Thursday, December 7, 2017

489 Furby Street - Patricia Court Apartments R.I.P.

Source: Google Street View, 2016

Place: Patricia Court Apartments
Address: 489 Furby Street (Map)
Constructed: 1911 - 1912
Architect: Unknown
B. Minkevich, Winnipeg Free Press

On the night of December 4, 2017, 489 Furby Street, once known as the Patricia Court apartments, had a major fire. It is believed that the building cannot be salvaged. Before it is gone, here's a look back at its history.

This fifteen-unit apartment block opened in 1912 with the unfortunate name "The Favonius" but within a year was rechristened Patricia Court. The builder may have been J. T. Bergman who received a permit for a $50,000 apartment went overseas with the building on this block in April 1911.

The initial roster of tenants were what you would expect in a middle-class block. They included Francis Alfred who was the secretary of the Winnipeg branch of the North American Life Assurance Company, Edwin Brownlee a salesman at Alaska Bedding, Stewart Cuthbert an electrician at Eatons, and Francis Megarry who worked as a clerk a Eatons.

During the first World War, Patricia Court was home to Robina Walker. She relocated there after her husband, David Campbell Walker, enlisted with the Cameron Highlanders in 1915.

Walker was injured twice during the war but survived and was able to return and live out a full life with Robina.

Another  woman who lived at Patricia Court during the war was Irene Chadwick. She was the wife of William Francis Chadwick, a newspaper man who had worked at Winnipeg papers and had recently taken a job as circulation manager at the Moos Jaw Daily News. When it came time to enlist, the two returned to Winnipeg.

In April 1916, Chadwick received a gunshot wound to the head. He survived, thanks to the fact that he was wearing his helmet, but initial reports indicated he might not survive.

He spent six weeks in a British hospital and was eventually declared unfit for service and returned to Canada in August 1916.

What became of the Chadwicks is unknown.

1924 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1924, Mary Scarlett Knox briefly moved in with her son who lived at number 9 and taught music from the suite.

Knox had been a was a well-known pianist since her teenage years, playing at recitals and weddings or accompanying singers at benefit concerts. After studying in Canada and overseas, she turned her hand to teaching and went on to have long, local career.

Her time at Patricia Court only lasted a year and by 1926 she had a proper studio in the U of M's music and arts building.

June 21, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

Not everyone had a happy time at Patricia Court.

Peter Carroll of suite A was one of five people who attended a drinking party on Ellen Street in June 1923. Their choice of drink was something called Sterno Canned Heat, a combination of ethanol and methanol mixed with parafin wax that was sold as a portable heat source.

There were crude methods of processing Canned Heat into a beverage. It would be watered down, supplemented with additional ethanol, infused with some fruit, (or in this case, ginger), to kill the taste, and then finely strained to remove the wax.

Drinking Canned Heat was not an uncommon practice during prohibition, when hard liquor was scarce, or for the destitute who couldn't afford anything else. Its was a problem for cities across North America.

In Winnipeg through the 1920s about ten people died and dozens were blinded each year from drinking it.

1928 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

On that night, the Ellen Street partiers got their mixture wrong and two of them died.

Police tracked down Carroll at his Patricia Court apartment and found him complaining of a severe stomach ache and completely blind. He died the next day in hospital.

Carroll had difficulties with alcohol for some time. His name appears in the papers a few times in the 19-teens and early 1920s after being arrested on vagrancy or alcohol-related charges.

He did appear to be turning his life around, though.

His last arrest for vagrancy was in 1921 but by 1923 he had his own apartment and a job as a clerk with the Winnipeg Grain and Produce Clearing House.

Sadly, his addiction or bad choice of friends, or both, cost him his life.

1937 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

There were other musicians who called Patricia Court over the years.

In the early 1950s it was Palmi Palmason, a violinist and violin teacher whose career started in the 1920s. 

One of his earliest students was his sister, Pearl Palmason. She was such a talent that in the 1930s she went on to London and New York to perfect her craft and returned to have a 40-year career with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She is considered a trailblazer for women in classical music. (Pearl stayed with Palmi at patricia Court in 1953 during a visit.)

Palmi played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s and 1950s before eventually moving to Toronto.

1927 ad, Winnipeg Tribune

The name Patrica Court began to disappear from rental ads in favour of "489 Furby" starting in the mid-1960s.

