Saturday, 15 October 2016

Lives Lived at 514 Wellington Crescent

Top: ca. 2015, Google Street View
Bottom: ca. 1978, Winnipeg Building Index

The stately Gordon Mansion at 514 Wellington Crescent has been purchased by a developer and is under threat of demolition to make way for a condominium building.

In recent years, a growing number of older homes have met the same fate, though 514 Wellington would be one of the grandest. to suffer this fate Rising land prices and and the economics of owning such a large home, (the property taxes here alone are $15,000 per year), have made them targets for condo developments.

Here's a look back at some of the lives lived at 514 Wellington Crescent, but first a word about the architect.

Colin Campbell Chisholm was the son of prominent local architect James Chisholm.

He apprenticed under his father and soon joined him in business. Buildings they worked on together include: Young United Church (1907); the Sterling Bank Building (1911); the Granite Curling Club (1912); and the Olympia/Marlborough Hotel (1914). (For a more complete list.)

Later in his career, Colin Chisholm worked on larger, institutional projects. He was the consulting architect on the Amy Street Central Heating Plant (1924) and a large expansion of the city's police station (1930).

Chisholm was also well known across the prairies for being a championship curler. Aside from designing the Granite Curling Club, he was also one of its top players and at times served as its president. He was also president of the Manitoba Curling Association in 1921 and 1922.

Above: First floor landing

 Above: Main floor foyer

 Above: Sitting room

Above: Former ballroom
(Images Source: webview360, G. Williams)

The home he designed for Gordon is 8,185 square feet with 16 rooms, eight of them bedrooms with six bathrooms.

The interior is what one would expect from a grand 1909 home, featuring mahogany paneling and trim throughout. At the top first floor landing is a large stained glass window featuring a coat of arms, (the top panel appears to feature a "T" and "G",  so it is likely related to the original owner James T. Gordon.) 

The house also included a ballroom, servants quarters and a detached garage that was built a couple of years after the home featuring a chauffeur's apartment above it.

James T. Gordon Family (1909 - 1921)
ca. 1910, Winnipeg Free Press

James T. Gordon came to Winnipeg from Tweed, Ontario in 1879 and began working for a local lumber firm. In 1882, he struck out on his own and opened a lumber business in Manitou, Manitoba.

He sold up in 1885 and partnered in another lumber business in Pilot Mound with Robert Ironside. The pair expanded into the cattle trade and soon had contracts to supply meat to soldiers and railway work crews who were opening up the West.

By the mid 1880s, their company had become the largest cattle exporter in Canada, some years shipping up to tens of thousands of head of cattle mainly to England.

The pair then had joined forces with W. H. Fares of Alberta and centralized their operations in Winnipeg with a large packing plant on Logan Avenue near the CPR tracks.

Ca. 1919

Gordon served as an MLA from 1903 to 1910, was on the board of Sterling Bank, and president of the Standard Trusts Company and Monarch Life Insurance Company.

In June 1909, it was announced that he had purchased a 150 ft x 200 ft on Wellington Crescent at Kingsway to build a new, $40,000 family home. (The final cost was never disclosed.)

As for his company, it faltered during the First World War and in 1918 Gordon sold a 51% share to Harris Abattoir Co. of Toronto. In 1927, Harris merged the four plants it owned across the country into a new entity called Canada Packers.

Gordon died at the home on December 21, 1919.

One of Gordon's sons, C. E. Gordon, who was involved with the business' Alberta interests, moved back to Winnipeg with his family after his father's death and lived at the home with his widowed mother for a couple of years before purchasing another home on Kingsway Crescent.

Jessie Kirk Family (ca. 1916 - 1918)
ca. 1929 

As mentioned above, the home had quarters for at least one servant and a chauffeur's apartment above the detached garage. The 1915 Henderson Directory lists Kate McGrath as the live-in domestic and Jack Wilding as the chauffeur.

From 1916 to 1918, the chauffeur was William Kirk. Kirk came to Canada from England around 1912 with his family; wife Jessie and daughter Mary.

Jessie Kirk, a qualified teacher in England, found work at Mulvey School in 1914 but it was her politics that she became best known for.

September 8, 1917, Winnipeg Tribune

In 1917, while living at 514 Wellington, she was an organizer of the Women's Non-Political Union (1917-1918), which, along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Women's Labour League and Council of Women, brought women's issues into the political arena.

