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Friday, 10 July 2020

Brandon's Art Deco gem is for sale

© 2020, Christian Cassidy
Brandon has demolished many of its historic downtown buildings over the decades. One that has stubbornly stuck around is this art deco gem at 220 - 8th Street on the edge of Princess Park, (what used to be City Hall Square). It is currently for sale along with the businesses inside: Olivier's Bistro Catering and Olivier's Antiques !

Here's a look at the story behind this building that was constructed in 1941 as home to radio station CKX.

December 12, 1928, Winnipeg Free Press

Radio station CKX (Brandon) was created in 1928 by the government-run Manitoba Telephone System as a sister station to CKY (Winnipeg) which was established five years earlier.

Brandon's Board of Trade and most of city council were so supportive of the city getting its first radio station that land next to city hall was donated for its studio and transmission tower. The city also underwrote the $2,500 construction cost.

CKX went on the air on the evening of December 11, 1928 with a selection of live musical numbers starting with an orchestral version of O Canada and ending with a dance band called The Goblins. Intermixed with the music were speeches from officials. Mayor Henry Cater spoke first followed by J. H. Edmison, MLA, and N. W. Kerr of the Brandon Board of Trade.

For those without radios, the broadcast - sans the dance party at the end - was carried on loudspeakers inside St. Paul's United Church hall.

Initially, CKX broadcast most weekday evenings from 8:30 pm to around 10:00 pm with many of its shows musical in nature. Spoken word programming was expanded early the following year with a weekly show featuring officials from the Dominion Experimental Farm in February and a Sunday morning religious show starting in April. The main sessions of the February 1929 United Farmers of Manitoba convention were broadcast as a special feature.

Brandon City Hall, original CKX studio and its towers, ca. 1940
(Portion of a larger photo by Jerrett Photo at the McKee Archives)

CKX began broadcasting with a used 500-watt tower from CKY that was later replaced by a new 100-watt tower. Both were located adjacent to the CKX building and city hall. In 1936, programming was brought to a wider audience after the construction of a new transmitter building featuring a 1,000-watt tower on the grounds of the Brandon Asylum.

The relocation of the transmitter allowed the old building to be reconfigured to have more studio space. In short time, as the station moved towards all-day programming, the demand for space increased dramatically. 

John Lowry, Manitoba's radio commissioner, approached Brandon city council in early 1938 to discuss an expansion of the existing CKX building further towards Princess Street. Council hesitated at first saying that it did not want such a large, permanent building on city hall grounds.

It was suggested that CKX relocate to another city-owned parcel of land across the street on 8th by the YMCA. Lowery responded that if the station was to relocate that its first choice would be to upper floor suites at the Prince Edward Hotel.

Gilbert Parfitt's new CKX building. Aug 9, 1941, Winnipeg Tribune.

Negotiations dragged on until April 1941 when city council ratified an agreement it had worked out with Lowery and MTS to build the new studio adjacent to the old one. (It was described in one article as extending its footprint more towards the 8th Street sidewalk rather than Princess Avenue.)

In exchange for the new building the city agreed to demolish some unsightly old buildings across the street, next to the Beaubier Hotel, (likely on the site offered to CKX as an alternative location), and provide landscaping and sidewalks to the new studio. It would also provide water, steam heat and power from the adjacent city hall building.

The city leased the new site to MTS for 99 years at $1 per year and paid $500 to buy the old building and its equipment. (Presumably, this was to make the city responsible for its eventual demolition costs.)

The only major item not resolved at the time was who would pay for the dismantling of the two transmission towers made redundant in 1936. Initially, it appears to have been a city responsibility, but when it found that the value of the scrap would not cover the cost of removal it was decided to go back to MTS in the near future to try to negotiate a side deal.

Parfitt ca. 1927

The new, 2,300-square-foot studio building was designed by Gilbert Parfitt.

Born and raised in Britain, Parfitt began his architectural practice there before coming to Winnipeg in 1912. He soon got a job with the provincial Public Works department working under two different provincial architects before taking up the post himself in 1944 until his retirement in 1957. (He is referred to as "provincial architect" in some 1930s newspaper articles, perhaps holding it as an acting position at times. When this building was designed his official title was likely Superintendent of Public Buildings.)

