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Monday 15 July 2024

The woman who fought Maryland Street's one way designation

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

July 16, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

Gladys Edwards became a hero to some in 1956 when she halted the seemingly unstoppable march of the city's one-way street system through residential sections of the core area. She fought city hall and won, even if only for a few weeks.

Before I go into details about Edwards' battle to save Maryland Street, here is some background on the implementation of the city's one-way street system.

June 26, 1954, Winnipeg Tribune

As tens of thousands of people moved to far flung suburban developments in the 1950s and 60s it was up to the city's traffic commission to find ways to get all of those cars into and out of the city's core each weekday. 
Unlike some North American cities, Winnipeg did not develop a large-scale freeway system that required entire neighbourhoods to be demolished. Still, it tore down hundreds of homes to create new arterial roads and bridge approaches and brought in a one-way street system to keep the traffic moving. (Road projects that did impact neighbourhoods include the Disraeli Freeway in 1960 and the Cumberland Corridor in 1970.) 

The city's one-way street system was introduced by its traffic commission on an experimental basis on June 29, 1954 with the pairing of Princess/Donald Street and King/Smith Street, (see map above). Buoyed by its success, the city made every north-south street in the downtown from Main Street to Memorial Boulevard a one-way by 1956.

Many drivers, property owners, and businesses complained bitterly about the changes but it was clear that council would not be swayed and in any dispute the traffic commission always won.

September 23, 1955, Winnipeg Free Press

In September 1955, the traffic commission tried to tackle the twice daily traffic jam on the Maryland Street Bridge which at the time was just a single span.

It began by making Maryland Street traffic a one-way travelling southbound between Portage and Wolseley avenues. (It could not be brought all the way to the bridge because of traffic flow issues around the Misericordia Hospital that still had to be worked out.) A series of 'no left turn' intersections and the removal of some on-street parking helped the flow and forced north bound traffic off the bridge through Cornish Avenue over to Sherbrook Street.

Phase two of the plan was to go into effect the following year. It would make both Sherbrook and Maryland streets one-ways from Portage to Notre Dame avenues.

Residents and small business owners showed up at traffic commission meetings to argue that Marlyland Street in particular was a quiet residential road not meant for the traffic loads and parking disruptions that would be brought about by the new system. It fell on deaf ears.

The traffic commission's final plan was sent to city council to rubber stamp at its July 16, 1956 meeting, but that is not what happened. As one Winnipeg Free Press columnist noted, "In all the best smoke-filled rooms, the city's smoothest lobbyists were agreed. You couldn't stop the one-way street plan.... That is up until Monday night."

Gladys Edwards

There was a single delegation that showed up at the meeting to speak in opposition to the Maryland Street one way plan. It was 36-year-old Gladys Edwards, a mother and housewife who lived in a bungalow at 721 Maryland Street near Notre Dame Avenue.

Like many of her neighbours, Edwards was concerned about the detrimental effects the one way system would have on Maryland Street and she reeled them off before council: the increased traffic loads and the dangers it would pose to area children; making the street a truck route would cause additional noise and vibrations to houses along it; the additional cost of adding traffic lights on Maryland at Ellice, Sargent and Notre Dame avenues; and the loss of on-street parking on one side of the road.

After each concern she asked councillors if they had done studies on the matter or even spent time to think through the impacts. Her questions caught them flat footed and some reluctantly admitted that they didn't seem to have all of the information they needed to make a decision.

Edwards presented an alternative. She suggested that Sherbrook Street, which due to its street car line was already wider, had traffic lights at major intersections, and was much more commercial in nature, be widened further and become a two-way street.

Alderman Slaw Rebchuk who represented the North End said that after looking at a zoning map of the area it was clear to him that Maryland Street was a residential street and that the impacts needed to be studied further. He presented a motion that the traffic commission's report be amended so that only Sherbrook Street be made a one-way north of Portage Avenue.

It passed without a single dissenter.

The Free Press in particular covered Edwards' victory as a David vs. Goliath battle.

