Friday, April 6, 2018

624 - 626 Balmoral Street - Rooming House

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Place: Rooming House (now closed)
Address: 624 - 626 Balmoral Street (Map)
Built: 1895
Architect: Unknown
City Hall looking west ca. 1898 (Past Forward)

This 2.5-storey, 5,552 square-foot, 22-unit rooming house was constructed in 1895. 

At the time, what was then two single-family homes would have been on the outer edge of the city's urban development. The above image taken from city hall looking west in 1898 does not include Balmoral Street, which is off to the left, but shows that after just a few blocks urban development gives way to open land.

The nearest urban feature to the house is Central Park. That land was only purchased by the city in 1895 and it took a few years for it to be developed into a green space and for housing to be rise around it.

The West End, behind the house, was not subdivided for residential development until 1904 – 05.

The rear elevation (above) shows two distinct houses that are joined together by a common frontage. Exactly when the two were linked is unclear, though I suspect it was ca. 1905.

Both homes have had a connection with members of the Methodist Church, one was the home of a retired minister and the other the home of a widow of a minister. This could mean that the church was the ultimate owner of the buildings in their earliest years and leased or sold them.

Here is the early history of each home:

624 Balmoral Street (the taller house)

Howard Kirby spent ages 5 - 12 at the house.

Number 624 Balmoral Street first appears in the 1895 Henderson Directory with the Kirby family as its first owners.

Thompson Kirby was born in Yorkshire, England and came to Milton, Ontario with his parents when he was a toddler. In 1878, he went to Douglas, Manitoba to homestead and married Ina. By the 1890s, the couple were living in Winnipeg and had two sons, Howard T. Kirby (b. 1890) and Kenneth C. Kirby (b. 1897).
Top: Canada Permanent Building, bottom left (Past Forward)
Bottom: April 29, 1897, Winnipeg Free Press

Mr. Kirby was a lawyer and a collection agent specializing in the agricultural industry. He had an office and small staff in the Canada Permanent Building on Main Street at Graham Avenue, now demolished, and occasionally took out classified ads listing assorted machinery for sale. (His obituary, perhaps to avoid the negative connotation of his profession, stated that after moving to Winnipeg, he “became prominent in business circles.”) 

After seven years, the family relocated to 311 Edmonton Street at Graham Avenue, now demolished. Perhaps it was a desire to be closer to the office or nearer the commercial and retail centre of town.

Soon after the move, Kirby began working for the Merchants Bank and was transferred to Victoria, B.C.. He retired from the bank in 1924 and died in 1942.

December 14, 1905, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1903, the home was converted into a rooming house. Classified ads in December advertise eleven "just finished" rooms for rent.

The owner, according to the Henderson Directory, was Mary Moran, widow of Methodist Rev. John X. Moran, and her two sons.

There were seven roomers noted during the Henderson Directory's 1906 visit. They were: John Lee, student; William Harper, clerk at Robinson and Black; N. B. Finn, clerk Robinson and Co.; Maggie Bunton, clerk at Carsley’s; Elgin Moran, clerk at Robinson and Co.; E. J. Moran, student; Mary Moran, widow.

 626 Balmoral (the shorter house)
Source: Past Forward, Rob McInnes collection

Number 626 Balmoral first appears in the 1895 Henderson Directory as home to retired Methodist minister Rev. John Stewart and family. 

Stewart was born in Ireland and his family settled in Ontario when he was a teenager. After being ordained, he worked in Quebec then came to Manitoba and preached at churches at Morden, Melita and Treherne. In 1894, he retired from his administrative duties and moved to Winnipeg with his wife and at least two of his three grown children.

Here, Stewart remained active in the temperance movement as a member of the Prohibition League, sometimes speaking at rallies and events. He stayed involved in church affairs through Grace Methodist Church in a volunteer capacity.

The Stewarts also rented out rooms. The 1895 Henderson Directory notes three lodgers: E. C. Kessell; Bert Gordon, student; John Cooke, student; and Duncan Cameron, shoemaker. The 1896 directory notes three students as rooming there.

The students were likely attending Wesley College, which began in the basement of Grace Church before moving to its very own building on Portage Avenue near Balmoral Avenue in January 1896.

September 30, 1898, Winnipeg Tribune

The Stewarts moved on in 1926 to 326 Spence Street.

Around September 16, 1898 one of the Stewarts' daughters, Jennie, died at the age of nineteen. Her obituary stated only that "she had been suffering for some time." Her death weighed heavily on Reverend Stewart.

On the night of September 29, 1898, he performed a wedding at Selkirk, Manitoba and returned home not feeling well. Just after midnight the next morning he died of heart failure.

