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Sunday, 20 May 2018

Brandon fire destroys two historic buildings: 638 Pacific Avenue

© 2018, Christian Cassidy
Panorama of Brandon in the 1920s showing the three sites

On May 19, 2018, fire tore through downtown Brandon, Manitoba destroying three historic buildings. This is a look back at their histories.

They are the Hanbury Hardware Building (1907) at 705 Pacific Avenue, the Massey Harris Building (1913) at 638 Pacific Avenue and the Cockshutt Farm Supplies Building (1946) at 645 Pacific.


While 705 Pacific Avenue was home to a series of distinctly local businesses, 638 Pacific Avenue's origins were national.

Designed by Brandon architect Thomas Sinclair, the three-storey, 70,000 square foot building was constructed in 1913 - 14 for the Gordon McKay Company of Toronto, the largest dry goods wholesaler in the country. This was to be its Western Canadian headquarters.

City officials were so taken with company president J W Woods and his estimate of $1 million in annual sales and good paying jobs during a time of deep recession that they worked out a sweetheart deal with the company.

The city donated the land and borrowed $165,000 to construct the building. The company itself put in about $30,000 and would pay monthly "mortgage" payments to the city.

Gordon McKay took over the building in Spring 1914 and began making payments but never moved in, citing the recession, then the war, as reasons for not setting up shop. In 1917, the building became property of the city.

During the war, the building was used to house troops and later for agricultural conferences.

November 26, 1920, Brandon Sun

In late 1920, thanks to the efforts of the Board of Trade and its president P. A. Kennedy, a buyer was found. Toronto's Massey Harris paid around $130,000 for its new Manitoba warehouse operation.

Massey Harris took over the property effective January 1, 1921.

1966 ad, Brandon Sun

In 1964, the building became home to Voy's furniture store which was previously located on 9th Avenue.

The company had deep roots in the city, starting out as Brockie Furniture and Funeral Service. In 1925, Alfred Voy went to work for Brockie and eventually became a partner.

When, in 1947, the decision was made to split the company, Voy took over the furniture business.

1971 ad, Brandon Sun

In 1971, the building's major tenant was the home furnishings department of Macleod's department store. When it left in 1973, the building appears to have sat vacant for long periods.

In 1985, some renovations were done and toy and game retailer Toyland moved in until around 1990.

Rear of 638 Pacific. City of Brandon Report, 2008

In 1994, the building became home to a consortium of organizations that collected items for reuse and recycling under the banner Westman Recycling. It included a consignment store and what eventually became known as the Re-store run by Canadian Mental Health Association - Brandon Region.

In 2007, the CMHA, Habitat for Humanity and Brandon Friendship Centre announced a $6.7 million plan to convert the building into affordable housing units to be known as Massey Manor. The CMHA owns bottom two floors and Brandon friendship centre the top.

Of the 58 suites, fourteen are market rate condominiums and four are emergency shelter beds.

All were severely damaged or destroyed in the fire. At last report, everyone made it out alive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So when was the National Exchange in the Massey building?