In October 2013, Patricia Court was put up for sale with an asking price of $1.4 million.

Winnipeg Fire - Paramedic Service update
West End fire sends six people to hospital Global News
Firefighters battle Furby Street blaze Winnipeg Free Press

Saturday, September 30, 2017

1515 Portage Avenue - Simpsons-Sears at Polo Park Shopping Centre

© 2017, Christian Cassidy

Sears at Polo Park Shopping Centre
Address: 1515 Portage Avenue (Map)
Size: 270,000 square feet
Architect: Green, Blankstein, Russell and Associates
Contractor: Commonwealth Construction Co.
Opened: May 6, 1959

Simpsons-Sears, now known as Sears Canada, was a partnership between the Canadian and American retail chains created in January 1953. It was dissolved in 1978 when HBC bought out Simpsons. (For more about Simpsons-Sears.)

The retailer had been searching for a Winnipeg store site since its inception and hired David Slater Ltd. to find them a 14-acre parcel of land that they could purchase. One of the few sites available along Portage Avenue was the Polo Park Race Track.

Slater approached the track's owners and after a year of negotiations reached a purchase agreement with the condition that the track could have two more racing seasons to find a new home.

The site was large enough that an adjoining 45-store shopping centre was also planned.
Top: Architect's drawings, May 5, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press

Construction began on the $5 million Simpsons-Sears store in fall 1957.

The building, designed by Green, Blankstein, Russell Associates and built by Commonwealth Construction Company, is clad in Tyndall stone. Its most unique feature was a 45-metre long abstract tile mural along its Portage Avenue facade that was designed by George Swinton of the University of Manitoba's School of Art. (Both have since been extensively altered by exterior renovations.)

The store featured 270,000 square feet of floor space over three levels. two were for retail and there is a basement warehouse area accessible by heated, covered ramps. There was also a service station, 8,000 square foot garden centre and two restaurants - the Manitoba Room on the second floor and Peggy Kellogg coffee house on the main floor.

It was all surrounded by 1,200 parking stalls.

The Simpsons-Sears store formally opened on May 6, 1959. On-hand were the retailer's top executives and Alderman A. E. Bennet representing mayor Stephen Juba.

The store was the fourteenth opened by the retailer and employed 600 people.

J. C. Paterson was the store’s first general manager. He had been responsible for opening stores in Hamilton and Kingston before being named the General Retail Sales Manager based in Toronto. In January 1959, he was dispatched to Winnipeg to oversee the store's development.

July 14, 1970, Winnipeg Tribune

Through the 2000s the fortunes of Sears Canada declined amid the changing retail industry. 

In June 2017, the retailer sought protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and announced that it would close 59 of its 127 stores and shed thousands of employees. This included Winnipeg's Garden City store but not locations at Polo Park, Kildonan Place and St.Vital Centre.

In September 2017 it was announced that another wave of store closures would inclue the Polo park location.

Simpsons-Sears at Garden City Shopping Centre
Polo Park opens to fanfare

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2311 McPhillips Street - Simpsons-Sears at Garden City Shopping Centre

© 2017, Christian Cassidy

Place: Sears at Garden City Shopping Centre
Address: 2311 McPhillips Street (Map)
Size: 100,000 square feet
Architect: unknown
Contractor: Baert Construction

In February 1969, Canadian retailer Simpsons-Sears announced an ambitious project: the construction of a $7 million dollar shopping mall on a 40-acre site on the northern edge of Greater Winnipeg in the city of West Kildonan.

The company wanted to to cash in on proposed residential development plans for the area that would add nearly ten thousand new households in the years to come.

Simpsons-Sears was a partnership between the Canadian and American retail chains created in 1952. It was formally dissolved in 1978, when HBC bought out Simpsons. (For more about the retailer.)

At the time of the Garden City announcement, the company billed itself as a "Canada's fastest growing retailer". They had 33 stores across the country, eight of them built in the previous three years.

The western end of the property, the most prominent side facing McPhillips Street, was reserved for the city's second Simpsons-Sears Store. It would be 100,000 square feet in size and designed so that an additional storey could be added at a future date. A Sears Auto Service Centre would stand nearby.