The WNU appears to have taken a broad view of women's issues, lobbying for things like improvements to hospitals, food security and quality rental housing. Kirk was becoming a prominent speaker around town on these issues.

In spring 1918, her school board contract - as well as those of 40 or so other women - was not renewed. The school argued that it was to make room for former teachers who were now returning in larger numbers from the war.

Kirk vowed to fight and at speaking engagements and Letters to the Editor made her layoff front page news. The WNU organized a delegation to appear before the School Board accusing them of letting her go due to her growing public prominence as a labour speaker.

She was reinstated in September and resumed teaching at Brooklands School until 1921.

December 6, 1920, Winnipeg Tribune

It appears that the Kirks moved out of 514 Wellington sometime in early 1918 as they are not listed in that year's Henderson Directory. Husband, William, got into sales and went on to have a 22-year career with Western Packing Ltd.

Jessie took her activism to the political stage. In December 1920, she became the first woman to be elected to Winnipeg city council, serving a two-year term (1921 -1922).

Kirk ran, and lost, a few more times but remained a voice for women and issues such as affordable housing into the 1930s and 40s.

William Bawlf Family (1921 - 1936)
ca. 1917

William "Billy" Bawlf was the son of local grain pioneer Nicholas Bawlf.

Bawlf also grew up in the family business, getting a seat on the Winnipeg Gran Exchange in 1903 at the age of 22. In 1917, he served as the Exchange's president.

He married Mary Ada Roe of Wisconsin in 1905, a University of Minnesota grad and heavily involved in the Victoria Order of Nurses and St. Josephs Orphanage.

By the time they purchased 514 Wellington Crescent the couple had four children, Nicolas, Robert, Rowena and Margaret.

ca. 1937

In 1927, William took over as president of the N. Bawlf Gain Co. The company's assets included 116 grain elevators and 32 grain annexes with a total capacity of 5.5 million bushels. He took the company public on February 1, 1929 and remained as chairman of the board of the new company until it was sold off in the 1940s.

Like Chisholm, Bawlf was as well known in sporting circles as he was for business. He played for the Allan Cup and Stanley Cup winning Winnipeg Victorias in 1901. He challenged again for the Stanley Cup, unsuccessfully, in 1904 as part of the Winnipeg Rowing Club hockey team.

From 1929 to 1931, he was president of the "Winnipegs" hockey club, which won the the Allan Cup in 1931 and the gold medal in men's hockey at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y..

By the mid 1930s the children were grown, the youngest finishing her university studies. In 1936 they sold the house.

Victor Sifton Family (1936 - 1961)
ca. 1960

Victor Sifton was also the son of a prominent Manitoban.

Sir Clifford Sifton
was a Brandon lawyer and Minister of the Interior (1896-1905) in the Laurier government, responsible for settlement and immigration. He was owner of the Winnipeg Free Press since 1897.

Victor enlisted in World War I at the age of 17. By 1918, he had been decorated and was the commanding officer of 4th Canadian Rifles. After the war he returned to Winnipeg for a time before heading to New York, Toronto and Shanghai to work for investment firms.

In 1928, he returned to Canada and worked for a number of years as publisher of his father's Regina paper, the Regina Leader.

In 1935, he returned to the Winnipeg to become general manager of the Winnipeg Free Press, settling at 514 Wellington with his family, wife Louise and three children.

In World War II, Sifton was appointed special assistant to J. L. Ralston, Minister of Defence. His role was referred to as "troubleshooter." He was made a Commander of the British Empire for his service.

Through the 1950s he expanded his media holdings with the formation of Trans Canada Communications Ltd., a radio network with four stations in Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. 

He also partnered with Max Bell and Richard S. Malone to create F P Publications which soon owned or controlled the Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Albertan, Ottawa Journal, Victoria Times, Victoria Colonist, Toronto Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun and Lethbridge Herald.

Sifton on Blackamoor, September 13, 1937, Winnipeg Tribune

Sifton had a life-long interest in sports. He was vice-president of the 1911 and 1912 Winnipeg Victorias, two-time Allan Cup champions. He was also a breeder and jumper of championship horses and, in 1937, president of the Winnipeg Winter Club.

