Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Oct 20, 2016: Historical Buildings and Resources Committee meeting

The Historical Buildings and Resources Committee will meet on October 20, 2016 at 3 pm at City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.

On the agenda is the transfer of five buildings from the old historic buildings list to the new List of Historical Resources. They are:

-Reliable Service Station, 98 Albert Street
-Garrick (Wellington) Hotel, 287 Garry Street
-Union Shoe & Leather Company Building, 80 Lombard Avenue
-Toronto Hide & Wool Company Building, 200 Princess Street
-Keewayden Block, 138 Portage Avenue East

You can read the agenda, including histories for each of the buildings, at http://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=15631&SectionId=&InitUrl=

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Lives Lived at 514 Wellington Crescent

Top: Ca. 2015, Google Street View
Bottom: Ca. 1978, Winnipeg Building Index

The stately, circa 1909 Gordon Mansion at 514 Wellington Crescent has been purchased by a developer and is under threat of demolition to make way for a condominium building.

In recent years, a growing number of older homes have met the same fate, though 514 Wellington would be the grandest one to do so. Rising land prices and and the economics of owning such a large home, (the property taxes here alone are $15,000 per year), have made them targets for condo developments.

Here's a look back at some of the lives lived at 514 Wellington Crescent, but first a word about the architect.

Colin Campbell Chisholm was the son of prominent local architect James Chisholm.

He apprenticed under his father and soon joined him in business. Buildings they worked on together include: Young United Church (1907); the Sterling Bank Building (1911); the Granite Curling Club (1912); and the Olympia/Marlborough Hotel (1914). (For a more complete list.)

Later in his career, Colin Chisholm worked on larger, institutional projects. He was the consulting architect on the Amy Street Central Heating Plant (1924) and a large expansion of the city's police station (1930).

Chisholm was also well known across the prairies for being a championship curler. Aside from designing the Granite Curling Club, he was also one of its top players and at times served as its president. He was also president of the Manitoba Curling Association in 1921 and 1922.

Above: First floor landing

 Above: Main floor foyer

 Above: Sitting room

Above: Former ballroom
(Images Source: webview360, G. Williams)

The home he designed for Gordon is 8,185 square feet with 16 rooms, eight of them bedrooms with six bathrooms.

The interior is what one would expect from a grand 1909 home, featuring mahogany panelling and trim throughout. At the top first floor landing is a large stained glass window featuring a coat of arms, (the top panel appears to feature a "T" and "G",  so it is likely related to the original owner James T. Gordon.) 

The house also included a ballroom, servants quarters and a detached garage that was built a couple of years after the home and which features a chauffeur's apartment above it.

James T. Gordon Family (1909 - 1921)
ca. 1910, Winnipeg Free Press

James T. Gordon came to Winnipeg from Tweed, Ontario in 1879 and began working for a local lumber firm. In 1882, he struck out on his own and opened a lumber business in Manitou, Manitoba.

He sold up in 1885 and partnered in another lumber business in Pilot Mound with Robert Ironside. The pair expanded into the cattle trade and soon had contracts to supply meat to soldiers and railway work crews who were opening up the West.

By the mid 1880s, their company was the largest cattle exporter in Canada, some years shipping up to tens of thousands of head of cattle, mainly to England.

The pair then had joined forces with W. H. Fares of Alberta and centralized their operations in Winnipeg with a large packing plant on Logan Avenue near the CPR tracks.

Ca. 1919

Gordon served as an MLA from 1903 to 1910, was on the board of Sterling Bank, and president of the Standard Trusts Company and Monarch Life Insurance Company.

In June 1909, it was announced that he had purchased a 150 ft x 200 ft on Wellington Crescent at Kingsway to build a new, $40,000 family home. (The final cost was never disclosed.)

As for his company, it faltered during the First World War and in 1918 Gordon sold a 51% share to Harris Abattoir Co. of Toronto. In 1927, Harris merged the four plants it owned across the country into a new entity called Canada Packers.

