Friday, 17 April 2015

Where to hang the Queen's portrait - my top 5 suggestions

Source: U of M Libraries - Digital Collections 

With the Jets in the playoffs, local media is trying to find any unique angle they can for their coverage. The CBC decided to check in with Gilbert Burch's ca. 1979 portrait of the Queen.

Over the years I've spent my fair share of time wiring and researching this portrait in blog posts (and here), newspaper columns and on my radio show, so I thought I would weigh in on the CBC's Facebook question "where should the portrait go ?" Here are my top five places, in no particular order:

1. Union Station, Main Street at Broadway. Last year marked the end of a multi-year, multi-million dollar renovation that included a revamp of its public spaces to make them more pedestrian friendly. What better way to welcome people back to thespace than to show off Her Majesty? The rotunda area certainly has the required clearance.

2. Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. With its newly  bestowed "Royal" designation, maybe its time for some payback? The museum is currently fundraising for a new museum building at the site of the old Winnipeg International Airport. Certainly there would be enough wall space in an airplane hangar to host her. Better yet, instead of wedging the portrait into an existing space, she could be designed into a new space.

3.  The Bay Downtown, Main Floor. The Bay certainly has a long history with the Crown. On its main floor is where they display and sell their HBC Heritage Collection items. Adding the Queen to the mix would not only emphasize their heritage, but also attract customers to the downtown store.  

4. The Legislature. It seems an obvious choice as it is home to many royal portraits and sculptures. It was a trio of Lieutenant Governors that commissioned her, perhaps the new LG needs to get on the case and get this portrait of her boss installed in her government's legislature.  

5. The CBC Building. Since the CBC brought it up, I propose at the intersection of Portage and Spence, but facing the building. That way, when the news is being broadcast, two giant eyes will be staring in at the viewer !

Thursday, 16 April 2015

North End History Presentation Links !

Thanks to everyone who came out to this tonight. I hope you found it educational and at least mildly entertaining !

As promised, here is a hyperlinked version of my guide to researching the history of Winnipeg buildings. I originally put it together in 2014 so the links should all still work. You can find an online version here or, if you would prefer to download a PDF version, go here and click the "download" box. 

If there's one site that you visit, make it Peel's Peel's Prairie Provinces !

Links to some of the places I mentioned tonight include: 

The Salter Street Bridge and Main Street Subway was new research so it will take me a bit of time to post them. For a list of other places that I have researched, check out my index at Winnipeg Downtown Places.

Thanks again and if you have any questions, feel free to email me at cassidy-at-mts.net.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Fun with Winnipeg Street numbers !

My column in today's Winnipeg Free Press is about the city's 1891 - 1893 experiment with a numbered street system. The names disappeared in May, with the exception of Portage, Main and Notre Dame, the latter renamed Central Avenue. 

Publishers had to scramble to produce new maps and street guides. Here is how Henderson's Directory explained the new street system. They also included a three page conversion chart of names to numbers and numbers to names.

Below is a handy "pocket guide" printed by the Manitoba Free Press on May 22, 1891. It included the preamble: "In order to retard a little of the premature aging of our citizens, the Free Press extends them the following parallel list of old and new names."

You'll notice one leftover from the numbered system is that Notre Dame is still the dividing line between streets. Examples are Princess and Donald, Ellen and Carlton etc.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Behind the Photo: Streetcar 716 and the Valour Theatre (1955)

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 is "Streetcar on Portage Avenue and Valour Road traveling west. Valour Theatre on right," September 1955, from the Western Canadian Pictoral Index, Delza Longman Collection, No. 39157, (used with permission.) It shows Winnipeg streetcar number 716 passing the Valour Theatre located on Portage Avenue at Stiles Street. The theatre is now home to Advance Electronics.

Initially, the year associated with the photo was vague. I was able to track it down by searching for the same combination of films as on the theatre's marquee. This being a neighbourhood theatre meant that it would not have been showing Calamity Jane during its initial Winnipeg release. I found what I was looking for in the September 15, 1955 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. They played for about a week.

What makes this date significant is that the last day of service for Winnipeg's streetcars was September 19, 1955. Madam Longman took this photo on one of the last, perhaps THE last, day of streetcar service.


According to David Wyatt's Winnipeg Transit All-Time Fleet Roster this was one of twenty streetcars purchased by the Winnipeg Electric Railway Company from the Ottawa Car Company in 1919. Above is a photo from the All-Time Fleet Roster of one of 716's sisters back in the day. (Later photos of sister cars can be found here in colour, and here, here, here, here, here in black and white.)

