Thursday, December 29, 2005

Benjamin James McConnell House

The large and attractive fiesldstone residence located at 577 Stephen Street in Morden is undoubtedly one of that community's most notable of it's many surviving ninteenth century structures. Constructed in 1899, this handsome building was originally the home of Dr. Benjamin James McConnell, who was Morden's first medical practitioner and one of its most active and prominent early residents. At the time of its construction, the house was the largest and most elaborate of Morden's many fine fielstone residences and despite the neglect and abuse it weathered in later years, it remains a stately presence even today.

Benjamin James McConnell was born in Pembreeke, Ontario in 1861. At the age of twenty he graduated from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Kingston, Ontario and almost immediately headed west. Sfter setting up an initial practice in Nelsonville, in 1884 he and his young wife moved to the fledging new community of Morden. By 1899 Dr. McConnell had built himself a large and successful career as doctor and entrepeneur.

The McConnell's first residence in Morden had been a modest wood frame structure, typical of many constructed in the pioneer environment of the 1880's. In March of 1899, however, Dr. McConnell announced that he was having plans drawn up for a large new residence, more fitting of his prominent position wintin the community and in tune with the more refined, sophisticated appearance the town was developing.

Morden newspaper accounts of the time indicated that the delivery of local fieldstone to the site commenced in April, 1899. The excavations were completed by the end of June and within a month the stone masons were at work on the superstructure, which was completed by October. Basis interior construction continued througout the winter. In June of 1900 the installation of the heating apparatus and the final plastering of the interior walls was completed and shortly thereafter the McConnells moved into their new home-sixteen months after construction had begun.

Dr. McConnell occupied the house with his wife and two children until 1913 when he moved to Winnipeg to accept the position of Provincial Coronor. In 1920 he sold the house to the Manitoba and Western Colonization Company and a representative of that company apparently lived in the house for several years. The fortunes of the firm must have suffered considerably, for in 1928 the house was sold to the Town of Morden for unpaid taxes. While in possession of the house the town undoubtedly rented it out, although througout the Great Depression and the War Years it apparently stood vacant. Finally around 1953, in an attempt to recoup some of their lost revenues the Town Council decided to convert the structure into an apartment block. During the course of the conversion the interior plan was largely altered and the verandah and valcony - by then badly deteriorated - were removed. In 1960 the building was purchased from the town by Mr. Frederick William Milhausen, and resold within the year to George Wiebe, a bank clerk in Morden. Mr. Weibe soon after moved to Neepawa and again later to British Columbia. During this period of absentee ownership the structure once again suffered from neglect and vandalism. By 1985 many of the town residents felt the former McConnell residence was becoming an eyesore and it's continued survival was being seriously questioned.

In February , 1986, the building was purchased by Wayne and Sylvia Baily. Within six months since his purchase of the McConnell house Mr. Baily had commenced renovation and restoration of the structure. The general interior layout, radically altered during the 1950's, was recreated. One major change was made to accomodate a shop on the main floor. The main staircase was shifted to face the back of the house instead of the front, allowing the family more privacy for their residence on the second floor.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sperry Rand Remington Streamliner

I purchased my new thigh-pilot at the Altona MCC. $3.00. Turns out I got a better bargain than i bargained for. It was half price day! Golly Gee! I got my spakin' new 1960's thigh-pilot for $1.50.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Fort Garry

Hotel Fort Garry

The hotel was in financial stress five years ago. Its once gleaming marble floor in the lobby was well worn. Carpets were frayed and paint was peeling. The overall appearance? Shabby - hardly chic.

Today the hotel's lobby has been redone, the brass railings as well as doors gleam, and the marble floor is checkered black and white polished to a perfect shine. In addition, a 'bed and breakfast' has been added to the hotel.

The hotel's 240 guest rooms are going to be redone. The renovated rooms will feature hardwood floors, accent lighting, marble bathrooms, junior suites with large bathtubs, and showers with multiple jets. Presently, all of the rooms have top quality mattresses, plush towels, Aveda amenities, Starbucks in-room coffee and two line phones with data jacks.

