Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Happy 135th birthday, Brandon, Manitoba: 1934 film footage!

On May 30, 1882, the bill to incorporate the the City of Brandon was read a third time and passed by the Manitoba Legislature. Happy 135th !

Many years ago, I used to do a lot of work in Brandon and took an interest in its built history. I was hoping for the 135th birthday to pump out a number of the posts that have remained in my draft folder for one reason or another. I didn't quite get to them but they will be posted soon ! Below are links to previous Brandon history posts I have done.

A few need updating as I now have access to the Brandon Sun's archives and can make additions or correction. That, too, I will get to shortly!


For the 135th birthday, I thought I would post something rather interesting: 1934 film footage of the city! Its part of the Digney Family Fonds at the City of Burnaby Archives.

Digney, a theatre owner from Carberry, was the owner of Brandon's Oak Theatre from 1931 to 1935. The theatre went on to be the Towne and vacated in 1998.

This may be showing a contest held at the theatre where a Shetland pony was given away as a prize, (more about that in a nearly completed blog post!)

Unfortunately, most of their family films were shot after they moved to B.C. but there are a couple that show glimpses of Brandon. Check it out !

Here are some of my previous Brandon history posts:

The Strand Theatre's 100th birthday gift West End Dumplings
Taking a Strand Winnipeg Free Press column
Brandon's deadliest blaze Winnipeg Free Press column
Manitoba's Worst Train Disasters: Brandon, 1916 West End Dumplings
Deadly day in Brandon Winnipeg Free Press column
 (also see my updated Winnipeg Free Press column about the tragedy)
Brandon's first WWI Casualty West End Dumplings
Going off the rails Winnipeg Free Press column

Friday, 26 May 2017

Doors Open 2017 at the Paddlewheel Restaurant!

One of the new buildings to participate in Doors Open this year was the Bay downtown.

The store, of course, is open every Sunday but what made this day unique was that they opened up the 6th floor, home of the Paddlewheel Restaurant that has been closed since January 2013, for us to set up shop.

It was a crazy, overwhelming start as a couple of hundred people showed up in the lobby by 12:10. After that initial rush, though, things became more manageable and we had a chance to talk to people and tour them through properly.

In the end, just over 1,500 people came to visit and share their memories over the five hours!

There were a few questions that came up over and over again. 

One was about getting copies of the handouts, both of which we ran out of. You can download a copy of the one-page history at this link or read it at my Flickr album, page one and two. Jennifer Lukovich's history of the Bay downtown can be downloaded here

Images of the newspaper pages that were on the wall and my photos of the Paddlewheel are here.

Some of the images from the slideshows can be found on the Hudson's Bay Company Archives - Archives of Manitoba website or in person at the Archives Building on Vaughan Street, conveniently located right behind the Bay downtown!

The book that was on display was Hudson's Bay Company by Assouline Publishing. (Funny story, I bought it at a used book sale the day before Doors Open - I didn't even have a chance to crack the cover before I put it out.)

Sadly, it was a limited run of 12,000 produced for the 2011 holiday season and no longer appears on the Assouline or HBC website. Like, me you'll have to find it at a used book store and you may want to contact the Bay to let them know there's still interest in the title.

What happens now?

Heritage Winnipeg was collecting names and addresses from people who want to be part of a "Friends of the Bay Downtown" group. Those emails will be compiled and a web presence will be set up soon. (If you want to be part but didn't sign up, contact Heritage Winnipeg.)

Hopefully, the Bay will be part of Doors Open 2018, and maybe even other open houses, and we can take all that we learned from this first-ever event and fine tune it into an even better experience.

I had the chance to hear hundreds of people talk about what the Bay used to be and their hope that the downtown store stays open. I'll bet, though, that the overwhelming majority of them then walked out of the store without browsing the merchandise or making a purchase.