Gordon died at the home on December 21, 1919.

One of Gordon's sons, C. E. Gordon, who was involved with the business' Alberta interests, moved back to Winnipeg with his family after his father's death and lived at the home with his widowed mother for a couple of years before purchasing another home on Kingsway Crescent.

Jessie Kirk Family (ca. 1916 - 1918)
ca. 1929 

As mentioned above, the home had quarters for at least one servant and a chauffeur's apartment above the detached garage. The 1915 Henderson Directory lists Kate McGrath as the live-in domestic and Jack Wilding as the chauffeur.

From 1916 to 1918, the chauffeur was William Kirk. Kirk came to Canada from England around 1912 with his family; wife Jessie and daughter Mary.

Jessie Kirk, a qualified teacher in England, found work at Mulvey School in 1914 but it was her politics that she became best known for.

September 8, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1917, while living at 514 Wellington, she was an organizer of the Women's Non-Political Union (1917-1918), which, along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Women's Labour League and Council of Women, brought women's issues into the political arena.

The WNU appears to have taken a broad view of women's issues, lobbying for things like improvements to hospitals, food security and quality rental housing. Kirk was becoming a prominent speaker around town on these issues.

In spring 1918, her school board contract - as well as those of 40 or so other women - was not renewed. The school argued that it was to make room for former teachers who were now returning in larger numbers from the war.

Kirk vowed to fight and at speaking engagements and Letters to the Editor made her layoff front page news. The WNU organized a delegation to appear before the School Board accusing them of letting her go due to her growing public prominence as a labour speaker.

She was reinstated in September and resumed teaching at Brooklands School until 1921.

December 6, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

It appears that the Kirks moved out of 514 Wellington sometime in early 1918 as they are not listed in that year's Henderson Directory. Husband William got into sales, eventually spending 22 years with Western Packing Ltd.

Jessie took her activism to the political stage. In December 1920, she became the first woman to be elected to Winnipeg city council, serving a two-year term (1921 -1922).

Kirk ran, and lost, a few more times but remained a voice for women and issues such as affordable housing into the 1930s and 40s.

William Bawlf Family (1921 - 1936)
ca. 1917

William "Billy" Bawlf was the son of local grain pioneer Nicholas Bawlf.

Bawlf also grew up in the family business, getting a seat on the Winnipeg Gran Exchange in 1903 at the age of 22. In 1917, he served as the Exchange's president.

He married Mary Ada Roe of Wisconsin in 1905, a University of Minnesota grad and heavily involved in the Victoria Order of Nurses and St. Josephs Orphanage.

By the time they purchased 514 Wellington Crescent the couple had four children, Nicolas, Robert, Rowena and Margaret.

ca. 1937

In 1927, William took over as president of the N. Bawlf Gain Co. The company's assets included 116 grain elevators and 32 grain annexes with a total capacity of 5.5 million bushels.

He took the company public on February 1, 1929 and remained as chairman of the board of the new company until it was sold off in the 1940s.

Like Chisholm, Bawlf was as well known in sportin circles as he was for business. He played for the Allan Cup and Stanley Cup winning Winnipeg Victorias in 1901. He challenged again for the Stanley Cup, unsuccessfully, in 1904 as part of the Winnipeg Rowing Club hockey team.

From 1929 to 1931, he was president of the "Winnipegs" hockey club, which won the the Allan Cup in 1931 and the gold medal in men's hockey at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y..

By the mid 1930s the children were grown, the youngest finishing her university studies. In 1936 they sold the house.

Victor Sifton Family (1936 - 1961)
ca. 1960

Victor Sifton was also the son of a prominent Manitoban.

Sir Clifford Sifton
was a Brandon lawyer and Minister of the Interior (1896-1905) in the Laurier government, responsible for settlement and immigration. He was owner of the Winnipeg Free Press since 1897.

