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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Farewell, Yellow Warehouse

In early October workmen started prepping The Yellow Warehouse at 764 Main Street for demolition, part of Winnipeg's recent demolition derby. Here is a look back at the building before it's gone.

764 Main Street

Most Winnipeggers have driven past the circa 1909 Stuart Machinery / Yellow Warehouse building hundreds of times and not given it much thought. Located just above eye level as you enter the CPR subway it's easy to miss, even with the garish paint job.

James Stuart (Source: MHS)

In my research I found a fascinating prehistory involving James Stuart, the first owner of this building. Stuart's story is also that of the formation of the city's municipal electric and water service. For more on Stewart pre-764 Main Street.

Catholic Centennial Souvenir, 1912 (Source)

The Stuart Machinery Limited company specialized in the sale of machinery to the electrical, lumber, water and laundry industries. In fact, they could assemble and ship-to-site the entire compliment of machinery needed for a lumber mill, industrial laundry or small electrical generating station - you just had to have the empty building ready !

The first Stuart machinery building on the site, a more modest two storey affair, was badly damaged in a fire in March 1909. The salvageable portion of of the building was dragged to the back of the property and they rented nearby space to make up for what they lost.

February 12, 1910, Winnipeg Free Press

In the summer of 1909 construction began on a new four storey, red brick building. It opened in February 1910. Given that it would be warehousing industrial machinery, it boasted a 7 x 18 foot elevator capable of carrying six tons.

March 11, 1912,
The New York Times, (read the Times story)

Barely two years after opening, Stewart Machinery was almost razed again by the devastating Radford-Wright building fire.

A serial arsonist named James Dodds had been terrorizing the city for months. On the night of March 9, 1912 he set fire to the neighbouring Radford Wright building, a window and door manufacturer. An employee of Stuart Machinery noticed smoke and notified police. His quick action likely saved the entire block from burning.

Radford-Wright site in 1912 (source) and 2011

When the burning walls collapsed seven people lost their lives, including two firemen. Nine others were injured. The lot remains empty to this day. (For more on Dodds and his fires.)

Newspaper ad ca. 1908

Stuart Machinery carried on for only another year. In 1913 James Stuart sold both of his companies, (the James Stuart Electric Company was where he spent most of his time). Stuart Machinery was bought by long-time rival W. R. Williams Machinery.

January 20, 1925, Winnipeg Free Press

James Stuart died in January 1925 at his daughter's home at Manhattan Beach, California. The former alderman, school trustee and first Water and Light Commissioner of the city was 72.

September 3, 1919, Winnipeg Free Press

Williams Machinery carried on at the site until the Depression when they closed their Winnipeg facility.

April 29, 1956, Winnipeg Free Press

June 20, 1935, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1935 Winnipeg's soon to be wholesale king Joe Werier bought the building.

Werier emigrated with his parents Joseph and Mary from Odessa, Russia in 1903. Here, he married a Scottish woman named Ada and had four daughters and five sons. He was active in the founding of a number of Jewish organizations in the city including the
Hebrew Sick Benefit Association.

In February 1928 Werier bought out a grocery wholesale business and soon 764 Main became became a grocery warehouse upstairs with his paint and wallpaper retail store on the main floor.

Ad ca. August 1952

Over time, pretty much everything imaginable was sold from the building. From used hospital beds and jewellery to farm tractors and sausage stuffers. The mainstays of the business, though, became used restaurant equipment and used office furniture.

Werier sign, Princess Street ca. 2010

September 1, 1971, Winnipeg Free Press

Joseph Werier died in 1956 and son Sam took over the business. In 1961 J Werier and Co. added a location at 238 Princess Street and in 1971 the 764 Main location was renamed, and repainted, The Yellow Warehouse.

May 28, 1999, Winnipeg Free Press

The Yellow Warehouse continued in business until 1999. The building sat vacant until 2007 when the neighbouring Vineyard Church bought the property. After an unsuccessful attempt at redeveloping the building the decision was made to demolish it and beautify the site.

Photos from October 2011:

764 Main Street
764 Main Street
J Werier sign peeking from under the yellow paint
764 Main Street
764 Main Street
Front entrance
764 Main Street
Main floor staircase
764 Main Street
Lonely angel


The Yellow Warehouse
November 2011. First strike but through mid December, nothing more !