For the store to remain open and this landmark building to have a tenant, the Bay downtown needs less commiseration and more customers. Yes, I know there are 1001 reasons why people don't shop at traditional department stores anymore but sometimes you have show support through actions, not just words or clicking "like" on a Facebook post.

Though its retail footprint has shrunk over the past few years to three floors, it is still one of the largest retail stores in the entire province. At 250,000 square feet, (85,000 square feet per floor), it dwarfs the old Target at Polo Park which had just 120,000 square feet. Ikea is larger, at 395,000 square feet, but the Bay would outsize it by reopening another two of its floors.

A vacant building is a vulnerable building. Any future plans for the space have a much better chance of happening with a massive anchor tenant as part of it than it if it has been sitting vacant for years.

November 17, 1954, Winnipeg Tribune

Thanks to all who came out !

To read some of my blog posts about the history of the Bay downtown:

The Bay Downtown Winnipeg Downtown Places
The Bay Downtown My Flickr photo album (more images to come!)

The Paddlewheel Restaurant Winnipeg Downtown Places

The Bay Parkade Winnipeg Downtown Places 
The Bay Downtown's "Great Beacon" West End Dumplings
The Bay Downtown's missing elevator mural West End Dumplings
 Zellers' 79 year run in Winnipeg West End Dumplings

Monday, 22 May 2017

Canadian Bank of Commerce's Prairie-type bank branches

Over the past few weeks I have written about the Canadian Bank of Commerce branches in both Elkhorn and Rivers, Manitoba.

Both buildings were designed by architects Darling and Pearson of Toronto and prefabricated by B .C Mills timber and Trading Company of Vancouver. Between 1906 and 1912, the bank erected about 70 of them in towns across the West.

For my column in this week's Winnipeg Free Press, I thought I would take a more detailed look at the history of the commerce's "Prairie-type" bank branches.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Farewell to 412 Toronto Street

On April 30th, 2017, 412 Toronto Street suffered a major fire. Thankfully, everyone escaped safely but the house will have to be demolished.

Before it is gone, I thought I would take a look back at what was one of the oldest houses in the West End and, remarkably, was home to just two families in the past 104 years.

Top: Toronto Street, 1898 Henderson Directory
Bottom: May 31, 1897, Winnipeg Free Press

The building permit for 412 Toronto was issued in 1894 making it one of the West End's older homes.

At the time, the West End west of Maryland Street was little more than an agricultural outskirt of the city. Most homes and other buildings were not constructed until after about 1904, when the city began subdividing the area by grading roads and installing boulevards, sidewalks and water.

Because of its rural nature most homes had not yet been issued street numbers which makes tracing the original owner difficult, (though in 1897 they were selling three cows !)

The first Henderson Directory listing for this address comes in 1901 with Richard Owens, labourer, listed as homeowner.  In 1902, it was owned by Andrew Walmsely, labourer, with Richard B. Stone, a bricklayer, and his wife renting a room. By 1912, it was home to James E Adams a, traveling salesman.

The first long-term owner came in 1913 with the Cleven Family.

Cleven, ca. unknown, Wikipedia

Endre Johanssen Cleven was born in 1874 in Skudenes, Norway. At age 17, he settled at Inwood, Iowa and then New York City, where he studied music.

In 1903, after a visit to his homeland, he resettled in Winnipeg where he became a key figure in the city's Norwegian community and played in the Walker Theatre orchestra. (For a more detailed biography, here is a translated article from an American Norwegian-language newspaper written after his death. Note that the middle name is not the same as on his military records and in Winnipeg media articles, but it is the same person.)

Swedish language immigration card, undated (Source: Pier 21)

In 1912, Cleven was employed by the Dominion Immigration Office as the Scandinavian immigration agent for the U.S., essentially a "homestead finder" for immigrants looking to move north of the border. It was a job that kept him on the road a lot.

Cleven was interviewed by the Free Press in the summer of 1913 when the upsurge in Scandinavian immigration to the prairies got noticed. He said: "Of late I have found that the work of placing homesteaders demands more of my personal attention as it did at first.”

