Sunday, March 31, 2024

590 Victor Street - Acadia Court Apartments

© 2021, Christian Cassidy

Place: Acadia Court Apartments
Address: 590 Victor Street (Map)
Constructed: 1913 - 1914
Architect: Edmund Walter Crayston
Contractors: Peterson Bros.
Cost: $60,000

May 7, 1913, Winnipeg Tribune

The building permit for this 24-unit block was issued in May 1913 to Peterson Brothers, who were both the owners and contractors. It was designed by architect Edmund W. Crayston who designed at least a half-dozen apartments in the city.

This was the golden age of the construction of three-storey walk-up apartments. Thirty permits were issued for such buildings between January 1 and August 1, 1913 alone.

William and James Peterson came to Manitoba from Ontario in the 1880s and became iron workers by trade. In 1903, they established Peterson Bros. Iron Works at 132 Aberdeen Street. This appears to be the first permit issued to the company for the construction of a building. Newspaper reports indicate that another was granted in 1926 for Furby Street and one in 1929 for Assiniboine Avenue.

October 12, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

The first round of "for rent" ads for Acadia Court appeared in local newspapers in October 1913.  “Three room suites” on upper floors rented for $37 per month. 

Unfortunately, the Petersons did not own the block for long. According to William's 1929 obituary, the company was "shut down at the start of the war" in 1914. It is unclear why. The brothers, it appears, sold the building to an investment company and it is around this time that "Court" was dropped from its name.

The 1915 street directory provides a list of the initial round of tenants. They included:

Suite 1: John Benson - elevator operator at government building 
Suite 2: Emily Oddleifson - clerk at Whites stores, and S. Oddleifson, caretaker
Suite 4: Mrs. F. Kitchen
Suite 14: Herman Larson - Rembrandt Photo Studio.
Suite 19: The Knirck family. (J. C. Knirck - farmer, Alfred Knirck - clerk at Gault’s, Max Knirck - reporter at R. G. Dunn and company, and Blondina Knirck - a clerk at T. Eaton Co.)
Suite 21: James Roper - Chief clerk at Jones Boxer and Co.
Suite 22: Mrs. Iva Fanning, Orr Fanning - clerk T. Eaton Co., and Frederick C Henley - travelling salesman for Willson Stationers.
Suite 23: H. Sheppard - revisor at the Mutual Film Co.
Suite 24: James Calla - inspector for the city sewer department.
Suite 25: McConachie family (Mrs. Margaret McConachie, Robert P.  McConachie - clerk at Oldfield Kirby and Gardner, Anne McConachie - stenographer at Wm. Grassie Co., and Maggie McConachie.)

Source: Canadian Virtual War Memorial

The timing of the Acadia's opening meant that several early residents were there because of the war.

Single men often gave up their apartments to move in with family or friends before they enlisted. As the pay for soldiers was very low, many couples and families had to downsize from houses to apartments or rooming houses for financial reasons when the “man of the house" enlisted.

One example of this was Joseph Andrew Bright McClure and his family. McClure, along with his wife Gertrude and their three young children, lived at 900 Aikins Street before the war. The family relocated to suite 20 Acadia Apartments just before he enlisted.

McClure, 40, went missing in action during the Battle of Vimy Ridge on August 21, 1917. His remains were never found and he was declared dead the following March.

Brothers William and Jack Purcer, who ran a contracting company together, lived on Wardlaw Street with their younger brother Garson. When the older brothers enlisted, Garson moved in with his married sister, Mrs. Margaret Butler of 5 Acadia Court. He was drafted a couple of years later.

William Purcer, the oldest brother and first to enlist, was on his way to work one day when he read a newspaper article about the mass rape and murder of Armenian women by the Turks in what is referred to today as the Armenian Genocide. He was so moved by the story that when he arrived at work he told his boss that he was going to war. He gathered up his tools and went straight to a recruitment office.

William was wounded twice during his service. He received shrapnel wounds to the head and in a later incident was shot in the chest. Both times he was repaired and sent back to the front. He then contracted trench fever and developed a severe case of rheumatism which led to him being invalided back to Canada in 1918. He listed the Acadia Apartments, his sister's place, as the address he would initially settle at.

After years of suffering from his various injuries and ailments, William died at Deer Lodge, Winnipeg's military convalescent hospital, on May 23, 1939 at the age of 55 and is buried in the Field of Honour at Brookside Cemetery.

October 9, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

The Acadia was a popular place for young couples. Dozens of newspaper wedding notices can be found that state the newlyweds would reside there once they returned form their honeymoons. It also housed many retired couples, particularly those from Iceland, given its location in the heart of the Icelandic business hub on Sargent Avenue and next to First Lutheran Church.

One example is William and Oddny Johnson, (above). They both came from Iceland with their families as teens and married in Winnipeg in October 1886. Mr. Johnson had a career as a builder and they raised seven children. They lived here until their deaths in 1945 and 1950, respectively.

1921 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The Oddleifson family has a long relationship with the Acadia. Husband Sigurdur, wife Gudlaug, and at least three children, August (b. 1898), Edward (b. 1907), and Axel (b. 1909), moved into suite 2 in 1914. Sigirdur, who also went by "Sam", was the building's first caretaker.

When the children moved out, the Oddleifsons relocated to suite 6 and Sigurdur remained the caretaker of the building until 1936. He died the following year. Gudlaug continued ast the Acadia for a while then moved to Fort Garry to live with Axel and his wife before her death in 1957.

August 27, 1931, Lögberg

Axel lived with his parents in suite 6 until shortly after his graduation as an engineer from the University of Manitoba in 1931. To put himself through school he advertised tutoring services in the Free Press and the city's two Icelandic newspapers

After graduation, Axel began working for the Winnipeg Electric Company and in 1936 went to Great Falls as an electrician. He wold eventually work at all three WECo generating stations. In 1938, he married Kristjana Anderson and went to work for the Manitoba Hydro Electric Board during the construction of the Pine Falls generating station. He was in charge of electrical installation and then appointed its operational engineer in 1953.

A couple of years later, Axel and Kristjana returned to Winnipeg and bought a house on Riverwood Avenue in Fort Garry. Axel's mom moved in with them and died at the house in 1957. Sadly, Axel died the following year at age 49.

These are just a handful of the many hundreds of people that have called the Acadia Apartments home over the past 111 years.

Acadia Apartments in 2017

The Acadia closed around 2015 to undergo an extensive renovation but it appears that the owner went bankrupt in its early stages.

It was put up for mortgage sale in June 2016 with a reserved bid of $2.8 million and two years of back taxes owing. The building was described as having 18 x one-bedroom units, 2 x one-bedroom loft units, and 4 x two-bedroom units with laundry facilities in the basement. (The "lofts" were not original to the building, it was an ambitious plan by the previous owner to convert two units into one via a staircase.)

The auction did not meet the reserve bid and the building remained boarded until 2020 when a new round of renovations began. They were short lived and the building never reopened.

It was announced in January 2022 that the West Central Women's Resource Centre had received funding from the federal government's Rapid Housing Initiative to buy the block and convert it into 16 affordable units for women, gender-diverse people, and their children leaving violent situations.

An update was provided by the WCWRC in March 2024 noting that tenants will soon start moving into the block.

- My 2017 Flickr album of the Acadia's Interior
- Interior photos 2024
- 590 Victor Street UW Community Renewal Corp
- The Purcer Brothers of 590 Victor Street West End Dumplings

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