Saturday, March 9, 2024

598 Main Street - Guest Fish Block (R.I.P.)

 © 2024, Christian Cassidy

Guest Block in middle (Google Street View)

Place: Guest Block
Address: 596 - 598 Main Street (Map)
Constructed: 1902 (north portion), 1909 (south portion)

This is a brief history of the Guest Block that burned down on March 8, 2024.

November 12, 1902, Winnipeg Free Press

June 3, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

The north portion of this building was constructed in 1902 for local fish wholesaler William J. Fish. The main floor and basement consisted of a retail / wholesale store with a warehouse in the basement. It was described as "a most attractive place to buy fish and poultry".

Guest had his own barge of Lake Winnipeg to bring him fish and imported others, including oysters, by train from both coasts.

In the summer of 1906-07, the company expanded its cold storage warehouse located at 80 - 90 Alexander Avenue and located their head office there.

1903 Tribune ads for the Guest Block

The upper floors of the building were for offices and a small residential rooms for rent. The offices included real estate agents, dressmakers, and doctors.

The Main Street site remained a store for Guest Fish until 1909 when Guest sold the building for $45,000. The new owners built a twin building to the north which provided two retail spaces on the main floor and the address of 596 - 598 Main Street.

Despite the change in ownership, the building continued to be referred to as the Guest Block in street directories for decades later.

July 8, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

May 24, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune

Hundreds of businesses have called this building home over the century. One constant for many decades was a cafe. early names were the Blue Eagle Cafe and Diamond Cafe.

The Castran family who came from Greece, has a long association with the Guest Block.

Soon after the building was expanded, James and Gus Castran opened a fruit and confectionery store on the main floor. That is what became Winnipeg Candy Kitchen, (see ad above.) Around 1931, Angelius "Angelo" and Gus Castran reopened the space as Caastran's Cafe (sometimes called Castran's Grill). It offered full sit-down dinners and you could get your tea leaves read in the afternoon.

By the time the cafe opened, several family members lived upstairs and they eventually purchased the building.

Castan's Cafe operated until February 1956 when a fire broke out in the kitchen. It gutted the business and caused extensive damage to the building. Angelo, the only brother left in Winnipeg, did not reopen. He retired and lived in suite 15 of the building until his death in 1969 at the age of 71.

Guest Block in the 1970s (Winnipeg Building Index)

A cafe eventually reopened in the space.

In the late 1950s, it was the 60-seat Golden Wheel Cafe. Poy Wong of 335 Alexander Ave was the proprietor and Peter Wong, the manager, lived in the building. In 1963, Albert and Mary Wong of 335 Alexander are listed as the proprietors. 

The Golden Wheel restaurant was sold in 1974 and it soon became the Country Girl restaurant that operated until at least 1985.

Full House Grocery has been the sole main floor tenant since at least 1986.

Further Reading:
598 Main Street City of Winnipeg Historical Report

1 comment:

  1. The link between "William J. Fish" and the name "Guest" is missing from the narrative. It only becomes evident if you notice & follow the link about William J. Fish, which isn't an obvious place to look.