Victor enlisted in World War I at the age of 17. By 1918, he had been decorated and was the commanding officer of 4th Canadian Rifles. After the war he returned to Winnipeg for a time before heading to New York, Toronto and Shanghai to work for investment firms.

In 1928, he returned to Canada and worked for a number of years as publisher of his father's Regina paper, the Regina Leader.

In 1935, he returned to the Winnipeg to become general manager of the Winnipeg Free Press, settling at 514 Wellington with his family, wife Louise and three children.

In World War II, Sifton was appointed special assistant to J. L. Ralston, Minister of Defence. His role was referred to as "troubleshooter." He was made a Commander of the British Empire for his service.

Through the 1950s he expanded his media holdings with the formation of Trans Canada Communications Ltd., a radio network with four stations in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. 

He also partnered with Max Bell and Richard S. Malone to create F P Publications which soon owned or controlled the Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Albertan, Ottawa Journal, Victoria Times, Victoria Colonist, Toronto Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and Lethbridge Herald.

Sifton on Blackamoor, September 13, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

Sifton had a life-long interest in sports. He was vice-president of the 1911 and 1912 Winnipeg Victorias, two-time Allan Cup champions. He was also a breeder and jumper of championship horses and, in 1937, president of the Winnipeg Winter Club.

Sifton joined the board of governors of the University of Manitoba in 1947 and was its chancellor from 1952 to 1959. He was also chair of the Manitoba Red Cross during World War II and president of the Canadian Press in 1948 and 1949

During the Siftons' time at 514 Wellington, they hosted a number of famous guests, including:

- Lady Byng, wife of the former Governor General, Lord Byng, who was fleeing wartime Britain. She stayed for the holidays in December 1940 en route to points west. 

- American diplomat Sumner Wells, in town to speak at a conference, stayed with the Siftons in October 1946.

Victor Sifton died in 1961 at the Winnipeg Clinic. 

Douglas Everett Family (1961 - 2016)

Douglas Everett is the son of Horace Everett, a long-time car dealer and navy man who purchased Winnipeg's Dominion Motors in 1940. 

He was educated at Royal Roads Naval College in B.C., then studied law at the University of Manitoba and Osgoode Hall. 

When Horace stepped down as president of Dominion Motors in 1953, his son, Bill, took over and Douglas, just 25, became vice president.

The Everetts purchased 514 Wellington Crescent in 1961, taking possession on July 1.

April 8, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

Douglas added a new division to the Everett corporate holdings called DOMO Gas, (the name an abbreviation of the dealership's two names.)

It started circa 1965 with a gas bar at the dealership's original location on Fort Street at Graham Avenue. In 1966, two more locations were added. One was at their new Dominion Centre on Marion Street and the other in the parking lot of the Safeway store at Ellice Avenue at Wall Street.

In the mid 1970s DOMO expanded in to Western Canada with locations in Alberta and B.C.

Everett got involved in the Liberal Party of Canada in the late 1950s. By the 1965 federal election he was the party's Manitoba chair.

The Liberals won the election and the following year Lester B. Pearson appointed him to fill a vacant Senate seat for Manitoba. At age 39, he is the youngest person appointed to the Red Chamber.

November 12, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

Shortly after the appointment was announced, Patricia Everett invited the Winnipeg Tribune into their home for an interview and to take family photos of her and their six children.She also allowed the house to be part of a tour of area homes to benefit the University Women's Club.

Mrs. Everett, who studied interior design, was asked what she thought about the ornate home with its big chandeliers and mahogany panelling. She replied “I think it’s coming back. Those days of stark architecture seem to be over.”

Senator Everett made his presence known early, demanding that the Senate establish a committee be set up that would go through each department's budgets in detail to find efficiencies.

Through the 1970s, he was chair of the Senate Committee on National Finance which took on big-picture issues like the country's unemployment system, wage and price controls and management of the inflation rate. Sometimes his findings were critical of existing government policy.

In 1990, he left the Liberal caucus in protest of their support of the GST. He resigned in 1994 after serving 27 years.

