Thursday, November 18, 2021

546 Sherburn Street - Crecent Creamery Dairy (R.I.P.)

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Carson's Hygienic Dairy / Crescent Creamery / Modern Dairy
Address: 546 Sherburn Street (Map)
Constructed: 1912
Demolished: 1988
Architect: Unknown

546 Sherburn is a barely noticeable gap in the residential streetscape of Sherbrun Street. At one time it was the driveway into a bustling dairy operation that operated from 1912 to 1986.

March 6, 1906 and July 16, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

The dairy origins of the site go back to a food scientist named William J. Carson.

Canadian-born Carson was inspector for the Eastern Ontario Dairy Association and a teacher in dairy chemistry at Kingston Dairy School before taking a job as chair of dairying at the Wisconsin Agricultural College. In May 1905, Carson accepted a position as head of dairy husbandry at the Manitoba Agricultural College's dairy school.

Carson set up a laboratory and mini-dairy at the college where milk, cream, cheese and butter were produced. His aim was to produce these items with as little contamination as possible. Periodically, the college sold off excess product to the public. Carson even placed ads in April 1908 seeking someone willing to deliver the items to households.

The administration may not have been keen on Carson setting up a business through the school as three months after those ads ran he tendered his resignation. The Tribune reported that there were rumours of "an unsatisfactory condition of affairs existing between Prof. Carson and Principal Black."

Top:  Ice Trade Journal, Jun - Dec 1909
Bottom: March 13, 1909, Winnipeg Tribune

Carson decided to go into business for himself and in December 1908 the Carson Hygienic Dairy Ltd. was incorporated with $40,000 in capital. The Carson Hygienic Dairy opened on March 16, 1909 at 257 Maryland Street, (south of Portage near the present-day Tim Hortons).

The dairy initially offered milk and cream and by 1910 added butter and ice cream to the lineup. Pasteurized milk was introduced in 1911.

Business appears to have gone well, no doubt thanks in part to a 1912 outbreak of typhoid fever in Winnipeg that the city's health officer traced back to the sale of contaminated, unpasteurized milk.

November 1, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

In February 1912, construction was underway on a new, much larger building at 546 Sherburn Street.

Details about the size of the building were not reported on by the daily papers, but it was large enough to contain the company's entire dairy production plant, a laboratory and corporate offices. It would have also had a sizeable stables for the dozens of horses and wagons used to deliver their product.

The new plant was in operation by November 1, 1912.

The dairy was likely not very popular with the neighbours. (The residential development of the street took place in 1912 - 13, so they all appeared on the scene around the same time.) There would have been the constant smell of horses and a crack-of-dawn start to the business day for the dairy to get its products delivered to stores and homes.

A delegation of residents from Sherburn and Garfield streets attended a board of control meeting at city hall in June 1913 to complain about the inconvenience and damage caused by smoke emanating from the plant, (which would have been coal heated). Some claimed it was so bad that it was blackening the exterior paint jobs on their new homes.

It is unclear if there was a resolution to the problem. The city's smoke inspector was told to investigate and if there was a concern he could force the dairy build its chimney taller to let the smoke dissipate over a wider area.

November 9, 1912, Winnipeg Free Press

Another city dairy also had an impact on this site.

Crescent Creamery, a dairy established in 1906, had outgrown its Lombard Avenue home by 1912 and the site was land locked by office buildings.

It looked to the suburbs and purchased a large plot of land on Burnell Street in on which to build a new headquarters consisting of three buildings. The first of the buildings, an ice cream plant, was completed in 1913. Before work could get underway on the others, Crescent Creamery bought out Carson in March 1914.

Crescent decided to keep the ice cream plant on Burnell but move the rest of its operations to Sherburn Street. It announced that it would take a few weeks to "thoroughly remodel" the Carson building and add more equipment. The expected move-in date was sometime in April 1914.

Eastern Dairies Ltd. 1928 - 29 Annual Report (Source)

On April 1, 1927, Eastern Dairies Ltd. of Montreal purchased Crescent Creamery as part of its bid to become a national dairy operation. F. J. Donegani was appointed its vice president and Managing Director.

At the time of the takeover, Crescent had the dairy on Sherburn, ice cream plant on Burnell, a storage facility of Lombard, and branches at Killarney, Portage la Prairie, Swan River, Vita, and Yorkton SK.  By the end of the decade it also had distribution depots at The Pas, Fort William ON, and Pine Falls, as well as receiving stations (small, railside huts in which their products were dropped off for a local distributor or retailers), in Giroux, Ste. Anne, Oak Island, Letellier, Steinbach and La Broquerie.

Crescent boasted that in 1937 it delivered 10 million bottles of milk, cream and buttermilk, and over 2 million pounds of butter.

Like many dairies, Crescent Creamery continued to use the dray for deliveries well after motor vehicles became the norm on city streets. A 1938 ad called the horse and wagon still "the most efficient method of distributing fluid milk to customers". This served them well come wartime when vehicles and gasoline were heavily rationed.

March 31, 1978, Winnipeg Tribune

A group called Commercial Assets Ltd. began buying up the public shares of Crescent Creamery in 1955 and in Eastern Dairies, (by then called Dominion Dairies), sold its shares in January 1956.

The purchase was actually made by Modern Dairies of St. Boniface. Over the next decade or so, Modern also acquired Royal, Crescent, Standard dairies and a number of smaller facilities. Their various products were brought under a single Modern Dairies name and packaging in 1978.

The Sherburn dairy and some of its equipment was upgraded between 1957 and 1959. This included a state-of-the-art quality control laboratory.

Beatrice Foods Co. of Chicago, through its Toronto-based Canadian subsidiary, purchased Modern Dairies in 1970. By that time, Modern was Manitoba's largest dairy products company.

Beatrice announced in October 1986 that the Sherburn Street plant would close at the end of the year. Its operations, including the production of cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt done on Sherburn Street, would be centralized at the main plant in St. Boniface.

August 18, 1988, Winnipeg Free Press

The province purchased the building after it closed in 1986 and had it demolished in 1988.

It was reported in the Free Press in November 1990 that the intention was for two thirds of the land to be sold to a religious organization, the Jehovah's Witnesses, for a senior complex and the remaining third would become additional parking for what was then the Motor Vehicles Branch on Portage Avenue. The driveway into the former dairy on Sherburn would become housing. The city gave provisional approval for the redevelopment.

The city and province were criticized for not first consulting with the community on what it wanted, so in April 1991 a meeting was set up where the church and province would present their plans to the public at Isaac Brock Community Centre. A church and parking lot were mentioned in the preview for the meeting but there was no mention of a housing complex.

The Free Press reported on the meeting and noted that "much of the talk was about traffic", speeders and parking complaints rather than the topic of the redevelopment of the land. Some demanded that the Motor Vehicles Branch be moved, others demanded a two-hour parking limit on the street.

In the end, the Jehovah's Witnesses purchased a third of the land and built a Kingdom Hall (which faces Wolever Avenue) and the province built a parking lot on the rest of the site. It is unclear whether the parking and traffic complaints scuttled new housing development on the site and on Sherburn.

The Sherburn lots remain empty lots to this day.

The Dairy Industry in Manitoba 1880 - 2000 Province of Manitoba Historic Resources Branch
Crescent Creamery's involvement in the Winnipeg General Strike Spirit of the Strike

1 comment:

  1. So interesting. I had no idea there had been a dairy there.I have always loved the fact that the lot on Sherburn has remained empty. I believe nearby residents had petitioned the city to keep it as a greenspace some years ago, but I'm not sure if that's why it still remains empty.