Wednesday, August 27, 2014

545 Broadway - Wilson House / Klinic

Place: Wilson House
Address: 545 Broadway (Map)
Opened: 1904
Cost: $9,000
Architect: J H G Russell

Wilson house was constructed in 1904 for Robert R. Wilson and family.

An immigrant from Enniskillen, Ireland, Wilson came to Winnipeg in 1882 looking for adventure. In 1883 he took a  job as a clerk with a new grocery wholesale company called Campbell and Sutherland. He soon became its bookkeeper and, in 1900, a partner. The company then reorganized as Campbell Brothers and Wilson.

The company grew into one of the West's largest grocery businesses. In 1903 they built a warehouse at 90 Princess Street, expanding it to nearly double its size in 1912. The building is better known as the Penthouse Furniture Building.

In 1904 Wilson and his family, wife Sarah and their three children, had this house built on what is now the edge of West Broadway. The architect, J H G Russell, was the man who was responsible for designing the CB and W warehouse the year before. It is considered one of Winnipeg's finest examples of Queen Anne architecture.

In 1925 Wilson became president of the company and the family moved to a new, larger home, also designed by Russell, at 680 Wellington Crescent, (now demolished.)

Legislative Building Manitoba
Top: ca. 1935 (buflyer on Flickr)
Bottom: ca. 1922 (Manitoba Historical Society)

By this time, the neighbourhood had changed a great deal from its tree-lined, residential surroundings of 1904. Across the street was the Legislative Building (opened 1920) and Shea's Amphitheater, the MTS Centre of its day, (opened in 1909). To the east was All Saints Church (opened 1926) and the original University of Manitoba campus

The next owner was George Zyrd. He lived here but converted most of it into a rooming house for between 6 and 8 people, mostly working women; stenographers, clerks, teachers. The neighbourhood continued to get busier with the addition of Osborne Stadium (1930) and an expanded Shea's Brewery.

The house was sold again around 1930 and a series of owners ran it as a rooming house until 1948 when it was converted into office space.

June 28, 1977, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1977 Kilinic moved in. Created in 1970 as an offshoot of the General Hospital, they provided a storefront medical clinic aimed at young people hitchhiking across country and those experimenting with drugs. Over time, they began offering suicide prevention counseling and other outreach services. Their previous location was just a few doors down at Broadway and Balmoral.

Klinic's clientele and range of services continued to grow and in 1991 they relocated to a new facility on Portage Avenue near Arlington Street.

Above: ca. 1990 (Historic Buildings Report)
Below: July 15, 1990

The owner the building then applied for a demolition permit to build an L shaped strip mall that included a 24-hour convenience store. The city refused to issue it and the building sat empty for the rest of the decade. It became the target of vandals, squatters and once had a small fire set inside it.

May 18, 1999, Winnipeg Free Press

The house managed to survive and in 1999 Lion's Housing, which had already renovated a number of houses on Langside Street, bought it for $300,000. They held fundraisers for the redevelopment of the property, one hosted by home renovation television personality Debbie Travis.

A call was made for possible tenants and one of the applications was from Klinic! Things had become crowded at their new home and they were looking for more street-level space.

The home was completely gutted and a 45,000 sq foot addition added to the rear. Klinic reopened here in 2004 offering a range of services aimed at youth.

545 Broadway Historic Building Inventory
Wilson House Heritage Winnipeg
Our History Klinic

Friday, August 22, 2014

424 Portage Avenue - The Singer Building

Place: The Singer Building
Address: 424 Portage Avenue (Map)
Opened: April 2, 1930
Cost: $84,000
Architect: Northwood & Chivers
Contractor: Fraser & MacDonald

May 13, 1884, Manitoba Free Press

The Singer Sewing Machine Company has been a presence in Winnipeg since late 1880 when R. R. Gage, the newly appointed agent for Western Canada, arrived from Guelph, Ontario to set up shop. Their first location was at 287 Main Street with a staff of four. In their first year of operation here, Singer sold 550 machines and expected to double that in 1883 as the West began to fill with settlers and industries. The company was also a regular exhibitor at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibitions throughout the 1880s.

