Early homes of importance which were demolished

One wing the Charles Mair house, which was called Holmewood, partly washed away in a spring flood

When we were putting together our 2022 calendar for the Historical Museum, we had to make some difficult decisions. Each month in the calendar features an early Prince Albert home which has since been demolished. We tried to feature a home of interest, either because of its architecture, or because of who had lived there. Some of the homes we considered could not be included because we did not have a photograph or because the photograph could not be reproduced in a manner which would be suitable.
One such house was situated on River Lot 79 at what became 217 River Street East. It was the first brick house built west of the Red River settlement (Winnipeg) in the Northwest Territories. Built in 1879, it was the second brick building in what is now Saskatchewan. A government building in Battleford, built in 1877, preceded its construction by two years.
The bricks for the house were hand-made, rather than machine moulded. They were yellow in colour, apparently from clay dug from a pit on the north side of what is now Eighth Street East, about midway between the present Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Hand moulded bricks have one advantage over machine moulded bricks. They can be sliced, or cut, in any direction desired, whereas machine moulded bricks or pressed bricks can be broken only in one direction.
Thomas Baker, a carpenter working in partnership with Hurd, likely framed the house. Henry Peard, a bricklayer from the firm Peard and Brown situated on River Lot 80, is believed to have manufactured the bricks and laid them.
There were five other homes built of similar brick, all in the general area south of River Street and north of Eighth Street, between Central Avenue and Sixth Avenue East. One home, used by Thorpe Brothers Plumbing and Heating as a warehouse in the 1970s, was originally the home of George McKay.
Prince Albert’s first brick house was demolished in 1978. The last residents of the house were Charles and Pat Haylor. Through the years, it had been occupied by several other people, including Christian Oster (a labourer), Annie McLeod (widow of the late Alex McLeod), Albert Eyberson (a painter), and Phillip Morgan (owner of Voldeng’s Studio).
Unfortunately, although the house was significant, and had been occupied by persons of note, the quality of any photographs possessed by the Bill Smiley Archives is very poor.
Two other Baker homes made it into the 2022 calendar. The first was located at 1324 – First Avenue West. The Bakers lived there until 1906. It was later the YWCA residence, but was demolished to make way for the construction of the Gateway Mall. The other house was at 1915 – First Avenue West. The Bakers lived there until 1929. It was demolished in May 1968 and is the current site of the Hillcrest Apartments.
A second house which might have been included in the calendar was known locally as the Charles Mair house. It was located on River Lot 68 and had the street address of 1128 River Street West. Information garnered from a book celebrating the first 100 years of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan indicates that the house was originally the home of Phillip Turner of the Hudson Bay Company. When the first Bishop of the Diocese of Saskatchewan, John McLean, came to Prince Albert, he stayed in the house as a guest of the Turners.
Charles Mair moved to Prince Albert in 1876 and took up residence in the former Turner home. At the time, the house was constructed in something similar to a “t” configuration. Situated on a large piece of property opening onto the North Saskatchewan River, Mair named it Holmewood.
Due to his previous negative experience in the Red River settlement in the late 1860s and 1870, Mair felt it would be in his best interests to leave Prince Albert when it appeared that similar trouble was once again looming, this time in the area between the Saskatchewan rivers.
After the Resistance of 1885, Mair moved back to Prince Albert and once again became a businessman as a general trader. He remained active in both the business and social community until, in 1899, he left to participate in the negotiations for the Peace River Treaty.
According to a long-time resident of Prince Albert, Art Loucks, there were two reasons for Mair’s decision to accept the federal government appointment. Based on information which Mr. Loucks obtained from one of the last people to live in the house, Mair’s family had suffered two serious incidents which prompted the decision.
The first reason had to do with the house. One spring the river rose and flooded the land surrounding it. As a result, part of the house, the north leg of the “t” washed away. The second, and more devastating reason, resulted from an accident involving their daughter. She was riding a horse and as she rode into the barn she struck her head, killing her.
John E. McDonald, a livery man and teamster, initially rented the house from Mair, and later purchased it. Members of the McDonald family lived in the house until about 1956. John’s son Colin McDonald, a veteran of World War I, started as a watch-maker at 15 River Street West in 1923. In 1928, he moved his business to 811 Central Avenue, expanding it to include jewelry sales as well. The store later moved to 19 – 11th Street East, where it remained until it closed in1985.
Colin continued to own the house on River Street West until the City decided to demolish it in February 1960 due to its dilapidated condition. Colin’s brother, who suffered from ill health and was unable to work lived in it until 1958, when it was occupied by Neil Bekker, the proprietor of Neil’s Machinery.
As Charles Mair was, to say the least, a controversial individual, a decision was made to not include his house in the calendar. Yet the early ownership by Phillip Turner, and finally by Colin McDonald, makes this home one of interest and importance.
Other homes which were considered, but did not appear in the calendar, included the Presbyterian manse at 48 -12th Street East, which was sold to Gordon Kirkby Sr. and later demolished in 1974 when he constructed a new office block.
The residence of Charles McDonald, druggist and owner of the McDonald Block at 1103 Central Avenue, was not included. McDonald and his family owned a brick house at 1327 – Second Avenue West. The house remained occupied until early in 1961, when it was demolished in order for Mac’s Café to be constructed.
Finally, the house at 2116 – Second Avenue West was not included. Another brick house, it was built prior to 1914 and demolished in 1975 when Second Avenue West (Highway 2) was widened. It was the house to which I came home as a baby after Hilda Harvey carried me out of the Victoria Hospital’s maternity ward.