Tracing Lena Huckan – Part One (Ben Nevis House) Guest Post by Christian Cassidy (This Was Winnipeg)

After writing my "Letters to a Dead Great-Aunt" series, I made the acquaintance of Christian Cassidy, a local Winnipeg historian who writes several blogs. He offered to do some additional research for me in Winnipeg to uncover more about the life and death of my Great-Aunt Michalena in a hotel fire in 1918. Here in his guest post is Part One, based on information found in the 1915 Henderson Directory for Winnipeg. Lena was listed as living in Ben Nevis House at 42 Dagmar Street.

Tracing Lena Huckan

Ben Nevis House

In 1903 advertisements begin to appear for "rooms for rent" at 42 Dagmar. At first it was three, then four rooms.

The Morning Telegram -- July 19, 1907

The name "Ben Nevis House" (named for the highest mountain in Great Britain) does not appear in ads until June 1907.

An advertisement in 1917 says that Ben Nevis House is the "first house from Notre Dame". If that is the case then this is a picture of Lena‟s neighbourhood circa 1903. It's a photo looking up Notre Dame FROM Dagmar so that would be her streetcar, taking her to and from the city core.

Could Lena have worked at Ben Nevis as well as live there, similar to what she did (later) at the Riverview (Hotel)? Ben Nevis House routinely had ads similar to this in the papers. From March 14, 1913:

Classified (Manitoba Free Press)
upstairs and wait table. $20. Ben Nevis House. 42 Dagmar Street.

Ben Nevis House was a regular advertiser and not just with little classified ads but larger ones in amongst city hotels; so it may have been a little high end, perhaps out of Lena's price range.
Other mentions of Ben Nevis around the time she may have been living there:

The Voice -- August 3, 1917

Perhaps had some fun while she lived there….

Caledonian Sports Witnessed by Large Crowd at Horse Show Building Last Night. October 5, 1910 MB Free Press
Close on 3,000 people witnessed the first annual Caledonian games at the Horse Show amphitheatre last night. Mixed in with the Scotch music and dancing were the more common athletic sport.
Tug- of war - Caledonians swept everything before them in this contest. They first defeated the Electrical Union team in two straight -pulls and then did the same thing, only more easily, to a team
from the Ben Nevis house.

The Neighbourhood

All of the houses on that first block of Dagmar, and parallel streets, are now gone. That stretch of Notre Dame is fairly commercial with some light industrial and as the Notre Dame buildings expanded, the houses directly behind them disappeared.

Period House near Bannatyne Ave. and Notre Dame

There are still pockets of period houses in the neighborhood.

These are photos of houses within a couple of blocks of Ben Nevis House and, presumably, would be similar in size or style. Dagmar wasn't noted for being a remarkable street in comparison to the rest of the neighbourhood.

Central Park

Given where she lived, she definitely would have visited Central Park, just a couple of blocks to the south. ( )

Central Park was one of Winnipeg's first parks. It was originally a natural space, but
by the time she lived there, the park would have boasted tennis courts, a bandshell and the Waddell Fountain. It was a very popular place and you can see the treeline from where she lived.

Some of the old houses and buildings exist around the park. Knox Church (above) was built between 1914 and 1918 (the war interrupted). The Warwick, Winnipeg's first upscale apartment block, was there in 1909. (for more on the Warwick:

One feature that was unveiled in 1914 was the Waddell Fountain. It was an attraction unto itself. This summer, in fact, the fountain was re-installed after a complete rebuild and upgrade.

More on the fountain and the interesting story behind it

Other period shots of Central Park:

Copyright © 2010, Christian Cassidy for Ruth Zaryski Jackson


Anonymous said...

What a windfall of information about the possible lifestyle of your Great-Aunt!

Ruth Zaryski Jackson said...

Thanks for commenting. I was amazed by what Christian found about her neighbourhood in Winnipeg. The background helps bring her to life.