By 1929 the company's main store was at 306 Main Street with satellite stores at 300 Notre Dame and on Kelvin Street (Henderson Highway) in Elmwood. Corporate offices appear to have been in the Boyd Building.

October 28, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

On September 30, 1929 Singer Sewing Machine Co. took out an $84,000 building permit for a three-storey, measuring 22 feet wide, at 524 Portage Avenue. The architect was Northwood & Shivers and general was Fraser & MacDonald Co. The structure was fireproof, built of reinforced concrete with brick and a Tyndall stone facade.

The main floor featured their largest retail showroom in the city, finished in walnut with marble trim. The second floor contained some smaller offices and a large room where sewing lessons and demonstrations could be held. The top floor were the regional offices for Western Canada, excluding B.C..

April 1, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

The store opened on  April 2, 1930, the early months of the Depression. Singer made their demonstration room available to charities such as the Friendship League, which collected food, toys and made clothing and other items for unemployed families.

March 24, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

The company stayed at this address for fifty years. By 1979 Singer had franchise stores in Garden City and Polo Park shopping centres and "for sale" ads appeared for their Portage Avenue Building. The following spring, Singer the regional office was closed and the contents of the building sold off.

October 2, 1981, Winnipeg Free Press

The first post-Singer tenant came in 1981 when Thomas Cook Travel relocated their offices from the Dismorr Block further east on Portage Avenue. The U.K.-based Cook, one of the largest travel agencies in the world, was looking to expand beyond serving mainly corporate clients and get into the personal travel market by opening storefront locations in most of their Canadian markets.

Impulse Records opened on the second floor from around 1984 to 1987.

In 1989 The building was up for lease again when Thomas Cook relocated to Eaton Place Mall. The following year, Cristall Opticians opened and remains at that location.

Additional Sources
Winnipeg, Manitoba, and her industries Steen & Boyce, 1882
Singer Sewing Timeline Singerco
Singer Sewing Machine History Today

Thursday, July 24, 2014

732 Ellice Avenue - Wesley Chapel

Hungarian United Church
Place: Wesley Chapel
Address: 732 Ellice Avenue
Opened: October 4, 1952
Architect: Unknown

October 4, 1952, Winnipeg Free Press

Wesley Chapel, a Methodist congregation, was located on this site since the late 1940s. In April 1951, under the leadership of Rev. Murdo Campbell, they began construction on this larger, $25,000 stucco church next to their original one. It was dedicated on October 4, 1952 and served as Wesley Chapel until 1968.

November 25, 1961, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1970 it became the Hungarian United Church. Originally formed in Winnipeg as the Hungarian Reformed Church in 1906, reorganized as United in 1927, it called a number of locations home over the decades.

Spurred by a huge growth in the city’s Hungarian population after that country's 1956 uprising, they purchased land at Brandon Avenue and Nassua Street and in 1961 opened what they thought would be a long-term home. That property was expropriated by the city in 1968 as part of the metro Transit bus garage and offices.

The congregation used space at the Rosedale United Church on Beresford Avenue until they purchased this building in 1970. It served as not only home of the church but the Hungarian Folklorama Pavilion until the early 1990s.

In summer 2014 the United Church sold the building to a congregation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They began renovations in July 2014.

Interior prior to sale (Century 21)

July 2014 renos in progress

Hungarian United Church fonds
Hungarian United Church

Sunday, June 29, 2014

180 Market Street: Pantages Theatre

Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeg
Place: Pantages Theatre / Playhouse Theatre
Address: 180 Market Street East (Map)
Architect: B. Marcus Priteca, George Northwood
Contractor: James McDiarmid Co.
Cost: $180,000
Opened: February 9, 1914

Note: I am currently in the process of writing a four part history of Pantages Theatre. The full version of each post will appear at my West End Dumplings blog. Once completed, an abbreviated version of the post will appear here.

Part 3: the City Years, 1936 - present
Part 4: The Performers and other links

Sunday, June 22, 2014

541 Selkirk Avenue - The Merchants Hotel

Merchants Hotel, Selkirk Avenue
Place: Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
Address: 541 - 543 Selkirk Avenue
Architect: Cecil Blankstein (1913 and 1933)

Above: July 3, 1939, Winnipeg Tribune
Below: December 14, 1914, Winnipeg Free Press

The Merchants Hotel was constructed in 1913, not a as a hotel but a retail / commercial block.