He noted that the success was thanks to the government moving beyond just publishing brochures and posters in different languages: "They want to meet a man who has personal knowledge of affairs and show, besides being in a position to talk, has the necessary authority.”

He shared with the Free Press a number of thank you letters he received from both settlers and communities. One, from the Humboldt, Saskatchewan Board of Trade, said in part: “I think we may safely say that your efforts alone have been responsible for the location in our district of settlers who represent the strongest feature of out agricultural community.”

Stookloader in operation, Starbuck, Man. ca. 1905
by Endre Cleven (Library and Archives Canada)

As for his home life, Cleven married Margit (Margaret) Hoines on June 9, 1904 in Winnipeg. She, too, was from Skudenes and arrived in Winnipeg in 1903, so it is likely that she came back with him after his visit home. The couple had as many as five children; Euare (1906), Harald (1910), Olf (1912), Odvar (1916), and Lillian (?). An infant daughter - presumably Euare - died in 1907.

Besides being a musician, Cleven was also a photographer. At Library and Archives Canada there are a number of photographs by Cleven taken between 1905 -1909, presumably to show prospective settlers what rural life in Canada was like. (See above.)

Also listed in the Henderson Directory for their first couple of years residing at 412 Toronto is Aadni Hoines, Margit's brother, and his wife. He was a carpenter by trade who worked as a cabinet maker at Eatons.

When World War I was declared, Cleven was already a lieutenant in the 90th Regiment, Royal Winnipeg Rifles militia. He also had previous war experience, noting on his Officers' Declaration papers that he had spent 4 years with the U.S. Army, which included the Spanish American War and a tour in the Philippines.

Given his connections in the Scandinavian Community and his rank in the 90th, Cleven was made the Quartermaster in the newly-created 197th Overseas Battalion, nicknamed the Vikings of Canada.

July 4, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

On July 3, 1916, Cleven and Lt. Col. A. G. Fonseca, the commanding officer of the 197th Battalion, were to visit Camp Hughes where their men were soon being sent to train. They stopped at the Cleven household to have lunch before embarking.

At about 4:00 pm the men were driving three miles east of High Bluff, Manitoba, near Portage la Prairie, when the driver, who was only doing about 16 miles per hour, swerved to avoid a pothole. The car touched the shoulder and ended up hitting the ditch. Cleven was thrown from the vehicle and killed. The driver and Fonseca were unhurt.

Cleven would never meet his youngest child.

Margit Cleven, ca. 1930s

Mrs. Cleven was left to raise the children, who attended John M. King School.

Margit was very involved in the First Norwegian Church / Our Saviors Lutheran Church and other community activities. In 1925, she was  part of a Canadian delegation to conference in the U.S. to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Norwegian immigration to North America.

Margit never remarried and lived at the home until 1960 along with long-term renters Agnes and Emmanuel Hanna.

Margit died on January 18, 1965 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

The next long-term tenants were the Luba family, who moved in in 1960. 

Stephen Luba of Angusville and Mary (Derlago) of Rossburn were married in Angusville in 1936 and farmed in the area until they moved to Toronto Street. The couple had four children; Adolph, Lawrence, Stephanie and Randy. 

On first arriving in Winnipeg, Steven worked in the warehouse at Dalewood Transport then for Federated Co-op.  By 1965, he was the elevator operator for the Building Trades Association in the Grain Exchange Building. He died in 1983.

Oldest son Adolph got a job as a diver for Brooke Bond Ltd., makers of Blue Ribbon. In 1970 he went to Belleville, Ontario to become production manger at their new factory. He died in Calgary in 1990.

Mary Luba remained in the home until her death in in 2002 at the age of 87.