Parfitt did take time off in the 1920s to do private commissions. His most recognizable private works are the Stonewall cenotaph (unveiled 1922), St. John's Anglican Cathedral in Winnipeg (built 1926) and the Winnipeg cenotaph on Memorial Boulevard (unveiled 1928).

For Public Works, his designs include Headingley Jail (built 1929), the women's hospital / Pine Ridge Building at the Brandon Asylum (built 1932 -33) and the Arts Building at the University of Manitoba with A. S. Stoughton (built 1931 - 32) .

Interior images and floor plan from Manitoba Calling, Feb. 1942.

The architect who would supervise the construction of Parfitt's building was C. W. U. Chivers of Winnipeg. Chivers visited Brandon to look over the site on May 22, 1941 and promised a Brandon Sun reporter that MTS was most anxious to get the building project started. Tenders for its construction closed on July 21 and it is unclear who won the bid.

The single-storey building with full basement is built of brick and Tyndall stone, cost around $17,000 to construct and measures 40 feet by 60 feet. Its exterior contains many elements of Art Deco design such as its stylized, geometric ornamentation.

The building contained two studios. "Studio A" could host a small orchestra or multiple performers and had an adjoining observation room that seated up to 40 people. "Studio B" seated two or three people for interview shows and news reports. Both studios faced a main control room and were connected to a performer's lounge.

The building's interior had other nods to art deco. It was described in one report as "finished in attractive two-tone pastel shades with natural wood trim (that) presents the combination of smart appearance and ideal broadcast facilities."

The basement was for storage and the mechanical rooms that included the central air conditioning system needed to keep equipment and performers cool.

http://bartok.brandonu.ca/link/9288/Original-Brandon-City-Hall/
City Hall and former CKX building ca. 1960s (McKee Archives)

It turns out that the 99-year lease wasn't necessary as the provincial government got out of the radio business in 1948. CKX was sold to a consortium of businessmen under J. B. Craig called Western Manitoba Broadcasters Ltd..

The company was awarded a license to operate a TV station in Brandon in 1955 and soon after began construction of a combined radio and TV studio building on Victoria Avenue. When it opened in 1957, CKX bid farewell to its old home.

On August 1, 1957, the Brandon Health Unit, the city's public health department, took over the old studio building and operated from there for the next fifteen years.

June 29, 1971, Brandon Sun

This building has had a few close calls with the wrecking ball.

The first came in 1962 when Mayor S. A. Magnacca floated a plan for a new city hall building he wanted to see constructed adjacent to the old building. Anxious to get the project started, he called for the preparations - including razing the Heath Unit building - to begin as soon as possible.

In the end, Magnacca's plan did not get far and the building lived to see another day.

When the old city hall was finally demolished in March 1971, the Health Unit building had to close soon after as it still got its steam heat from its older neighbour. It appears the intention was to tear down both buildings at the same time, but for reasons unknown the demolition plans got split.

Soon after the city hall demolition two new subsidized housing blocks, Princess Towers and Princess Apartments, rose on the site. In 1973, the redevelopment of the block was complete when Kinsmen built a park along the Princess Avenue frontage. At this point, the former Health Unit building was supposed to be demolished to allow for a driveway into the park but the process was held up as the city's application to receive a federal grant to cover the cost didn't pan out.

October 17, 1974, Brandon Sun

The delay gave some community organizations the opportunity to approach the city to request that the building be left standing. This was not for any perceived aesthetic or historic value, but because it was a city-owned building in decent shape that could be rented out as cheap office space. It was thanks to Alderman Emily Lyons that the decision to demolish was put on hold until the matter could be studied further.

The city initially claimed that the building was in bad shape with a failed foundation. Further inspection showed that this was untrue. It was instead estimated to cost about $10,000 to install a heating system and make other general repairs to get it into suitable rental condition. Council felt this was too much to spend and at its September 30, 1974 meeting passed a motion to demolish the building. A tender for he demolition was issued soon after. 