The roots of the building are in the Steiman family. Robert and wife Sarah came from Latvia in 1899 or 1901*. After doing odd jobs for a time, by 1905 Robert opened a hardware store at 511 - 513 Selkirk Avenue, the former liquidation location for Winnipeg Hardware Ltd.. He called it , simply, R. Steiman Company.

With the future looking bright, Steiman began sending for the rest of his family. In 1906 they built a house at 531 Selkirk that by 1910 was home to Robert's parents, father Mendel worked at the hardware store, as did his sister Rose. Brother Arthur was a pressman at Willson’s Stationery. Another brother, Max, would later become a Main Street retailer. There were other Steiman relatives living there as well, such as Marv, a cigar maker, and Hyman, a tailor who had a shop at 577 Selkirk. (All of these Selkirk Avenue addresses are now demolished.)

Robert and Sarah lived not far away at 431 Selkirk Avenue. By this time they had four children and Sarah's parents and sister were also living with them. (For a more detailed history of the whole Steiman family, see Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle by Cherie Smith.)

ca. 1934 (Source: Mendel's Children)

Steiman's store did well and he hired architect Cecil Blankstein to design the three-storey Steiman Block at 541 - 543 Selkirk Avenue. The store, renamed R. Steiman Hardware and Furniture, opened there in 1914 with hardware on the main floor, furniture on the second and warehouse space on the third.

A retailer of phonographs since at least 1909, Steiman became one of six authorized Gramophone Company / His Masters Voice dealers in the city. The shop specializing in record players, radios and phonographs had an address of 547 Selkirk, a neighbouring building.

Above: December 14, 1932, Winnipeg Free Press
Below: June 15, 1932, Winnipeg Tribune

In the mid1920s Steiman converted most of the warehouse level into Steiman's Hall, which had a separate entrance off of Andrews Street. The hall was a community gathering place and over the decades was home to numerous socials, political speeches, club meetings, dance classes and dramatic productions.

The Steiman Hall portion of the building usually had a small retailer on the main floor, such as a deli or tailor, and offices on the second floor often housing Jewish doctors and dentists.

January 11, 1934, The Jewish Post

The Depression took its toll on the retailer. Unable to sustain such a large store, he wanted to convert most of it into a hotel. In June 1933 he applied for, and got, a beer licence, then approached the building's original architect Cecil Blankstein, now in partnership with Lawrence Green, to design the conversion. 

In November 1933 he took out a $5,000 building permit to do the work, which consisted of shrinking his store's space to make room for a lobby, dining room and beer parlour. The upper floors became home to 40 hotel rooms.

Workers on the building included: F. Gorner of 545 Redwood Avenue, carpenter; S. Kowalski of 119 Lorne Street,  plastering and brickwork; John Fabris and Son of 537 Sherburn Street, tile and marble; and Partridge-Halliday of 144 Lombard Street, plumbing and heating.

January 11, 1934, The Jewish Post

The Merchant's Hotel likely opened the week of January 11, 1934 with little fanfare or attention from the daily newspapers. It was, after all, a working class hotel in a working class neighbourhood.  (Note that there were numerous Merchants' Hotels around at the time, including in Selkirk and Portage la Prairie. They were not related.)

A scan of some 1940s Henderson Directories shows that most of the handful of long-term guests there at any given time were CPR employees, others were truck drivers, bakers and labourers.

Unlike many other hotels, the Merchants rarely advertized, maybe one classified ad per year in the daily papers and a couple more times per year in the Jewish Post. Perhaps a sign that he had a pretty steady stream of clientele.

November 17, 1934, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1935 R. Steiman Ltd., the hardware store, went bankrupt and a new retailer was found for the space. Steiman then turned his attention to the hotel. More advertisements appeared, especially in the Jewish Post, and in 1938 - 39 an extensive interior renovation took place.

The hotel, and the Steimans, had a quiet existence. No major incidents were reported in the newspapers, such as crimes, fires or personal crises during their tenure.