Anonymous said...

What is the plan for the yellow warehouse site? Is it going to become another parking lot?

Christian Cassidy said...

I am not sure. i cannot find anything about the site on the city website, even for the demo. Someone who lives in the hood told me that what the workmen were doing.

I am going to guess, given that the lot next to it that burned in 1909 is still vacant, that will be the fate of this one. It's just so close to the tracks and out of eye range for drivers I can't imagine it being a primo piece of property for someone.

Anonymous said...

Finally. I remember being 5 or 6 yrs old, driving past The Yellow Warehouse in Dad's big ol' shitbox & thinking to my 6 yr old brain "That place is a fucking eyesore. Somebody's gotta get rid of that crap!"
That was 35 years ago! Way to keep up Winnipeg!

nate said...

well, we're takin it down, anonymous, so let your dad know that his sore eyes can finally rest...after 35 years!

Hey, mrchristian, this is an amazing blog - thanks for your research and seriously fascinating presentation. Im part of the team at the vineyard (we own the property and the building next door at 782) that made the final decision to take the building down, and its with some sorrow we do so. I'm glad you put this up so we know more of the heritage that, unfortunately, we're saying goodbye to.

We purchased it in 2007 hopeful that we could turn it into something beautiful and useful, besides turning the crappy storage area outside into a bit of parking and now the memorial garden for the murdered girls that is presently taking shape. We've looked since then for partners to help us develop good housing in the yellow warehouse. We were still looking when the word from the city came: fix or demolish. Not having a million dollars handy (structural fixes alone would have cost couple hundred thousand before and real work even began) we havent had a choice. And demo aint cheap either.


We're determined that whatever eventually comes there, it'll be beautiful and a good thing for our great neighborhood. Couple weeks ago, Bridgeman Architects Collaborative helped us do a neighbourhood consult with anyone interested in what to do next on the property...some great ideas and vision started coming out. We're really interested in hearing what people around here have to say for the next stage. Even intermediately, it'll be nice. In the future? We'll, lets talk if you got ideas... nathan.wcv@gmail.com.

btw, the one thing youre wrong about: whats taken place on the radfordWright lot. Come around the back, see the beautiful garden space, bbq area etc, and see if you still call that vacant, lol. We've built extroardinary transitional housing for 30 people upstairs at 782 up above the church...and this is their community recreational space.

Help us envision what can come next. But whatever it is...let it be part of revitalizing our area. For us, this is prime property.

n8 at the vineyard

Christian Cassidy said...

Hi Nathan !

Thanks for your reply. I didn't realize that the Vineyard was the final owner. Too bad the plans didn't work out but it's nice to know that if a building has to go that at least it had a fighting chance at the end.

I did see a bit of that garden when I was taking pictures of the building. There were people sitting quietly in it so I didn't want to intrude by sticking my head or camera in.

I will PM you with more !

Anonymous said...

Hey my name is Kirsten. I am a member at vineyard and a community member in the north end. My idea was to build a school within it with dorms for children facing poverty and coming from dysfunctional homes. With roots in community and culture as well as church family. But it was nice to find out about the warehouse.maybe we can rewrite it's history with more positive highlights and greater success spiritually and physicially

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

Thanks for sharing the history of the Yellow Warehouse. I really enjoyed that! I like what you call yourself too--mrchristian.

Christian Cassidy said...

I am glad to hear that there was a lot of thought an effort went into the building in its final years. So often they just get demolished and people are happy to see them go.

Hopefully something good will spring from the site !

beth mckenna neufeld said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beth mckenna neufeld said...

I am so glad to see this blog about Winnipeg's buildings. The Yellow Warehouse is one of the many buildings I passed by while riding Winnipeg Transit as a small child, and so it became a part of my dreams. I will miss it for that reason. How neat though, that I now work next to it at The Vineyard; and so can watch the process of the area being beautified after the building comes down.

Though the Yellow Warehouse is going to be demolished, the land will now be beautified.

Christian Cassidy said...

Whatever you do, don't turn it into a surface parking lot ;)

Christian Cassidy said...

Next week is the 100th anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Radford Wright building, killing 7. Who at the Vineyard could I contact re putting a one page memorial in the courtyard ?