Alderman Paul Goodman, chair of the traffic commission who was said to have looked 'baffled' as the vote against its plan was being taken on the floor of council, gave Edwards her due. He agreed that the commission needed to do a better job in future explaining the merits of its proposals.

Traffic planners were less conciliatory. Deputy traffic engineer Andrew Sharp vowed that the traffic commission would reintroduce the plan at the next council meeting. He said that reducing traffic congestion only worked if the one way designation of both Maryland and Sherbrook streets was extended beyond Portage Avenue to Notre Dame.

City council again reviewed the street commission's plan at its July 30, 1956 meeting. Unfortunately, the Edwards family was on vacation at the time and could not attend.

Still, some of Mrs. Edwards' arguments from the previous meeting came up during the debate. In the end though, the traffic commission's insistence that their traffic plan only worked if both streets were one-ways north of Portage Avenue won the day. The vote was 11 - 5 in favour.

Traffic on Maryland Street would have increased again in 1970 when the Cumberland Corridor created a new intersection that allowed cars from both Notre Dame Avenue and the portion of Sherbrook Street north of Notre Dame Avenue, which is still two way traffic, to flow onto it.

What became of Gladys Edwards?

She wrote a letter to the Free Press in August 1956 about the one-way street system (see above) and another in 1964 about the city's heavy use of road salt that was killing the grass on boulevards. She also contributed tidbits to Gene Telpner's Coffee Time column in the Winnipeg Free Press in the early 1960s.

The trail goes cold in 1965. That is the last year digitized Henderson Directories are available online and her last mention in Telpner's column. There is no further mention of her or her husband, Eric (Alf) Edwards who worked at Bristol Aerospace, in local papers, including obituaries.

Friday 12 July 2024

Farewell, Union Overall Co. Building

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

579 McDermot in April 2015, Google Street View

Sad news that the 114-year-old Union Overall / Western Paper Box building at 579 McDermot Avenue has started to collapse, (also see), while being renovated into a residential block.

Here's a look back at the building's history before it's gone.

1914 Henderson's Directory of Winnipeg

The Union Overall Company was established in Winnipeg around 1904 and was the successor to the defunct Hoover Manufacturing Company. Its unionized workers produced overalls, work jackets and work shirts that were sold across the developing West.

Business was good and the company was constantly in need of larger space. Its initial factory was located at 301 Portage Avenue and it moved in 1905 to the MacRae Block on James Avenue where it soon took up the entire building. After a brief stint on Cumberland Avenue it moved into its new premises at 579 McDermot Avenue in January 1911.

The building, originally four stories in hiegh, was designed by J H G Russell for around $45,000.

September 25, 1915, Winnipeg Tribune

Thanks to new investment, likely by local dry goods wholesaler Stobart, Sons and Co., the garment manufacturer branched out in 1915 with a new division called Faultless Ladies' Wear Company. It was was established to "improve style conditions of ladies' wearing apparel" in Canada by keeping a close eye on fashion trends in New York and manufacturing them here soon after their release.

The new production line required that an additional storey be added to the building and advertisements seeking 25 sewing machine operators appeared in newspapers in August 1915.

Union Overall / Faultless did not survive the war and ceased operation in 1917. The following year, Ben Jacob and John Crowley of the Jacob Crowley Manufacturing Co. bought out the assets and rebranded the company as Jacob Crowley Cloakmakers, (eventually calling it Montreal Cloak), which lasted at this location for just a few years.

Rear of 579 McDermot in 2007 (C. Cassidy)

The next major tenant of the building lasted much longer than Union Overall.

Leopold "Leo" Meltzer came to Manitoba in 1903 and operated several businesses before opening Western Paper Box Company in 1921. It moved to 579 McDermot the following year.

Western produced folding boxes for everything from food products to garments and shipped them throughout the West. By 1925, Meltzer had added a second company called Zenith Printing under the same roof so that he could print the boxes in-house.

Western and Zenith did not take up the whole building. Space was leased out to other tenants, which in 1926 included Peters and Herron, automobile tops and seat covers, and Cowell's Harness Co..

