It's been an exceptionally busy month for me and that will continue for the foreseeable future. My blogs and I are taking a hiatus until sometime in June. (This Was Winnipeg can be manually searched by date.)
Here are some alternatives to quench your local history thirst while we're taking a breather !
Doors Open Winnipeg happens May 25 and 26, 2013. There are a few new buildings and some neat programming taking place !
The Winnipeg Trolley Company is back for another year. I really recommend their Heart of the Nation Tour. I took it last year and it was great. You can read my blog post about it here.
The AMM has this nifty searchable index of Manitoba museums. There are some great gems out there. Be a tourist in your own city and province !
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Friday, May 3, 2013
It's that time of year again ! No, not hockey playoffs: Jane's Walk time !
This Saturday and Sunday (May 4 and 5, 2013) there are almost 20 free walks to choose from covering a vast array of neighbourhoods. Be sure sure to check some of them out.
Challenge yourself and go to a part of town you've never been to before. It will feel like you're in seeing a new city without the pesky travel costs !
Last year I did a walk of Burnell Street and this year decided to pick something different. A Slice of the West End will be mainly an historical walking tour of a few blocks of Ellice Avenue, Sherbrook Street and St. Matthews Avenue with a "Doors Open" twist
The walk is Saturday only and starts at 12:45 p.m. inside the Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association building at 823 Ellice Avenue at Arlington where refreshments will be served and washrooms available. Along the way we will go inside St. Matthews Anglican Church which is being converted into West End Commons. The tour ends inside Winnipeg Central Mosque on Ellice Avenue.
Timing something like this is hard to do as there are so many variables. I am estimating two hours which is generous.You should be in your car and back on your way by that time.
Oh, did I mention that there will be schwag ?!
Yes, we will have tickets to give away for the West End Commons fundraising concert at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday night ! We might have a few more items as well !
Here are photos of some of the sites you will see on the walk.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Some sad news from the world of entertainment. Deanna Durbin, dubbed "Winnipeg's Sweetheart" by local media back in the day, has died.
Born at the Grace Hospital in Wolseley on December 4, 1922, she only lived in Winnipeg for the first two years of her life. Thanks to extended family, including her beloved granny, she kept a strong connection through her early years of fame.
April 1, 1939, Winnipeg Free Press
The Depression-weary city delighted in following her career. It began as a child singing star on U.S. radio which led to co-starring with Judy Garland in her first film at MGM and culminated in a string of box office hits with Universal in the 1940s that Hollywood lore says saved the studio from bankruptcy.
On top of being the top-paid actress in Hollywood for much of the 1940s, she was also in great demand as a singer, wooed by some of North America's top opera companies to join them.
Disillusioned with Hollywood, in 1949 she battled Universal in court to end her contract. The following year she gave up stage and screen to live a reclusive life in France and raise a family.
To honour her 90th birthday I wrote a three-part history on this blog back in 2011 and found a few interesting facts about her connections to the city.
Though her Hollywood biography (facts of which were repeated in the local media) stated that she was the daughter of a real estate broker and the family lived in St. Vital, she in fact had more humble roots. Her father was a machinist and labourer at the CPR Weston Shops and the family lived just meters from the yards.
Her Winnipeg home for those two years still stands. So does "Deanna Durbin House" in St. Vital. It was a wartime charity fundraiser that she was involved in raffling off in 1944.
Deanna Durbin: From Winnipeg to Hollywood West End Dumplings
Singer-Actress Deanna Durbin Dead at 91 Variety
Deanna Durbin, Plucky Movie Star of the Depression Era, Is Dead at 91 New York Times
Deanna Durbin sings Youtube
Monday, April 29, 2013
Another north Main Street building is getting an exterior fix-up. The Green Brier Inn's location and appearance makes it hard to tell what era it is from so I thought I would take a look back at its history.
It was constructed in the summer of 1930 in what was the Municipality of West Kildonan, just on the edge of Winnipeg city limits. Its original address was 1589 Main. Fred Hammer and Sam Diner were the owners / proprietors.
Hammer was owner of the LaSalle Hotel in Elmwood in the 1920s and 30s and a well-known sportsman. Active with the Elmwood Hockey Club, the city's Senior Amateur Hockey League trophy was the known as the Fred Hammer Trophy. He was also long-time president of the Winnipeg Driving Club (harness racing) and ran a winter harness racing track on the Red River behind his hotel in the winter.
Diner was owner of the Nugget Hotel at 711 Main Street and active in many local sports organizations.
May 29, 1926, Manitoba Free Press
The name of the hotel comes from the fact that Frank Shea, of the brewing family, is likely the man who bankrolled the venture. His father Pat bred Clydesdales that not only pulled his beer wagons, but won championships around North America (and were sold to Budweiser shortly before his death).