All twenty cars remained in service until Winnipeg Transit scrapped them in 1955. The car bodies were sold off, many used as cabins, chicken coops or storage sheds.

The Valour opened on November 25, 1937 as part of the Western Theatre chain. In 1949 it was cut loose and purchased by Albert D. Cohen. It remained a theatre until May 1960, after which it had a short stint as a funeral parlour, then billiards hall, before Advance Television and Car Radio relocated there in October 1967.

For a more detailed history of the Valour Theatre and Advance Electronics, see my Winnipeg Downtown Places post next week !

For more "Behind the Photos".

"Behind the Photo" Collection


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 is some of the collection:

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Toronto Street hideout of "Bloody Jack" is for sale !

The apartment block at 686 Toronto Street near Wellington Street is up for sale. The seller and eventual buyer likely have no clue that this building was once known to every Manitoban as the last place of freedom for a notorious bank robber and murderer.

The Burriss Block, as it was then called, was constructed in 1913, replacing a rooming house on that site named the Hyldigunn. Its first roster of tenants was typical of any middle class building: 

Suite 1 - The Thomas family. Parents Gudjon (jeweler) and Caroline (music teacher), along with their children Jonina (teacher) and Solveig (student). Suite 2 - Charles Reid, a CPR engineer. Suite 4 -  Frank Holt, shipper,  and Patrick Garrity, teamster, both at Security Storage Ltd. on Ellice Avenue. Suite 6 - Albert Johnson, a clerk at W H Stone Ltd, grocers. Suite 7 - Harrison "Had" Phillips, agent for Wood Vallance hardware company and he block's caretaker.

Jack Krafchenko,  January 19, 1914, Manitoba Free Press

The criminal in this story is John Larry "Bloody Jack" Krafchenko of Plum Coulee, Manitoba. His life of crime began around 1900 with passing bad cheques and soon escalated to bank robbery. Over the course of just three or four years, he was wanted for heists in the U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany.

Murder victim Henry Arnold

His final robbery took place on December 3, 1913 when he entered the Bank of Montreal in his home town of Plum Coulee. He took $4,200 cash and, as he fled, turned and shot dead bank manager Henry Arnold.  

A manhunt ensued and Krafchenko was captured in an apartment on College Avenue in Winnipeg.

January 10, 1914, Winnipeg Tribune

It was thought that Krafchenko was a rich man after his years of crime and he used promises to share this supposed wealth to get his lawyer to recruit a gang to help him break out of jail and flee the city. In the early hours of January 10, 1914, an armed Krafchenko escaped from the third storey lockup of Winnipeg's Central Police Station on Rupert Avenue, but things didn't go exactly as planned. 

The rope he used to shimmy down the side of the building broke, sending him 30 feet to the pavement below. With an injured back, badly sprained ankle and assorted cuts and bruises, he hobbled down William Avenue. Krafchencko later told police that a friendly motorist noticed him and offered a ride to his destination - 686 Toronto Street, then known as the Burris Block.

John Howard Society Building

Suite 4 of 686 Toronto was home to Frank Holt, a young shipper who had worked for five years at Security Storage Ltd., a moving company located on Ellice Avenue and Sherbrook Street. The other tenant was Patrick Garrity, a teamster at Security Storage. 

Holt had known Westlake, who was now working in rural Manitoba, for a number of years. In December he got a letter from the man saying he was coming into the city over Christsmas and asked if he could stay over. Holt agreed but did not know that Westlake, who once worked for Krafchenko's lawyer, was coming to help get Krafchenko out of town.

Holt said that he only knew of the Krawchenko plan earlier that evening when Westlake told him of the plan. He was in bed when he heard a knock at the door around 11:00 pm. When the fugitive arrived at around 11 pm in such a badly injured state, it was clear that he was going nowhere and needed to stay at the apartment until he recovered.

The next morning Holt and Garrity went to work as usual but made arrangements stay over at a suite on Beverley Street. They went back to Toronto Street periodically to pick up clothes but did not sleep there.

Security Storage Building, ca. 1911

After three days Krawchenko's injuries were not getting any better and Westlake was panicking. He asked Holt to find him a place to hide Krawchenko at the Security Storage building and on the night of January 14th he was smuggled into the building through the coal chute.