This prompted a number of community organizations to appear as delegations to ask the city to reconsider. One man even showed up offering to purchase the building for $15,000 so that he could fix it up and rent it out to groups.

In the end, council decided not to approve a winning bid for the demolition until after the October 1974 civic election.

August 20, 1974, Brandon Sun

The new council looked more favourably on the old building.

The city issued a call for proposals in August 1974 from anyone interested in using the space. In December, it accepted a plan submitted by Big Brothers of Brandon which was celebrating its 25th year in the city.
The city agreed to pay $13,000 towards the renovations then rent it out to Big Brothers for $2,400 per year. Big Brothers, in turn, would rent some of the space out to other organizations.

May 3, 1975, Brandon Sun

In May 1975, the city called for tenders for the renovation of the space. There was just one reply from John Van Mulligan with a bid of $15,371. It appears the city accepted his bid despite it being higher than what they had budgeted for.

The newly renovated building opened on November 5, 1975. Aside from Big Brothers, it was also home to the Manitoba Tenants Association, Senior Citizens Incorporated and the Family Planning Association. In the 1980s its tenants included CUSO and the John Howard Society.

By 1990, it was the John Howard Society that was leasing the building from the city for the same $2,400 per year and subletting space to Big Brothers and the Brandon Crime Prevention Committee. Some on council were not happy with the low rental rate and the city redrafted the rental agreement to raise the fee to $3,751 per year in 1992.

The final civic lease for the building was signed in early 1995 allowing the John Howard Society to remain until April 30, 1996 for $4,000. The group was warned that the city would then explore selling the building and, even if they did not sell, the rent for 1996 - 1997 would jump to $7,000 per year. This prompted the John Howard Society to purchase its current location at 153 - 8th Street in the summer of 1996.

The city did advertise the building for sale in August and September 1996 for $65,000. There was no follow-up article to indicate who purchased it, though classified ads show that the Native Village Healing Centre used that address in the late 1990s and the Native Addictions Council of Manitoba in the early 2000s.

May 18, 2006, Brandon Sun

A new era for the building began in 2007 when Paul and Susan Spiropolous of Olivier's Bistro and Steakhouse purchased it. Olivier's opened in 1993 on Richmond Avenue and moved to 935 Rosser Avenue in 1996.

This new location on 8th Avenue allowed them to concentrate on the catering side of their business, though they added a restaurant supply store the following year and an antique shop in 2013.

Olivier's took advantage of the building's location at Princess Park to start up a "back yard" barbecue operation. It began serving up burgers, gyros and pork on a bun in he summer of 2008 at weekly events like Music in the Park on Wednesday evenings. Since 2010, "Barbecue at the Fountain" has been a summer weekday staple for the the downtown lunchtime crowd.

In 2015, the Spiropolous' purchased the President's House from Brandon University to use as an event location for their catering.

Drawing by Gilbert Parfitt (courtesy S. Spiropolous)

The pause in their catering business due to COVID 19 restrictions has given the couple time to reflect on the future. With Paul now 68, they decided that it was time to sell the building and business and retire.

A new era for the old CKX studio will soon begin.


© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Tragic Endings: James M Boyd of Young Street

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

In my decade of blogging and other historical research I have come across hundreds of examples of Manitobans who died well before their time. This series is a  collection of stories about some of those lives. 

Information about these deaths comes mainly from newspaper stories of the day as, in most cases, inquest documents, court transcripts and investigators' notes are no longer available. This means that the information I will provide will include many of the gaps in coverage, errors in reporting and prejudices of the day. 

If you have additional information about any of these stories feel free to contact me at cassidy-at-mts.net

James Montgomery Boyd of Winnipeg (1905 - 1923)


James Montgomery Boyd was born in South Africa in 1905 to Scottish parents Mary and Alexander Boyd. His brother Alex, two years his junior, was also born in Scotland. (This could mean that Alex Sr. may have been a military man as the 1916 Canadian census shows him at Camp Hughes and 1905 would have been shortly after the Boer War.)

While Alex was at Camp Hughes the family lived at 344 Magnus Avenue in the North End. By the early 1920s they had relocated to the Davidson Block at 328 Young Street with Alex working as a clerk at customs broker McLandress Wallace in the Curry Building on Portage Avenue.

