The epitome of home as hub
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This article was published 29/11/2021 (434 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If there was one word to describe the house at 181 Canora St. in Wolseley it might be ‘hospitality’ — because it is a place of friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.
John David Pankratz and Jan Schmidt have made the 115-year-old house their home for 21 years and, in that time, have welcomed and hosted countless friends, family members, neighbours, guests, and tenants from around the world.
Built in 1906, the house sits on a street named after the Canadian Northern Railway.
The couple bought the house after their return from living and working in Africa for three years.
As with most older homes, this one came with an intriguing history, which includes a former Blue Bomber star linebacker.
“We bought the house from the parents of Stan Mikawos, who played defensive tackle for the Blue Bombers from 1982 to 1996, winning three Grey Cups in that time,” Pankratz said. Three generations of their family lived in the house.”
Before that, the home had been a rooming house, as were many houses in Wolseley at that time. Homes began to revert back to single-family dwellings in the 1970s and ’80s.
“It had a lot of the original woodwork around the doors and windows, it had leaded glass window panes, so there were rainbows when the sun shone through. The original floors were still in — oak on the main floor and maple on the second floor,” Pankratz explained. “It had its original character — you can buy oak door and window trim, but you can’t buy the patina it takes on after 100 years.”
The 2,300-square-foot home with a finished basement has six bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, and several outdoor living spaces. It is adorned with a collection of woodcuts of Africa, paintings from the Democratic Republic of Congo, representations of cave paintings from Zimbabwe, pillows from Palestine, a wool/silk carpet from Afghanistan, wooden coasters from Mozambique, and Christmas tree ornaments from all over the map, a reflection of the couple’s connections to their international family.
The basement was rented for about 10 years to a variety of young people.
“It was a wonderful time, and I’m so happy we chose to share our space with others,” Pankratz said.
After many years of labour-of-love renovation, with help from family, the home now has a garage-top garden, a deck on the ground floor in the back, a second-floor deck between the house and the garage and an expanded verandah in the front, often used for socializing. The two apple trees — one in the front and one in the back — have provided the couple with many apple pies over the years.
The house, with its rich history, esthetics and stories continues to be a welcoming place of warmth and social interaction.
“The people we’ve lived with and the dinner and party guests over the last 20 years. The space — having a room for each of the things we do is so nice — that we renovated to the bare bones and don’t have many of the ‘old house’ problems others experience who took a partial approach to renovating; the gazebo — oh, if those walls could talk they would tell tales of so much laughter, friendships blossoming and deepening,” Pankratz said, reflecting on the couple’s years in the home.
“It’s the primary reason I don’t want to move away until we simply can’t do the stairs anymore.
“We love the front-porch community that is Wolseley. We regard our older home as a privilege and a responsibility. Everything about the home is a plus for us — the location (is) within walking distance of almost everything we do. The community that values formal and informal interaction among neighbours. The honouring of the old character found in the oak woodwork and solid doors, while incorporating the new for convenience and connecting to the outside world. This is the hub of our life in the house, in the community, in the world.”
Janine LeGal is a freelance writer who loves Winnipeg’s homes and architecture. If you have a suggestion for a house to be featured in this column, please contact her at: email@example.com
St. Boniface community correspondent
Janine LeGal is a community correspondent for St. Boniface who also writes the These Old Houses column for our Community Homes section.