The Steimans were involved with many Jewish organizations, sitting on many boards. The Merchants was often used as a meeting space or fundraising venue for them. It was also a stopping point for many Jewish newcomers and visitors to the city.

August 8, 1953, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1947 the Steimans sold the hotel and retired to California, where they originally intended to settle when they came to North America almost 50 years earlier.

Robert died in Vancouver while visiting relatives on July 30, 1953. Sarah died in Lost Angeles in 1957. Both are buried there.

John Konosky was manager of the hotel in 1946. He wife Mary and son John lived on the premises. The following year he is listed as the proprietor. 

John was born in the Ukraine but raised in Silver, Manitoba where he married wife Mary. They got into the hotel business in places like Gladstone, Riverton and Transcona before moving to Winnipeg and taking over the Merchants.

Konosky retired in 1957 and dedicated more time to his passion: Ukrainian country music. Together with Joe Wozlowski and Stan Kostiuk, he made up the Primrose Trio that released a number of albums under the V Records label.

The next owner is "Selkirk Hotel Ltd." , a partnership that began in Estavan Saskatchewan in 1949. 

Ben Zelcovich was an Estevan businessman who purchased the town's Clarendon Hotel in 1949. One of his business partners was Menashe Mandel, who relocated to Winnipeg and purchased the Merchants Hotel from Konosky in 1957. I am assuming that it included business partner Zelcovich as he came form Saskatchewan to be the hotel's manager.

Another business partnership Mandel was involved with had purchased land at Balmoral and Notre Dame for a future hotel development. In 1966, after other partners sold off their interest, Mandel went built the Balmoral Hotel, likely with Zelcovich in a minor role.

March 26 1964, Jewish Post

In 1961 the hotel was owned by the Cipryk family. Father Adam was the president of the company, though it was son Robert who was the manager / proprietor from 1961 to 1972. They also co-owned the Aberdeen Hotel with a man named George Prost.

Robert, just 28 at the time they purchased the Merchants, was also president of the St. James Rams Football Club and by 1966 the president of the Manitoba Hotel Association.

March 6, 1972, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1972 the Cipryks sold to George Prost. He renovated the hotel, including the beverage room, and brought in live bands nightly. He ran it until 1980.

This was also around the time when Selkirk Avenue's reputation began taking a violent turn. Until this point, the Merchants was seldom in the news for anything other than the odd fight. The frequency of fights, robberies and other criminal doings in the vicinity of the hotel picked up though the 1970s and 1980s. By the late 1990s it was so notorious that some called for the city to purchase the hotel and close it down, something it had already done with the Leland Hotel and Portage Village Inn when they became too troublesome. 

Ross Kennedy, a co-owner of the Balmoral Hotel and Headingley Inn, bought the Merchants in 1980 for a reported $600,000. He said that he would sell it to the city but for $1.2 million, double the assessed value, because it included a money-making business. The city went no further.

Kennedy maintained that shutting down the hotel would not deal with the larger issues that led to violence in the neighbourhood, it would just make people walk further to get to another bar or vendor. To help combat the crime issue, he did agree to cut back the hours of the bar to 9 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends.

November 23, 2009, Winnipeg Free Press

The final owner of the Merchants Hotel was Bob Major, who took over on January 1, 2006.

By this time, calls to shut down the hotel were more frequent and, though there was opposition at his liquor permit hearing, the bar was granted a new lease on life.

Major pointed out that the vast majority of the crime that the Merchants was being blamed for - beatings, stabbings, armed robberies, drug dealing - took place on the streets around the hotel and that the business was being unfairly blamed as the "cause". While renovating, he invested in video security equipment inside and out and said he freely shared the video with police when they were investigating incidents.

The tipping point seem to come in April 2011 when Sheila Fontaine, 42, was murdered when she was swarmed by a group of teens outside the hotel when she stepped out for a cigarette.

Merchant's Hotel, Selkirk Avenue

In late 2011 the province asked the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation to produce a building condition report, business plan and to gauge interest among existing agencies and community groups about the redevelopment of the site. The building's location, on the western edge of Selkirk Avenue's "social service alley" made it a good fit.