As for James, he worked as a clerk at the Ogilvie Flour Mill on Higgins Avenue and was described in one paper as "popular in sporting and athletic circles."

The yellow star marks Landowne Avenue at the Red River

On Sunday, April 29, 1923, James and Alex Jr. were walking along the bank of the Red River near the foot of Lansdowne Avenue when they noticed a man pick up a "protesting Airedale Terrier" and toss it into the near freezing water. The current immediately pulled the struggling dog to the centre of the river.

James, who was a dog lover, removed his coat and boots and jumped in to rescue it. Before long, he was being pulled to the centre of the river and cried out for help. Alex tried to go in after him but got caught in some barbed wire in the bed of the river and onlookers had to help extricate him.

April 30, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

By the time police arrived there was nothing they could do other than to notify the lock master at the St. Andrews Lock and Dam to keep an eye out for the body.

The man who was seen by numerous witnesses throwing the dog into the water managed to slip away during the excitement. Police made a public plea to identify him, but he never was found. (The dog managed to make it back to shore further downriver and survived its ordeal so there wouldn't be much in the way of charges that could be brought against him anyway.)

May 21, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

It turns out that James didn't make it as far as Lockport.

Nearly a month later, on May 19, 1923, his body was discovered on the shore of Keenora Park, (now Hyland Provincial Park), on the west bank of the Red River just north of Middlechurch in West St. Paul. It was turned over to acting provincial coroner Dr. Cameron who waived the need for an inquest and then on to Thomson's undertaking parlour on Main Street.

May 22, 1923, Winnipeg Tribune

A funeral was held at 2:30 pm on May 23, 1923 at Thompson's Funeral Chapel.

An additional wrinkle to this tragedy was that Mary Boyd was away in Scotland visiting family when James died. She was on the long journey home when the body was discovered and was expected to arrive back in the city the day of the funeral.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

That gap on Main Street

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Have you ever wondered what used to be in this gap on Main Street just south of the Occidental Hotel? It was once home to the Stanley Block / Main Apartments.

In the circa 1940s photo above you can see the building in the centre with Service Grocery, Central Exchange and a tailor shop on the main floor. The two-storey building to the left is actually part of the Occidental Hotel and the business you can see in the photo is the Occidental Cafe, (where the Tallest Poppy was more recently).

The building appears to have been constructed around 1906 and was called the Stanley Block until around 1933. It had 28 small apartments, two and three rooms each, on the upper floor and three retail units on the main floor. 

August 15, 1969, Winnipeg Free Press

Just after 6:00 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, August 14, 1969 the caretaker noticed fire coming from the basement and alerted residents. According to the Tribune, 26 of the 28 residents were senior citizens and some in their eighties. They all made it out safely.

The blaze grew into a two-alarm fire requiring 11 fire trucks and 55 men to fight it. When it became apparent that the building could not be salvaged, they worked to save the neighbouring Corbitt Block and Occidental Hotel. At 11:00 p.m. that night the fire was out except for a few hot spots.

I could not find a story that mentioned the cause of the fire.

The building was a total loss, but for some reason remnants of the facade were left standing.

 Mitchell Fabrics used it for decades as their parking lot.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Sargent Avenue's street car track


This summer's roadworks on Sargent Avenue have uncovered the remnants of its old street car track. You can see the timbers just underneath the asphalt. Once they get to that side of the street, keep an eye out to see if the tracks are still there in places.

People began asking for street car service to extend down Sargent beyond Sherbrook Street as early as 1906 when residential development was taking off in the area.

The extended line went into service in April 1909 to Arolington Street and was later extended to Valour Road. The plaza with the soliders' monument is where the turnaround point was.


Winnipeg Electric Co. trolley bus (City of Winnipeg Archives)

In 1938, Sargent Avenue was chosen to be the experimental route for trolley bus service and the tracks were paved over. (One source says this was the first trolley bus service in Western Canada).

Trolleys used the overhead electrical wires of street cars, but had rubber wheels. This made them much quieter than the old wooden street cars that clanged along the tracks. They could also change lanes which allowed for things like on-street parking. (Above is an image of the Sargent trolley bus at a downtown stop in the 1940s.)