Sifton joined the board of governors of the University of Manitoba in 1947 and was its chancellor from 1952 to 1959. He was also chair of the Manitoba Red Cross during World War II and president of the Canadian Press in 1948 and 1949

During the Siftons' time at 514 Wellington, they hosted a number of famous guests, including:

- Lady Byng, wife of the former Governor General, Lord Byng, who was fleeing wartime Britain. She stayed for the holidays in December 1940 en route to points west. 

- American diplomat Sumner Wells, in town to speak at a conference, stayed with the Siftons in October 1946.

Victor Sifton died in 1961 at the Winnipeg Clinic. 

Douglas Everett Family (1961 - 2016)

Douglas Everett is the son of Horace Everett, a long-time car dealer and navy man who purchased Winnipeg's Dominion Motors in 1940. 

He was educated at Royal Roads Naval College in B.C., then studied law at the University of Manitoba and Osgoode Hall. 

When Horace stepped down as president of Dominion Motors in 1953, his son, Bill, took over and Douglas, just 25, became vice president.

The Everetts purchased 514 Wellington Crescent in 1961, taking possession on July 1.

April 8, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

Douglas added a new division to the Everett corporate holdings called DOMO Gas, (the name an abbreviation of the dealership's two names.)

It started circa 1965 with a gas bar at the dealership's original location on Fort Street at Graham Avenue. In 1966, two more locations were added. One was at their new Dominion Centre on Marion Street and the other in the parking lot of the Safeway store at Ellice Avenue at Wall Street.

In the mid 1970s DOMO expanded in to Western Canada with locations in Alberta and B.C.

Everett got involved in the Liberal Party of Canada in the late 1950s. By the 1965 federal election he was the party's Manitoba chair.

The Liberals won the election and the following year Lester B. Pearson appointed him to fill a vacant Senate seat for Manitoba. At age 39, he is the youngest person appointed to the Red Chamber.

November 12, 1966, Winnipeg Free Press

Shortly after the appointment was announced, Patricia Everett invited the Winnipeg Tribune into their home for an interview and to take family photos of her and their six children.She also allowed the house to be part of a tour of area homes to benefit the University Women's Club.

Mrs. Everett, who studied interior design, was asked what she thought about the ornate home with its big chandeliers and mahogany panelling. She replied “I think it’s coming back. Those days of stark architecture seem to be over.”

Senator Everett made his presence known early, demanding that the Senate establish a committee be set up that would go through each department's budgets in detail to find efficiencies.

Through the 1970s, he was chair of the Senate Committee on National Finance which took on big-picture issues like the country's unemployment system, wage and price controls and management of the inflation rate. Sometimes his findings were critical of existing government policy.

In 1990, he left the Liberal caucus in protest of their support of the GST. He resigned in 1994 after serving 27 years.

In the 2000s the Everetts turned their attention to philanthropy, including donations of a $2.75 million painting to the WAG, a $1 million endowment to the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation,and even a double-decker bus to the Assiniboine Park.

September 25, 2015, Winnipeg Real Estate News

Mrs. Everett died in 2010. In September 2015, Mr. Everett put the home up for sale. The original list price was $1.899 million.

It was purchased in April 2016 for a reported $1.25 million by Jeff Thompson, CEO of Leader Equity Partners. According to Thompson the costs of renovating the building would be prohibitive, telling the Winnipeg Free Press: "Houses have their life cycle, and this house is at the end of its cycle."

He and five other partners plan to demolish the home and build a six-unit condominium project.


Businessman defends proposal to bulldoze mansion - Winnipeg Free Press
Neighbours fear for mansion's fate - Winnipeg Free Press


Unknown said...

If you found this article interesting, please visit our website (www.Save514Wellington.com) and consider signing the petition. Thanks!

Glen said...

All of the historic reason are the ones that this beautiful home should be designated at Historic and become a tourist attraction like Dalnavert Museum.

fairycake said...

Having spent high school years at Kelvin High School I am very familiar
With Wellington Crescent .
On the occasions I have returned to Wpg over the years I am always saddened how little respect is afforded to historic properties. With a little imagination and community support these landmarks can remain a part of Wpg’s landscape and have a role in its future .

Shawtay said...

I don't understand why people need to stick their nose in other peoples' affairs. Its a private residence, not public. Your house isn't being demolished, someone else's property is. Its not like you're allowed to go in the house. And I'm sure they aren't going to bulldoze it and put up a piece of garbage, surely it will be luxury condo's. So it won't detract from the area