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.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Winnipeg Historic Hotel Pub Crawl

The Winnipeg Historic Hotel Pub Crawl is back!

Learn about the history of the city through the stories of four of Winnipeg's oldest hotels: the Winnipeg, Garrick, Woodbine and Vendome. I'll tell you their history, then we go inside each of them for a drink and to peruse old photos and newspaper ads.

The walk starts at 1:30 pm and takes about 2.25 hours. It is not wheelchair accessible.

We end at the Vendome, which has a great burger bar should you want to soak up some of the drinks and stay to chat a bit longer.

This is limited to a small group of no more than eight people per tour, so you need to register in advance.

DATE: Saturday, Sept. 10th at 1:30 pm
COST: $10 per person, $7 for students or low income. (Cost of any drinks is extra)
MORE DETAILS / REGISTRATION: Contact me at cassidy (at) mts.net

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Demolition for second oldest building on U of M's Bannatyne Campus

Basic Science Building, rear - McDermot Avenue - elevation

The second oldest building on the University of Manitoba's Bannatyne campus will soon be history.

Earlier this summer a Request for Proposals for the demolition of the ca. 1920, 34,000 sq ft, 3-storey Basic Science Building was issued and the work will begin in September.

It is one of the first steps towards realizing the University of Manitoba's Bannatyne Campus Redevelopment Plan, released in 2014. Its aim is to make the campus, particularly McDermot Avenue, more inviting to students and community members as a place to hang out.

The building, according to the report, has “proven too costly to upgrade in terms of accessibility, fire protection, HVAC, and building envelope.” It recommended that it be demolished to make was for a green space plaza that will include a seating areas and possibly reuse some of the bricks from the former structure as paving stones.

August 18, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

The Basic Science Building was constructed between September 1920 and January 1921 as part of a larger expansion to the Medical College, the first since the institution was absorbed by the University of Manitoba three years earlier. 

The funding came from a construction account previously established by the provincial government.

The building was designed by A. A. Stoughton, head of the U of M’s department of architecture from 1913 - 1929. The contractor was Sutherland Construction of Winnipeg. 

Unlike the original medical college building and the extension that would be built the following year, this building’s exterior is clad only in local clay brick - no Tyndall stone trim or other materials. Intricate brick work and “chocolate joints”, (presumably brown mortar), however, gave the building a more intriguing facade that it might ordinarily have had.

The building initially housed the biochemistry bacteriology, physiology departments, their offices study space, a lecture hall and laboratories. It is likely because of the labs that the building’s sloping roof is outfitted with pair of cupolas for additional ventilation, (see above.)

Top: Jan. 25, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune
Bottom: shortly after construction completed, ca. 1921 (source: U of M)

Construction began on September 27, 1920 and was completed in the first week of February 1921. This was about four weeks later than predicted, but the project remained with its $172,000 budget.

While this building was under construction, the U of M got some good news. A Rockefeller Foundation application was approved in the form of a $500,000 endowment for medical research. This wouldn't allow for capital construction, but ensured that the university had an annual source of funds with which to equip labs and fund research projects.

Buoyed by the endowment, the university speedily approved plans for the second phase of the expansion, what is now called the Pathology Building. Construction began in June 1921 on that building which is situated adjacent to the original medical college building and directly in front of the Basic Science Building.

As a result, the facade of the Basic Science Building, as seen in the above photo, only saw the light of day for less than a year.

My photo gallery of the Basic Science Building

Saturday, 27 August 2016

West End Dumplings Radio says farewell, again !

The summer resurrection of West End Dumplings - The Radio Edition is almost done and I thought I would end the series the way I ended its first run.

Joining me in studio will be four fellow UMFM show hosts: Jeff Robson, Tell the Band to Go Home; Gail Comfort of the Comfort Café; Penny Lane, Punks in Parkas and Lyle Skinner of Waxies Dargle. We'll talk about their shows, how they got started, why they still do it after all these years and what the future of community radio might look like.

Join me Sunday at 4 pm on 101.5 UMFM or listen online at umfm.com. You can check out podcasts of past shows here.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Private Thomas Cronley of Winnipeg

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Above image: Canadian Virtual War Memorial

Thomas Cronely was born March 11, 1879 in Manchester, England. He married Ina Nickols and the two immigrated to Canada, the exact year is unknown.

The couple first appear in the Winnipeg Henderson Directory in 1907, at a rooming house at 393 Logan. His occupation is listed as bricklayer. 

In 1910, they are the homeowners of 51 Gertie Street and Thomas is working for contractor Thomas Kelly and Sons. By this time, their family of five children had started.

Winnipeg Tribune

Thomas enlisted on January 10, 1916 with the 101st Battalion and while waiting to go overseas took a job as a live-in caretaker at St. Julien Apartments, 508 McMillan Avenue. After he left, Ina and the children lived briefly at the Fortune Block on Main Street, then 361 Langside Street.

He embarked for England on July 6, 1916 aboard the S.S. Olympic. Soon after their arrival, Cronley was transferred to the 17th Battalion with whom he went to France on August 27th. In the field he joined the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish).

On the night of October 8 -9, 1916, Cronley went missing in action with no details of what happened. On August 11, 1917 he was "For official purposes presumed to have died on or since 09-10-16."

159 Evanson St., Google Street View

Until the end of the war, Ina continued to lived at 361 Langside, a resident-owned rooming house with about five suites. by 1920 she is living at a three-room rooming house at 159 Evanson.

It must have been a  time of great hardship for Ina. She was a widow with five children and there are no other Cronleys or Nickols listed in the Henderson Directory, from 1918 - 1920, indicating that there were likely no other family members here.

Thomas' pay records indicate that his $20 salary stopped being sent to Ina in December 1916. It is unclear what the reason was. In April 1917 a cheque for four months back pay was sent.

Top: Wedding photo of Thomas Cronley, (See full version at Ancestry)
Bottom: January 28, 1921, Winnipeg Tribune

On January 25, 1921 Ina Cronley died at General Hospital at the age of 41. Her death and funeral notice in the Free Press and Tribune did not provide a cause of death.

It is unknown what happened to her five children.

Canadian Great War Project entry
Canadian Virtual War Memorial entry
Attestation Papers and Military File

Friday, 19 August 2016

Call to Arms: Jacob Penner Park

I will update this post, if necessary, once the city's application becomes available. Check back later !

UPDATE 2:11 pm:

GOOD NEWS. The agenda has finally been posted to the city's website, (I couldn't get someone to send the report to me in advance.)

The park is not in danger. The city is replacing the existing east property fence with an electric fence, so it has to come closer to the sidewalk on the east side of the property line, and will not take up any park land. 

The sign reads creating "a side yard of 4 feet instead of 25 feet", which I took to mean that 21 feet were coming out of somewhere. After driving around the property, the only place 21 feet could come out of is the park side, thus the post about Wednesday night's meeting.

 I guess to the people writing the signs, it means something completely different.

Here is the item from the city's website confirming the above: http://clkapps.winnipeg.ca/DMIS/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=15497&SectionId=440817&InitUrl=%2FDMIS%2FDocuments%2Fba%2F2016%2Fa15497

You can stand down, West End, sorry for the false alarm.

Public Notice (C. Cassidy)