Stewart's death was mourned by the temperance movement. At the Western Christian Temperance Union conference in Winnipeg the following June, one of its keynote speakers, Nellie McClung, "...spoke in a touching way of the death of Rev. John Stewart and his daughter, which took place last fall."

June 13, 1895, Winnipeg Free Press

When the Stewarts moved out, or sold up, in 1896, 626 Balmoral briefly became home to the "Evans Institute", a private drug and alcohol treatment facility. It was founded in 1895 in a house on Young Street before moving to this address and was likely an imitation of the popular Dr. Leslie Keeley’s Gold Cure Institute in the U.S..

The cure for alcohol or morphine addiction centred around drinking what later was found out to be a poisonous syrup. It cost a staggering $75 for a treatment and lasted four days. Clients could receive the cure at their home or stay at the institute.

The cure must have had some success as it was endorsed by many community leaders and, though it lasted just a year at this address, the Evans Institute opened branches in Alberta and B.C..
was around until the 19-teens at various addresses.

The house then reverted back to being a single family dwelling.

From 1899 - 1902 it was home to Frank Morrison and family. 

Morrison came to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1897 at the age of 45 with his wife, Mary, and three children. Already an experienced printer, he started F. Morrison and Son printers.

The son, Frank Jr., who would have lived at the house from the age of six to nine years-old, was killed in World War I.

The Joining

It is possible that the houses were connected around 1905 with the joining of the Lund and Moran families.

In 1903, 624 Balmoral was converted to a rooming house with Mary Moran, the widow of Methodist minister Rev. John X. Moran, listed as the head of the household, which means she could have been the owner or manager. She resided there with her two sons, O.T. and E. J., both clerks at Robinson's.

According to Mary's obituary, she married R. J. Lund in 1904. The couple would go on to have two children together.

In 1905, the neighbouring 626 Balmoral was purchased by R. J. Lund, a miller, and converted into a rooming house. A Moran or Lund was listed as an owner of 624 Balmoral until 1911.

After this point, as a 22-room rooming house, thousands of people called these addresses home over the next 112 years.

The Downfall

Through the 1970s and 1980s the rooming house appears to have catered to seniors as obituaries regularly appeared in the papers for people ranging in age from their sixties to their nineties.

In the 2000s things changed.The house was the scene of three murders in 2008 - 2009.

At that point, a new owner took over vowing to renovate and clean the house up. The place was already on the city's radar with a long list of citations under the Neighbourhood Livability Bylaw.

After another murder in 2013, the owner tried to sell but was unsuccessful.

The house then had some calm years.

The owner set up an office in the building and was replacing flooring and windows in some of the suites. He says that in 2017 a street gang began harassing the property and its tenants. In December of that year a fire caused extensive damage to the building and the renters were evacuated.

In February 2018, it put up for sale a second time and I got a tour of the property by the owner.

Inside, little of the building's architectural history could be found as it was covered under layers of renovations. The only glimpses were in broken parts of walls revealing plaster and lathe, heating grates and some of the original woodwork in the stairwells.

Fire damage could be seen at the rear of the house, including in some rooms and a hole in the roof. Other suites, though, looked like people had just left for the day.

At the time, the owner said that he was resigned to demolishing the house and selling the land, though was holding off as he had one party interested in buying the land with the house.

On April 5, 2017, another fire took place in the building. Due to structural concerns, it was ordered demolished.

For more images of 624-626 Balmoral Street

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

415 Graham Avenue - Lonely House

c 2018, Christian Cassidy
Address: 415 Graham Avenue, 250 - 252 Kennedy Street 
Architect: Unknown
Constructed: 1900 - 1901

At the core of the cluster of commercial buildings at 415 Graham Avenue and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street is one of the last, lonely houses in Winnipeg's central downtown area, a hint of its residential past. Other examples can be found at 130 Fort and, until its recent demolition, 175 Donald.

The house first appears in the Henderson Directory of 1901 with Wilford Phillips as the owner. it is unclear if he had the house built for him.

Phillips came to Winnipeg in August 1900 with his wife to be superintendent of the Winnipeg Street Railway, the city’s streetcar service. He had held similar jobs in the Toronto area and Niagara Falls before coming here.

The couple did not stay long at this address. By June 1901 they had relocated to a home on Assiniboine Avenue.

June 1901
May 1918
April 1922

The house then became a rooming house run by Mrs, J. Matthews (or Mathies), widow. Classifieds advertising "rooms for rent" began appearing in local papers as early as June 1901.

