Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Farewell to 412 Toronto Street

On April 30th, 2017, 412 Toronto Street suffered a major fire. Thankfully, everyone escaped safely but the house will have to be demolished.

Before it is gone, I thought I would take a look back at what was one of the oldest houses in the West End and, remarkably, was home to just two families in the past 104 years.

Top: Toronto Street, 1898 Henderson Directory
Bottom: May 31, 1897, Winnipeg Free Press

The building permit for 412 Toronto was issued in 1894 making it one of the West End's older homes.

At the time, the West End west of Maryland Street was little more than an agricultural outskirt of the city. Most homes and other buildings were not constructed until after about 1904, when the city began subdividing the area by grading roads and installing boulevards, sidewalks and water.

Because of its rural nature most homes had not yet been issued street numbers which makes tracing the original owner difficult, (though in 1897 they were selling three cows !)

The first Henderson Directory listing for this address comes in 1901 with Richard Owens, labourer, listed as homeowner.  In 1902, it was owned by Andrew Walmsely, labourer, with Richard B. Stone, a bricklayer, and his wife renting a room. By 1912, it was home to James E Adams a, traveling salesman.

The first long-term owner came in 1913 with the Cleven Family.

Cleven, ca. unknown, Wikipedia

Endre Johanssen Cleven was born in 1874 in Skudenes, Norway. At age 17, he settled at Inwood, Iowa and then New York City, where he studied music.

In 1903, after a visit to his homeland, he resettled in Winnipeg where he became a key figure in the city's Norwegian community and played in the Walker Theatre orchestra. (For a more detailed biography, here is a translated article from an American Norwegian-language newspaper written after his death. Note that the middle name is not the same as on his military records and in Winnipeg media articles, but it is the same person.)

Swedish language immigration card, undated (Source: Pier 21)

In 1912, Cleven was employed by the Dominion Immigration Office as the Scandinavian immigration agent for the U.S., essentially a "homestead finder" for immigrants looking to move north of the border. It was a job that kept him on the road a lot.

Cleven was interviewed by the Free Press in the summer of 1913 when the upsurge in Scandinavian immigration to the prairies got noticed. He said: "Of late I have found that the work of placing homesteaders demands more of my personal attention as it did at first.”

He noted that the success was thanks to the government moving beyond just publishing brochures and posters in different languages: "They want to meet a man who has personal knowledge of affairs and show, besides being in a position to talk, has the necessary authority.”

He shared with the Free Press a number of thank you letters he received from both settlers and communities. One, from the Humboldt, Saskatchewan Board of Trade, said in part: “I think we may safely say that your efforts alone have been responsible for the location in our district of settlers who represent the strongest feature of out agricultural community.”

Stookloader in operation, Starbuck, Man. ca. 1905
by Endre Cleven (Library and Archives Canada)

As for his home life, Cleven married Margit (Margaret) Hoines on June 9, 1904 in Winnipeg. She, too, was from Skudenes and arrived in Winnipeg in 1903, so it is likely that she came back with him after his visit home. The couple had as many as five children; Euare (1906), Harald (1910), Olf (1912), Odvar (1916), and Lillian (?). An infant daughter - presumably Euare - died in 1907.

Besides being a musician, Cleven was also a photographer. At Library and Archives Canada there are a number of photographs by Cleven taken between 1905 -1909, presumably to show prospective settlers what rural life in Canada was like. (See above.)

Also listed in the Henderson Directory for their first couple of years residing at 412 Toronto is Aadni Hoines, Margit's brother, and his wife. He was a carpenter by trade who worked as a cabinet maker at Eatons.

When World War I was declared, Cleven was already a lieutenant in the 90th Regiment, Royal Winnipeg Rifles militia. He also had previous war experience, noting on his Officers' Declaration papers that he had spent 4 years with the U.S. Army, which included the Spanish American War and a tour in the Philippines.

Given his connections in the Scandinavian Community and his rank in the 90th, Cleven was made the Quartermaster in the newly-created 197th Overseas Battalion, nicknamed the Vikings of Canada.

July 4, 1916, Winnipeg Tribune

On July 3, 1916, Cleven and Lt. Col. A. G. Fonseca, the commanding officer of the 197th Battalion, were to visit Camp Hughes where their men were soon being sent to train. They stopped at the Cleven household to have lunch before embarking.

At about 4:00 pm the men were driving three miles east of High Bluff, Manitoba, near Portage la Prairie, when the driver, who was only doing about 16 miles per hour, swerved to avoid a pothole. The car touched the shoulder and ended up hitting the ditch. Cleven was thrown from the vehicle and killed. The driver and Fonseca were unhurt.

Cleven would never meet his youngest child.

Margit Cleven, ca. 1930s

Mrs. Cleven was left to raise the children, who attended John M. King School.

Margit was very involved in the First Norwegian Church / Our Saviors Lutheran Church and other community activities. In 1925, she was  part of a Canadian delegation to conference in the U.S. to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Norwegian immigration to North America.

Margit never remarried and lived at the home until 1960 along with long-term renters Agnes and Emmanuel Hanna.

Margit died on January 18, 1965 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.

The next long-term tenants were the Luba family, who moved in in 1960. 

Stephen Luba of Angusville and Mary (Derlago) of Rossburn were married in Angusville in 1936 and farmed in the area until they moved to Toronto Street. The couple had four children; Adolph, Lawrence, Stephanie and Randy. 

On first arriving in Winnipeg, Steven worked in the warehouse at Dalewood Transport then for Federated Co-op.  By 1965, he was the elevator operator for the Building Trades Association in the Grain Exchange Building. He died in 1983.

Oldest son Adolph got a job as a diver for Brooke Bond Ltd., makers of Blue Ribbon. In 1970 he went to Belleville, Ontario to become production manger at their new factory. He died in Calgary in 1990.

Mary Luba remained in the home until her death in in 2002 at the age of 87.

It was still occupied by a descendant when the fire broke out on April 30, 2017.

1 comment:

Gary Jackson said...

Thanks for the informative history regarding this house. My grandparents on my father's side of the family knew Margit Cleven well. I have inherited many photos of my grandparents and my father with Clevens, Hoinesses, Sandbergs and Hilleslands from the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Winnipeg. They appear such a close knit group and I can remember a few of them, but not Margit. I must have been too young. My grandparents lived a few km away at 1862 Assiniboine Ave and later moved to 997 Warsaw Avenue, but my early life was in St. Boniface. Last summer I brought my family to visit Winnipeg, which I had not seen since moving away in 1966 while in grade 4. It was a great history lesson for my son.

Gary Jackson
Burlington, ON