Leo Meltzer died in 1959 and his son Earl became the president of the company until his retirement in September 1984. A trio of long-time employees, Alexander "Sonny" Fedoruk, Cal Kveder, and Steve Gregory, then bought it. Eventually, Sonny and his wife Janet became the owners.

The company was still in operation in 2019.

May 2022 zoning variance application

In May 2022, new owners of the building applied for a zoning variance to convert it into 50 residential units. The redevelopment was slow, the city even cited it under the Vacant Buildings Bylaw in October 2023, but by 2024 there were active building permits for renovation work.

In July 2024 the foundation failed and the building's walls have bowed. It is expected to be demolished.

Sunday 26 May 2024

Farewell, Young Food Mart

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

Young Food Mart in 2007 (Flickr)

Sad news that Young Food Mart at 96 Young Street had to be demolished after a fire on May 24, 2024.

For about a decade in the late 90s and early 00s, I lived right next door to the store and my roommate and I jokingly called it our pantry. A nice Korean couple, the Kins, ran it. It was not just a food store but a hub for the neighbourhood. Here's a look back at its early history.

August 2, 1945, Winnipeg Tribune

Young Food Mart opened ca. 1928 as George Lunn Confectionery. After a year or so, Lunn moved on to be a supervisor at one of the several Piggly Wiggly stores that opened in the city.

Lunn was followed by short-term owners J. W. Welby in 1930 and James Allen by 1934.

The Plotkins in costume for a Purim Party, undated
Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

The first long-term owners of the store were Jacob and Bertha Plotkin. Both were Russian Jews who came to Canada in 1907 and 1912, respectively.

From the 1933 to the 1937 street directory, Bertha is listed as the proprietor living at 10 Balmoral Street and Jacob isn't listed at all. This suggests that he worked out of town or travelled. From the 1937 to 1947 directory, he is listed as proprietor.

The Plotkins, who were in their mid-forties when they took over this store, were well-known in Winnipeg's Jewish Community.

Bertha was an active member of Canadian Jewish Congress, Jewish Public Library, Jewish Historical Society and several education-related committees. Jacob was a member of Jewish Congress, Jewish Welfare Fund, Jewish old folks home and on the fundraising committee of Peretz Folk School.

In 1948, the Plotkins took over Judy's Shoppe, a men's and ladies' wear store at 882 Main Street and ran it until their retirement around 1962.

October 9, 1969, Winnipeg Tribune

The couple kept busy with their committee work and Jacob worked the odd shift as a clerk at The Peoples Store owned by Israel Pinczowksi at 852 Main Street.

Plotkin, 84, was on duty on September 20, 1969, when two armed teens entered the store looking for money. They used their rifle to beat him badly and leave him with a fractured skull, broken ribs, and internal injuries, He died 49 days later in hospital.

The teens, who netted $160 for their efforts, were later arrested.

Plotkin's killing shocked the community and 350 people showed up for his funeral in October 1969. Tribune coverage of the funeral noted that he was described as gentle, wise, and scholarly, and a man who helped those who needed help.

Bertha Plotkin died in 1974.

Jack Corey took over from the Plotkins and it became known as Corey's Grocery from 1948 to 1952.

Greg and Edwina "Winnie" Cunningham of Kavanagh Street took over in 1953.

The Cunninghams married in 1941 when Greg was serving as a pilot in the Second World War. After the war, he became a pilot instructor with the forces then bought the store. He had previously worked with his father in the grocery business. They had a daughter named Coralee.

For a few years, the store was known as Cunninham's Red and White Store. Red and White was one of several local chains that allowed dozens of small, independent grocers to pool their buying power and advertising dollars. By the late 1950s, that affiliation appears to have ended but the store became Cunningham's Lucky Dollar, another chain, in the 1960s.

The Cunninghams ran the store until at least 1965. That's when the availability of online versions of the street directories end. (One can go to the Millennium Library and look up later years manually.)

Greg Cunningham died in 1999 and Winnie Cunningham died in 2005.

I lived in this neighbourhood starting in 1997 just after it hit rock bottom. One newspaper had dubbed West Broadway "Murder's Half Acre" for the amount of violent crime in the area. At that time, the store was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Kin.

