Monday, 28 November 2011

The Braunstein Block - 148 Higgins Avenue

Braunstein Block

The Braunstein Block at 148 Higgins Avenue is getting a much deserved renovation, just in time for its centenary !

Braunstein Block, Be Canadian First Building !
Braunstein Block, Be Canadian First Building !

Most don't know it by name but will recognize the wedge shaped building that had Point Douglas Trading Company and and the Be Canadian First signs on the facade.

The building and its owners appear to have had a quiet past, here's what I was able to dig up.

January 15, 1914


Israel and Tina Braunstein
came to Winnipeg from Vienna in 1899. They had the block built in 1913 to house their wholesaling business on the main floor with around four rental suites upstairs. It appears that the couple initially lived in the building until they started a family and moved to to 41 Argyle Street, (now demolished).

January 21, 1915. Winnipeg Free Press.

I see that Israel applied for a liquor wholesaling license in 1915. If he got it, I could find no mention of it being granted, he wouldn't have been able to do too much with it as Manitobans voted in favour of prohibition in March 1916 !

June 10, 1921, Winnipeg Free Press

In 1921 the first ads for the Braunstein's Quality Grocery and Fruit Market appear. Soon, there was a meat section featuring store-made sausages and an on-premises smokehouse. In 1941 the meat department equipment was sold off.

The store was a family affair. Both Israel and Tina worked there as did many of their 7 children, daughters Goldie and Bernita and sons David (who would go on to be a doctor), Albert, Cecil, Barney and Murray.

1945 ad from church bulletin

For a brief time in the 1940s there was a second location at 1527 Main Street (now demolished).

February 21, 1942. Winnipeg Tribune

One remarkable tenant was Mrs. Benoit. While her husband and three sons all went off to war, she lived at the Braunstein Block. A search of the Virtual War Museum indicates that all four survived. (Not, sadly, the same outcome for Mrs. Lytle who lived there during WWI.)

Israel died in 1945 and sons Cecil, Albert and Barney became the proprietors. In 1950 - 51 there was a new owner named Nick Kowal.

August 28, 1959, Winnipeg Free Press

Tragedy came in August 1959 when a 13 year old boy who lived in the building, Daniel James Dufrane, fell to his death. He and a friend were playing on the rooftop.

ca. 1975

The property came up for sale again in 1975, the ad listing the deceptive 82 foot frontage.

ca. 1978. Source

In the early 1980s the building was renovated and became the Fort Douglas Trading Company, a discount store. In recent years, though the commercial section of the building appears to be abandoned it was actually home to a wholesale souvenir and plastics company.

I could find no details about the current renovation.


Anonymous said...

Well, this brings back memories. This store,'Braunstein's' to us,and Mary's store (Kowal), at Higgins and Argyle St., SW corner, were our local supermarkets.
As a kid I would fetch things for the house and got to know Cecil and 'Al', but never saw much of Barney.
Very friendly and likeable guys, so nice in fact that Al would take me and his son to Goldeyes games at the Winnipeg Stadium.This being late 1950's early 1960's.
Those were good times until Juba destroyed South Point Douglas and put in the Disraeli Freeway.
Many homes being expropriated and demolished led to the demise of these two iconic little grocery stores.
SPD today, unfortunately, is turning into a socialist nirvana, what with 3 union shops and race based help centres.
That's the inconvenient truth, like it or not.

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks for adding this ! These histories mean so much more when people who actually knew those involved weigh in !