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A History of 120 King's Street

Before you could go for a drink at The King’s Head Pub, 120 King Street held a variety of industries within its walls.
120 King in 1969 as the home to Sparling Sales.
Source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba
The architect was Joseph Greenfield, whose career is not well documented. It is difficult to say exactly what buildings in Winnipeg he worked on due to poor records. We know that he was born in England in 1845, and moved to Toronto where he trained as an architect. He moved to Winnipeg in 1885. He worked for McCoskrie and Co., a firm that did a lot of designs for buildings in Winnipeg, Brandon, and small towns between the two. In 1903 Greenfield became the Superintendent for Public Works with the Dominion Government. He retired in 1910, and unfortunately died that same year.

120 King Street is a Romanesque revivial style building made with buff-coloured brick, with a limestone foundation. The building’s exterior remains virtually unchanged since its construction, with one notable exception. The main entrance is on the far left of the building, but historic photographs show that it used to be in the middle. The reason for changing the entrance location is unknown. The year of construction, 1896, is engraved in the centre of the building, above the location of the original front entrance.
The building's entrance is clearly in the centre, not on the left.
Source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba
The building has its roots in Manitoba’s fur trade. Joseph Greenfield was commissioned to design the building by Andrew Carruthers, a local businessman of A. Carruthers and Co. They sold hides, wool, furs, and Seneca root. 120 King Street served as their main office. 

A. Carruthers and Co. also had a warehouse to store the bulk of their hides and furs on Logan Street, quite far away from their main office. Despite the distance to deliver product from the warehouse to the main store, the main store was a prosperous and desirable location. Carruthers died in 1909, but one of his sons continued to operate the business for another decade.

Three years before Andrew Carruthers died, in 1906, he rented the top floor of the store to Der Nordwestern Publishing Co. Ltd., which published Der Nordwestern.  Der Nordwestern was the first German Language paper in Canada, established in 1889. Der Nordwestern catered to Manitoba’s German speaking immigrants, who were mainly Mennonites from Russia, Germany, and Eastern Austro-Hungarian Provinces. Other German papers popped up, but Der Nordwestern remained the most influential. It had its peak years from 1904-1914. During that decade it was distributing 20,000 copies of the paper weekly. 30 employees worked at their top floor office at 120 King Street to operate the press.

120 King Exterior. Date unknown.
Source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba
Der Nordwestern was very pro assimilation. It encouraged its readers to adapt to the culture of their new country. The paper likely had to push this attitude no matter if it wanted to stay in business, as there was a Chief Press Censor closely monitoring them during WW1 when Canada was at war with Germany.

Despite the paper’s pro Canada stance, during the First World War it was forced to publish in English until June 25, 1919. During the General Strike of 1919, the paper was suspended entirely. When the suspension lifted, Der Nordwestern returned. 

In 1920, Der Nordwestern Publishing Co. Ltd. changed its name to North Western Publishing Co. Two years later a Czech man named Frank Dojacek bought the company, and changed the name of the company again to The National Press. The National Press continued to publish Der Nordwestern, and also added Canadian Farmer and Croatian Voice to their lineup. Dojacek was credited with a large influence on how foreign language newspapers in Canada developed.

Frank Dojacek. Oil Painting by Eugenia Greinert.
Dojacek was born in Czechoslovakia in 1880. He came to Canada in 1903. He worked briefly as a tailor, but he quickly got into the book selling business. He travelled across the prairies selling Ukrainian, German, and Slovak books. He had many accomplishments outside of The National Press, including founding a Polish newspaper called Polish Times Czas.

The National Press moved out of the building in 1930, it is unclear where their next office was. During the 1930s, 120 King was a millwork. In 1940, Mid West Air Lines (The predecessor to Canadian Pacific Airlines) moved into the building. They would later change their name to Canadian Pacific Airlines while in the building.

In 1951, Sparling Sales, a TV and radio wholesaler moved into the building. 120 King is still frequently referred to in official documents as The Sparling Sales Building. 

Inside Sparling Sales. Date unknown
Source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba
Now, The King’s Head Pub occupies the building. The King's Head is one of the staples of the Exchange District. It hosts performances for The Winnipeg Fringe Fest and the Winnipeg Jazz Fest. It has live entertainment, and an outdoor patio with a view of Old Market Square.

120 King Street has a long, rich history that took many turns with many different occupants. This building is one the Exchange District's many gems, and it has served our city well.

King's Head Pub sign.
Source: Heritage Winnipeg Archives

Written by Laura Wiens, Heritage Winnipeg Marketing and Communications. On Behalf of Heritage Winnipeg


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