Place: Northland Knitting Building / ARTlington (website)
Address: 618 Arlington Street (map)
Built: 1912, (expansion ca. 1927)
Architect: David W. F. Nichols
Contractor: F. Hinds
The Northland Knitting Company was created by brothers S. J. R. (Sam) and Thomas J. Fernie who came to Winnipeg from Buckingham, Quebec with their parents and siblings in the late 1800s.
Sons S.J.R. (Sam) and Thomas J. both got involved in the clothing trade. Sam was a travelling salesman with the Hudson Bay Knitting Company, eventually setting up shop as an independent seller with an office in the Kilgour Block. Around 1907 he joined forces with Thomas and the two created Northland Knitting at 132 Portage Avenue East.
Things were going well for the fledgling company. Within five years their sixty employees took up two floors of the building and manufactured sweaters, coats, mittens and gloves that were sold throughout the west.
Tragedy struck when Sam died suddenly in 1911 at the age of 36. It was left to Thomas to carry out their expansion plans.
September 5, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune
The company had purchased a piece of land on Arlington Street between Ellice and Sargent. They hired architect David W. F. Nichols to design a simple, two-storey structure for them. Nichols was known to that point for his home designs, but after the Arlington project went on to apartment blocks and the Cornish Baths.
In September 1912 contractor F. Hinds took out the $20,000 building permit. The construction appears to have gone smoothly. There are no newspaper reports of an official grand opening, though by the end of the month were already using the Arlington Street address in their help wanted ads.
Soon after the new building opened Fernie took on a right hand man named C. E. Harvey as secretary-treasurer. Born in England, he came to Winnipeg with his parents while still young. His father was a businessman and he followed suit, owning a general store in Killarney, Manitoba for a while. He then became a travelling salesman with Hudson Bay Knitting, (the same firm Sam Fernie worked for prior to creating Northland.)
Harvey became Northlands' vice-president and when Thomas Fernie retired to B.C. in 1927, took over as president.
November 16, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune
It was under Harvey that the company reached the peak of its success. Around 1927 the building was expanded by two floors. New equipment was purchased and they expanded their product lines of sweaters, sweater coats, gloves and toques to include knit tubing, golf and athletic hosiery. They also bought new machinery to make fancy gloves from caribou, pigskin, suede and chamois, and hired on a production expert from New York State to operate it.
Northland went from a regional player to selling their goods across the country.
Soon after the expanded plant opened, Harvey hosted a tour for the Young Men's Section of the Winnipeg Board of Trade. With the group was Premier Bracken and Alderman Pulford.
The main floor was shipping and receiving. The second floor was the stock room. The third was the knitting area with dozens of knitting machines, including a giant circular jacquard knitting machine with 1,880 needles capable of making 241,920 stitches per minute. The fourth floor was where the pieces were sewn together, then lowered back down to the main floor for shipping.
In 1926 there were four large knitwear companies and numerous smaller players operating in the city. For some of them, the end was near as the Depression dealt them a death blow.
February 11, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune
Northland didn't survive the 1930s. Harvey, who is also in the Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame, died in 1932 at the age of 50. He was in the company's garage one afternoon and overcome with carbon monoxide fumes. An employee found him and he was rushed to hospital but never regained consciousness and died later that day.
The company continued on until 1936 when it went into receivership and the equipment was sold off.
The surviving founder of the company, Thomas Fernie, died in New Westminster in January 1939.
July 12, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune
For the rest of the 1940s it was home to a pair of clothing manufacturers, Echlin Manufacturing then King Manufacturing. Pick Overall Manufacturing, (which became Monarch Wear), called it home from from 1950 - 1960. When they moved out, it ended 618 Arlington's fifty-year run in the clothing manufacturing business.
May 31, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press
In 1961 National Upholstering moved in. The company, or a previous incarnation of it, existed since 1946 on Sutherland Street, though there may have been a pause in business during the 1950s. National did re-upholstery but also got into furniture sales and manufacturing. They remained here until 1980, then relocated to William Avenue.
The next long term tenant was a wool shop. Ram Wools used 618 as a retail store and warehouse from 1981 to the mid 1990s.
Since that time it has been a retail shop and a self storage warehouse.
The building sat vacant until 2010. Real Estate agent John Hunsberger purchased it and applied to have it rezoned so that it could be converted into approximately 33 artists studios ranging in size from 150 to 320 square feet. The project opened in phases starting in 2011 and is called ARTlington Gallery.
The first three floors are now studios with a wide range of artists and a dance studio. In 2015 the fourth floor is being converted into a larger dance studio space.
My photo album of 618 Arlington
Artlington Galleries Facebook Page
Artlington a secret studio The Metro (2012)
Warehouse has creative future Winnipeg Free Press
October 17, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune