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Back alley brick buildings

Updated: Feb 16

A walk down some Trail and Nelson alleys reveals surprises in brick. Three different buildings have nondescript fronts that hide much older brick portions at the back. In another case, a building has been expanded several times, but a bit of the original brick portion can still be seen on one side. In the last case, a building poses a mystery.

1170-1180 Cedar Avenue, Trail

This is the rear of the building that, for more than 90 years, was home to City Bakery. BC Assessment gives it a construction date of 1925, but that is at least five years too late, for the front of the building shows up on the 1920 fire insurance map, as seen below on Lot 3.

The original building was erected by F.F. Furno and Douglas Groutage, reportedly using materials from an old hotel in Rossland, but I don’t know when the back was added.

Here is the strange thing: subsequent fire maps from 1935 and 1953, seen below, show this rear addition as concrete, not brick! Probably just a mistake.

I can’t quite sort out City Bakery’s convoluted ownership history. It was apparently established in 1895 on Victoria Avenue and was under the proprietorship of J. Schnaebele two years later.

One account has Douglas Groutage’s father Evelyn buying the business; another has F.F. Furno as the owner and, upon moving to Kamloops, selling to Federico Merlo and Angelo Pellizari, with Merlo then buying Pellizari out in 1929. Somewhere along the line Gus Montani was involved as well.

But by 1931, the bakery was in the Merlo family’s hands and remained there until it closed in 2017. They still own the building.

1367 Bay Avenue, Trail

This is the rear of the J&V Restaurant. BC Assessment says it was built in 1929 but the one-storey brick section at back looks older than that. This building has long been home to a restaurant; it was the Rex Cafe in the 1950s, operated by Wong Soon, and the Sun Cafe in the 1960s, run by Ling and Sam Wong. The same building also had a dentist’s office and beauty salon.

The brick rear does not appear on the 1925 fire insurance map, which shows the building at the front of the lot shared by a dry cleaner and a cobbler. Nor does the brick section appear on the 1953 map. The latter indicates the rest of the building was concrete.

1367 Bay is on Lot 16, seen at left on the 1925 fire insurance map (just above the lot shaded in red) and at right on the 1953 map.

The billiard hall, next door, however, was made of brick or at least veneered in brick. (In 1953, it was Bird’s Billiards; owner C.H. Bird also rented rooms on the second floor.) Today this is the site of a liquor store built in 1988.

1331 Bay Avenue, Trail

This is the only exposed brick wall at the rear of a complex of several buildings that have been joined together. Once again, the brick section appears way older than the front, which is given construction dates of 1929 and 1940 by BC Assessment.

The 1925 fire insurance plan shows a garage of this address, but does not indicate any portion of it was brick. The 1953 plan, however, shows the entire building as brick; by this time it was a bowling alley, known as the Midway Lanes. The civic directory showed it was also home to a “food bar” and something called the “Koot Carom Club.”

Bay Avenue in 1953. (Greg Nesteroff collection)

It was formerly known as Mandy’s Recreations, and also had a billiards hall. In the 1964 directory, the business at that address was Parslow’s Sporting Goods. Today the brick portion is at the rear of RHC Insurance.

930 Rossland Avenue, Trail

This is one of two buildings side-by-side in the Gulch that are both much older than they appear. Or at least the original portions are, because both have been greatly expanded. This brick wall is the last obvious sign of the original building that was once the Trail Meat Market.

BC Assessment gives it a construction date of 1940, but that must refer to some alteration. The meat market was established in early 1914 at a different location on Rossland Avenue and, needing more room, moved to this site in 1915 or 1916. It was originally a one-storey building, as seen in the photos below. Bruno LeRose, who went on to become Trail’s mayor, started the business, and took on Paul Muzzin as a partner.

Trail Meat Market truck and employees, ca. 1930s. (Trail Historical Society 1290)

Rossland Ave, ca. 1940s. From upper left, we have the Kootenay Hotel (burned down 1978), the Trail Meat Market, D. Daloise & Co. and the Trail Hotel. (Detail from Trail Historical Society 14330)

According to the 1953 civic directory, Trail Meat Market was still at 930 Rossland while City Grocery and Feeds was at 908 Rossland, formerly D. Daloise & Co. 930 Rossland had been considerably altered by this time.

By 1956, Bruno LeRose’s sons Ernest and Geno were operating LeRose Mercantile Ltd., a furniture store, at 930 Rossland and added a second floor. This business later became known as Home Goods and in 1979 moved to a new furniture warehouse in Genelle.

Cominco Magazine, July 1955. Showing the Kootenay Hotel, LeRose Mercantile, and City Super Market and Feeds.

In 1955, Dina and Roy Fresu bought the former D. Daloise building at 908 Rossland Ave., remodelled it, and ran the Trail Meat Market along with a grocery store called Roy’s Superette. They also built an apartment upstairs with help from Dina’s father Tony Fabbro and lived there. At some point the peaked roof was flattened.

In the 1960s, Roy had a building added between the superette and the LeRose building, 902 Rossland Ave., which was home to a pool hall and light lunch counter with two apartments upstairs. The Fresus ran the superette until 1974. (The ad seen here is from the Trail Times of Nov. 4, 1970.)

Today, although the two sections of the building are tied together by a common colour scheme, it’s still easy to see where the original building ends and the new one begins based partly on the brick of the upper storey.

930 Rossland is now home to Gerick Sports, while 902-908 Rossland has Interior Signs, Detzler Chiropractic & Associates, and Justin Kanigan Sports Acupuncture.

930 and 902-908 Rossland Avenue. The brick wall pictured at top is between the two buildings. (Google Street View)

652 Baker Street, Nelson

Here’s a mystery brick building. It has a peaked roof and sits directly behind Cartolina Cards, which is in the surviving portion of the former Tremont Hotel. It’s not visible from Baker Street, but you can get a good look at it from Herridge Lane.

Its origin and purpose are unknown, but it’s possible that this was the former location of grocers Morrison and Caldwell. When their new building was under construction in 1899, the Nelson Daily Miner reported “Their old store building will be moved to the back part of the lot.” We don’t know what the old store looked like, but the fire insurance map of that year indicates it was of frame construction. So if that was their store, the brick veneer must have been added later.

The building is seen at the rear of Lot 6 on the 1899 fire map at left and on a ca. 1950s map at right.

Updated on Aug. 27, 2021 to add more about 908 Rossland Ave., with thanks to Dina Fresu. Updated on Sept. 19, 2022 to add the ad for Roy’s Superette. Updated on Feb. 15, 2024 to add images of City Bakery from the fire insurance maps.

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Jun 27, 2022

Love your back alleys series! thanks greg! - peter bartl

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