Mr. Kin was noted for his refusal to provide money to would-be thieves even when they came armed with handguns, shotguns or knives. His antics, which sometimes included chasing them down the sidewalk with a shovel in hand, led police on at least two occasions to contact the media to urge shop owners not to resist.

In one July 1997 story, there had been four armed robbery attempts at his store in the previous six months.

Kin managed to survive the attempts and in the early 2000s I found him and his wife running a grocery store downtown.

Sunday 12 May 2024

Behind the Photo: Cigar Stand

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

Often I will see an old photo or ad and spend some time digging into its back story. Sometimes I find a great story, sometimes not. Either way, I learn a few things about the city's history. Here's my latest attempt:

The above image was posted in the Manitoba Postcard Collectors Forum on Facebook. It is part of the vast Rob McInnes postcard collection, (you can see some of it here), and is used in this post with his permission.

The image is by Maurice Lyall of the Lyall Commercial Photo Co. of Winnipeg and contains no mention of a year or the location of the news stand. A resourceful member of the forum traced one of the magazine covers back to February 1912. A note on the back of the card states "This is Fred & Len's stall. That is Fred behind the counter."

After some digging through street directories, I found that this is the Foster Bros. News and Cigar Stand inside the McLaren Hotel operated by Frederick W. and R. Leonard Foster.

1911 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The Fosters came to Canada from their native Sussex, England in 1893. The family consisted of Alfred, a builder, and his wife Annie, along with their children Frederick, Herbert, Sidney, Charles, Augustine, R. Leonard, and Adelaide.

In 1903, tragedy struck when Alfred died of a heart attack while working in Minnedosa. At the time, the children ranged in age from 16 to 26 and all lived together at the family home on Furby Street.

The family remained close-knit. The year after Alfred's death, Annie and the children moved to a house at 527 Pembina Highway then to Beresford Avenue. The 1916 census shows them, minus Sidney and Charles, living together at 693 Rosedale Avenue.

March 3, 196, The Voice

Fred and Len Foster followed in their father's footsteps and became carpenters and in the early 1900s both worked for the CPR.

How they transitioned from being carpenters to running a news stand at the McLaren Hotel is unclear. The 1912 street directory lists the two men with no occupations and in the 1913 directory, the data for which would have been complied in mid-1912, there they are as Foster Bros. News and Cigar Stand.

McLaren Hotel ca. 1911

The 150-room McLaren Hotel was opened in September 1911 by the McLaren Brothers. Aside from CPR's 300-room Royal Alexandra Hotel at Higgins Avenue, the McLaren was the largest hotel on the Main Street strip between Portage and Main and the CPR Depot.

Unlike the grander railway hotels, the other being the Grand Trunk's Hotel Fort Garry which would open in 1913, the McLaren was a middle-class hotel offering more affordable room rates and meal options.

Frederick married Amy Craddeck in December 1915 and by 1917 moved to 260 Mandeville Street in St. James.

Len took a different path and enlisted to fight in the war on September 2, 1914. He served as a
private with the 10th Battalion Infantry and was killed in action on April 23, 1916 at the age of 29. He is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground in Belgium.

After Len's death, Charles took his place at the McLaren alongside Frederick.

The Fosters got out of the news stand business around 1926. Frederick, still living on Mandeville, went back to being a carpenter. Charles, who lived at 602 Jubilee did the same.

Frederick disappears from street drectories around 1945 and it is unclear what happened to him later in life. I could find no obituary for him and census records for that time are not yet accessible.

More Behind the Photo entries

Saturday 11 May 2024

Birchwood Terrace evacuated

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

Shocking news that the 170-suite Birchwood Terrace apartment block at 2440 Portage Avenue has been suddenly shut down by the city after an inspection "uncovered severe deterioration of its structure in various locations". Tenants had to scramble to evacuate overnight.

Construction on Birchwood Terrace began in July 1962. The $790,000 building permit was issued to owner and prominent builder Frank Lount and Son.

Lount was a prolific local builder in the 1930s through the 1950s. His designs helped define the newly developed Silver Heights neighbourhood in St. James. His most famous building is the iconic Winnipeg Clinic on St. Mary Avenue.

