A house that has always intrigued me is 524 Balmoral Street, just south of Sargent Avenue. It is not on the same grand scale as nearby homes on Young or facing Central Park. It is this coziness and mansard roof that gives it its charm.
Second Empire architecture had been a popular style in Ontario for decades but was falling out of favour by the 1880s when residential development in Winnipeg began to take off. For this reason, it is pretty rare in Manitoba and even more so further West.
According to the Winnipeg Assessment Map this 904 sq ft home was built in 1886. This makes it a true pioneer home of the city's West End. Wesley Hall, for instance, opened in 1896 and the patch of swampy land that would eventually become Central park wasn't even purchased by the city, much less developed into park space, until 1893.
Residential development began creeping this far west in the 1880s as commercial activity crowded out the residential neighbourhoods on the west side of the Exchange District, (one last remaining example of that residential district is the ca. 1882 Kelly House on Adelaide). Much of the land to the south of Ellice and especially south to Portage Avenue was still undeveloped.
It is unclear who the original owner of 524 Balmoral is. The Henderson Directories notes through the 1880s that the small number of structures that existed on Balmoral Avenue from Portage to Sargent did not have house numbers.
ca. 1944 (source)
After Jackson left, though, the short term ownership continued: 1905 - Walter Brown (traveling salesman); 1907 - Eugene A. Holston of Holston Sash, Doors and Millwork on Henry St; 1911 - David Bradshaw, a druggist at 493 Notre Dame; 1913 - Gary Nix, city licensing inspector; 1916 - Archibald McKinley; 1919 - Clement J Parsons, city foreman.
It is not until 1920 that we find another longer-term owner: Otto Boutlier, a blacksmith and welder initially with the firm Boutlier and Richardson. He and wife Mida lived there together until 1943.
In 1945 the Mencini Family, consisting of Patrick, Antonia and son Frank, took possession. Patrick was an employee of International Harvester at 404 Ross Street. They lived here until at least 1965.
An interesting aside, the Mencinis, seen above in their 50th wedding anniversary photo had a double wedding. Her twin sister married his twin brother at the same ceremony !
In 1945 Mrs. Mencini was nice enough to give Lillian Gibbons an interview for her "Stories Houses Tell" column in the Winnipeg Tribune and we get a sense of what the home looked like inside.
While 524 may have had a revolving door of owners, the neighbouring house at 520 Balmoral, (it's the empty gap between the two houses in the photo above), housed post office worker Robert Miller, wife Catherine and their seven children beginning in 1888 until his death in the mid 1930's. She remained there until 1942 !
I cannot find any mentions of 524 Balmoral in the Free Press since the 1960s, which indicates that the building had a quiet existence. Nobody lost in the wars, no fires or major crimes.
The house was allowed to fall into disrepair. The above photos is what it looked like in 2009 - 2010 when new dormers were installed. From the rear, though it appears to be a vacant building.
UPDATE 2011: This summer, another batch of renovations, which include roof repairs and a new paint job, took place.
By contrast, another home, almost a twin to 524 Balmoral, had a very different recent history.
Kerr House which I write about in more detail here, was built for Francis Kerr and family just months after 524 Balmoral was built. It was located on Qu'Appelle Avenue, just a block away.
Kerr was the first principal of Carlton School and his neighbours included the likes of James H. McCarthy, Winnipeg's first chief librarian, and businessman / MLA Thomas Kellett.
Above: on Qu'Appelle (source). Below: on Assiniboine Avenue
In the 1980s it was threatened with demolition to make way for Sister Macnamara School. Its history was researched and it was found to be one of the few remaining Second Empire homes in the West.
The home was purchased and the cost of its move subsidized. It is now located on Assiniboine avenue near Hargrave, where it sits to this day.