Local blogger and history buff Christian Cassidy wants to take you on a tour of the North End.
Cassidy will deliver a presentation titled Wonder Who Lived There? The History of North End Buildings on Thurs., April 16 at St. John’s Library (500 Salter St.) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Cassidy said his talk will not only cover well-known North End institutions, such the 100-year-old library but also hidden treasures like the gingerbread-style house at 494 College Ave.
"People call it ‘The castle’. It’s a three-storey gingerbread castle," said Cassidy of the house, which was built in 1906.
The 3,096-square-foot castle is currently for sale, with an asking price of $299,000.
"It has a couple great stories tied to it. One of them is the Biollo brothers. They came from Italy, the first one in 1902 with nothing in his pocket, just a Italian immigrant worker and ended up starting a construction empire, running a couple hotels, some cafes, things like that.
"The second owner was Rabbi Cantor. He brought about 600 Polish Jewish families to settle in Western Canada from that house.
"I really get off on the out of the way, the nondescript, the buildings that people pass 100 times and never think about, but those are the ones where the people who built a community lived and toiled."
A West End resident and community housing and grants coordinator at Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Association, Cassidy writes a Winnipeg history blog called West End Dumplings and hosts a radio show on UMFM 101.5 of the same name.
Cassidy also writes two more blogs, one called This Was Manitoba, which details Manitoba history by the day, and Winnipeg Downtown Places, which focuses on the stories behind downtown’s buildings.
Cassidy, 45, grew up in North Kildonan and said he’s had an interest in local history since he was a kid.
"I’d go to Eaton’s with my mom and I’d be the kid who wandered away to the back staircases," Cassidy said. "Those are the best places to look in a building. You don’t go to the places that have been renovated; you go into the stairwells and the back corridors.
Cassidy said digging up Winnipeg’s history has never been easier. Information that was once only available at the Archives of Manitoba is now available online.
"Both the Tribune and the Free Press have online archives, and there’s Peel’s Prairies Provinces (a University of Alberta online resource) that has Henderson Directories (which contain addresses of citizens and businesses dating back to 1905)," Cassidy said.
"I started doing this eight years ago and I’m almost embarrassed when I look back at old posts at how little information I had. Every year a new archive, a new library or a new private collector will suddenly publish 500 pictures of early Winnipeg. There’s this whole treasure trove."
Cassidy said the accessibility of information is one point he wants to get across in his presentation.
"Every building has at least one great story to tell. Whether it’s a high-rise or just a small house on a residential street, the history is there to be looked up and discovered," he said.
Community journalist — The Times
Jared Story is the community journalist for The Times. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7206