Renovations have cost $8 million so far and another $5 to $6 million is yet to be spent. In 1996, this heritage building was awarded $150,000 by the City of Winnipeg to restore the outside limestone. The entire front of the hotel has been restored with a sense of near Hollywood grandeur to the entrance including a valet station.

Future plans include a very modern dining room to seat 150 to 200 guests and the restoration of the banquet rooms where the Crystal Casino use to be.

The hotel's good fortune has come at a time when the market has been on an upswing in Winnipeg. Manitoba's economy has enjoyed steady growth over the past five, improving hotel occupancy rates.

Future stays will be even more memorable as the full restoration returns the hotel's chateauesque ambiance to its former splendor and place in Canadian Railway history.

Monday, October 24, 2005

River Gate Inn

River Gate Inn is situated on the Assiniboine River in the heart of the City on an acre of park like grounds.

The Inn is centrally located, minutes from downtown Winnipeg. Located in historic Armstrong Point on an acre along the Assiniboine River. It features some of the City's largest Elm and Cotton Wood trees which surround a large heated swimming pool for guests to enjoy. Built in 1919, River Gate is a 21-room mansion and includes a parlor with fire place, library, formal dining room, sun room and billiard room.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fair Days of Winnipeg's Past

Manitobans have inherited a rich legacy from the past. The reminders range from our natural landscapes, heritage sites, and landmark buildings to the historic objects and documents in our museums and archives, as well as the knowledge, ideas, and traditions of our ancestors.

Home on Home Street

First Fall Photos

10th Street

Mountain Ave.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005


So, this is Edgar. The house across the street from my house that we're fixing up. The pics below are of the exterior before and after it's second paint job EVER.
Egar was built in 1932 by the town banker, Edgar ; quite the luxury for it's day.
\He was ugly eh?

Friday, September 16, 2005

828 Preston Ave.

The Rothesay Apartments were designed by Herbert E. Matthews who opened a Winnipeg practice in 1905. It was built and owned by local contractors Peter Smith and George H. Kirkpatrick. The Rothesay was set upon a raised foundation. The recessed main entrance is highlighted by Tyndall stone steps, and carved door surroundings. The finished facade wraps around the west and east walls while the rear remains sand-lime brick and windows with cement sills. The interior is host to a marble lined foyer and a staircase which is lit by a skylight.George Kirkpatrick lived in the block until the mid 1940s, and while the early tenants of the building tended to be of some prestige, by the mid 1930s occupants tended to be of a more modest class. The building was sold in 1946 to Benjamin Cohen, and remained in his estate until it was sold to local interests in the late 1970s.

Also Home of the Gord Downie Suite

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

393 Wellington Crescent

This large stone and stucco building with the half-timbering over the upper levels, was the last home of Mark Fortune. Built in 1910, it was his residence for two years. Mark Fortune and his son, Charles, perished aboard the Titanic. Mrs. Fortune and her daughters, who had left the house for a happy European vacation, survived the Titanic, and returned to Winnipeg, widowed and fatherless. The Fortune house has been divided into suites and its original interior is completely destroyed. A coach house with a deep basement still stands on the riverbank behind the mansion.Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada

Fortune Family

Mr Mark Fortune was born on 2 November 1847 in Carluke, Wentworth County, Ontaria, Canada.

The son of a farmer, Mark Fortune was a self made man with a bank account that matched the family name. Lured to California by inflated dreams when he was still a teenager, he spent several years in San Fransisco. In 1871 he moved to the new Canadian province of Manitoba, where he married Mary McDougald from Portage la Prarie and they had six children: Robert, Clara, Ethel Flora, Alice Elizabeth, Mabel, and Charles Alexander. They lived at 393 Wellington Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He made his money speculating in real-estate, buying property along the Assiniboine River. When Winnipeg's main thoroughfare, Portage Ave. was surveyed it ran through much of Fortune's property and his prosperity was assured. He served as a Winnipeg City Councillor and was a trustee of Knox Presbyterian Church. His contemporaries remembered him as brash and self confident, "probably the most expert of Winnipeg's curlers. His judgement was sound, his discrimination keen, his life purpose high." In 1911 Fortune built a substantial 36 room tudor-style mansion, which although converted into three condominums, still stands at 393 Wellington Crescent. Mark Fortune never travelled anywhere without a Winnipeg Buffalo Coat, a heavy, motheaten fur garment. His wife tried to talk him out of packing so useless a piece of clothing on a trip to Egypt, but he considered it a talisman and wouldn't listen. The night Titanic sank, he came up on deck wearing it, joking that the coat had indeed come in handy in the cold night.

