Monday, September 6, 2021

94 Cathedral Avenue - Former Polson residence

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Google Street View, 2009

Place: Private residence
Address: 94 Cathedral Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1894
Architect and Contractor: Unknown

Top: 1901 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada
Bottom: ca. 1894, Archives of Manitoba via Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

This home was constructed in 1894 for Alexander and Jessie Polson and their seven children. Today, it sits on an unusually large lot measuring 75 feet wide by 126 feet deep. It is likely that much of the land around 94 Cathedral belonged to the house for use as gardens, stables and other out buildings.

The Polson name was well known in early Winnipeg. Alex's grandfather, Alexander, was an original Selkirk Settler. His father, Hugh, farmed the family river lot near where the house stands and is who Polson Street is named after.

Alex Polson was the city licensing inspector which was a varied job in the 1890s. Not only did he have to ensure that traders had the proper license to operate within city limits, he was also in charge of bylaw enforcement, animal licensing, and health regulations. He can be found in newspaper stories of the era issuing annual dog licenses, seizing unhealthy looking meat from markets, and issuing notices about the dangers of improperly stored household garbage.

July 16, 1904, Winnipeg Free Press

The Polsons were devout Presbyterians, (Alex’s brother was Reverend Samuel Polson).

When Reverend J. H. Cameron, head of the Winnipeg Presbytery, announced that a new mission known as St. John's would be established in the North End, the church services were held at 94 Cathedral from mid-July 1904 until St. John's Presbyterian Church church opened in late September.

Undated, Archives of Manitoba via Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

Alex Polson died in September 1905 at the age of 65 and the family continued to live at the home for decades to come. Fortunately for Jessie, by this time most of the children were adults ranging in age from 10 to 27.

Jessie Polson came to Winnipeg in 1880 from Scotland as Jessie McKay age around 24. It is not known if she came alone or with her family. (A search through some of the early McKays of Winnipeg turns up no daughter named Jessie). She was Polson's second wife and had five children with him. 

In her obituary, it is noted that "Her home was one of the most popular in the early settlement" and it certainly did see its fair share of attention. Aside from the early church services, Jessie Polson was also a driving force on the St. Johns' church women's auxiliary and held many of its meetings, particularly its annual meetings, at the home. There were also several Lord Selkirk Society meetings held there.

November 18, 1911, Winnipeg Free Press

What is believed to be the first amateur radio club in Canada was formed here in February 1911. Called the Central Canadian Wireless Club, its founding president was a seventeen-year-old Alex Polson Jr. and the group sometimes meet at the Cathedral Avenue home

This 1978 essay by George Reynolds explains that Polson, while a student at Central Collegiate Institute in 1909, created the club after seeing a wireless station in the U.S.. "Messages were sent from Polson’s home at 94 Cathedral Avenue to Melville Sayer who was living on Graham Avenue in the Alexandria Block."

Polson had a receiver / transmitter set up in the yard and the home studio was made up of  a variety of radio equipment, much of it he built himself. (He showed off some of his inventions and machinery in various editions of Popular Electricity Magazine.)

In 1914, federal regulations came were introduce that ended amateur broadcasting on radio airwaves.

Polson went on to become an engineer - one of the original members of the Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba in 1920. He eventually moved to the U.S.A. and at the time of his mother's death in 1938 resided in Allentown, New Jersey.

Ina Warwick Polson became a well-known piano soloist who played at recitals and other public events. She set up a teaching studio at the house in 1913 advertising that she had been a student of "Prof. Xaver Scharwneka of Berlin". She took time out in 1919 to go to New York and study under Percy Granger. Whilst there, she was hired by the Duo Art Piano Co. studio to do some recording work.

Polson advertised her home studio until the time of her marriage to John Eldon Fillmore in September 1921. The ceremony took place at the house. Initially, the couple settled on Cumberland Street, and what became of them after that is not exactly known.

A September 1927 CKY radio ad notes that it would be broadcasting a concert that included "Ina Polson Fillmore of New York" and other artists. By the time of her mother's death she was living in Leonia, New Jersey, where she died in 1947.

Jessie Polson died on December 5, 1938. Her funeral was held at the house.

At the time of her death, only three of her children still lived in Canada, all at 94 Cathedral Avenue. Hugh was a lawyer, Euphemia was a retired school teacher, and Laura with no occupation listed.

Laura Polson died in April 1940 and around 1956 Hugh and Euphemia moved to the Locarno Apartments at 1 Roslyn Road.

Euphemia died on Christmas day 1961 and Hugh died on March 8, 1969. Neither had children, so this branch of the Polson family in Winnipeg came to an end.

Source: @KatlynStreilein on Twitter

As for the house, in 1957 to at least the late 1960s it was home to Paul and Violet Schinkel. The couple married in 1942 and had eleven children.

The last owners of the house were the Procak family.

Born in Ukraine, Lukian Procak came to Winnipeg after the Second World War. He married Maria and they had to sons, Ihor and Borys. His 2006 obituary states, "He loved Old Winnipeg and its ethnic blend of people (he spoke five languages). With his beautiful blue eyes twinkling, he was generous with everyone to a fault, including his extended family in the Ukraine."

Maria continued to live at the house until her death, (no obituary can be found to confirm her year of death.)

The estate put the house up for sale and in 2021 a developer applied to the city to have the house torn down and the property split into three 25-foot lots so that three houses could be built. After consultation with the city, the application was amended to create two lots and "both proposed dwellings would be bi-level  bungalows with stucco as the primary cladding material on the front façade".

The zoning variance required for this change has been appealed and there will be a public hearing on the matter on September 9, 2021.

94 Cathedral Avenue City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Report
94 Cathedral Avenue City of Winnipeg Appeal Hearing Notice
Winnipeggers fight to keep 127-year-old house from being torn down CTV Winnipeg

1 comment:

  1. It would be a shame to lose this house . I guess it depends on the condition of the house .