It was still occupied by a descendant when the fire broke out on April 30, 2017.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Ghost sign: 70 Lansdowne Avenue

Top: May 14, 2017
Bottom: Ca. 2015, Google Street View

While undergoing exterior renovations, the corner store at Lansdowne and St. Cross has offered a glimpse into the history of the St. John's neighbourhood. The photos of the old sign above were taken May 14, 2017.

The five digit number indicates that they could have been painted any time between the late 1920s to late 1940s.

Two Irish immigrants, Joseph Reid of 77 McAdam Avenue and Charles Reed of 155 Inkster Boulevard, took over this store in 1927. John A. Stalker of 143 Luxton Avenue was their long-time meat clerk.

Joseph Reid died in 1950 and Charles Reed carried on until his retirement in 1961.

October 18, 1941

According to the clerk at the store, the plan is to proceed with the renovations and cover up the signs. If you want pictures of your own, you better hurry down !

For a full history of the building and some of its owners, check out my Winnipeg Downtown Places post for 70 Lansdowne Avenue !

Monday, 8 May 2017

Rivers, Manitoba B.C. Mills prefab Bank of Commerce building for sale

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
Rivers, Manitoba in 2015 and 1912

Last month, I wrote about the CIBC closing its branch in Elkhorn, Manitoba, leaving the future of ts original Bank of Commerce B. C. Mills "kit" bank building in doubt. This month, the similar building located on Main Street in Rivers, Manitoba has been put up for sale, though it hasn't been a bank in many decades.

June 22 1905, Winnipeg Tribune

The Rivers building was erected in on Main Street at Second Avenue in 1910 by the Bank of Commerce. It is one of the original B.C. Mills, Timber and Trading Co. "kit buildings" that the bank commissioned for prairie towns between 1906 and 1910.

Prefabricated kit buildings were all the rage in the early part of the last century. As railway development pushed its way west, new villages were instantly created in its path or existing settlements had to quickly pick up and relocate to be near the tracks. 

For sparsely populated rural Manitoba it would have taken months to build from scratch all of the buildings needed to create a functioning village. That's where companies like Eaton's and B. C. Mills stepped in by offering prefabricated kits for a variety of structures, including barns, houses, schools, banks, and churches.

CIBC, then known as the Bank of Commerce, hired prominent Toronto architects Darling and Pearson to design three basic bank branch models for their exclusive use. The firm had designed many of the bank's landmark, big-city buildings across Canada, including their western headquarters in Winnipeg

These building were far more modest. One was for 1.5-storey cottage-style building with a porch. The other, far more widely used, were variations of a 2,800, two-storey building.  The plans were kept on file at B.C. Mills and the kits dispatched as needed on two rail cars. 

It is believed that about 70 of these kits were erected across the West between 1906 and 1912. (Histories of the BC Mills company suggest that they stopped building these prefab building s around 1910, though the Elkhorn branch was erected in 1912, so they may have kept some in inventory for the bank.)

Renovation photos ca. 2007

On the main floor, with its 12-foot tall ceilings, was the banking hall and manager's office plus a vault area at the rear. The upstairs was the apartment for the branch manager and his family. Each level had a fireplace.

The top photo above shows the removal of some of the unsympathetic renovations that had taken place over the years, including the installation of a dropped ceiling, the filling in of some windows and painting the fireplace.

Top: Elkhorn CIBC opened 1913. Source: Steel and Glass Roots
Bottom: Rivers CIBC opened 1908.
Source: Nov. 9, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune

From looking at period photos, it appears that Rivers and Elkhorn were different models. Note the Elkhorn bank's portico above the door and the ionic columns that extend the entire height of the building.

Top: November 20, 1912, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: Second Avenue, Rivers ca. 1911, rear of bank on right (Peel's)

The community of Rivers was founded in 1907 with the arrival of the Grand Pacific Trunk Railway (GTP), though it wasn't incorporated as a town until 1913. It’s named for the GTP's president, Sir Charles Rivers–Wilson.

