Saturday, July 3, 2021

549 Arlington - Private dwelling

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Source: Google Street View

Place: Private Residence
Address: 549 Arlington Street (Map)
Constructed: 1910

It appears that the little house at 549 Arlington Street will be demolished soon. It and its side yard are going to be converted into two separate lots so that two new houses can be built on them, (see below). Here's a look back at its history.

This 720 square foot house was built in 1910. This was in the early stages of development for Arlington Street north of Portage Avenue. At the time, there were only nine houses listed in the street directory between St. Matthews and Sargent - four of them still under construction.

This and the neighbouring house at 551, which has the exact same square footage and may have started out as a twin to 549, were the only neighbouring houses on these blocks.

The Paynes. 1926 census of Canada

There were numerous residents of the house in its first couple of decades suggesting it may have been a  rental property.

The first to live there was Frederick Fitzsimmons, no occupation given. From about 1912 to 1914 it was home to the family of Leslie Powell of Wood Powell Real Estate. Next was Sydney Shee who would go on to be a big-wig in the electrical workers union in the 1940s and 50s. Thomas Evans, a pressman at the Winnipeg Free Press, lived there in 1918 with a lodger named Leonard Rinton, a caretaker at the Winnipeg Free Press building.

The house found stable ownership in 1919 when the Paynes moved in. John Thomas Payne came from England in 1906 and six years later began a career as a painter at the CPR's Weston Shops. Katheryn Payne was born in Ontario. It appears the couple had no children.

Payne died at the age 62 in February 1932 in General Hospital. His widow moved out the following year.

In 1941, Cleveland B. McLean and his wife, Mary, moved in and spent the entire decade. He was an engineman with the CPR.

There are two decorated Second World War soldiers with connections to this house.

Mary McLean was aunt to Lance Corporal George Thomas Nugent. Born in England, he came to Canada as a young boy and grew up in St. James. He enlisted January 6, 1940 with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and went overseas in August.

Mary McLean was the next of kin listed by Nugent on his attestation papers. It appears he was single and sometimes single men got rid of their own rented accommodation and moved in with relatives before being deployed.

Nugent was wounded at the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. In August 1943, he returned home on leave with 17 other Camerons then went to live at 549 Arlington Street.

Nugent was decorated for gallantry at Dieppe. According to his recommendation for the Military Medal:

“At the Deippe Action, 19 Aug 1942, this NCO (non-commissioned officer) showed initiative, determination and coolness, in getting his section forward and engaging in offensive action. On one occasion his platoon came under fire from enemy snipers in a grain field. He organized his section under cover and then, covered by the fire of his own Bren Group, led the remainder of his section (on) attack across 150 yards of open ground, the only possible line of approach. He disposed of the snipers and cleared to houses, effectively dealing with all opposition, and allowing the platoon to advance.  Later, although wounded, he successfully organized and controlled the withdrawal and brought his section back to the beach with a minimum number of casualties, His bearing, conduct, and leadership were admirable throughout.”

When his leave was over, Nugent returned to battle and was wounded again in September 1944. He returned home from service on CPR train 1785 in August 1945 with the rank of sergeant. (See obituary below.)

December 21, 1940, Winnipeg Free Press

The second solider with a connection to this house is Private Charles Albert Lowen of Winnipeg. A member of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, he was commended for gallantry when he spent more than an hour  under “difficult conditions” to extricate a civilian trapped in his bombed-out London home.

Lowen married Kathleen Hurak in Winnipeg in February 1940. She lived at 549 Arlington Street. It is unclear what connection she had with the McLean family or if she was just a lodger. Not long after the wedding and Lowen being deployed, she relocated to Toronto.

April 19, 1945, Winnipeg Free Press

It appears that Lowen received more citations.

In 1943, Charles Albert Willoby Lowen of the PPCLI was awarded the Military Medal for actions for actions in Italy in August 1944. While under sniper fire he cleared a lane for stretcher bearers to reach injured men in his platoon. He sustained injuries to his hand and arm when a landmine exploded. The recommendation concludes: "The coolness and skill of Corporal Lowen, coupled with his complete disregard for his personal safety, enabled the remainder of the company to reach the objective without casualties and enabled the wounded men to be recovered."

In 1943, Lowen was also awarded the British Empire Medal. Details about what this award was for are unclear.

October 9, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

By the 1960s, 549 Arlington and the similar looking house next door were owned by Alan McFadyen who rented them out as income properties.

On October 1, 1963, George and Florence Petty, siblings in their fifties, moved in. The two had previously lived together in an apartment on Ellice Avenue.

George Petty, 55, was a Veteran of World War II and was missing a leg. According to street directories, he was "retired". Florence was a long-time employee of Western Bakeries on Portage Avenue.

On October 9, 1963, just eight days after moving in, Florence was at work when a fireball erupted in the house. McFadyen, who was doing repairs at the neighbouring house, tried to enter to rescue George, but flames pushed him back.

The fire killed George and did extensive damage to the home's interior.

What caused the fireball is unclear. George's body was found on the ground in the living room with a can of what may have been gasoline near him.

September 7, 1985, Winnipeg Free Press

The house has had an unremarkable life since then.

In the late 1970s it was home to widow named Annie Todd who died there in 1979. 

The last newspaper mention of the house is a for sale ad in 1985 listing it for $44,900.

Posted on lawn of house, June 2021

Nugent obituary

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