Museum Musings: 83 River Street West

An aerial shot which shows the building and its surrounding, including the National Hotel, Lund's Wildlife exhibit, P.A. Hardware, and the Bank of Ottawa building. 83 River West is on the far left of the picture, with a dark car approaching it from the west.

Our Curator recently found a photograph of a River Street building which made her curious.  It seemed to her to be one of the more attractive buildings from amongst the early businesses which had once adorned the south side of the street, so asked me about its history.  Although the building is no longer standing, having been demolished in the early 2000s, I expect that many people will remember it.

For most of its existence, the building had the civic address of 83 River Street West, although in the early years (circa 1913), when it was known as the Pollock Block and housed John Pollock’s tobacco shop and pool room, it appears to have been identified as 87 River Street West.

In subsequent years, between 1919 and 1923, it housed the City Café (identified in its advertising as a Chinese café), and The White Store. There is no readily available information as to the owner of the café, but as The White Store (a dry goods business) it was owned by L.S. Schacter. In 1925, the main floor was vacant, but the upper floor housed an accountant’s office run by Howitt D. Tarves. In 1927, Fred Shea ran a billiards parlour in the building, whether on the main floor or the upper floor is not clear.

This building at 83 River Street West was torn down in the early 2000’s. It housed several local businesses, like Shard’s Steak House, prior to its demolition.

It was in 1929 when the first mention is made of Fayerman Brothers occupying the building.  Previously, circa 1919, Fayerman Brothers (Samuel and Sandy) had been accommodated at 41 River Street West, initially as produce dealers.  The firm had switched to dealing in raw furs by 1923, at which time Samuel was listed as the business’s manager, and were still dealing in that commodity in 1929, now with Alex and Samuel listed as the owners.

By 1932, the fur dealership occupied the main floor, while the upper level was divided into suites.  Mrs. Mair and Mrs. Emma Barrett occupied two of the suites, while Wilna Drew, a stenographer with the Davis and Davis law firm, occupied a third.  The fourth suite provided accommodation for Greenshields Limited, a wholesale dry goods company which was represented in Prince Albert by D.B. Eagles.

In 1934, Mrs. Barrett and Miss Drew still occupied two of the suites, while a third suite was occupied by John Munroe, an employee of M & P Plumbing.  Alexander and Samuel Fayerman were listed as the proprietors of Fayerman Brothers, with Sandy Fayerman being listed as an employee of the firm.

Ownership of the company remained the same in 1936, and Miss Drew and Mrs. Barrett continued to reside in suites upstairs.  Aaron Katz lived in another suite, as did Thomas Aaron, the proprietor of Nu-Way Shoe Repair.

By 1938, the building had attained the name of the Fayerman Block.  Alexander was the sole proprietor listed, with family members Abram, Brina, and Sandy listed as employees.  Mrs. Barret and Miss Drew continued to reside in suites, as did Isadore Aaron, a salesman for Aaron Shoes, and Thomas Aaron of Nu-Way Shoe Repair.

Jack Davis, a salesman for Modern Motors, Thomas Aaron, Mrs. Barrett, and Miss Drew occupied the suites in 1941, which was the last year in which Fayerman Brothers did business from the building.  Apparently, a fire resulted in the need for the raw furs business to be moved a building on the corner of 8th Street and 1st Avenue East.

Fayerman Brothers once again revamped their business operation in 1950 while occupying the premises at 8th Street and 1st Avenue East, moving from raw furs to wholesale hardware.  They later moved, in 1960, to a facility on the corner of 1st Avenue and 13th Street East, where they decided to become a retailer of hardware products by 1974.  They remained in operation at that site until vacating the property in the mid-1980s.

Although the building at 83 River Street West had been damaged by fire, that damage appears to have been limited to the interior of the building.  There was no attempt made by the City to have the building demolished, as was the case for two other buildings damaged by fire in the early 1940s.  The Fayerman Block remain standing, but vacant, after the business relocated to 1st Avenue East.

On the front page of the March 17th, 1946 edition of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, it was announced that “Veterans Rebuild Fayerman Block for New Quarters”.  The story indicated that the Prince Albert branch of the Army & Navy Veterans in Canada would rebuild the fire-gutted Fayerman Block in order for it to become their local headquarters.  (They were renting a small office above 806 Central Avenue at the time.) 

Work was underway under the supervision of contractor W.I. Bill Dier.  The cost of the renovation was expected to be between $15,000 and $20,000 according to the chairman of the building committee Colin McKay, who declared that eventually all three floors would be used by the veterans.

Initially the ground floor would be completed, and would contain a canteen, card and games rooms, and the secretary’s office.  It was hoped that the work would be completed by the first of July.  Afterwards, the second floor would be completed, and would contain a 60 x 25 foot assembly room with broad windows overlooking the river, as well as quarters for the janitor, a kitchen, and space for the ladies’ auxiliary.  Eventually, the basement would be finished with a bowling alley and pool room.

McKay advised that membership in the Army and Navy was growing rapidly, with nearly 400 members.  The following year, the association would also include members from the Air Force, which added even more numbers to their membership.

The Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans remained in their River Street location until 1970 when they moved to their current location on 12th Street West.

After they vacated the building, 83 River Street West was occupied by Shard’s Restaurant.  K.C. Hansen, a salesman for United Agencies, was the president of the ownership group.  Following its closure, Donald Lysycia managed a restaurant under the name of The Villa, which operated until 1977.  Diehler’s Choice was located there until 1982, after which Ron Casavant opened it as The Country Rabbit and The Alley Cat.  The building sat vacant from 1985 until 1990, after which it became Prince Albert Share-a-Meal, a project driven by Msgr. Ulinski.  In 1992, Share-a-Meal was joined by the Prince Albert Foodbank.

In the early 2000s, the building demolished along with several other buildings which had stood in the unit block of River Street West for up to one hundred years.

The Prince Albert Historical Society reminds you that December 8th will be he last day to buy tickets for the Society’s Christmas party. December 10th will be the annual Christmas tea at the Historical Museum. The early sitting is sold out, but there are still a few tickets left for the second sitting. Also, at 2:00 p.m. on December 17th, Coffee and Conversation will occur. The history of the Watsonaires is the topic on that day, along with some holiday musical numbers being performed. For further information, please call the Historical Museum at 306-764-2992.