February 6, 1963, Winnipeg Free Press

“For rent” ads for the new building began running in early February 1963. It offered a range of sizes from bachelor to two bedrooms and included amenities like an outdoor pool and underground parkade.

July 31, 1963, Winnipeg Tribune

Its first year was marred by sad deaths. In July 1963, 8-year-old Lorraine Doyle of suite 125 was killed by a truck crossing the street near the front of the building. In February 1964, 27-year-old mother of three Lee Rae McKee slipped on ice and fell to her death from her fourth floor balcony.

December 5, 1992, Winnipeg Free Press

The building had a close call in 1992 when a massive gas explosion at Granny's Kitchen restaurant across the street destroyed two buildings and broke windows and sent shrapnel flying throughout the neighbourhood, including at Biorchwood Terrace. Nobody was seriously hurt or killed.

Source: Lakeview Agencies

According to newspaper reports, the building is managed by Lakeview Agencies on behalf of Ladco. The third party engineer had been in the building's parkade for several days performing an inspection. The fix, should the owners decide to do it, is expected to take months.

Such a failure is likely a maintenance issue rather than a constitution issue. Still, this building may have a number of "DNA cousins" out there considering the number of buildings Lount constructed. Someone at the city likely needs to go back through some dusty old building permits to find them and make sure inspections are done to them as well.

My heartfelt sympathies go out to those who have been evacuated.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Winnipeg’s ‘Swedish Main Street’

My latest Winnipeg Free Press Community Review article looks at the history of Logan Avenue, once known as Winnipeg’s ‘Swedish Main Street’. Check it out here

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Sellers / MacAulay residence at 1125 Wellington Crecent for sale

© 2024, Christian Cassidy

Source: Realtor.ca

One of Winnipeg's grand, old homes is up for sale for a cool $2.3 million. Here is a look back at its history and some of the people, three families in total, who have called it home over the past century.

June 5, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

George Downey, a real estate developer, and W. P. Wallace, a well-known contractor, formed the Security Construction Company in 1929.

In its first summer of operation, the company it took out at least seven building permits for large homes including 57 Waterloo, 86 Wellington Crescent, and 1125 Wellington Crescent. This home was their largest building permit of the year at nearly $20,000.

The home is believed to have been designed by local architect John M. Simmons who was well-known in the late 1920s for his work on several city schools.

Security Construction concentrated its focus on large, exclusive homes for the next decade and remained in business until around 1951.

1931 Census of Canada, Library and Archives Canada

The first to call 1125 Wellington Crescent home was the Sellers family who moved here from Dromore Avenue.

Herbert Sellers was the western manager for Ogilvie Flour Mills. The 1931 census shows the rest of the family consisted of his wife Louise and daughters Flora, Marion, Lois (it is misspelled in the census record), and Mary, who ranged in age from 15 to 26. A domestic servant, 20-year-old Ukrainian Mandey Sopby, also lived with them. 

Despite Mr. Sellers' high profile job, it was Mrs. Sellers who was constantly in the newspaper.

The first reception she held at the new home was a silver tea on November 22, 1929 was to raise money for the Christmas fund of First Presbyterian Church on Canora Street. Over the next several months there were teas almost every week to introduce young ladies to society or to celebrate a new bride-to-be.

Mrs. Sellers wasn't just a socialite, she used her status and the home to host meetings or raise funds for dozens of charities and causes. She was a long-time executive member of the Women's Committee of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Central Council of Social Agencies, the Women's Club of Winnipeg, and the Ladies Aid Society of First Presbyterian Church.

One of her proudest moments at the house, no doubt, was hosting the wedding ceremony of her daughter Marion in August 1933. A lavish reception was held for the newlywed couple in late September after they returned from their honeymoon.

November 14, 1933, Winnipeg Tribune

Sadly, that would be one of the last large social functions at the house by Mrs. Sellers. She caught a cold in early November 1933 that developed into pneumonia and died on November  12, 1933 at the age of 56.