Trolley service came to an end in 1970 when Transit replaced them with diesel bus service.

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

A history of Selkirk's water tower

Current Tower (C. Cassidy) and proposed design (City of Selkirk)

Selkirk's water tower will be getting a new paint job in June. I thought this would be a great time to look back at the history of the two towers that have graced its skyline over the last 110 years. (You can also read my posts about the water towers of Brandon and Steinbach.)

September 8, 1906, Winnipeg Tribune

In September 1906, Selkirk ratepayers voted 225 to 9 in favour of allowing its municipal government to borrow up to $150,000 to install a waterworks and sewer system for the town.

The waterworks would distribute a pressurized, filtered water supply to a network of businesses, homes and fire hydrants. Prior to this, residents relied on their own wells or paid a "water wagon" to deliver it to them.

The most noticeable feature of the waterworks was the 275,000-litre capacity elevated tank that stood 32 metres above ground. Elevated tanks were seen as superior to ground level reservoirs as, in the case of a power outage or mechanical failure, gravity would keep the network fed, albeit at a much reduced pressure level.

Larger facilities in town such as the mental hospital, railway yard and some factories had their own water towers and would not immediately be hooked up to town water.

November 26, 1906, Winnipeg Free Press

The Town of Selkirk awarded tenders for the digging of trenches and laying of pipes in December 1906 and it appears to have taken a number of years to complete. (There are no digitized archives of the Selkirk newspaper from those years to track its progress, but tenders can be found in Winnipeg newspapers for more pipes and grates in May 1907 and for finishing touches like fire hydrants in June 1909.)

The Canadian Fairbanks Company and  Minneapolis Steel and Machine Co. supplied the pumping equipment and engines while William Newman Company of Winnipeg, an engineering and construction company, built the pump house and made the final hook-ups.

Water was drawn from an aquifer 70 metres below ground using gasoline powered engines capable of pumping 450,000 litres a day. It was filtered and pumped up the tower to the 275,000 litre capacity tank. (For more on how the system worked, here is a detailed description of the Moose Jaw system installed by the same companies in 1911.)

In July 1910 enough of the system was in service that the high pressure fire hydrants were tested out at a stables fire on Morris Avenue. The blaze was put out in a matter of minutes.

A report from Selkirk carried in the Winnipeg Tribune on November 2, 1910 noted that the full system went into operation in September and at the time of the story it was almost ready to be handed over to the Wm. Newman Co. for final inspection.

Selkirk water tower ca. 1913 (Archives of Manitoba)

The origins of the tank are a mystery. Avalable editions of Selkirk newspapers and engineering journals of the day do not mention who won that tender.

It is likely that it was a Horton Tank from Chicago Bridge and Iron Works, a leading manufacturer of large tanks at the time. (It would create a Canadian subsidiary called Horton Steel Works at Fort Erie, Ontario in 1913.) When the same companies teamed up to build Moose Jaw's waterworks in 1911 it was with a Horton tank.

A more local possibility is Dominion Bridge of Montreal which had a subsidiary in Winnipeg.

November 2, 1910, Winnipeg Tribune

On November 1, 1910, Selkirk town council approved the fees it would charge waterworks customers. It was more expensive than Winnipeg's water, but cheaper than Brandon's and Portage la Prairie's.

Homeowners could choose a flat rate service of $6 per year for a single water tap. For more complicated set-ups, an example given was an eight-room house with indoor toilet and kitchen using both sewer and water, the flat rate worked out to about $24 a year. Meters could be installed if it was felt that water use might be excessive, such as a property with a large vegetable plot, or below average, such as a seasonal home. 

In the end, the waterworks cost Selkirk about $75,000. The Winnipeg Tribune pointed out that thanks to its deep limestone aquifer, the water at Selkirk was some of the best municipal water you could find in the province.

Water tower in 1926 (Red River North Heritage)

In 1927 the tower required some maintenance which included a new paint job.

The tender for scraping and painting the tank was issued to Mr. Kenworthy and Mr. Allison late that year. They got the go ahead to do the work at the May 14, 1928 town council meeting and had completed the job by May 29.