A 1909 promotional guide published by the railway describes the rapid growth of the community, from a few dozen people to: "...population 650 when six months old, now 1,000. Has two lumber yards, thirty business buildings, two elevators, two halls, two churches, school, bank, hotel livery stables, newspaper."

November 6, 1919, Rivers Banner

That bank was the Bank of Commerce, which established a Rivers branch in summer 1908 in the newly-built  Korman Block on Second Avenue under manager R. Morris Saunders. It was the bank's only new branch in Manitoba that year.

This building was constructed on Main Street in July 1910.

Piecing together early bank managers from Bank of Commerce Annual reports it appears that working in these prairie town branches was been a stepping stone. Most only stayed for a couple of years at a time before moving on. 

Saunders had been the first bank manager for the Commerce in Elkhorn, Manitoba (1903-04), then went to Dawson City before being reassigned to open the Rivers branch. While there, he became part of the community, sitting on the Church of England building committee and as clerk of the school board as both bodies undertook the construction of new buildings.

In 1911, Saunders left for Nanton, Alberta where he managed a branch until 1915 and then onto Fort William, Ontario.

August 15, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune

The bank had a fairly quiet existence aside from one possible robbery attempt in August 1927.

A man named Jim Durno, one of a number of aliases, arrived in town by train and slipped into the building's basement that evening. The town's constable, M. W. Coldicott, lived next to the bank and noticed the man acting suspiciously.

The constable called bank manager R. M. Tucker to see if he was expecting a tradesman or a caretaker to visit. He wasn't.

Tucker called the bank and the ringing is said to have startled Druno, causing him to flee. Waiting outside was Coldicott who discovered that the man had a loaded pistol in his possession, though no safe-cracking tools. 

Durno, or whatever his real name was, was arrested and sentenced to prison.

Arlidge signature from his military file

Thousands of Bank of Commerce employees enlisted to fight in World War I and 285 of them never returned home. Rivers' Melvern Arlidge was one of the fortunate ones. 

Arlidge was born in 1894 in Meaford, Ontario and joined the bank in 1911. By 1916, he was working at the Rivers, Manitoba branch. He gave his occupation as "accountant" on his attestation papers when he enlisted with the 190th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles) on June 5, 1916.

While in England, Arlidge had an attack of appendicitis in 1917 and the scar did not heal properly after the surgery which requiring a repeat hospital stay. He complained that the scar constantly hurt. That, combined with his poor vision, had him declared unfit for duty in the field.

Arlidge was transferred to an instructors role and eventually became a lieutenant with the Canadian Records Office. He was discharged at Halifax on May 21, 1920 and back at the bank, though not in Rivers, in early July.

Arlidge died in Ontario in 1959.

December 6, 1930, Brandon Sun

One clerk who did die young was Allan Edward Robertson on December 3, 1930 at the age of 22.

He was the son of  Alexander and Annie Robertson of Justice, Manitoba and working as a clerk at the Rivers branch of the Bank of Commerce.

A notice in the Brandon Sun, also picked up by the Winnipeg Tribune, said he was nicknamed "Happy"and was well liked by colleagues. He died at Winnipeg General Hospital but no further details of his death were given.

A notice in the Sun about his funeral at Sparling Cemetery the following week: “was attended by one of the largest gatherings ever witnessed in the Justice district.”

December 19, 1935, Rivers Gazette

On December 14, 1935, account holders received a shock. It was a letter from the Bank of Commerce stating that the Rivers branch would close on December 31st.

The Commerce was the community's only bank and its citizens and business community were already reeling from years of the Depression and yet another crop failure in 1935.

That same evening, an emergency meeting of the town council was held and a delegation of politicians and Board of Trade members made arrangements to head to the bank's western headquarters on Main Street in Winnipeg the following week. Their visit changed nothing.

The Boissevain Recorder urged protest from all rural communities, noting in an editorial: "If the Bank of Commerce is allowed to close at Rivers, it won't be long before till the same thing takes place in other communities."