The store was built by Baert Construction. Its most notable features are the 30-foot wide concrete canopies that stand over each of its three entrances. Each weigh 30 tons and are faced with white quartz stone aggregate.

February 25, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

The shopping centre idea was promising enough that Eaton's purchased ten acres at the eastern edge of the development for a store and parking area of its own to be built during the second phase of development.

In between the two anchors sites would be a 35-store enclosed mall developed and managed by Columbia Commonwealth Corporation of Toronto. It would feature: a Dominion grocery store, the largest in Western Canada at 25,000 square feet; Western Canada's first Shoppers Drug Mart; and a 750-seat Famous Players theatre.

It would all be surrounded by a 1,400 car parking lot.

Top: August 1, 1969, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: August 11, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

On July 31, 1969, the first concrete was poured. The mayors of Winnipeg and West Kildonan, as well as company officials, were on hand for the ceremony.

It appears that construction went as planned and the shopping centre opened on August 12, 1970, very near the "mid 1970" target date set at the time of its announcement.

A lineup of its opening day tenants can be found in the map above.

The project was a success and between 1974 - 76 the second phase of construction took place. It was a a $7 million, 181,000 square foot expansion that doubled the size of the retail mall.

It coincided with a widening of Leila Avenue and other street redevelopment in the area.

New retailers included the much anticipated Eaton's store, a Beaver Lumber Centre and space for 20 other retailers and offices.

August 11, 1970, Winnipeg Free Press

Over the decades, hundreds of retailers and offices have called Garden City Shopping Centre home.

All of its prominent early merchants, though, have disappeared, including Beaver Lumber in 1995, Eaton's in 1998, Famous Players in 2010, and Shoppers Drug Mart.  Sears was the only one left.

The mall has undergone numerous upgrades and renovations over the years. the most recent, to be completed in 2018, was announced by owners RioCan  in 2016

July 14, 1970. Winnipeg Tribune

Through the 2000s the fortunes of Sears Canada declined amid the changing retail industry.

In June 2017, the retailer sought protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and announced that it would close 59 of its 127 stores and shed thousands of employees. This included the Garden City store, which is currently being liquidated.

To raise cash, Sears planned to sell the Garden City store to WCRE Investments for $5 million. After the deal was accepted, RioCan, owners of the mall, countered with a $6 million bid. The issue is currently before the courts.

The disappearance of the Sears name means not just the loss of a retailer, but its ties with the company that made the Garden City Shopping Centre a reality in the first place.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

257 Lulu Street - Haynes' Chicken Shack

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
Place: Former Haynes' Chicken Shack
Address: 257 Lulu Street (Map)
Constructed: ca. 1912

Percy Haynes in 1943, U of M Archives, Winnipeg Tribune Collection

The Haynes' came to Winnipeg from British Guyana in 1912 and purchased this cottage-style house. William, a carpenter by trade, added a workshop area. There, they raised four sons: Alan "Chick", Clifford, Percy and Abram.

Percy became a noted sportsman, musician and labour activist. In 1932, he met Zena Bradshaw and the two became a duo on the night club circuit.

The pair married in 1943 and in 1952 decided to turn the workshop into a restaurant. Zena's sister, Alva Mayes, already well known for her fried chicken, was hired to run the kitchen.

Top: November 7, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press
Bottom; January 10, 1976, Winnipeg Tribune

Haynes' Chicken Shack became famous for its chicken, ribs and late night music.

Percy and Zena often entertained and iconic performers such as Billy Daniels, Oscar Peterson and Harry Belafonte would come jamwhen in town.

Zena Haynes died in 1990 and Percy in 1992. He worked at the restaurant until a week before his death.

Two long-time employees bought the restaurant, which closed in 1998.

Since then, it has been a residence. In 2012 it was boarded up.

For more, read my West End Dumplings blog post and Winnipeg Free Press column about the Haynes' and the Haynes Chicken Shack.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

811 St. Matthews Avenue - Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)

Sept. 7, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

Place: Arlington Station (Substation No. 4)
Address: 811 St. Matthews Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Cost: $225,000

Through the 1920s, Winnipeg Hydro saw a steady increase in its customer base and their thirst for power as new electrical  machinery came onto the marketplace. To keep up with demand, the utility spent over $2.5 million to expand its delivery infrastructure in 1929, double what it spent the year before.