Charles Taylor, the town's engineer, appeared before council at the end of May seeking additional money for the men who had to spend time removing a large amount of mud that had settled at the bottom of the tank and for enduring the "exceedingly bad" paint fumes while painting its interior. They received an extra $20 for their trouble. The total paid to them was $100.

On November 11, 1928, a fire began in the insulation inside the casing for the tower's stand pipe while it was undergoing repairs. The fire was impossible to reach so the fire brigade just kept the pipe's exterior as cool as possible. In the end, the main pipe and wooden casing that held it in place were destroyed. The town was without water until later that day when a makeshift pipe allowed water to start flowing again.

Joe Balcaen of Winnipeg was called in to make the repairs and install a new stand pipe. The work was completed by the end of November.

A major repair came in 1937 when the corroded base of the tank was replaced.

The tower was again painted in May 1949 by Dougal Pruden for $575. This included two coats of paint on the tower structure and one coat for the tank.

February 22, 1961, Selkirk Enterprise

In the 1950s it became obvious that the tower would have to be replaced due to both its age and the growing water demand related to the post-war housing and baby booms.

Dominion Bridge was called out in late 1958 to examine the structure. It determined that the tank was close to failure, noting that its workers ended up putting their hammer through the fragile outer skin in a couple of places. It was estimated that the tank had about eighteen months of functional life left.

Town council decided that it would again opt for an elevated tank, this one with a capacity of 950,000 litres. The new tower and its ancillary buildings would be located just 30 metres or so north of where the existing tower stood on Mclean Avenue near Jemima Street

At the February 27, 1961 town council meeting it was announced that Horton Steel Works of Fort Erie, Ontario's bid of $109,980 won the tender. Harris Construction was awarded the main contract for the construction of the foundation and waterworks building.

Southern Power and Industry, February 1950

The new water tower would be a Horton Watersphere. It was a patented design introduced by the company in the late 1940s that had many advantages over more basic water tower designs. The support beam, access ladder and stand pipe were all enclosed to keep them protected from the elements. Its curved design meant that there were no exposed corners or welds for dirt or debris to cling to.

These operational factors and its "graceful sweeping lines" made the Watersphere popular for towns and industrial sites alike. Hundreds of Waterspheres in various sizes were built around North America from the 1950s through 1970s. Other Canadian examples include Yorkton, Sault Ste. Marie and Red Deer.

The companies wasted little time getting the project started. By the middle of March Harris was already at work and Horton's derricks had arrived on-site.

Harris' first job was to sink 13 reinforced concrete caissons that were 70 centimetres in diameter to a depth of nearly 8 metres. The work was completed by mid-April after which the concrete pad for the new tower was poured.

The water tower in 1964 (Archives of Manitoba)

It was then Horton's turn to erect the Watersphere. The structure stands 40 metres in height with the  sphere itself about 13 metres tall by 15 metres in diameter. 

There was an unexplained delay in the construction that required Horton to inform town council in July that it would not be able to complete the tower until August 18, 1961. It noted that the delay would not impact the opening date as the lost time could make up in the filling and testing stages.

Before filling, Horton painted the tower. City promotional material of the day referred to the colour as "lime green", while the Selkirk Enterprise called it "bilious green". It bore the name SELKIRK in bold, black letters.

Exactly when the tower officially opened is unclear as it either was not mentioned in the local paper or that edition is not available online.

Once the new tower was in service the old one was dsmantled. The first step was to remove the town's old emergency siren from atop it. The siren was used to signal members of the volunteer fire department from Selkirk and surrounding area.

On November 22, 1963, an Environment Canada weather station was set up on the site of the old tower. Prior to that date, Selkirk's weather information was taken from Winnipeg stations.

The site now appears to be residential property.

Sept.7, 1998, Selkirk Journal

Since its installation, the Watersphere has had a few paint jobs.

Horton Steel Works was back in August 1966 to drain the sphere and repaint the tower inside and out. It is unclear why this had to be done so soon. The Selkirk Enterprise noted that it was done with a "special paint" in the same shade of green.