The Winnipeg Tribune reported at the time of her death, "...the death of Mrs Sellers on Sunday came as a shock to her friends and hundreds who have benefited by her charity work.... No woman in Winnipeg is more well known or more dearly beloved than Mrs. Sellers...."

Many organisations paid tribute to Mrs. Sellers in the weeks following her death. First Presbyterian Church, which had a half-hour broadcast on CKY radio every Sunday morning, dedicated an episode to speak about her life and work. It also dedicated its new pipe organ installed the following year to her memory.

A much more sombre wedding took place in June 1934 for Flora Sellers. A Winnipeg Tribune social column noted that "the marriage will take place quietly at the family residence."

The Sellers family continued to live at 1125 Wellington Crescent until 1940.

John A. MacAulay in 1963

After hiring Frank Lount to do $1,000 in alterations to the house, the MacAulays moved there in 1941.

The family consisted of  John A. MacAulay, a partner in Aikins MacAulay law firm, his wife Phyllis McPherson and their children Carol and Blair. Initially, John's sister Elizabeth, principal of Argyle School, also lived at the house.

Born in Morden, Manitoba, MacAulay received both a law degree and arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 1918 while serving in World War I. He then joined the legal firm run by James Aikins which became known as Aikins MacAulay Thorvaldson and remained a partner until his death.

MacAuly (right) accepting Nobel Peace Prize (Source: ICRC Archives)

MacAulay was a long-time supporter of the International Red Cross.

In 1939, as the Second World War started, he was asked to volunteer on the local committee and became the provincial chair in 1945. He became national chair in 1950 and international chair from 1957 to 1964. The latter involved a great deal of travel and he is said to have visited at least 42 countries, many with Phyllis at his side.

When the organisation was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963, he and Phyllis went to Oslo in December to accept the award on its behalf. The prize money and medal obviously remained the property of the Red Cross, though this February 1964 image from the Winnipeg Tribune archives suggests that the medal may have come to Winnipeg for a time.

Macaulay received the Order of Canada in 1967 for his service to the Red Cross and in 2015 was posthumously awarded a Red Cross Legacy Award.

The MacAulays enjoy a sculpture on their grounds before a public tour in 1961
(Tribune Personality Collection, U of M Archives)

The MacAulays were avid art collectors and supporters of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Mr. MacAulay served as the WAG's president from 1950 to 1978 and oversaw its move from the civic auditorium to its signature building on Osborne Street.

The couple held numerous teas and tours of their house to show off some of their impressive collection and raise money for the Art Gallery's volunteer committee.

When Princess Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon came to Winnipeg in September 1971 on a Royal tour there was a 45 minute stop at the house. This was likely to see the art collection as the couple were here to officially open the new Winnipeg Art Gallery building. (Construction of the building fell behind schedule and after the official opening it was closed again until it opened to the public in January 1972.)

After MacAulay's death in November 1978, there was one final open house to show off as much of the art as possible in August 1979. The works included a Van Gogh, three Renoirs, a Gauguin, a Rodin painting and sculpture, a Degas, and three Emily Carrs. They also had an extensive collection of sculptures. Some of these works became part of the WAG's collection.

December 16, 1944, Winnipeg Tribune

When Phyllis McPherson married John MacAulay in 1928 she was already making a name for herself in music circles as a mezzo-soprano / contralto.

In the 1930s and 40s, she appeared as a soloist at various concerts and productions staged by organisations such as the Winnipeg Music Club and Winnipeg Philharmonic Orchestra. Several of her performances were carried on local CKY and CBC radio stations, some were even broadcast nationally.

Phyllis moved from the house the year after her husband's death. She died in June 1999 at the age of 93. Her obituary noted that she had a "long and happy life."

Source: Realtor.ca

According to a Winnipeg Free Press story about the final art show at the house in August 1979, the next owners of 1125 Wellington Crescent, James and Judy Fields, moved in later that summer. James was chairman and CEO of Brooks Equipment Ltd., a heavy machinery dealer covering Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

According to the for current sale listing, 1125 Wellington Crescent has had the same owners since 1979.

Video tour of 1125 Wellington
Sale listing for 1125 Wellington