Thursday, January 22, 2015

618 Arlington Street - Northland Knitting Building / ARTlington

618 Arlington Street

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.

618 Arlington (2)
618 Arlington Street, Winnipeg

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

In 1939 the building became home to Alpha manufacturing, which relocated from smaller premises on Notre Dame Avenue. Alpha built air conditioning and heating systems. In 1943 they relocated to another plant on Notre Dame Avenue.

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.

Old Sign
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.

 618 Arlington Street, Winnipeg
 618 Arlington (4)

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

618 Arlington

618 Arlington Street, Winnipeg

618 Arlington Street

 December 1924

 December 1925

October 1926

 December 1926

December 1926

July 1930

October 17, 1936, Winnipeg Tribune

Sunday, January 11, 2015

308 Fort Street - Vendome Hotel

Vendome Hotel
Vendome Hotel
Place: Vendome Hotel
Address: 308 Fort Street (Map)
Opened: January 1899
Architect: Henry Griffith (1903 expansion)
Contractor: John Hodgins (1903 expansion) 
Cost: $14,000 (1898)

December 27, 1898, Winnipeg Tribune

The Hotel Vendome was built in 1898 at a cost of $14,000. Excavation began in June and Its liquor licence was granted in November. The hotel opened on December 17, just in time for the holidays.

The man behind the hotel was David Murray, who came with his young family and brother William from Sault Ste Marie in 1897. It is unclear whether he had a hotel background. He did hold a number of acres of property in that area and invested in property in rural Manitoba as well. His brother William was a partner in the venture and, when David's sons, William and Stewart, were old enough, they joined the management.

1922 - 23 Tribune ad

In the 1920s the Hotel Vendome, (it switched to Vendome Hotel after 1927), advertized itself as "One of the most homelike and quiet hotels" in the downtown and that was probably correct. When researching downtown hotels I come across many stories of liquor violations and crimes by owners or guests, as well as the odd fire. The Vendome has little of that. It appears to have been a quiet hotel run by a quiet family.

In its first decade or so, the hotel was associated with the 90th Winnipeg Battalion. They held a number of their annual dinners there. It was also where Joe Hall resided for a few weeks while sorting out his hockey future after the Brandon Rowing Club lost the 1904 Stanley Cup finals to the Ottawa Silver Seven.

The Vendome had a number of long term guests, sometimes Murray would host a dinner in their hoonour before moving on. One of them was scientist Reginald Buller, (also see), who founded the botany department at the University of Manitoba in 1904. He lived there for seven years, 1905 - 1913.

Winnipeg Street scene
 Vendome Hotel 1915 MB Archives Wpg-streets-fort collection Item 3 N10961
Top:: Orpheum, National, Vendome ca. 1920s (Source: Streetcar356)
Bottom: Night view ca. 1915 (Source: Archives of Manitoba)

In 1910 the Orpheum Theatre opened across the street from the Vendome. Of the vaudeville chains, the Orpheum circuit was probably the best known as it had continental reach. (Others like Pantages, for example, was mostly confined to the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.)

The Orpheum theatre chain was part of Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO) Corporation, a theatre chain, radio network and eventually one of Hollywood's great movie studios. The best performers would graduate up from their theatre circuit to radio and film. Bob Hope, for instance, played Winnipeg's Orpheum in 1930 and moved up the RKO ladder to be a radio, then film star. In February 1923 Houdini and Jack Benny shared the theatre bill for a week.

I couldn't find stories of famous people staying at the Vendome, though I'm sure performers and crew did, which may have helped keep the hotel in business through the lean times of Prohibition and the Depression, which finished off many hotels.

From 1912 to 1926 the Victoria Theatre (later renamed the National Theatre) stood next door to the Vendome at 302 Fort Street.

May 29, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

One of the strangest guests the hotel had came in May 1923.Charles Loeder, the night clerk, found a bear cub wandering down Portage Avenue and brought it back to the hotel. It spent the day there, had a lunch of bread, apples and a quart of milk and pint of beer before going to sleep. It was claimed that night.

December 14, 1903, Winnipeg Free Press

As for the building itself, the original architect and contractor are not mentioned in the papers, though in 1903 Murray hired architect Henry Griffith and contractor John Hodgins to build an annex to the rear, expanding its capacity by 40 rooms. A barber shop was added in 1918. In 1937 the hotel underwent extensive renovations.

The closest call the Vendome had came in December 1955 when the five-storey Huron and Erie building on Portage Avenue at Fort Street, backing onto the hotel, was destroyed by fire. It was the night clerk at the hotel who first noticed the fire and summoned the fire department. The 30 or so guests, including four boys curling teams from rural Manitoba, were evacuated. The hotel suffered water damage, but little else.

October 17, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

David Murray died in 1920. Of his sons William and Stewart, the latter took over the running of the establishment. Stewart died in 1945.

In the early 1950s Shea's Brewery, (which was soon taken over by Labatt's), bought the hotel. Breweries got into the hotel business reluctantly in the 1930s as hotel owners that owed them money simply walked away from their establishments. Shea's, then Labatt's, eventually embraced this new revenue stream. 

In 1964 when the brewery was divesting itself of its hotel holdings, the Vendome, like some other Labatt properties, became part of the Gordon Hotel chain.

Top: December26, 1964, Winnipeg Free Press
Below: October 26, 1971

Gordon Hotels was known for its live music venues and the Vendome's bar was renovated and rechristened the "Gay 90's", (a reference to the Klondike gold rush.) They sold the hotel in 1977.