In the 2000s the Everetts turned their attention to philanthropy, including donations of a $2.75 million painting to the WAG, a $1 million endowment to the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation,and even a double-decker bus to the Assiniboine Park.

September 25, 2015, Winnipeg Real Estate News

Mrs. Everett died in 2010. In September 2015, Mr. Everett put the home up for sale. The original list price was $1.899 million.

It was purchased in April 2016 for a reported $1.25 million by Jeff Thompson, CEO of Leader Equity Partners. According to Thompson, the costs of renovating the building would be prohibitive, telling the Winnipeg Free Press: "Houses have their life cycle, and this house is at the end of its cycle."

He and five other partners plan to demolish the home and build a six-unit condominium project.


Businessman defends proposal to bulldoze mansion - Winnipeg Free Press
Neighbours fear for mansion's fate - Winnipeg Free Press

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Who wants to own a Winnipeg institution?!

Last month, I wrote that Gus from The Windmill Lunch died over the summer and looked back at the restaurant's history.

I went for lunch there earlier this week and asked the ladies if Gus was able to sell the restaurant before he died, (it had been for sale for months, if not longer.) He hadn't.

They are desperately looking for a buyer and asked me to help spread the word.

So, if you're interested in saving one of the last authentic lunch counters in the city, the building is for sale! it includes the 96 seat restaurant and three residential flats above.

The asking price, at least before Gus' death, was $300,000. I didn't ask if that had changed.

Check it out at 518 Selkirk Avenue.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Behind The Photo: Married 62 Years on Christmas Day

Often, I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into its back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:

This photo appeared in the December 24, 1937 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune. It shows the Walkeys, getting ready to celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary the following day.

William Walkey and Mary Williams were born and raised in Ontario, marrying in Cherrywood on Christmas Day, 1875. In 1890, they came to Manitoba with their four children and settled at Newdale for 22 years before moving to 286 Beverley Street in Winnipeg.

Mr. Walkey was a carpenter, blacksmith and machinist throughout his life and died in 1939 at the age of 84.

Mrs. Walkey remained active in the United Church and her community work well into her 90s. She died in 1956 at the age of 98. 

They are buried together at Newdale Cemetery.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Rivers, Manitoba / CN EcoConnexions Tree Planting !

Earlier this summer it was announced that the Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee was the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the CN EcoConnexions From the Ground Up program. The goal of the program is to promote community sustainability through the greening of municipal and community properties across Canada.

The grant will assist with the committee's Loco-Labyrinth and RV Park project.

A "loco- labyrinth" is a shrub maze in the shape of a locomotive engine that, in its centre, will have a seating area and monument to past rail workers in the middle. Adjacent to it will be a 16-bay RV park.

The project is part of the bigger mandate of the Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee, which is to create sustainable tourism options for the municipality. The RV park will act a source of revenue for its work.

The site of the labyrinth and RV park is just a couple of kilometres down the track from the train station.

The Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee's main goal, of course, is the restoration of the town's ca. 1917 train station.

Rivers has a long connection with railway history. In 1907, it became a hub for the new Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which eventually stretched from Winnipeg to the Pacific Ocean. This meant a train station, two roundhouses for train repairs, a machine shop, freight buildings and accommodations for the hundreds of men who worked there.

The station itself has been vacant for a number of years but, thanks to the committee, it is slowly being brought back to life. Currently it is getting a new roof.

The end goal is for the station to house a tourist information booth, museum, a VIA Rail waiting room - Rivers is the only passenger pick-up and drop-off point for VIA in Western Manitoba, offices for the Rivers and Area Community Foundation and an arts and culture space.

The grant ceremony took the form of a mass tree planting on September 23, 2016.

On hand for the event was the Holy Trinity of elected officials: area M.P. Bob Sopuck; MLA Greg Nesbitt; and Rivers' mayor Todd Gill. Also speaking were Donna Morken, chair of the Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee, and Raymond Carriere, founder and president of Communities in Bloom, which, along with Tree Canada, administers the program on behalf of CN.

