Friday, January 6, 2023

51 Roslyn Road - Saigon Apartments (R.I.P.)

© 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: Saigon Apartments
Address: 51 Roslyn Road
Constructed: 1952
Demolished: 2023
Architect: Fred Lount

One of the city's first modern-era apartment blocks is set to be demolished. Saigon Apartments on Roslyn Road was a luxury block designed and built in 1951 - 52 by Frank R. Lount who also designed the Winnipeg Clinic on St. Mary Avenue.


Lount ca. 1946 Source: Canadian Home Builders Association)

A $110,000 building permit was issued for Saigon Apartments in October 1951 to William D. Lount. The architect was his father, Frank R. Lount (also see), who came to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1921 and became a housing contractor under company names Frank R. Lount and later F. R. Lount and Son. 

Though the Depression caused many Winnipeg families to lose their fortunes, F. R. Lount saw an opportunity. He designed and built over a dozen exclusive homes between 1929 and 1939 on streets like Wellington Crescent, Elm Park Crescent, Grenfell Boulevard, Girton Boulevard, Fulham Avenue, Park Boulevard and Handsart Boulevard. One of these homes, 1021 Wellington Crescent, Lount continued to own in to the 1940s and leased it out.

By the time new post-war neighbourhoods began to spring up in the suburbs around Winnipeg, Lount was a leading residential builder. In Silver Heights alone, the company designed and built the 136-suite Silver Heights Towers on Portage Avenue, one of the largest apartments ever constructed in the Winnipeg area, and around 300 houses.

The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation says Lount "had a profound influence on the look and growth of Winnipeg, creating some of the city’s most significant neighbourhoods and distinctive landmarks." His most famous building is likely the Winnipeg Clinic on St. Mary Avenue (1942).

 The Lount Corporation still bears his name today and specializes in apartment buildings.


November 20, 1951, Winnipeg Free Press

Saigon Apartments turned heads in the early stages of construction as it was the first building in Canada to use the "Youtz-Slick Lift Slab" method patented by two American architects in 1948.

In lift-slab construction, the base slab is poured and columns for the upper floors are erected. Each new floor and the roof deck is also poured at base level and when dried is lifted into place using hydraulic jacks. This saved a great deal of time, and therefore cost, over traditional building methods.

A crowd of engineers and architects showed up in the first week of December to see the second floor slab lifted into place.


April 28, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

Saigon Apartments was comprised of 24 units and though they were on the small side, the building had luxury features such as fully-furnished suites, maid service, a swimming pool, free laundry facilities and a paved parking lot with plugs.

With its expansive windows in each unit and a glass wall illuminating the main staircase, Saigon Apartments was a far cry from the dark, amenity-free, World War I-era residential blocks that dominated Winnipeg's apartment market.

By May 1952, the building was in its final stages of construction and excavation work began on the next Lount building, the much larger Silver Heights Towers on Portage Avenue. it was also constructed using the lift-slab method.

There does not appear to have been a grand opening or large-scale "for rent" ads to signal the completion of Saigon Apartments. The 1953 street directory, which would have been compiled in 1952, shows every suite was full.

A number of residents provided no occupation which suggests they may have been retirees. Those who did provide occupations show that the Higher-end amenities coupled with the small suite size meant that it wasn't a building for the super rich:

Suite 3 - J. W. Jones, building manger, and wife Winifred.
Suite 4 - Laurie Dusang, manager of Kaufman Rubber Co.
Suite 5 - Nancy Henderson, stenographer at MacKevlies Ltd.
Suite 7 - George Boyes, assistant professor at U of M, with wife Mildred.
Suite 10 - Beverlee Gyles, bookkeeper at D. Currie and Co.
Suite 12 - Olga Fedak, clerk to the U.S. Consulate General.
Suite 12 - Neil H. Scott, branch manager of Prudential Assurance Co.
Suite 14 - Thomas Dumbleton, resident engineer at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
Suite 14 - Mrs. Mary Dumbleton, stenographer at Fraser Construction.
Suite 15 - D. W. Behan, passenger and freight agent for Burlington Route rail line.
Suite 17 - David Ehlrich, owner of Ehlrich David and Co. Furniture Mfg, and wife Grace.
Suite 20 - June Campbell, saleslady at Stewart Electric Co.


November 27, 1975, Winnipeg Tribune

The building appears to have had a quiet existence with the exception of a late November 1975 fire that burned two suites and sent four people to hospital, two of them in critical condition. Newspapers didn't follow up as to the cause of the fire or recovery of the victims.

Interestingly, the block advertised fully furnished suites for rent, not that common in Winnipeg, until 2008 when it stopped using classified ads.


April 14, 1962, Winnipeg Tribune

In March 2022, an application was made by owner Atlas Acceptance Corporation of Winnipeg to rezone the property to allow for its demolition and the construction of a new 80-unit residential block.  In the end, approval was granted for a six-storey, 66-unit multi-family residential dwelling with 51 parking stalls contained underground and within the building in a two-level parkade.

The building was boarded up in June 2022 and on January 5, 2023, the applicant, H5 Architecture Inc., was granted permission to demolish it despite there not being a building permit in place for the new block.


5 comments:

  1. I wonder why it was called Saigon. Vietnam was not on anybody's radar in 1951.

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  2. You're an idiot. Fuck off.

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  3. There was a lady in suite 5 who provided a service dubbed the “Saigon handshake” for 8 sheckles

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  4. I'm sure since colonial days it probably was on the radar of many people. Novels and newspaper stories from the exotic far east.

    It could also have been named after a building rather than geographic place. Famous places like the Saigon Hotel in Ho Chi Minh were built in 1930: https://www.historichotelsthenandnow.com/grandsaigon.html and there is a Saigon Apartments: http://www.saigonapartments.com.vn/ have a cosmopolitan vibe.

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