It was up to businesses to pick up the slack, acting as cheque cashers until the Royal Bank of Canada set up a small branch, in a different location, in 1948.

Town of Rivers, Ca 1967 (Daly House Museum)

It appears that the bank then became property of the municipality.

A brief item in a 1938 Rivers Gazette noted that the building: "is being fixed up and we understand that will be used as an office by the Rural Municipality of Daly."  The man who oversaw the renovations was William T. Dyer, who also moved in upstairs.

Dyer was one of the busiest men in the town. He was the secretary-treasurer of the R. M. of Daly, the clerk for the town of Rivers and the secretary of the school district.

When renovations were completed, the main level contained a council chamber and a doctor's office.

The R.M. appears to have stayed at that location until the early 1950s. In 1952 "for rent" ads appear in the local paper for $70 per year, That's when J. A. McKenzie purchased it for $6,500. They renovated it became one of his McKenzie United stores, though likely a satellite store not his main branch located elsewhere on Second Avenue.

November 21, 1963, Rivers Gazette

In November 1963, the main floor became home to Charm Beauty Salon with a residence upstairs. In 1968, Mary Ann (Sinclair) Brown was manager and by 1971 it was co-owned by "Pat and Ruby" who moved the salon to Neepawa.


In early 1976 was home to Thorne Business Service and that appears to be the end of its life as a commercial building. It was converted into an apartment block.

Later in 1976 it was purchased from Mr. Irving by Russell and Alma Morton. In 1998, was purchased by George Kroeker, who gave it a face lift.

In 2007, Kelly Morton-Spurway, a granddaughter of the Mortons purchased the building from C. and A. Hunter and the family converted it into a single family home. (You can see before and after renovation photos here.)

On September 15, 2009 it was designated a municipal heritage site by the town of Rivers.

The home is currently for sale as the owners have relocated.

Other Buildings:
 It is unclear how many of the 70 or so of these buildings thought to be constructed are still standing. Aside from Rivers, other examples can be found in Strathmore AB, Watson SK, Nokomis SK, Grandview AB, Moosomin SK, Elbow, SK, Innisfree AB. Elkhorn MB is one of the rare few that still house a CIBC branch, though that is closing in August, 2017.

Bank Managers of the Bank of Commerce, Rivers:
1908 – 1910 R. M. Saunders; 1911 – 1912 B. L. Brown; 1913 – 1914 F. W. West; 1915 M. R. Complin; 1916 E. W. Morgan; 1917 – 1919 R. M. Tucker.

My Flickr album of this house.

Aside from numerous newspaper articles from across the province,  I also relied on The Story of Rivers - Prepared to Commemorate 50 years of Town Incorporation by G. F. Barker, which can be found at the Manitobia.ca book section.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Brandon's Street Railway System, 1913 - 1932

Top: Opening ceremony, June 2, 1913. (McKee Archives)
Bottom: May 31, 1913, Brandon Sun

My column in Sunday's Winnipeg Free Press is about the history of the short-lived Brandon Street Railway.

The system was approved in 1910 and intended to be a privately-run affair. A combination of slow negotiating on the city's part and bad timing on the province's caused the investor to walk away before the first car even ran.

Undaunted, the city decided to take on the high-risk investment itself. After all, a street railway was a sign of prosperity and the path to future progress. At the June 2, 1913 inauguration, Brandon mayor John W. Fleming, said:

“Today we ought to feel proud because this is the dawn of a new era in Brandon; an era of prosperity as we have not enjoyed before and one in which every citizen will partake."

Top: Streetcar being scrapped, October 1937 (McKee Archives)
Bottom: April 20, 1932, Brandon Sun

Things did not work out as Fleming and his colleagues had hoped.

The huge population growth the city experienced before the war became a trickle. The street railway system was racking up $40,000 in debt per year and helped push the city into a decade long period of provincially-appointed third party administration.

For more of my Brandon-related posts and columns.