Initial tenants of the rooming house included: A Murray, schoolteacher; Mrs. J. Mathies, widow; and B. Hamilton CPR land department clerk. It continued on as short-term lodgings for office workers, students and the like for more than three decades. Few tenants stayed for more than a year or two.

Bertha Goggan was a resident in 1930. She appeared in a testimonial ad for Sargon stomach remedy, claiming that for 25 years she had such terrible stomach issues that even eating bread was a chore. Sargon, she claimed, changed her life.

Angie Petroni, left, and Sam, right, Wolfe in the middle.
June 28, 1937, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1936 - 37 the Petroni family roomed here.

In June 1937, two of their children, Angie (12) and Sam (27) and a companion, Josephine Wolfe, went on a house boat excursion along the Red River to Lake Winnipeg. They ended up getting stuck on a sand bar and were stranded for most of the day.

Wolfe swam to shore through the marsh to flag down help and the group was rescued safely. For her trouble, she later received a Royal Canadian Humane Society medal for heroism.

Top: both houses, ca. 1935 (source)
Bottom: September 8, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

In September 1937, the house was put up for sale by owner Jack Nelson. The ad noted that the nine-room house had a 33 foot frontage and would make an "ideal business site", which was true as ten months earlier the Bay's downtown store opened at the end of the block.

The purchaser was William R. Lane who already had much to do with transforming that corner of Kennedy Street and Graham Avenue.

In 1935, he bought the neighbouring house at 252 Kennedy Street at Graham and hired architect  Edgar Prain to build two attached retail units that fronted onto Kennedy.

Lane lived at the 252 Kennedy house before and after the construction, suggesting that this house was also incorporated into the retail units.

 Top: June 25, 1938, Winnipeg Tribune

For 415 Graham Avenue, Lane turned again to Prain to design a $2,300, single-storey retail extension to the front of the house which brought its footprint to the sidewalk. The interior of the house also got an "extensive" renovation.

A May 1938 newspaper mention stated that the work would be done under Lane's supervision using day labour, but the work either turned out to be too complicated or Lane fell ill as a June 25, 1938 mention states that contractor A. E. Hawkings would do the work.

Five days later, on July 1, 1938, William Lane died at his home on 252 Kennedy.

The work was completed, excavation began in late July, and his estate sold off 415 Graham and 250 - 252 Kennedy Street as a single property. (Today, they are still one legal property under "413 Graham Avenue.")

Part II: The Retailers

September 23, 1939, Winnipeg Free Press

The first retailer to call this space home was the Hobby Craft Centre. Little is known about the company and in September 1940, it went bankrupt.

October 11, 1940, Winnipeg Tribune

On October 26, 1940, Hollingsworth and Co. opened a girls' fashion shop here.

Hollingworth's was a well-known clothing retailer in the city. Its women's wear store was established in 1915 by George H Steweart on the main floor of the Boyd Building. By the 1930s, it had branches in Regina and Calgary.

In 1947, the company was bought out by Alex Mitchell who would go on to build the Dayton's Department Store on Portage Avenue.

The girls store remained at this address until 1953 while the women's wear store in the Boyd Building lasted until the early 1970s.

Top: April 30, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press

In April 1955, the space became home to Mario's Beauty Salon.

Mario Zava was born in Italy during the Depression and came to Canada in with $18 in his pocket. he knew no English but was a skilled hairstylist. He married Estela Spiwak in the early 1950s and opened his flagship beauty salon here.

Marios' grew into a chain of four salons by the mid-1960s, attracting many other stylists who only went by their first name.

The 415 Graham location closed circa 1970.

February 6, 1971, Winnipeg Free Press

The next retailer to move in was Regent Optical in 1971. Like Hollingsworth, it also had a store in the Boyd Building.

The company celebrated its 25th anniversary at this address in 1986 and remained until 1989.

In 1991, a shift from retailing came when SKY, Street Kids and Youth, opened. It was a two-year pilot project run by the YM / YWCA to help children who were experiencing homelessness. When funding ran out in 1993, the program closed.

The property was for lease through most of the 1990s.

In 2000, it became the home of Bridal Elegance, which lasted until around 2013. The store has remained vacant ever since.

In 2017, the facade of the retail portion of the building got a makeover along with the rest of the stores on the property.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

893 Portage Avenue - Former Safeway store No. 8

Place: Former Safeway / Bodyshapes
Address: 893 Portage Avenue (Map)
Constructed: 1929
Cost: $12,000
Contractor: W. A. Irish
Top: 1929 retail trade magazine
Bottom: November 1, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

This building was the eighth Safeway store opened in Winnipeg by the American grocery retailer after entering the Canadian market and establishing their head office in Winnipeg in mid-1929. By the end of the year, the chain boasted sixteen outlets.