One of those projects was Winnipeg Hydro Substation No. 4, as it was initially called, on St. Matthews Avenue at Arlington Street. The building permit indicated that the building was expected to cost $225,000, most of that reflected the cost of the equipment that it would house.

It's capacity was 20,000 horsepower.

September 3, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

One thing that Hydro did not have to pay for was the land.

From 1921 to 1928, the site had been home to the St. Matthews Tennis Club. Though anyone could join, the club was associated with nearby St. Matthews Church. Not much information can be found about the club property other than the fact that it had at least two grass courts and contained a small clubhouse.

It is likely that the land was leased to the church.

Sometime after the close of the 1928 tennis season, the city seized the property for unpaid property taxes. It then gave it over to Hydro for the substation project.

The single-storey building was built with reinforced concrete and brick with Tyndall Stone trim. The architect and contractor are not known.

In a release sent to both the Free Press and Tribune as the project neared completion, Hydro noted: "Careful attention has been paid to the architectural features of the building with a view to enhancing rather than depreciating property value in the adjacent neighbourhood."

Google Maps

Like many substations, its footprint is deceptive as some of the walls are just a facade to hide equipment in an open-air yard.

The initial building measured 50 feet by 100 feet and it appears that the site has been enlarged since it was first constructed.

Comparing the 1929 photo to today shows an extension to the north of three windows and the presence of slightly different building materials indicates there was an extension to the east to include a garage door. (Basically, the "L" shaped open-air portion seen in the overhead image above.)

A unique feature of this substation is that it was one of the city's first custom-built "automatic" stations, meaning that there was no staff working there. Its switches were controlled from the Rover Street terminal or Scotland Avenue substation. It was how substations going forward would be controlled.

The building appears to have had a a quiet existence with the exception of a small exposition in May 1966 when a high voltage circuit breaker blew It caused a small fire and $3,000 in damage.

In 2002, Winnipeg Hydro was sold to Manitoba Hydro. Substation No. 4 was renamed Arlington Station.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

724 Wellington Avenue - Tavistock Apartments

Place: Tavistock Apartments
Address: 724 Wellington Avenue (Map)
Built: 1912 - 13
Architect: Unknown

The Tavistock Apartments were built in 1912 -13. Amid the hustle and bustle of development elsewhere in the city, there was no mention made of its development in the newspapers.

An interesting feature of the building's early days was the suite numbering. There was suite 1 and 2, then letters from A to W.

It was a middle class block in a middle class area. Its 1914 roster of tenants, for instance, included: John Boyink an engraver at Bulman Brothers printing; Gordon Cannen, accountant; F Denno, chauffeur; Winifred Dunlop, a stenographer at Gaults Ltd.; Stephen McBean, stone cutter at R. Kelly and Sons; and Mrs. F Niblett, Eaton's clerk. There were also four teamsters, or drivers, for Crescent Creamery, Alex Allan, Herbert Way, Robert Stewart, and William Burns, who all shared suite 1. 

 A notable long-term tenant from were the Verdins, Albert and Eliza. They established Verdin's grocery, one of the West End's earliest stores, next door at 730 Wellington and lived at the Tavistock from about 1917 into the 1960s.

June 11, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

One June afternoon in 1921, police constable G. H. Brown, who worked the night shift, was sleeping when he heard noises in the adjoining suite. He went to investigate and found a team of four robbers. He gave chase in his bare feet and that led to two men and two women being caught.

It turns out they had broken into a house on Victor Street earlier in the day. At the Tavistock, they assaulted the "lady of the house" and stole some brandy, a necklace and a watch.

The two men were convicted of assault and housebreaking.

January 2, 1926, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1926, there was nicer news when Kathleen, daughter of Mr and Mrs. Harold Hood, was born at 5:25 on January 1, 1926.

That made her the city's New Year's baby and earned her and her parents a basket of prizes donated by city retailers.

December 11, 1942, Winnipeg Tribune

Acting Lance Corporal Samuel Campbell was killed in action at Dieppe on August 19, 1942. 

Born in Northern Ireland in 1905, he worked for the Canadian Construction Company, which specialized in railway construction, at the time he enlisted. His wife, Martha, and son, Cecil, moved into the Tavistock after he went overseas.