It was painted silver in 1978.

The current paint job was done in 1998 by Western Industrial Services of Winnipeg.


In recent years the paint has flaked and peeled off in a number of places and the time came to paint it again.

In February 2020, the City of Selkirk launched a month-long design competition. It was won by Robyn Kacperski, a Selkirk-raised graphic designer

An RFP was issued for the work in May 2020 and it expected that the tank will be painted over the summer.

Related:

City of Selkirk's Drinking Water System
My Flickr album of Selkirk, Manitoba

© 2020, Christian Cassidy

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Christie Avenue's lonley house - Barnard House, Selkirk, Manitoba


I love researching "lonely houses", so when I saw this one at 202 Christie Street in Selkirk I had to find out what stories it had to tell. The fact that it is slated to be torn down by the city in 2020 gave my research a sense of urgency. (You can read other lonely house posts here, here and here.)

Selkirk did not have a Henderson Directory, just a weekly newspaper with an incomplete digital archives, so piecing together building histories can be hit and miss. Luckily, this house belonged to one family for around 100 years !

Bernard marriage registration, (Manitoba Vital Statistics)

This was the home of the Barnard family from around 1915 until 2014.

Frederick (Fred) Charles Barnard was born in England ca. 1883 and moved to Selkirk around 1908. Annie Harris Wilson was born in Canterbury, England and came to Canada around the same time, but lived in Montreal and Winnipeg.

The couple married in Winnipeg in June 1923 and soon after relocated to Selkirk where they had four children: Charles, Gerald, Helgi (Yole) and Elaine. (Charles' birth date year was ca. 1913 and Helgi's ca. 1914 suggesting they may have been adopted or from a previous union. There is, for instance, a record of a Frederick Charles Barnard marrying an Annie Herbert in Brandon in March 1913.)

June 2, 1930, Winnipeg Tribune

Fred was an avid cricketer and ran the pool hall inside the Merchants Hotel. His livelihood was threatened on the night of May 30, 1930 when the neighbouring building on Manitoba Avenue caught fire. It destroyed that building and damaged the hotel, wiping out the contents of the pool hall. (The fire was so bad that Winnipeg firefighters were called in to help keep it from spreading down Manitoba Avenue.)

The pool hall must have been rebuilt. In one Selkirk history book an old timer remembers Fred operating it during the 1940s.

As for Annie, during the Second World War she was the first president of Selkirk's ANAVETS auxiliary and did Red Cross work. She was also a long-time member of Christ Church Women’s Association.

Annie died in 1953 at the age of 70 at the home of her daughter, Helgi, in Selkirk. Fred died September 12, 1964 at Winnipeg General Hospital at the age of 81. They are buried at St. Clements Cemetery.

The house then became home to Gerald (Gerry) Barnard. A mechanic by trade, he married Margaret Lee from Semple, Manitoba in October 1952. The couple had no children.

The neighbourhood and 220 Christie Street in 1926, 1964, and 2010
Images l to r: Red River North Heritage - no source info; Archives of Manitoba; Google Earth

This was never a secluded residential neighbourhood. The house was located just 30 metres from bustling Eveline Street with its industrial sites, fish plants and commercial docks. It faced the rear of civic buildings on Eaton Avenue and its immediate neighbour to the east was the back end of a large medical clinic.

The land west of the house appears to have been open, presumably part of it was a school field. At a 1961 town council meeting it was noted that 220 Christie was zoned "park" rather than commercial or residential.

It was around the time of the Barnards' deaths that the neighbourhood began to change as the services around it expanded.

A new civic centre was built on the site of the old town offices in 1960 and an adjacent fire hall soon followed. A new Selkirk Medical Centre opened in 1973 on the site of the old one. A fire in the early 1970s that destroyed a business block along Main Street between Eaton and McLean Avenue led to the construction of phase one of the Town Centre shopping mall which opened in 1975.

March 21, 1994, Selkirk Enterprise

By the mid 1970s, the house had many of the same neighbours, just bigger in size, and that was something that Gerry Barnard railed against.

