Thursday, 22 June 2017

Former Safeway at 893 Portage gets a makeover

 Top: Before and during renovations.
Bottom: Canadian Safeway store ca. 1929.

The tanning spa outlet at 893 Portage Avenue is getting a makeover. After stripping away the faux log cabin motif, workers have revealed a remarkably intact original 1929 Safeway facade.

One of the unique features uncovered is the horizontal bank of windows that runs beneath the sign. Most of the remaining former Safeway buildings of that era, (go here and scroll down to see other examples), appear to have had them removed.

You can even see the screw holes from the hardware that held the original awning in place.

November 1, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

U.S. grocery giant Safeway came to Canada in 1929 and set up its head office in Winnipeg. Unlike local grocery chains of the time, Safeway used a "cookie cutter" method of retailing.

It custom-built its stores so that they were identical in appearance both inside and out. A customer could go to any part of the city and instantly recognize a Safeway by its design and, once inside, could find the same products in the same places.

The "Portage near Arlington" location opened on November 2, 1929 and was the eight store in its chain. By the end of the year, the chain boasted 16 stores.

In the early 1950s the Safeway relocated to a much bigger custom-built store two doors down,  what is presently the Food Fare, and 893 Portage began a long run as a drug store.

From 1954 until the mid-1970s it was Storr's Drug Store under owner William W. Storr.  Through the 1980s it was known as MediMart Drugs and through the 1990 to early aughties was Vimy Park Pharmacy.

After a brief stint sitting vacant it became a tanning salon in mid-2007.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Endre J. Cleven 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 back at some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.

Endre Johanssen Cleven was born in 1874 in Skudenes, Norway. At age 17, he settled at Inwood, Iowa, then New York City where he studied music. In 1903, after a return trip home, he resettled in Winnipeg where he became a key figure in the city's Norwegian-Canadian community and played in the Walker Theatre orchestra.

In 1912, he was employed by the Dominion Immigration Office. According to an article in an Iowa based Norwegian-language newspaper published after his death, he was "in charge of Canada's Scandinavian settlement program."  (You can read the translated article here. 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.)

As for his home life, in 1904 he 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. They raised their five children, Euare (1906), Harald (1910), Olf (1912), Odvar (1916) and Lillian (?). It appears that an infant daughter died in 1907.

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 four years with the U.S. Army during the Spanish American War and a tour in the Philippines.

Given his connections in the Scandinavian Community and his rank in the 90th, During World War I, commanding officer Lt. Col A. G. Fonseca appointed Cleven as quartermaster of the newly-created 197th Overseas Battalion, nicknamed the Vikings of Canada.

July 14, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

On July 3, 1916, Cleven and Fonseca, the commanding officer of the 197th Battalion, were to visit Camp Hughes where their men were being sent for training exercises. They first stopped at the Cleven household at 412 Toronto Street to have some lunch before embarking in a Lozier 4 car.

At about 4:00 pm they were three miles east of high Bluff, Manitoba, near Portage la Prairie, when the driver swerved to avoid a pothole. The car touched the shoulder and rolled into the ditch. Cleven was thrown from the vehicle and killed. (Fonseca spent weeks in hospital recovering and the driver had minor injuries.)
Cleven, who would never meet his youngest child, is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

Also See:
Farewell to 412 Toronto Street West End Dumplings
Military File Library and Archives Canada
Canadian Virtual War Memorial

I'm Speaking at the Heritage Winnipeg AGM!

Look what I’ve gotten myself into now!

I’m going to be the keynote speaker at the Heritage Winnipeg AGM on June 28th at the Millennium Centre. If you want to hear me jabber on for 20 or 30 minutes about heritage issues that are important to me, (who knows, I might be mildly controversial,) come on down!

It is an AGM, so you do have to be a member of Heritage Winnipeg to come. If you’ve thought about joining or were once a member and let it lapse, fees are $15 for seniors/students, $20 for individuals and $30 for families. (More info on membership and how to pay is here: http://www.heritagewinnipeg.com/store/)

You’ll be helping out the work that Heritage Winnipeg does, such as Doors Open, the Streetcar 356 Restoration Project, Heritage Preservation Awards and other good stuff. You’ll also get their newsletter, so you will know what’s happening in the world of local built heritage often before it hits the newspapers.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Winnipeg's first parkades

Bay parkade pre-1964 as it is one level shorter than today
(Winnipeg Building Index)

My column today's Winnipeg Free Press is about  the city's first parkades !

