Tuesday, November 1, 2022

533 Henry Avenue - Frank H. Wiley Building

© 2022, Christian Cassidy

Place: Frank H. Wiley Building
533 Henry Street
Charles Saunders Bridgman

The Frank H. Wiley Building at 533 Henry Avenue is unique as it is one of the few curved buildings in the city from this era. (A more prominent one is the Confederation Building on Main Street.)

Canadian Grocer, February 18, 1921

Frank Hillary Wiley was born in Barrie, Ontario, and came to Winnipeg as a young man in 1905. He set himself up as a manufacturer's agent and importer, which suggests he had a background in wholesaling or sales, with an office in the Union Bank Building.

As a manufacturer's agent, he represented an array of products, from dry goods and baking equipment to industrial laundry detergent and household chemicals.

Wiley married Martha McKenzie in 1910. They soon bought a house at 70 Maryland Street where they started a family that consisted of sons Frank and Malcolm. (Around 1917, they moved to the 4,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house at 64 Middle Gate in Armstrong's Point.)

Business was good and in 1912 Wiley bought a former farm implements facility at 757 - 759 Henry Avenue, (now demolished), and converted it into a warehouse that was served by a spur line from the adjacent CPR yards.

In 1918, he purchased a former lumber yard further west on Henry Avenue and hired architect Charles Saunders Bridgman to custom-design a new headquarters for the company.

Wiley again wanted a spur line to serve his warehouse. Given the proximity of the rail yard and the fact that the tracks ran perpendicular to the building, the spur line would have to be curved. Rather than building a curved dock and overhang to allow access to the rail cars, architect Bridgman curved the building itself.

Additional warehouse space in the building was rented out from time to time and the direct rail access featured prominently in the "for rent" ads. 

By 1930, Frank H. Wiley Ltd. boasted warehouses in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver and Frank Wiley decided that the family would relocate to Vancouver.

The Winnipeg headquarters was initially managed by J. A. Mackenzie until the mid-1930s. Malcolm Wiley came back to Winnipeg around 1936 to take over the operation. 

According to B.C. corporation act records, a “Frank H. Wiley & Son, Limited” was incorporated in November 1947. This may have been a new division of the company as it was still referred to in Winnipeg and trade papers as simply "Frank H. Wiley". (Son Frank stayed in B.C. with his father, so he was likely the son referred to in the company name.)

Frank Wiley died in Vancouver in February 1953 and Malcolm took over as president of the company. He died unexpectedly in October 1958 at the age of 42. James Rennie, who had been the sales manager for the firm for at least a decade, took over as president.

Frank H. Wiley Ltd. continued to advertise for employees in the Winnipeg Free Press until April 1990. The company was then reorganized as Frank H. Wiley (1991) Ltd. and in 1995 was amalgamated with Vancouver-based BakeMark Ingredients Canada Ltd.. It is a division of the American company BakeMark which was established in 1892 and refers to itself as the largest bakery supplier in North America.

Classified ads began appearing in November 1995 for an experienced upholstery cutter at this address but no company name was mentioned. Later in the decade, other ads included the name Azores Upholstery Ltd., a Winnipeg-based firm created in 1991.

The company has since been renamed Azores Furniture Manufacturing Ltd. and specializes in making chairs, sofas, and benches for the healthcare, education, and hospitality industries.

Azores still occupies the building.

Azores did not respond to a request for further information about the company's history, such as when it first set up in the building, when its name changed, etc..

1 comment:

  1. Not sure if you care for the information or not but the contractor for the building was the construction firm of Fraser and MacDonald and it was built at a cost of about $40,000.