Wednesday, August 18, 2021

802 Main Street - Beveridge Block / Selkirk Hotel (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Beveridge Block
Address: 802 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1907 - 08
Architect: Daniel Smith

June 22, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

The Beveridge Block was built for a Riverdale, California millionaire named Percy A. Crump who took a keen interest in Winnipeg's development during the first decade of the 20th century. He and his wife, Florence, visited the city regularly to purchase and sell land, usually in the North End, and make arrangements for the construction of buildings.   

Even when their new developments trailed off in the 19-teens and the family relocated to London, England, they returned from time to time to oversee their portfolio of properties.

Little information can be found about the Crumps. Daily newspapers noted when they came to town and their latest land deals but there does not appear to have been any interviews with, or biographical pieces about, them published. 

June 1, 1907, Winnipeg Tribune

It was Mrs. Crump who came to Winnipeg to finalize the development plans for the Beveridge Block on land she purchased in spring 1907 through the T. H. Crotty Realty Company.

Smith and Bruce Architects advertised for tenders for the building's construction in early June 1907. This firm was a short-lived partnership between William Bruce and Daniel Smith. (Smith was likely the lead designer as he had previously done design work for Crump.)

The $42,000 building opened in 1908 as the Beveridge Block, (the origins of the name are unclear), with a  restaurant on the main floor and around 31 suites upstairs.

The street directory shows that this was a working class block that catered to employees of the CPR and the city's street railway (street car) service. The absence of "apartments for lease" ads in 1908 papers indicate that Crump had little trouble filling the building.

Some of the occupants in 1909 included: A. Allen - conductor at the street railway; William Bent - building caretaker; James Blain - clerk with the land commissioner's office of the CPR; Harry Clark - conductor with the street railway; Joseph Gillis - bartender at the Manor Hotel; James Green - driver; George Lavalle - clerk at the CPR shops; Allan McCrae CPR Telegraph operator; T. Mack - conductor at the street railway; James Moore - conductor at the street railway; Frederick H Thomson - draftsman in engineering dept of CPR; George Wallace - cashier at the Imperial Guarantee and Accident Insurance Co. of Canada. The main floor was home to the Alexandra Café.

Ghost sign for the Selkirk Hotel

Barely a year after it opened, Crump and building manager E. B. Nash applied for a liquor permit for as part of a plan to turn the building it into a single room occupancy hotel. This would not have impacted residents, they would continue to live there long-term, but being a hotel would allow the owners to open a bar and capture more money from their railroading tenants.

A large delegation of residents and the area alderman turned up to oppose the permit. They argued that there were enough residential hotels with bars along the Main Street strip already. The permit was rejected.

The hotel idea did not die and in 1913 the Beveridge Block became the Selkirk Hotel, complete with a  bar. A big change for residents was the subdivision of the number of rooms from 31 to 54. The lack of advertising for the hotel suggests, again, that they had little trouble filling them.

July 24, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

The Selkirk's bar was a bit of a disaster.

In his book, Winnipeg's Great War: A City Comes of Age, Jim Blanchard writes about the Selkirk Hotel, "Soldiers were getting drunk there and then passing out in the snow and freezing. One man lost both hands to frostbite. Women complained of being accosted by drunks in the street".

The Selkirk faced numerous liquor related offences during its time and things hit rock bottom in June 1914 when a barroom brawl that started inside spilled onto the street and ended in murder.

April 25, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

The hotel somehow managed to keep its liquor licence and operated under various managers. In 1923 it was re-branded the Radisson.

By 1931, it was back to being the Beveridge Block without a hotel desingation. (During this whole time it was still owned by Mrs. Crump. According to the city's historic building report, she owned it until 1948.)

To give an idea how bad the conditions were in parts of the block after its subdivision into 54 rooms,  Dr. Sharon Graham wrote in a research paper about Pearl Finkelstein, a Jewish social worker in the 1930s: "Finkelstein noted that the family’s housing was a problem. Located in the interior of  the Beveridge Block (802 Main Street), these rooms had no outside windows, and the lights had to be kept on in the suite at all times. Living in such a nightmarish situation probably contributed  to Mrs. ZB's self-diagnosis of postpartum depression."

Checking street directories up to 1964, it seems there were still around 50 rooms in the building. It is unclear how many there were in recent decades. (Though looking at the south side of the building where part of the advertising is missing could suggest that a window well may have been created at some point to add natural light and air circulation.)

From the 1950s through 1970s the Beverage Block seems to have catered to retired folks. Almost all mentions of residents in the media were about people aged 60 and up. Sometime in the 2000s the residential suites were closed.

Courtesy of R. Pollack

There were a couple of long-term main floor tenants.

Samuel Pollack moved to Toronto from his native Russia around 1903 at the age of 20 and created the York Belting Company which specialized in making belts and hoses for industrial and agricultural machinery.  The family relocated to Winnipeg in 1927 and Samuel and his son, Harvey, resumed business under the name The Premier Belting Company.

In 1929, Premier opened on the main floor of the Beveridge block and remained there until 1959 when it moved to larger premises on Portage Avenue.

June 25, 1989, Free Press Weekly

The most notable main floor tenant was Dominion Veterinary Laboratories from 1964 until around 2000.

Hy Earn, a pharmacist who owned Dufferin Drugs, created Dominion Veterinary Laboratories in 1950 and quickly found fame in his invention of an ointment to eliminate the cannibalistic tendencies of chickens. It was credited for saving an untold number of birds. A Free Press article in 1989 said, "During the 1950s, Hy Earn was to chickens in Canada what Norman Bethune was to the sick and needy in China...."

In 1964, Dominion Veterinary Laboratories relocated to the main floor of the Beveridge Block. It expanded to the lot next door in the late 1970s.

The company moved to larger premises on Sanford Street around 2000, though kept this building as a warehouse until 2020.

On August 17, 2021, a fire in a neighbouring business spread to the Beveridge Block and destroyed it. The building was vacant and boarded up at the time.


My photo album of the Beveridge Block
City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Report


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