Barnard often appeared at town council and planning commission meetings to air his grievances about parking, traffic and zoning issues around his house. In the 1980s he even hired a lawyer after his numerous complaints about the sound of commercial air conditioners from surrounding buildings were not acted upon.

By the 1990s, Barnard was retired and started a number of campaigns that kept him in the news. He opposed the expansion of the mall site in 1995 to create a bigger grocery store. That same year, he tried to get skateboarding banned in Selkirk, something he revisited in 1997 and 2003. He was also the town's most vocal opponent against public funding for the Selkirk Recreation Complex, a battle he kept up even after the complex was open and running.

Margaret Barnard died at the Selkirk General Hospital on June 11, 2007 at the age of 81. Gerry died at the residence on July 9, 2013 at the age of 87. Both are buried at St. Clements Cemetery.


After Gerry's death, the house took on a surprising new life.

The City of Selkirk purchased it in May 2014 for $181,426 with the intention of demolishing it to make way for additional parking for a proposed expansion to the fire hall across the street. It offered the building to Our Daily Bread for use as a homeless shelter until that expansion was completed. Rene Gauthier, the organization's chair, had tried in previous years to get a winter shelter open but ran into opposition each time.

After some renovations to bring it up to code the home was renamed the St. Francis Place Homeless Shelter and opened in November 2014. It contained six beds in three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom with shower, and a washer / dryer.

In January 2018, the shelter had to close due to a lack of volunteers. The writing was on the wall for the house, anyway. The city broke ground on the fire hall expansion in June 2018 and it officially opened in September 2019.

 $14,000 has been included in Selkirk's 2020 capital budget to cover the cost of demolition.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Has the Arlington Bridge dodged another bullet?


Would you look at that. The Arlington Bridge could be in for some major renovations that will allow it to stand for another few years - something it has stubbornly done since the 1940s.

People either love or hate the Arlington Street Overpass, as it is officially called. I have great memories as a kid of driving over it in the back of the family car and developed a respect for it and its architecture after writing a four-part history of it back in 2011.

The bridge had many detractors from the time it was first proposed in 1910 and it never fulfilled its main purpose of being a second streetcar connection to and from downtown. It was totally unsuited to go over a rail yard, (I do believe it was intended for another site in North Africa, though not the Nile), and a couple of decades in started needing major repairs.

Despite public calls for its replacement as early as the 1940s, the bridge has stubbornly stood its ground. It has seen most of its compatriots come and go, the Louise was largely built the same year and only the Redwood is older, and in the case of the Salter Street (now Slaw Rebchuk) Bridge and the dual Disraeli spans, new bridges came and went during its lifetime.


Back in 2014 there was yet another plan afoot to replace the Disraeli Bridge. It was predicated by a 2013 report to a council committee about its condition that stated: "The Public Works Department has already started planning for the replacement or decommissioning of the existing overpass which must be undertaken by 2020." (The exact condition of the bridge and how important 2020 is is unclear as the more detailed studies used to make this report are not public.)

I sat on the Project Advisory Committee for the A Better Bridge for Arlington process.

One thing that was made clear to us was that the 2020 deadline for the start of construction of a new bridge was key as the bridge’s functional life would come to an end then. If there was no bridge in place, or at least being worked on, by that time it would be a case that it would be closed and the two neighbourhoods cut off.

On several occasions I brought up the question of maintaining the existing span as the active transportation route across the yards. It made sense to me as it was the vibrations from traffic that were the main enemy of the existing bridge and the new span was going to be built adjacent to it anyway. The response was that the bridge could not even be salvaged for that. It would have to go in 2020.

The committee made its recommendations to the city, which were pretty much ignored as it chose its own design and even then the bridge's replacement never made it into the capital budget.

Source: Merx

My expectation was that, to save the ire of the public, at some point in 2020 the bridge would close for temporary repairs or inspection and simply never reopen again.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the city has put out a rather lengthy tender for the repair of the bridge. This isn’t the usual fixing holes in the road deck. This is some substantial structural work.

It isn't known how long these repairs are expected to extend its functional life of the bridge for. I imagine that will come out in a future media story.

It seems the Arlington Bridge may have dodged another bullet.

© 2020, Christian Cassidy