Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Home of Kay's Delicatessen Recently Designated: The Lauzon Block at 339 William Avenue

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.     
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

The Lauzon Block at 339 William Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.

Quick Facts

  • Likely designed by Johann (John) Schwab, although the architect listed is the owner
  • Was originally built as a butcher shop for the owner, with offices in the upper floors
  • The Knights of Pythias were tenants of the upper floors for a time
  • The building stayed in the Lauzon/Roy family until the 1990s
  • Now the home of Kay's Delicatessen, which has kept the interior's tin ceiling and walls intact 

William Avenue in the Late 1800s 

Looking west from the roof of City at William Avenue in 1887. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.
When William Avenue became one of Winnipeg's major thoroughfares in the 1880s, warehouses, banks, and businesses rapidly filled both sides of the street. These included the Leland Hotel (1884), the Central Fire Hall (1898) which sat where Old Market Square is now, and the City Market Building, which was a busy commercial and retail hub located west of City Hall, between James and William Avenues.

The west facade of the Market Building ca. 1915. William Avenue is to the right of the photo. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the M. Peterson Collection.
Further west, the street developed into a a residential neighbourhood, with sturdy homes populating both sides of the street. Winnipeg's first public library, the Carnegie Library, opened at 380 William in 1905, followed by the Provincial Normal School at 442 William in 1906. Apartment blocks, schools, and commercial properties continued to fill out the street in the pre-World War I period.

It was to this bustling neighbourhood that butcher Jean Baptiste Lauzon decided to bring his business, completing the construction of a mixed-use structure to house his butcher shop in 1905.

A Bit About Mixed-Use Structures

The Lauzon Block from the east., ca. 2014. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
Mixed-use structures were very common in the 20th century and thus can be found all over Winnipeg, as well as in urban centres around the world. These buildings featured retail and commercial space on the ground floor with space for offices or residential use on the upper floors. Usually only three or four storeys tall, the ground floor is often visually divided from the rest of the building through colour differences and the use of architectural elements, such as a belt course (a line of bricks in a different colour or direction).


The Construction of the Lauzon Block

This business card for Lauzon's butcher shop shows the original entrance to the building, which would later be modified. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the M. Peterson Collection.
The building at 339 William Avenue cost $18 000 to build in 1905, with separate permits issued for the construction of the ground and upper floors. The contractor listed was Joseph Cusson, who was the founder of Cusson Lumber and is commemorated in St. Boniface's Cusson Street. Lauzon also moved an 1880s era frame house that was already on the property to the north end of the lot behind the building, where it remained for many decades and was likely used as a smokehouse. 

1978 photos of the back of the building showing the frame house on the back of the lot. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the City of Winnipeg.
Towering above the adjacent buildings, the Lauzon Block featured a striking rough-cut limestone facade. A space for signage separated the first and second floor, along with a modest, smooth-cut stone belt course, with ornamental stone elements on either end. The top of the building has a flat roof line with a raised central section and a swan's neck pediment above a carved panel with the words "LAUZONS" and "A.D. 1905".

Detail of the front facade of 339 William. Notice "LAUZONS" and "A.D. 1905" inscribed near the top. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
The ground floor was designed with a large display window and a recessed entrance, decorated with transom windows and ornamental lighting. A second door on the east side of the recessed area opened to the staircase that lead to the upper floors. 

Photo of the east staircase that leads to the upper floors ca. 2015. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
The east, west, and north facades were made of common clay brick, with the ground floor walls covered on either side by the adjacent buildings. The rear (north) side of the building had entrances on both the the ground and second floor along with a fire escape made of both wood and metal that remains to this day. Numerous windows on all four sides of the building provided an abundance of natural light.

Rear of the building ca. 2014. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.

The Building's Architect: Lauzon or Schwab?

The architect listed in the original City of Winnipeg Building Permit is owner, Jean Baptiste Lauzon. However, according to several sources, the building was in fact designed by Johann (John) Schwab, who immigrated from Austria with his family in 1898. By 1902, John Schwab was listed in the classifieds as an architect. 