Top: November 2013 Renter's Guide

In 1965, when the Verdins retired, they sold their store to the Tavistock's owner who subdivided it into four suites opening onto Beverley Street. It was known as the Tavistock Annex. (The name "Tavistock" disappears in 1978.)

In 2012, the owners got a rezoning application approved in order to build a new housing block on the site of the former grocery store. Demolition did not take place until 2016 and the land is still vacant.

In 2013, the building underwent a major interior and exterior renovation which saw its cornice removed, (above).

For more images of 724 - 730 Wellington Avenue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Main Street and Higgins Avenue: Main Street Underpass

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
Place: Main Street Underpass
Location: Main Street at Higgins Avenue
Architect: Canadian Pacific Railway
Contractor: Deeks and Dueck
Cost: $125,000
Opened: November 1904

In 1900, the CPR announced a big expansion and restructuring of its national rail network.

For Winnipeg, this meant a $5 million investment that included new passenger depot, a hotel, (the Royal Alexandra, the largest in the country), the centralization of various maintenance buildings into the Weston shops, and a new cargo yard. It also meant that a lot more rail traffic would be passing through town.

At the time, the options for crossing the tracks in the city were limited to the narrow, ca. 1899 Salter Street Bridge and a grade crossing at Main Street. The latter was by far was the busiest and the only one that streetcars could operate on.

The CPR expansion meant that the number of tracks crossing Main Street would increase from four to eight, which caused despair among many citizens, business owners and civic officials.

About a dozen trains already crossed the intersection each day with an average crossing time of about 5 minutes each. It was a scheduling inconvenience in the summer and a potentially deadly wait for people and horses in the winter.

In 1900, the city and CPR agreed that new crossing was needed and that it should be a "subway" rather than an overpass. In 1903, negotiations began about the specifics of the structure.

March 7, 1904, Winnipeg Tribune

The CPR favoured a reinforced concrete structure as it was the cheapest option to build and maintain. In February 1904, a city committee approved the railway's request.

This set off a brief storm of protest before it could go before council as a whole to be ratified.

A number of letters to the editor were published and delegations appeared at city hall to demand that the CPR use a second option - steel.

The Winnipeg Tribune published "ten important objections" to a concrete subway written by the North End Ratepayers' Association.

They argued that a concrete underpass and its "forest of pillars" would give the sidewalks a "tunnel like appearance". With steel, which required fewer and narrower pillars: "a person walking upon one sidewalk could readily see any person passing on the opposite and there is a general airiness in the passage way.”

It was also noted that a steel train bridge required a shallower deck which meant that the depth of the subway itself could be around a couple of feet shallower. This was an important consideration in a city prone to flooding.

February 23, 1904, Winnipeg Tribune

In the end, council voted in favour of the reinforced concrete underpass at their February council meeting, though it was close. The mayor had to cast the deciding ballot in favour of it.

Afterwards, many of the members who voted against concrete walked out of the chamber in disgust, including Alderman Fry who called out to his colleagues sarcastically, congratulating them for voting in favour of the “Main Street Sewer”
Recently opened underpass with CPR Hotel still under construction (Source)

Construction began in late May and the structure, both the underpass and the train bridge, were open for service by November. 

The subway portion was lit with 50 incandescent lights of 16 candlepower each. The city's chief engineer quipped that it would be the best lit spot in the city.

October 11, 1915, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1913, the CPR told the city that it wanted to widen the bridge portion to the north by up to 85 feet to allow additional tracks to be laid. That work took place in the summer of 1914,.

The following year, the city made some improvements of their own. They raised the roadway of the subway about three feet to lessen the steepness of the grade to 2.5%.

The new, improved underpass opened in October 1915.

A few years after it opened, the underpass was already heavily congested. The opening of new crossings such as a grade crossing at King Street, the Arlington Bridge, a new Salter Street Bridge and the Disraeli Freeway helped alleviate some of the traffic issues.

In the 1970s, some at the city, including Mayor Juba, mused that the underpass should be replaced with a wider structure after the Royal Alexandra hotel was demolished. The  idea didn't get very far.

Over the years, few changes have been made to the structure. At some point the rounded openings were cut away to make them square, allowing for greater clearance.

The dark, unappealing interior of the underpass has been an issue since day one. From time to time new lighting schemes have been used to help brighten the space. The most recent was in the summer of 2017.

My photo album of the Main Street Underpass