The building permit for the $12,000 store was issued to contractor W. A. Irish in early July 1929.

Unlike most grocery chains, still a new concept in the 1920s, Safeway used the cookie cutter method of retailing. They built their own stores from scratch so that they looked identical inside and out. This made it easy for customers to recognize a Safeway and ensured that they could find the exact same array of products in the same location regardless of which store they walked into.

Safeway introduced a new, larger prototype store every few years and in 1951 the old store was vacated.The news store, just two doors down, opened on Thursday, July 26, 1951. (The small white building between them was a Safeway pharmacy, back in the day when pharmacies had to be stand-alone businesses.)

893 Portage then began a long run as a pharmacy.

From 1951 until 1975 it was known as Storr's Drug Store. 

William Watson Storr was born April 4, 1884 in Ottawa, Ontario and graduated from the University of Toronto's School of Pharmacy in 1905. He then came to Winnipeg and opened his own pharmacy in 1909 on the main floor of the newly opened St. James Park Block at 807 Portage Avenue.

In September 1911, he married Ida May Haisley at her parents' home at 247 Simcoe Street and they settled at 509 Basswood Place where they raised two daughters.

In 1951, Storr, who by that time was over 65, relocated to 893 Portage Avenue soon after it was vacated by Safeway. He retired in 1954 and died in 1962 but the store carried on under his name until 1975.

A small, independent store, Storrs did not advertise. From the mid 1960s to mid 1970s, however, it was one of more than 50 local A.R.P. drug stores. This was a Western Canadian alliance of independently-owned pharmacies created in 1963 to combine purchasing and advertising power by buying as a group.

Through the 1980s it was known as MediMart Drugs and from the mid-1980s to 2004 it was Vimy Park Pharmacy, owned by the husband - wife pharmacist team of Marie Berry and Bill Cechvala.

The building's 53-year run as pharmacy ended in 2004 after a new Shoppers Drug Mart opened in the next block and bought out Vimy's stock and customer list.

After sitting vacant for a number of years, 893 Portage became Bodyshades tanning salon in mid-2007.

In the summer of 2017, the owner renovated the exterior. The demolition revealed a remarkably intact original Safeway store facade.

The facade was restored but destroyed in February 2018 when an SUV ran through the front of the store.

My Flickr album of 893 Portage
893 Portage gets a makeover West End Dumplings

Friday, February 2, 2018

448 Burnell Street - Orioles Community Club

Place: Orioles Community
Address: 448 Burnell Street
Opened: February 2, 1951

West End Orioles Athletic Club win Western Canada Juvenile Hockey Championship
April 16, 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

Orioles Community Club began its life as the West End Orioles Athletic Club, a private club founded in 1936 that specialized in hockey.

Its original home was further south on Burnell Street, next to the Canada Bread bakery, at a softball diamond known as Canada Bread Field. In the wintertime, Orioles would install a hockey rink or two and used an old box car as their club house.

In 1947, the land was sold to the Valour Road Legion to build a recreation centre and legion hall. When construction began in June 1948, Orioles found itself without a home but got a lifeline from the City of Winnipeg.

The city was in the midst of creating a city-wide network of "community clubs" to bolster the amount of recreational and other activities offered in neighbourhoods. Orioles was offered funding and a piece of city-owned land at Burnell and St. Matthews if they chose to sign on.

It was not an easy decision as it meant dissolving the private club and having to offer a much wider range of activities.

Mayor Coulter cuts the ribbon, Feb. 2, 1951

Eventually, they agreed and on September 21, 1950, a sod turning ceremony took place for the new clubhouse. Over the winter, additional work was done to the site and on February 2, 1951 Mayor Garnet Coulter cut the ribbon to officially open the Orioles Community Club.

The club underwent some minor name changes. It was initially the Orioles West End Community Club, that was changed in the summer of 1951 to Oriole Community Club. At some point the "s" was added back in.

In 1952, a salvaged wartime H-Hut from the Winnipeg Airport was moved to the site and around 1986 a gymnasium was constructed to complete the site.

In 2006, amalgamation talks began between three West End community clubs: Isaac Brock (catchment area 5,050); Clifton (catchment area 4,820); and Orioles (catchment area 13,855).

An agreement was finalized in December 2006 that created the Valour Community Centre to be based out of the Isaac Brock site and Orioles was rechristened Valour Community Centre - Orioles Site.

For more about the history of Orioles, see my multi-part West End Dumplings series!

 Orioles ca. 1951 (City of Winnipeg Archives)
 Orioles ca. 1970s (source)