Schwab was active from 1901-1911 and was responsible for nearly $400 000 worth of work, the majority of which was for small North End houses. Some of his designs included the Henry Avenue Hebrew School, the First German Lutheran Church on Tweed Avenue, and the Polish National Catholic Church on Burrows Avenue, among others. A more complete list can be found here.  


Jean (James) Baptiste Lauzon 

Jean (James) Baptiste Lauzon. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Personality Collection, "Lauzon, J.B. #1.
Jean (also known as James) Baptiste Lauzon was born in Pointe Claire, Montreal on March 15, 1858. At age 16, he became a butcher's apprentice in Point Claire and would later move to Winnipeg in 1876, where he opened his own meat business in St. Boniface within two years. In 1880, Lauzon moved both his family and business to Emerson, MB, but would return to reopen in St. Boniface in 1884.  His business thrived, allowing him to open a branch in the Public Market Building behind City Hall, which would be followed by a move to his newly-constructed building at 339 William. 

Jean Baptiste and wife Adeline ca. 1893. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Personality Collection, Lauzon, J.B. #2.
Active in politics, Lauzon was elected to the St. Boniface town council in 1885, which he served on until 1898. He was elected to the Manitoba Legislature twice as a Conservative member, first representing St. Boniface in 1896 and later La Verendrye in 1907. He was also one of the first members of the Retail Merchants' Association of Manitoba and was a leading proponent for the creation of a public slaughterhouse in Winnipeg. These would later come to fruition as the Public Markets on Marion Street in St. Boniface.

The house at 95 Luxton Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Nomination Report.
In 1896, Lauzon built a large house at 95 Luxton Avenue, which remains today and has also been nominated for designation. See the City of Winnipeg Nomination Report here
 

Ownership & Occupancy Through the Years

Photos of the ground floor and front facade of the building ca. 1969, prior to renovations to the front entrance. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Architectural Survey.
Lauzon's butcher shop occupied the ground floor of 339 William until the 1920s, when part of the east portion of the space was rented out to the Modern Printing Company, which remained until 1945. A number of smaller businesses occupied the retail space over the decades, including the Canada Cracker Company (1954) and Custom Bedding and Upholstery (1960). The upper floor suites were used as the Knights of Pythias Hall in 1910 but were later converted to residential space. 

The second floor suite ca. 2015. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
After Jean Baptiste Lauzon's death in 1944, the property at 339 William Avenue transferred to his widow, Adeline, along with the rest of his large estate. She maintained ownership until her own death in 1949, shortly after which the couple's daughter Adelina (married name Roy) took ownership along with her son Thomas. The Roy family owned the property until into the 1990s.  

Renovations & the Building Today

City of Winnipeg Building Permits for 339 William Avenue. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
Interior alterations were completed on the building in 1983, 1998, and 2007. New concrete beams and walls were poured in the south end of the basement at some point, although the precise date is unknown. Other changes included replacing windows on rear of the building, as well as the replacement of the front windows and doors and the addition of metal cladding to the entrance, which was completed sometime after 1969. 

The refurbished ornamental tin that has been incorporated into the decor of the restaurant ca. 2015. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
Today, the ground floor has been converted into a restaurant, which has kept the ornamental tin ceilings and walls as part of the decor. A small mezzanine located at the rear of the building was used as an ice house, which the present owners have converted into office space. A staircase running up the east side of the building provides access to the upper floor. 

The third floor of 339 William ca. 2015. Image courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report and M. Peterson.
Both the second and ground floors feature extremely high ceilings and the residential suite includes an interior hallway and transom windows to increase natural light and air circulation. Most recently used as a performance hall, the top floor is now gutted, although remnants of the original wallpaper still exist.

Sources & Links

City of Winnipeg Historical Report - Long
City of Winnipeg Historical Report - Short
Winnipeg Downtown Places - The Lauzon Block  

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