Thursday, February 11, 2021

623 Simcoe Street - Private residence (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy


623 Simcoe in 2009, Google Street View

Place: Private Residence
Address: 623 Simcoe Street
Constructed: 1905
Architect: Unknown
Size: 820 square feet

The little vacant house at 623 Simcoe Street suffered a major fire in February 2021 and will likely be demolished. Before it's gone, here's a look back at its history.

This house was constructed in 1905. The first to live there was Jarvis Russell, electrician at Hudson Electrical Supply Co.. at 309 Fort Street. A feature of the house for decades to come was a lodger and in 1907 Russell and family rented a room to Edith Lundberg, a sewing machine operator at Union Overall Company.

It went through several residents in the first few years which suggests it may have been a rental property. It was home to carpenter Walter Sigurdson in 1908, William Vickery, a teamster at Robinson and Co., in 1910, then Alexander Paulds, tinsmith, in 1911.


1916 Census of the Provinces, Library and Archives Canada

Stability came in 1912 when it was bought by the Bjarnasons. Sigurdur and wife Gudrun came to Manitoba from their native Iceland in in 1901. They first settled at Stoney Mountain before moving to Winnipeg in 1912 where Sigidur worked as a labourer. In 1903, the couple had a son named Bjarni.

The Bjarnasons kept up the tradition of having a loddger most years. Many of them had Icelandic names and stayed for a short time. In the 1916 census it was Mrs. E.  Sigurdson, 41. 

The family appears to have lived a quiet life as they and their address stayed out of the daily newspapers - with one exception.


August 9, 1915, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1915, Sigurdur’s 75-year-old father came to visit him in Winnipeg. He got lost on his walk from the CPR depot and ended up walking 25 miles to Hazelridge, Manitoba. The postmaster at the village put the elderly man, (who, it seems, couldn't speak English well), back on a train with a note containing the address he was looking for and a request that whoever read the note to give him directions there.

Sigurdur died at the home on September 5, 1944. Gudrun died there just a few months later on April 30, 1945. Both are buried at Brookside Cemetery. (By the time of their deaths, Bjarni was living at Yardley Pennsylvania.)

The Preusantanz family, (some members used the anglicized last name of Price), were the next to call 623 Simcoe home. It consisted of Henry, a mechanic at Great West Saddlery, his wife, Amalia (Molly), and their three children: Henry Jr.; Freda; and Molly. For the first few years, Henry Sr.’s father, Fred, also lived at the home and worked at the saddlery until he retired around 1950.

George Michails, Mrs. Preusantanz father, died at the home in 1952.

It appears Henry Sr. was also a part-time inventor. He has at least one patent on file for a vending machine coin mechanism with the U.S. patent office.

Henry Sr. died in 1959 and Molly continued to live there for another year.

In late 1960, Edward and Elizabeth Bauer moved in. He was a cleaner with the CPR and she worked at Junior Wear, a clothing manufacturer on McDermot Avenue. They had two sons, Robert and Edward, who were grown by the time their parents moved here. Mrs. Bauer died May 9, 1966 at St. Boniface Hospital.

The history of the house is a bit of a mystery since then.

Digitized versions of Winnipeg's street directories end in 1965. In the late 1970s, newspapers moved away from using full addresses when writing about a person or event, instead using "600 block of Simcoe Street".

The house was still occupied in 2015, but by 2020 was vacant. On February 7, 2021, the house suffered a major fire and will likely be demolished.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Christian! That house is close to ours (built just before ours was), and this helps us mourn its passing. Houses have lives don't they, and your history honors those who lived there. Thank you for your work.

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