The decade following World War II saw tens of thousands of Winnipeggers leave the core of the city to live in the suburbs. The problem was, most still worked and shopped downtown. This new urban arrangement meant thousands of cars were returning to the core on a daily basis to look for places to park.

Many American cities helped alleviate the situation by building municipal parkades in the heart of their central business and retail districts. For Winnipeg, a combination of provincial regulations and a hesitation to make a final decision, meant that it was up to the private sector to fill the gap here.

A 1963 study by the city's parking authority declared that the number of privately-constructed parkades built or under construction between 1954 and 1964, a total of seven,  had adequately addressed the city’s on-street parking crisis. Its chair warned, though, that “constant vigilance” was needed to ensure that the problem did not get out of hand again.


Somehow the paper managed to screw up the images for the article in both the print and online editions. They're sort of fun to look back at though, so here they are in their entirety:

June 25, 1957, Winnipeg Tribune

 May 19, 1956, Winnipeg Tribune

 April 5, 1957, Winnipeg Free Press

A portion of this one appeared in the print-only version: Allen Burdett, one of the “parkmasters” at the Marlborough Hotel’s Parkmaster parkade, in his pilot’s seat, which must have beena  fun job in the middle of winter:

Winnipeg Tribune, April 6, 1957

Friday, 2 June 2017

Brandon's Inter-city Bus Terminal History

© 2017, Christian Cassidy
Brandon Bus Terminal, (Google Maps)

In late May 2017, Greyhound Canada put Brandon’s bus terminal located on 6th Street at  Pacific Avenue up for sale. The company is not leaving town, just looking to relocate to a smaller, yet-to-be-identified space.

Given the impending sale, I thought I would take a look back at Brandon’s bus terminal history. (Note that the facility was originally called a bus "depot", the use of "terminal" came in the late 1930s after Greyhound became involved.)

December 1935 ad, Brandon Sun

Though omnibus transportation had existed in the province since the 1870s, it came to the fore starting in the early 1930s.

What had been little more than cart trails connecting communities were becoming a system of formal, graded roads and highways. This was thanks to the advocacy of groups such as the Manitoba Good Roads Association and Manitoba Bus Owners’ Association. (For more about early inter-city bus history in Manitoba, check out the MTHA’s page or the book Dusty Trails to Divided Highways: A History of Intercity Bus Lines in Manitoba.)

The Depression also helped matters as road building was a great way to put large numbers of rural men to work in the form of Depression relief projects, the costs for which were heavily underwritten by the Federal government.

April 2, 1932, Brandon Sun

Urged on by the bus owners and supported by the city and its business leaders, the matter of constructing a central bus terminal for Brandon was raised at the Municipal and Public Utility Board hearings held there in April 1932.

It took more than a year to get approval from the board but the bus companies were already busy at work. Just days after the
June 1933 approval it was decided to: “...open the new premises immediately with a competent staff in charge of ample waiting rooms and comfort and wash room facilities.”

The terminal also served as a central information centre for people to write or call to find out about the schedules of all inter-city bus lines buses that served in the city.

Brandon Bus Depot I, 10th Street, (1933 - 1939)
Top: image taken 1939, (McKee Archives)
Bottom: June 29, 1933, Brandon Sun

The location chosen for the city's first bus terminal was 112 - 10th Street. It was wedged into a rented space in the Olympia Block, between the Olympia Cafe and Olympia Candy store.

An image of the terminal can't be found but the above photo shows the space where it would have been located. According to the McKee Archives, this photo is dated 1939, the same year the terminal relocated.  

The terminal served the city well for the remainder of the Depression. One interesting note is the round-trip fare to Winnipeg during this time. What started out as advertised at over $6.00 when the terminal first opened soon fell to $5.00 and by 1935 could be had for as little as $2.70.

Whether this was a sign of increased competition or companies desperate for customers during hard times, or a combination of both, is not clear.