After a couple of days, it was Holt's turn to panic. He went to Westlake to demand that Krafchenko be moved back to the Toronto Street apartment, which he was.

On the night of January 18, 1914 an informant gave police a tip about Krafchenko and the Security Storage escape plan. Dozens of officers, including police chief Donald MacPherson, descended on the building around 8:30 pm. The commotion brought out nearly 1,000 onlookers according to the Free Press. 

Police searched the building, but found no sign of Krawchenko. They must have then searched employee records, as the police chief rushed from the building back into his car and sped off with other police cars and reporters in tow. They arrived at the Burriss Block at 11:08 pm.

Top: Living room where Krafchenko was sitting
Below: Sitting room at 4-686 Toronto St. (Winnipeg Tribune)

Suite 4, where Krafchenko was holed up, was described as the Free Press as diminutive and sparsely decorated. Krafchencko's room contained a couch bed, a dresser and two chairs. One chair had a pack of matches, packet of tobacco and a candle, (for some reason the power in the building was out that night). There were several copies of the newspaper strewn around the room.

A Winnipeg Tribune reporter who claims to have been in the building at the time of the arrest said that Chief MacPherson led a group of officers to the door of suite 4. Thy entered to find Krafchenko, gaunt, unshaven and bandaged, sitting on the couch smoking a cigarette. 

The Tribune reports a typically Canadian arrest scenario. MacPherson said to the unarmed fugitive "Play fair, Jack, and we'll play fair with you." Krawchenko is said to have replied "I'm all in. I don't want any shooting, boys." The two then shook hands and MacPherson placed him under arrest. The police then had to help the injured man to the police car that whisked him off to Headingley Jail's highest security cell.

The subsequent inquiry into the escape revealed the identities of those invovled in the escape.

Percy Hagel, Krafchencko's lawyer, assembled the crew and was sentenced to three years in prison. After his release, he returned to practising law.

Constable Robert Reid, a policeman who worked at the jail and smuggled in the gun and rope used by Krafchenko to escape, was sentenced to seven years at Stoney Mountain. While serving his sentence he became ill and died. 

John Westlake was sentenced to two years for his invovlement. 

J. H. Buxton, a local businessman and former secretary of the Builder's Exchange, procured the gun and rope used by Krawchenko. It turns out that he was also informant who came forward to police that led to the capture of Krawfchenko. Later, he gave a full statemtn outlining the plan and who was involved. For his role, Buxton, originally from the U.S. was put into an early version of "witness protection" - and relocated to the state of Maryland.

Frank Holt was given a suspended sentence. The judge and Crown felt that he only went along with the plan out of fear for his safety if he had "squealed'.

April 10, 1914, Manitoba Free Press

John Larry "Jack" Krafchenko he stood trial in Morden, Manitoba for the murder of Henry Arnold in April 1914. He plead not guilty, claiming that he shot at Arnold with an air gun and that a second person must have been responsible for shooting him with a real one, (none of the witnesses to the crime or its aftermath recall seeing a second robber or a second man with a gun.)

Krafchecnko was found guilty and was hanged on July 9, 1914 at the Vaughan Street Jail in Winnipeg at the age of 33. He left behind a wife and infant child.

Rental ads, 1917 (top) and 1931

As for the Burris Block, its name was sullied just months after it opened. Subsequent "for rent" ads referred to it only as 686 Toronto Street. In the 1930s it was rechristened the Toronto Block, a name that appeared in for rent ads until the 1960s and that still appears above the door.

A scan through the Winnipeg Free Press archives show that its has had a quiet, uneventful existence ever since the arrest of "Bloody Jack".

Krafchenko's pre-sentencing statement and Justice Mathers' sentence

For other detailed accounts of the Krafchenko story:
The Story of “Bloody Jack” Krafchenko - Manitoba Historical Society
Bloody Jack Winnipeg Police Museum

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Radio Edition for March 29, 2015



Join me Sunday night at 7:00 pm on 101.5 UMFM for another edition of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition.

Ted Landrum will tell us about the upcoming Architecture+Design Film Festival 2015 at Cinematheque, including the new ArchiShorts Film Competition. Then, Gordon Goldsborough of the Manitoba Historical Society previews the next edition of Manitoba History and how we can meet the authors.

I will let you know about a few interesting historical events that will be commemorated in the coming week, including the death of James Ashdown, the death of Brandon's Joe Hall, and the Winnipeg Toilers plane crash.

Music by YKK Corporation, Barbra Streisand and Terry Jacks.