Office’s contract to collect the mail from the city’s 300 or so mail boxes. The service officially changed over on February 1, 1936.

Winnipeg was said to be the first major city in Canada to end horse and cart pick-up in favour of motorized vehicles.  Though there was an outpouring of nostalgia for the old service there does not appear to have been the same anger and controversy as seen with the wood delivery contract.

Huxley Sr. would be joined in business by sons Bill, who died in 1947 at the age of 40, and Frank. Frank was president of the company when it closed in 1973. Its trucks and other equipment were auctioned off in August.


Undated. Source: C. Gurman on Flickr

The next long-term business to call 640 Ellice Avenue home was Wheelsport in 1977. It sold and repaired motorcycles and was a Kawasaki dealership. It stayed until about 1987.

By 1989, the building was home John and Maria Salgueiro's JS Furniture and More. The company started in 1974 and besides furniture sold appliances and gift wear.  In 2009, it moved further east on Ellice Avenue.

In 2010, the building became home to the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. The organization was created in 1999 to empower women to help themselves, their families and their community to safer, healthier lifestyles.

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