Students of Rivers Elementary and Rivers Collegiate planted the 235 little leaf lilacs which will make up the outline of the labrynth.

My photo album of Rivers (including more from the event and of the train station)
Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee blog
CN EcoConnexions Press Release

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Windmill Lunch's Gus Damianakos (1937 - 2016)

On July 30, 2016, Gus Damianakos, long-time owner of The Windmill Lunch at 518 Selkirk Avenue, died at the age of 79.

Born and raised in Gythion, Greece, Damianakos came to Canada in 1963 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Voula. He purchased The Windmill in 1969 and for over 45 years manned the counter. 

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press' Melissa Martin published on May 28, 2016, Gus said of his impending retirement: "I’m satisfied. I worked hard, I had lots of fun."

Damianakos never did retire as the restaurant, which had been up for sale for months before his death, never sold. It is unclear what will now happen to The Windmill.

I thought I would take a look back at Damianakos and the other past owners of this North End institution.

"The Windmill Lunch" first appears in the 1948 Henderson Directory at 496 Selkirk Avenue. (A pair of 1992 ads use the phrase "serving people since 1936", though no listing for the Windmill exists prior to 1948, nor was there a restaurant at 496 Selkirk prior to this one opening.)

The original owners were the Ludwigs, David and Hilda, of 193 Andrews Street. Daughter, Denise, worked as a waitress. Prior to getting into the restaurant business Mr. Ludwig served in World War II, then worked as a shipper with Kahane, a manufacturer of toiletries.

The first employees, or possibly business partners, were Sam and Rita Winrob of 599 Flora Avenue.

Being a small business, The Windmill did not advertize and the Ludwigs stayed out of the papers. They did, though, sponsor a team in the local ten pin commercial bowling league through the early 1950s, which got their name mentioned regularly in the sports pages.

In 1957, the Ludwigs moved on to run another restaurant, the Comfy-Inn at 132 Notre Dame Ave E, (now Pioneer Avenue), and retired in 1967.

September 25, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1957, the Kowalsons, Dave, Violet and daughter Denise, of 425 Burrows became the new owners. Mr. Kowalson had previously been a taxi driver, (perhaps a regular customer of the Windmill ?!)

The Kowalsons made a couple of significant changes to the business. They moved it to 518 Selkirk Avenue, when, it seems, the original location was set to be demolished. They also extended the hours through to midnight.

In 1961, The Kowalsons sold up and David went back to being a driver / operator for United Taxi.

February 22, 1964, Winnipeg Free Press

The new owner, Frederik Karlenzig, was born at Lowe Farm, Manitoba and lived in Rivers before coming to Winnipeg. He spent 25 years in the restaurant business.

Sadly, he owned The Windmill for just a short period. In 1964, he was forced to sell due to illness and died July 3, 1965 at the age of 61.

In 1964, Murray Nedohin and Laddie Kroschinsky took over the reigns. The two men worked together as district managers at the Winnipeg Free Press.

For Nedohin, born in Overstoneville, Manitoba, this was his first shot at his dream of running his own business.

In 1969, the men sold up and Nedohin went on to run numerous restaurants, including the Black Knight Restaurant, Empress Lanes Restaurant and the Poplar Bay Trading Post. In retirement, he ran a vegetable market from his home on Henderson Highway.

The most recent owner was its longest serving.

Gus Damianakos was born and raised in Gythion, Greece and came to Canada in 1963 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Voula.

He purchased The Windmill in 1969 or 1970 and for over 45 years was a fixture on Selkirk Avenue.

Aside from Damianakos, the restaurants charm is its largely unrenovated interior of red pleather, wood panelling and jukeboxes in the booths. It has been a set for a number of movies over the years, including "Shall We Dance", "Capote", "The Big White" and "Horsemen".