In 1912 Mark and his family travelled through Europe on a vacation. The two eldest children stayed behind. On the tour they met William T. Sloper who, it seems, was so taken with Alice that he decided to cancel his passage on the Mauretania and travel instead on the Titanic.

The fortune family boarded the Titanic at Southampton as first class passengers (ticket number 19950, £263). They occupied cabins C-23-25-27.
Mark and Charles were lost in the sinking, their bodies were never recovered.

The chimes which still peal in Winnipeg's Knox United Church were installed and dedicated to his memory.
Courtesy: Alan Hustak, Canada

Bridge Drive In

For over 45 years BDI has been winnipeg's favorite ice cream palor. You can take a walk over the bridge to quiet Kingston Row. It's a great place to hang out and talk but if you ask me the ice cream tastes like plastic.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Purple House #2

Charming, renovated kitchen is where family shares joys, sorrows

Sun Aug 28 2005

Room for Change/Connie Oliver

Charming renovated kitchen is where family shares joys, sorrows
(Part 2 in a series of 3)
LAST week we met Laurie and Willie Goetz who were kind enough to allow us into their charming East Kildonan home. The couple has maintained the architectural integrity of their 1921 home wherever possible. The high ceilings, large decorative trim, arched doorways and hardwood floors are at the heart of what this home is all about and also why the Goetz family loves it so.

The family's antiques and collectibles are in keeping with the essence of this house and are wonderfully displayed and accented. The only room that has had a major overhaul is the kitchen. Blending a new style with existing vintage design is a daunting task, but one that the Goetzes did beautifully.

The plan

In planning their design the couple spent some time poring over magazines and kitchen pamphlets to get some ideas of the type of style that would suit their needs and the homes character. Laurie advises me that they made a very conscious effort to tie in the kitchen to the age and the character of an older home. They compiled a list of all of their favourite features, details and finishes and were happy that they agreed on almost every point.

"Once we decided on our cabinet design and type, we got several quotes from different cabinet makers and were amazed at the different range in price quotes that we received," says Laurie. "I would always encourage others to get more than one estimate. It totally pays off, especially when you're on a tight budget. While we planned to do much of the work ourselves, we did go with a professional company to custom build our cabinets." I commend the Goetzes on their choice to have the cabinets custom made. The irregular layout of the kitchen and the angled ceiling are a challenge, even to professionals. The outcome is spectacular and well worth the additional cost, in my view. They did save money by installing the custom cabinets once they were ready.


With the cabinets ordered and being built, Willie and the couple's four boys had the greatest time gutting the old existing kitchen. Tearing down walls and ripping out cabinets is a job that these young men could really sink their teeth into and it's nice that the entire family could be involved in some way. Working within the existing outer walls, the couple was able to expand the kitchen space opening walls at the dining room entrance, the mud room entrance and the stairway area to the second floor. Willie made the extra effort to arch the main doorway (from the dining room) giving it an Old World feel. Fluted casings were added around all of the new entryways and were painted with an antiqued finish similar to the cabinets. The couple decided to keep the original pot-bellied stove as a unique feature in their new kitchen. "We hired a stone worker to apply an amazing cultured stone finish on the one piece behind the old stove," says Laurie " and we use it all winter to add warmth and a cosy ambience to the room."

This added feature took more time and labour, but is well worth the effort. It really supports the vintage look that the couple was going for.

