Wednesday, March 8, 2023

815 Main Street - R. Bell Block

 © 2023, Christian Cassidy

Place: R. Bell Block
Address: 813 - 815 Main Street
Built: ca. 1901 and 1905
Architect: Unknown

Another Point Douglas building has been destroyed by fire. This time, it is the R. Bell Block at 813 - 815 Main Street that contained eight residential suites. Here's a look back at its early history.

813 Main Street section:

1904 Henderson's Directory of Winnipeg

The 813 (south) portion of this building first appears in the 1902 Henderson's Street Directory of Winnipeg, the data for which was likely compiled in 1901. The first owner was Richard J. Bell who came to Winnipeg in 1877 from his native Ontario. He was a baker by trade and opened his first bakery soon after arriving.

Bell's new bakery opened on the main floor and his family, Mrs. Bell, daughters Clara and Viola, and sons Wilfred and Richard (Dick), lived upstairs.

The bakery was a small enterprise and did not advertise. Bell is only mentioned a couple of times in passing in newspapers. Once was in a 1911 ad by Knowles School for Boys thanking a list of retailers for donations to one of their events. The second was during a 1913 bakery strike that noted Bell had one employee who walked out.

Clara and Viola Bell, neither of whom married, both worked as clerks at the bakery. Clara began offering music lessons from the suite above the shop in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Bell continued to operate the bakery until he fell ill the year before his death in 1939. The bakery closed and the Bell daughters moved in with brother Dick in West Kildonan.

September 7, 1950, The Jewish Post

The store was used as a returning office for the 1940 federal election and in 1941 reopened as Mrs. Pauline Schwartz's grocery store. She lived above the store along with Michael Schwartz, an employee at a plumbing business and not part of her immediate family, and her daughters Carol and Esther. Also living with them was Mary Humberstone, a clerk at the store.

By 1947, the store was run by Max and Pauline Schwartz. Max was her husband and likely absent due to involvement in the Second World War.

Schwartz Grocery and Confectionery lasted until about 1953 and the retail unit appears to have sat empty for a couple of years.

Jacob Kalen's Expert Shoe Manufacturing Company moved in around 1956. It relocated to 805 Main Street in 1961. It was around this time that the suites upstairs were subdivided into smaller units.

It then became The Sport Shop offering a wide range of sporting goods from golf clubs to SCUBA gear. The shop was owned by W. Woytowich and R. Dumka.

By 1973, it was home to the Economy Furniture Store.

Newspaper mentions of the address disappear in the mid-1970s.

815 Main Street Section:

December 16, 1905, Winnipeg Tribune

Richard Bell received a building permit in 1905 to construct a matching building to the north of 813 Main Street.

It became home to the North End Music Store which was a branch of Turner's Music House at 253 Portage Avenue. Turner dealt in phonographs and was the local agent for many musical instrument companies. The suite above 815 was initially inhabited by William Cuthbert, music teacher.

Adolph Kaplan took over the retail unit around 1907. A watchmaker by trade, he changed it to a jewellery store though continued to sell gramophone machines and records. Kaplan, his wife Rose, and their (at least) six children lived above the store. 

Kaplan relocated across the street to 814 Main Street in 1919.

October 9, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

Mike Katzelovitz ran a second-hand store for about a year before Jacob Dollar's tailor shop called it home from 1926 to 1929.

The store appears to have sat empty through much of the Depression.

July 5, 1982, Winnipeg Free Press

Peter Kozlowski opened Pete's shoe-making and repair shop in 1937. 

Both Peter and his wife Tessie were born in Western Ukraine. They met in Winnipeg in 1932 and got married. Unlike some previous store owners, they lived off-site at 150 Selkirk Avenue where they raised their daughter Jean.

Peter ran his store from 1937 to 1981. He died in 1984 and Tessie died in 2004.

Entire Block:

The building was expanded in 1912, likely an addition to the rear.

This is not the only fire at the building. In April 1956, twelve people were driven out of their suites when a fire started in the basement. One man was removed from the second-floor window by ladder and brought to hospital with smoke inhalation. The fire was contained to the basement.

Over time, the two upstairs suites became six residential units. The owner applied to the city in 2012 to convert the two retail spaces into additional residential units bringing the total to eight.

The building was for sale when the fire occurred. It was completely destroyed and will be demolished.


  1. Richard CharpentierMarch 8, 2023 at 7:45 PM

    “Over time, the two upstairs suites became six residential units. The owner applied to the city in 2012 to convert the two retail spaces into additional residential units bringing the total to eight.” If I may offer a slight correction. There once two upstairs suites that were converted into four. On the main floor, there were two suites in the back. Additionally, there was a small bachelor suite tucked behind the shoe repair place. That was absorbed when the retail was converted. The total of eight units still stands when the shops became residential.

    I lived at 815 in 3 of the 4 apartments upstairs and 1 of the 2 on the main floor from c. 1982 to 1988. I recall an old house that formed part of the back yard. It faced the building and was boarded up. It could’ve been a garage but it had porch. It was torn down in the late 90s.

    1. Wow, that structure in the back had been a house? Cool. I wonder if one of the earlier owners lived there at one time.

  2. Thanks so much for the clarification!