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press' Melissa Martin published on May 28, 2016, Gus said of his impending retirement and possible sale of the restaurant: "I’m satisfied. I worked hard, I had lots of fun." 

Gus Damianakos died on July 30, 2016 at the age of 79.

May 12, 1991, Winnipeg Free Press

My Photo album of The Windmill Lunch
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press (Aug 3, 2016)
Bacon Eggs and Memories Winnipeg Free Press
Blast from the Past Destination Winnipeg

Friday, 9 September 2016

Resurrecting the Fortune Block

It was big news earlier this year. The iconic ca. 1882 Fortune Block at Main and St. Mary was was purchased by businessman John Pollard after the city upheld the building's heritage status, preventing its demolition.

You can read my full history of the building here. This is the Reader's Digest version:

The building was financed by Mark Fortune, the millionaire land speculator most famous for going down on the RMS Titanic. Just as the building was completed, though, he sold it to "Sandy" MacDonald, a businessman who built the adjoining Macdonald Block from which he created a grocery empire that is known today as Macdonalds Consolidated.

Over the decades, the Fortune Block has housed hundreds of small businesses, institutions and residents, including the first home of the School for the Deaf and the mother-daughter medical team of  Dr. Amelia Yeomans, and Dr. Lillian Yeomans, believed to be the first women doctors in the city.

In the 1970s the upper stories, by then converted to residential units, were closed.

In the 1980s one of the main floor retail spaces became home to Times Change Cafe, which is now Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club. The much-loved music venue is its only tenant.

The Fortune Block's purchase was a celebrated win for both heritage advocates and local music fans in the city. As I arrived for my tour, my first time in the upper floors of the building, I was curious to see what exactly was saved.

Cold and moisture are the enemies of buildings. In the case of the Fortune Block, the upper floors had not been occupied or heated in forty years. It was just the thickness of the glass, broken in places, keeping the elements and pigeons out.

I was expecting see heaved floors, fallen ceilings and most of the plaster gone from the walls. In other words, a total gut job.

Aside from the condition, I also wondered what the interior decor would look like.

The Fortune was constructed in 1882 - 83 and went from being primarily an office building to a residential one. It could have faced numerous unsympathetic interior renovations by owners wanting to update its look an function on the cheap by stripping it of wood trim, dropping the ceiling, bricking in window openings, selling off old staircases and doors, etc..

I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised on all counts !

The building's interior was in remarkably good condition for all that it has been through. The floors were even, walls were straight, even the plaster work, for the most part, had made it through with just a few cracks. I commented to my tour guide that I have been in occupied buildings that looked a lot worse.

The major repair issue was a broken roof beam that workers have already propped up in preparation for repairs.

The original interior, or at least a very early one, was also largely intact.

Many of the original doors and transoms were there, as was the beautiful staircase. The window openings were all intact as was a great deal of the decorative wood trim.

It really had the appearance that in 1900 or so, people just up and left.

The building held a few surprises.

The wide staircase, generous landings and hallways, and tall ceilings make you forget that you're in a small building. It got me to thinking about Mark Fortune's next building, the ca. 1905 Avenue Building. It was originally three storeys with the option to add four more, which happened in 1914. Perhaps he had grander plans for the Fortune Block?

A number of tricks were used to get as much light into the common spaces as possible. The transoms, a large skylight above the top of the stairs and windows in hallway walls would have made the public areas bright, even on a dismal day.

I was encouraged to hear that the owner wants to keep the original interior of the building as intact as possible, (of course, upgrading all of the major systems and adhering to modern fire regulations and other codes will have an impact.) 

The original, oversized skylight will be replaced, (at some point it was shrunken down to about a third of its original size before finally being capped.) The staircase will be restored, the original window openings filled with new glass and the wood trim will remain.

Mark Fortune financed a building that would last more than 130 years, even with decades of neglect. It will be nice to see it finally brought back to life and ready for another century - or more - of life !

For more photos from my tour, see my Fortune Block Flickr album.