Helping hands

On a large job such as this it's nice to have help along the way. Willie installed a heating floor system in preparation for new ceramic tile flooring before his brother, Sieg, installed the ceramic tile flooring. When the cabinets were ready, these two handymen installed them. Their friend, Henry, built the hood fan per the couple's design and once installed, Laurie put a coat of Venetian plaster over top to match the plaster finish she created on the stairs. All the windows have been replaced and most of the openings enlarged. Some new windows were added as well where there were none. The kitchen is on the west side of the house, so the couple wanted to bring in as much light as possible.


"Our brushed stainless-steel appliances were purchased new," advises Laurie. "In our 20 years of marriage, we have never owned a new appliance, not even a toaster. I was so thrilled that I hugged my oversized fridge until the delivery man asked me politely to move aside so he could carry in my new gas stove convection oven," Laurie chuckles. I think most women know how this situation feels. While I have had new toasters over the years, the new appliance bug still hits me from time to time.

Finishing touches

Laurie shopped around to find the perfect counter stools for their gorgeous granite countertop and chose an amazing Tiffany-styled light fixture to hang over the breakfast nook. New co-ordinating dishes and flatware complement some of Laurie's vintage pieces that she wasn't ready to part with. A caramel-coloured paint was applied to the walls and complements the warm tones of the space.

Doing a major renovation job yourself can be a lesson in patience. A kitchen job is especially taxing because of the lack of cooking space available during the work phase. "Dust and clutter seemed to spread throughout every room," remembers Laurie. "Because we were doing most of the work ourselves, things obviously took much more time than they would have had we hired out. Many of these months we were doing dishes in the upstairs bathroom or eating out of paper plates," she says. "You can only imagine trying to feed four constantly hungry boys under these circumstances." To keep her composure during the difficult times Laurie took long walks or bike rides when possible.

The entire renovation took about six months, which isn't bad considering all that was accomplished. There are still some minor details to tend to, but for the most part the kitchen is functional and beautiful.

"Our kitchen has truly become the heart of our home," says Laurie. "It is where we share meals with our family and friends, share life's joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. It is where after-school snacks are devoured and homework is done. It is where quiet reading on a cold blustery winter day (and we have plenty of those) in the middle of winter with a wood fire burning brings a sense of comfort," she says fondly. Now that the kitchen reno is complete, I can only assume that it was all worth it. Laurie is delighted with her new kitchen, but said: "Just don't ask if I'd ever do it again."

The Purple House #1

Everyone in the neighbourhood knows this home by name

Sun Aug 21 2005

Connie Oliver (Winnipeg Free Press)- Room For Change

IS there a house in your neighbourhood that stands out more than the rest? A house that commands attention by passersby and spurs interest and wonder? Well, "the purple house" in this week's feature is the envy of its neighbourhood. This 1921 home has character galore, but the homeowners' special touches are what make this home wonderfully unique. Everyone refers to it as "the purple house" so the homeowners made a sign for their fence embracing the name.

The vivid purple colour of the house makes a stunning backdrop to the whimsical floral garden which is a story unto itself. I will cover this enchanting garden in more detail in the near future.

Laurie and Willie Goetz first spotted this home some 15 years ago and had a strong desire to purchase it. The seller's price was very high for the market at that time and so the Goetz family had to pass on the purchase. Laurie was very disappointed about the turn of events, as she really felt a connection to the home and knew that it could be wonderful. Seven years later, the house was up for sale again. This time, though, the house went unsold. By that time the house needed some major work and was on the market so long that the sellers finally removed the "for sale" sign, having had no offers. The Goetz family began dreaming about owning this character home once again and approached the owners when the sign came down. The asking price was much more reasonable this time around, so Laurie and Willie finally purchased the home. Laurie was ecstatic that the house was finally theirs because she had always felt that this house was "home." That was eight years ago and the Goetzes have charged full steam ahead to make this home their own.