In the late 1980s the bar became one of Winnipeg's first sports bars. Hotel owner Ray Dudar, manager Ed Romanik and former Blue Bombers Joe Poplawski and Dan Huclack teamed up to create Bleachers Sports Bar.

My Vendome Hotel photo album on Flickr

Monday, January 5, 2015

169 Luxton Avenue - Ward's Garage
Place: 169 Luxton Avenue (Map)
Built: ca. 1912
Cost: Unknown
Contractor: Unknown

The origins of this building, tucked into a cozy residential neighbourhood, go back to before the street was called Luxton.

The unfortunately named Athol Avenue marked the end of the streetcar line on Main Street. Where the Safeway, (now Co-op), and Extra Foods are now located at Main and Luxton there were rack roundabouts and large street car storage and repair barns until the 1950s.

In spring 1914 the streetcar company said that it would pay to pave Athol Avenue. The name change came in 1916. No reason was given for it in the newspapers but Luxton School, situated on the eastern end of the street, had been in existence since 1907. William Luxton was a teacher at Winnipeg's first public school in 1871 and co-founded the Manitoba Free Press in 1872. Around the same time Mac Street became St. Cross Street.

Above 2 ads from July 1914, below from June 1915

With the large number of employees and service vehicles congregating at Main and Luxton, it was a good place to have a mechanic's garage. The first listing for the address comes in the 1913 Henderson Directory as "St. John's Garage - 169 Athol Avenue". A couple of used car ads appear in 1914 and early 1915 but it wasn't until May 1915 that ads appeared regularly and the garage was listed as a retailer in ads for everything from petroleum products to tires.

The first owners of St. John's Garage were members of the Wadsworth family of 53 Athole Avenue. The 1901 census lists the Wadsworths in Smith Falls, Ontario. David Alex and Margarite (or Margaret) had seven children ranging in age from 7 to 25.  By 1911 the parents and two of their sons, David Arthur  (who appears to have gone by Arthur) and Francis, lived at 53 Athole.

April 12 1919, Winnipeg Tribune

In the 1913 Henderson Directory David Alex Wadsworth, the homeowner of 53 Athole, is listed as manager and son, Henry J. as a machinist. Another son who did not get a chance to work at the garage was David Arthur. He enlisted with the 44th Battalion in 1915 and was taken prisoner of war in 1916, not returning home until 1919.

By 1917 three of the Wadsworths moved on to run William Avenue Garage and, it appears, they sold St. John's Garage to Frank P. Goldstone of Cathedral Avenue. He ran it until around 1920.

From 1920 to 1926 Ernest Hastings Allman leased the garage from Goldstone, renaming it Luxton Garage. Allman, a mechanic by trade, had recently returned from the war. He fought along with his father and brother but was the only one to return alive. He was captured in 1915 and spent over three years in a German POW camp.

Allman ran the garage, for a couple of years with a W. M. Richardson, until around 1926. He then took a job with Vulcan Iron Works where he spent 33 years as a mechanic, retiring as the foreman of their garage. (For more on the Allmans, see my post in West End Dumplings.)

In 1927 Frank Goldstone, now living on Inkster Boulevard, took over the garage again and renamed it Goldies. The garage shut down in 1930, Goldsotone is listed as a mechanic but from his hime at 127 Inkster.

In 1932 to 1933 it operated as Luxton Garage with J. Duke as proprietor.

September 7, 1935, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1935, 169 Luxton became home to a manufacturing plant. Winnipeg mechanic William Clark and his brother John Clark invented something called the Capital Automatic Stoker and began manufacturing the device at 169 Luxton.

A glowing story in the September 7, 1935 Winnipeg Tribune the inventors claim that the device, which attached to a furnace or boiler, as being designed for the unique properties of Western Canadian coal. It described how it operated this way:  “(It)...distributes the coal evenly over the entire grate area of the furnace at a constant rate, with coal and air proportioned for the most perfect combustion."(See below for a diagram.)

Whether it wasn't the great invention that the owners thought it was, or the patent was bought out by a larger company and manufactured elsewhere, the Capital Automatic Stoker Company lasted only about a year.

June 1937

Frederick Peter Ward was the longest serving owner of the building. He was born in London England and came to Winnipeg in his twenties, around 1908. In the early1920s he soon took over a garage at Broadway and Sherbrook, eventually renaming Ward’s Garage. By 1937 he had bought the former Luxton Garage and renamed it Ward's Garage. It was a small shop, rarely advertizing except for the odd classified ad.

For most of his time in Winnipeg he lived at 317 Bannerman with wife Jessie and daughter Jane. He retired and sold the garage in 1969 and died in 1974.

The next owner was J. Scheel who applied to the city to convert it into an auto upholstery shop, (by this time, zoning wouldn't have permitted a garage in a residential neighbourhood - Ward had been grandfathered in.) The change was granted and it was an upholstery and auto detailing shop until 1976.

In 1977 a new owner, J Hoffer, applied to have the zoning exemption extended to allow for a car cleaning and polishing shop that would cater to car dealerships, rather than the public. Over 30 residents turned out at the public meeting to oppose the exemption. The community committee sided with the residents in opposition to it.

It has been a storage facility ever since.

169 Luxton 1920s
169 Luxton 1930s
169 Luxton Sept 7 1935 Tribune