The condition report was positive and a coalition of 20 of the street's social service agencies signed on to explore the redevelopment. The province paid $1.3 million for the hotel and four vacant lots to the north, used as hotel parking, and transferred ownership to the coalition in April 2012.
Source: the

The lead on the project, now dubbed Merchants Corner, is the North End Renewal Corporation. The vision is for the building to become a satellite university campus, retail hub, social service offices and a housing complex on the vacant lots.

Former Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
ca. May 1928, Jewish Post

History Links

My photo album of the Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel
Steiman Block / Merchants Hotel Historic Buildings Committee
Mendel's Children: A Family Chronicle Cherie Smith
Memoirs of a Manitoba Maydl Cherie Smith (The Scribe)
Winnipeg's Selkirk Avenue in 1914 Abe Padolsky (MHS)
Jewish Post and News archives


New plan for old hotel 
The Times /Canstar (June 2014)

"Meet me at the Merch" 
North End Renewal Corporation (video)

Prince's charity interested in old Merchants Hotel 
Winnipeg Free Press (May 2014)

Merchants Hotel set for major redevelopment 
CBC Manitoba (April 2012)

Community group plans to buy the Merchants Hotel 
Winnipeg Free Press (Sept 2011)

Few tears shed for Merchants
 Winnipeg Real Estate News (undated)

Merchant Hotel opens in heart of North Winnipeg 
Jewish Post (January 1934) 


When piecing together the history of a 100+ year-old building mainly though newspaper archives, there will be some discrepancies. I noted ones I found below. If you have additional information or corrections, instead of making nasty comments or emails, why not share it with me at ! I would be more than happy to update this post to include it !

- One building history says that a third storey was added in the 1950s. As per the above photo and stories about the building in its early days, that third storey appears to have existed from day one.

- * Robert Steinam's obituary article in the Free Press says that he and Sarah came to Winnipeg in 1901, but the family memoir says it was 1899.

- The City of Winnipeg historic buildings report says that the Steiman family owned the building until ca. 1926, which is eight years before the Merchant's Hotel even opened. There are numerous accounts that say Robert Steiman was the owner of the hotel. Perhaps he created a separate company from his R. Steiman Ltd. hardware business with a different name before constructing the hotel.

- Hotel histories in particular are difficult to research as there was usually a primary owner as well as secondary owners or investors. Often I will find seperate articles about different people, each saying that they owned a hotel at the same time. The Zelcovitch - Mandel partnership, for instance, went on to include the Balmoral Hotel and Pembina Hotel.

(c) 2014 Christian Cassidy

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

586 Ellice Avenue - West End Cultural Centre

West End Cultural Centre
Place: St. Matthews Church / West End Cultural Centre
Address: 586 Ellice Avenue
Architect: Herbert E. Matthews
Contractor: B. Pattinson and Thomas Eilbeck
Opened: January 10, 1909

The West End Cultural Centre has a long history as a "starter church" for a number of Winnipeg's current congregations. It has been no stranger to concerts and other performances, either !

Top: ca. 1897 (courtesy St. Matthews Church)
Bottom: May 17, 1897, Winnipeg Tribune

St. Matthews Church was founded in 1896 as a mission of Holy Trinity Church. The first services and Sunday school classes were held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Buley at 448 Mulligan (now Sherbrook) Street. In 1897 the couple donated land at the corner of Ellice and Sherbrook to allow for the construction of the first St. Matthews Church.

The $1,200 structure with a capacity of 350 opened on May 16, 1897. In 1901 St. Matthews received its independence from Holy Trinity. That same year, the building was expanded to include a nave and basement.

The years 1900 – 1906 were busy ones for the West End west of Sherbrook Street. Streetcar tracks were laid on Sherbrook from Portage to Notre Dame Avenues, large sections of land were opened up for residential development and the city ran sidewalks, water and sewer service to the area. As the population exploded, so did the size of St. Matthews’ congregation and Sunday school program. The church was soon bursting at the seams.

The decision was made to build a new, 50' x100' structure on the same site. In September 1908 the congregation said farewell before moving to temporary premises at a nearby warehouse.