Much to do

The house needed work inside and out, but that didn't deter this creative couple. Luckily, Willie is an independent window and siding contractor so they were able to replace 38 of the home's 40 windows for a reasonable price. Many of the window openings were widened to accommodate more modern window designs. Arched and mullioned windows mimic the arched doorways in the home and flood the main floor with natural light. An oversized bow window in the dining room was a recent addition that one would swear was original to the house. It's a wonderful feature and is the focal point of this large room.

The layout of the house is spacious and unique. From the front sitting room (which is more like a formal porch) to the arched doorways and high ceilings, this home is very inviting. You just can't match the character of these older homes.

Laurie is a lover of antiques and collectibles and it shows in her lovely decor. Passing through the formal porch to the interior of the home, the first thing you see is a charming collection of tiny cuckoo clocks set on a painted backdrop of a faux iron fence and garden. Laurie is a talented gal and hand-painted this entire wall. The painted faux fence mimics the design of her real wrought iron fence, which is a nice detail.

Living large

The large formal living room is attractive with medium-toned sage green walls and cream-coloured trim and mouldings. Most of the antique furniture, as well as the flooring, is dark, so this wall colour is the perfect choice. It's rich, yet light enough to balance the dark furniture. Wall colour is crucial to ambience so white walls just wouldn't cut it here. The pink Victorian sofa is a recent addition, a stunning centrepiece in this room. It blends well with the upholstery on the more contemporary sofa, as well as with the floral area carpet. Laurie purchased this sofa at an antique shop for $400, an amazing price considering its age, great condition and the luxury of a down-filled seat cushion. I have to say that it's my favourite piece in the home. There's a very English Country feel to this room that's most appealing and welcoming. You immediately want to sit and have a cup of tea or read a good book upon entering this living room. That's a real testament to Laurie's great decor choices.

The sizable dining room houses a large dining room suite with ease. Laurie and Willie recently purchased the entire nine-piece set at an auction for $400. (I see a pattern here!) and it's the perfect style and size for this vintage home. The lovely, hand-painted glass lighting fixture, another garage sale find, is a unique piece that suits the decor beautifully. Laurie got it for a song because one of the glass shades was broken and missing a piece of the glass. Having not found anyone who could repair it, Laurie took it upon herself to do her own repair using, of all things, a piece of plastic from an ice-cream pail. She needed material that was translucent and pliable and the plastic from this pail fit the bill. She cut a patch that matched the hole, then painted over the area mimicking the floral pattern. It's a pretty good repair job that I wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't pointed it out. This is great example of how a little ingenuity can make things work for your decor and your budget.

Special touches

There are so many lovely details in this home that I had to walk around a few times to take it all in. Vintage lampshades, oval antique picture frames, stunning artwork and antique accessories all come together to give every corner of every room interest and charm. Even their pet budgie has a Victorian-styled bird cage that is in keeping with the decor.

Melding old with new

The original kitchen was quite dated and dark, so the couple totally gutted and renovated it into a wonderful, workable space. We'll look at the kitchen renovation in detail next week. Stay tuned.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wellington Crescent

Lofts at Bannatyne

"In 1904, Joseph Maw and Thomas Kelly started development of a six story wharehouse building to be named the Kelly Building. Nearly 100 years later, this proud warehouse has been completely restored and moves into the next century as "The Lofts on Bannatyne".

The Lofts is an example of the romanesque revival style of architecture prominent during the 1880s. Construction was brick with rusticated stone used around the windows and doors. Large arches atop upper floor windows were a trademark of this design."

I recently took a trip to Winnipeg during the "Doors Open Winnipeg" Event in May of this year and toured the "Lofts at Bannatyne". I thought this building project was much more professional than the "Fairchild lofts" on princess street; although the progress of the Fairchild Lofts was only in the early stages of completion. I would much rather live in the Lofts at Bannatyne than the Fairchild Lofts mostly because of the better location (near exchange district) and the larger more professional feel of it. I do like the idea of "Loft Living", It is an opportunity to live uptown and have little need for transportation if you work near downtown.

Below are some pictures of one of the lofts I looked at in the Bannatyne Lofts

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