Frank's passion was racehorses. Through the 1920s and early 1930s his Green Brier Stables dominated the local horse racing scene and won many races around North America, (also see here and here).
1935 Manitoba Amateur Diamond Ball Assoc. program (source)
Though the stables and hotel were spelled Green Brier, it is often be found spelled Briar in media articles and sometimes even their own classifieds and other ads as above.
In the early 1940s the address was changed to 1611 Main Street as a service station was added to the property called the Green Brier Service Station.
January 9, 1965, Winnipeg Free Press
In 1965 the hotel was renovated to include a new Briar Patch Room and larger coffee shop.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Three years ago today it was announced that the empty Bell Hotel on Main Street would undergo a $6m renovation.
Built in 1906, it was spared during a purge of many Main Street's single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels in the late 1990s which saw places like the Leland, Brunswick,and Savoy closed and torn down. The belief was that if you simply removed the number of bars and undesirable residents then the area would rejuvenate. That, of course, did not happen.
Cities like New York, L.A. and Vancouver have been taking different routes in dealing with SROs. Realizing that they were an important part of the housing market, they worked with non-profit organizations to renovate them into assisted housing and in place of the hotel bar offer social or community services. (For more on this read my 2008 post The Winnipeg SRO Hotel.)
Despite the fact that in 2005 there were about 1,000 people living in Winnipeg SROs, many of them by choice, we've been late to catch on to this ... until the Bell.
Maybe we're catching on that there's a better way of dealing with our SROs.
A history of the Bell Hotel Winnipeg Downtown Places
The Winnipeg SRO Hotel West End Dumplings
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I was leaving the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation's website launch at city hall last week and had to do a double take when I saw a fully lit (and functioning) main hall at the Union Bank Tower, now the Paterson Globalfoods Institute.
The hall was a Union Bank, then Royal Bank, branch until about 1992 when it moved to a newly built location at Main and James. For a couple of decades it sat in darkness and is now Red River College's Jane's restaurant.
RRC's old gem a beauty Winnipeg Free Press (April 2012)
Union Bank Tower Historic Buildings Committee Report
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Every building has a great story (or two or 5) to tell. When I learned via the Twitterverse that the unique looking house at 47 Arlington Street is up for sale, I just had to dig in.
Its appearance suggests that it once was a grocery store. For whatever reason, that clay tile roof motif was used throughout Winnipeg by grocers in the 1920s, be they independents or part of a chain. In fact, when Safeway set up shop here in 1929 they adopted it as well.
In the first week of January 1922 a building permit was granted to Arni Eggertson for the erection of a $5,000 brick store on the east side of Arlington Street just south of Wolseley Avenue. You might think that this is an odd location to put a store and 101 years ago Wolseleyites felt the same.
A "large delegation of residents of the district" turned up at the January 25, 1922 Public Safety Committee meeting of council to demand that construction be stopped and that this portion of the street be declared a residential zone. The city couldn't do either on the spot so the community mobilized.
March 23, 1922, Manitoba Free Press
Residents created a petition and submitted it at the following week's city council meeting demanding that a bylaw be passed to make Arlington Street from Wolseley Avenue to the Assiniboine River a residential zone. They ensured that delegations showed up at each committee along the way and they finally go their wish on the evening of May 22, 1922.
As for the construction, residents went to court and got a temporary injunction against Eggertson. On March 15 the Manitoba Court of Appeal held a special session to rule on the issue. I cannot find newspaper coverage of the outcome but, as you will see below, the store eventually got built.
January 24, 1924, Manitoba Free Press
In the years to come, others would try and fail to make a go of it. In 1924 it was Getty's Grocery, in 1925 it briefly became part of the local Neals Foods chain, in 1929 - 30 it was B. Wing's Yorkshire Grocery, in 1931 Victory Tailor Shop and in 1932 Roy's Handy Shop.
Osmond ca. 1959
In the late 1930s one man finally found success. Harry Osmond opened Osmond's Grocery and his family lived on-site. His son, Harry Jr., was an award-winning science grad from the U of M and daughter Harriet ("Babe") worked in the store with her father.
By the early 1950s Harry was in his 70's and retired. Harriet took over the store and she and husband Henry Michaelis moved in with Harry.
In the mid 1950s the store became Osmond's Solo Store and by 1960 it was back to Osmond's Grocery. It was operated by Harriet and Harry until at least 1985. The store had been held up six times between 1978 and 1985, twice with knives.
I can't find when Harry died. Harriet died in 1987 and Henry in 1993.
As Neals Store ca. 1925
As Solo Store ca. 1954
So, there you go. If you want to own a house that's not only super-funky but has also changed the nature of the street that it sits on, be sure to check it out !