Top: ca. 1911 (courtesy: St. Matthews Church)
Bottom: October 19, 1908, Winnipeg Tribune

Architect Herbert E. Matthews' Gothic-inspired design featured red brick with Tyndall stone trim. It had a full basement that would be home to the Sunday school program and the St. Matthews Athletic Club which fielded numerous teams including lacrosse, cricket, hockey and tennis.

The opening service of the $15,000 structure took place on January 10, 1909.

Later that year, it also became a popular site for concerts after a top-of-the-line pipe organ from the Warren Church Organ Company was installed in November.

The growth of St. Matthews' congregation was so great that in just a couple of years they had to contemplate expanding again. This time, they required a larger site and in 1912 construction began at at St. Matthews Avenue and Maryland Street. (For more on the history of St. Matthews Church.)

October 4, 1914, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1914 the building became home to Elim Chapel, a non-denominational congregation formed in 1910, worshipping in a building at Ellice and Beverley. Elim was a popular stop for travelling preachers and sermonists from around the world. 

Like St. Matthews, Elim soon outgrew the space and purchased the vacated former St. Stephen's Church on Portage Avenue at Spence Street. The final Elim service was held here on October 27, 1928.

May 16, 1931, Winnipeg Tribune

The next owners were St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1931. Prior to this, they had been worshiping in the Good Templar's Hall on Sargent Avenue. The interior of the church was extensively remodeled before they held their first service on May 17. In 1969 they bid farewell when their present church on Walnut Street at Wolseley Avenue opened.

From 1939 to 1942 the Henderson Directory lists this address as a "naval barracks". It is possible that the basement was used to house recruits for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) recruitment centre / HMCS Chippawa located across the street during this time.

March 22, 1973, Winnipeg Free Press

After St. Peter's, the building's run as a place of worship ended. In those sixty years it hosted thousands of religious ceremonies, sermons and concerts with no major incidents or fires reported.

The Portuguese Association of Manitoba opened their first cultural centre there on April 7, 1973. It housed a library, dance and language classes and many live performances. The West End's growing Portuguese community outgrew the hall and in 1987 they left for their new home at Young Street and Notre Dame Avenue.

 April 21, 1987, Winnipeg Free Press

The new owners of the building were Mitch Podoluck and Ava Kobrinsky. Podoluck, best known as the founder of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, said that in the late 1970s he had a vision for what a community performing arts space should be, modelled on the early days of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre.

The building was purchased from the Portuguese Association for $131,000. Along with a $75,000 grant from the province and free labour from dozens of dedicated volunteers, it was transformed into the West End Cultural Centre.

Top: ca 1990, Winnipeg Building Index
Bottom: From 1989 newspaper ad

Opening night, Friday, October 23, 1987, was a concert by Spirit of the West. The renovations continued until just minutes before curtain time. Other acts in its busy first month included Jesse Winchester (Nov. 1), Loreena McKennitt (Nov. 20), Valdy (Nov. 21, 22) and Connie Kaldor, (Nov 27).

The 300-seat venue was a hit among concert-goers and performers for its intimate feel and great acoustics.

 West End Cultural Centre
Bottom: Christian Cassidy

In 2003 an engineer's report gave the nearly century-old building's foundation a failing grade. It would need extensive renovations if it was going to enter a second century. Rather than move to a new location, the board decided to stay put and both renovate and build new. 

The venue closed in summer 2008. While the original structure was gutted and renovated, a new, adjoining 400-seat hall was built to the south. The $4 million renovation project was headed by Prairie Architects.

The new, improved West End Cultural Centre opened on May 25, 2009 with a concert by Hawksley Workman.

Rex Theatre, Winnipeg  (1912 - 2008)
West End Cultural Centre
 Above: Seats at the Rex, 2008
Below: Seats at the WECC, 2010

The project includes a number of green initiatives, like geothermal heating and the reuse of salvaged material, such as the balcony seats which were rescued from the now-demolished Rex Theatre on Main Street. 

The West End Cultural Centre was awarded a LEED Silver certification in 2012.

WECC reopens tonight Winnipeg Free Press, May 25, 2009
Our Story West End Cultural Centre
West End Cultural Centre Prairie Architects