Brandon Bus Terminal II, Princess Street, 1939 - 1982
Image: ca. 1940s, (Peel's Prairie Provinces)

As the Depression ended, the need for a larger bus terminal was apparent. Not only were there more customers but the buses themselves were getting larger, some able to hold up to 40 passengers.

This time, it was Trans-Continental Coach Lines that financed the $25,000 terminal project on Princess Avenue at 11th Street. It was a prominent location, sharing the intersection with the court house, post office and the Brandon Club.

Trans-Continental was formed earlier i
n the decade to run from Winnipeg to Swift Current and had an agreement with Greyhound Bus Lines in Manitoba that would allow their passengers to tap into Greyhound's national system. In 1938, Trans-Continental was absorbed by Greyhound, though it continued to run under its own name through the 1940s.

Interior ca. 1940s, (McKee Archives)

E. C. Higgins of Brandon was the contractor for the new terminal, which measured 120 feet x 65 feet. The building's art moderne inspired exterior was finished in white stucco with black trim.

Inside, the building was divided into three main areas: a garage that held three buses, company offices, and a main hall containing a waiting area, restaurant and ticket booth. It was finished in ivory and blue trim, the company colours.

Eventually, the Curio Shop gift shop was added and the cafe became known as the Maxwell House Grill.

Though it was owned by Trans-Continental, any inter-city bus serving Brandon could use it.  The passenger loading area was at the rear of the building.

Top: ca. 1950s, after re-branding to Greyhound, (Brandon Archives / Brandon Sun)

The new bus terminal served the city well but by the time the 1970s came it was no longer up for the task.

The waiting room was constantly overcrowded and there weren't enough bays to hold all the buses, leaving many to idle on the streets around it. Because of St. Hedwig's church to the south, the terminal was landlocked and could not add more apron.

There was also no onsite parking for those meeting or seeing off passengers.

In 1981, showing the crowded bus apron, (McKee Archives)

In April, 1975, Greyhound approached the city wanting to build a new bus depot on the site of an abandoned Safeway at the intersection of 6th Street and Rosser Avenue. They also offered that Brandon Transit could use the new building as their downtown terminal if they wished. 

The city determined that the request needed more study. Later that year, before the city even started to study it, the store was leased to a furniture retailer.

In 1980, the bus terminal's management made a $300,000 offer to purchase the former Prince Edward Hotel site, which at that time was a surface parking lot. the city rejected the offer, instead wanting to hold out for a more substantial development.

The following year, the Safeway site became available again and Greyhound purchased it and demolished the store.

Brandon Bus Terminal III, Pacific Avenue, (1982 - Present)

Architects Smith Carter Partners from Winnipeg were hired to design the $1.3 million, 11,000 square foot, 110-seat bus terminal.

When the drawings were unveiled in September 1981, Greyhound management said that the plan would be a template for the redevelopment of their collection of aging, run-down terminals in smaller cities. (It is unclear if the design was, indeed, used anywhere else.)

Contractor E. C. Higgins and Sons of Brandon, (the same firm that built the 1939 bus depot), began construction in December 1981 and Greyhound moved in by the end of September 1982. The company held off on a formal grand opening until the restaurant space cold be filled.

The restaurant eventually fond a tenant;
the Gold Prairie Restaurant which served Canadian and Chinese food. It is unclear if that formal opening ever happened.

Top: December 10, 1984, Brandon Sun

As for the old terminal building, it sat empty for more than  a year.

There was some sentiment to see it saved as a landmark. One 1983 letter to the editor noted the uniqueness of its art moderne architecture:
“Its streamlined fa├žade and its entrance portico are relics of a style seen entirely too rarely in Brandon.”  It was purchased in 1984 in part by local law office Patterson Dubois who also wanted to see the building saved.

In the end, though, the building was gutted inside and out and given an unsympathetic renovation. The only hint of what was there is the one curved corner facing the intersection.

The building became Patterson Dubois' law office with other commercial space. It continues as a law office to this day.

Source: Avison Young

In recent years, the number of inter-city bus companies and routes that serve the prairies has decreased dramatically and there is little need for such a large facility in a city the size of Brandon.

The building is currently on the market listed at just shy of $1 million. If you think an old bus terminal might be something you can put to use, check out the listing here!

For more of my Brandon, Manitoba posts

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