Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba College of Pharmacy Building (422 Notre Dame Avenue, Winnipeg)
The Manitoba Pharmacy Act of 1878 required prospective pharmacists to have a certain standard of education but made no provision for such education. Consequently, the province’s first pharmacists were obliged to take their education outside Manitoba. The Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association fostered several pharmacy-related courses, some in affiliation with the Manitoba Medical College, through the late 1880s and early 1890s. In 1894, the Association assumed full responsibility for training, hiring lecturers who used space rented from the Medical College.
In 1899, the Association purchased land on Notre Dame Avenue and erected a small building as its Manitoba College of Pharmacy, on a design by local architect S. F. Peters. The one-storey structure described as “second to none in the Dominion” had a lecture room seating 35 students, a laboratory with space for 16 students, and a small office. In the basement was a waiting room, workshop and storage room, furnace room, and lavatory. The facility opened in the fall of 1899 with Henry E. Bletcher as Principal and lecturer. The course of instruction consisted of two, four-month sessions followed by four years of work in a drugstore. There were 13 men and one woman in the first graduating class in the spring of 1900: Arthur Isaac Brooking, Arthur J. Brown, David E. Clement, H. J. Graham, Charles F. Hasselfield, W. G. Lang, Thomas T. Malcolm, Herbert S. McClung (brother of Robert W. McClung), Morrison McKay, J. R. Robinson, J. Fred Scott, H. Turnbull, Mark Westaway, and Miss Margaret Lucinda Woodhull (sister of Frederick Woodhull).
In 1914, when the College formally joined the University of Manitoba as its Department of Pharmacy, the building was leased to the University on a five-year term. When that term expired in 1919, the Association gifted the building to the University on the understanding that the University would continue using it to train pharmacists. In 1921, Bletcher was given a lecture room, office and library space in the University’s building on Broadway, allowing all lectures and some laboratories to be offered there. The original College building was retained for laboratory work. The considerable distance between classrooms and laboratories—nearly a mile—would pose difficulties through the 1920s and early 1930s. Finally, by January 1934, adequate laboratories were provided at the Broadway site and the Notre Dame building was closed, having been a centre for pharmaceutical education in Manitoba for nearly 35 years.
From 1934 to 1939, the building accommodated the Royal Canadian Legion. In 1940, after the Legion had moved out, the University put the building up for sale. It sat empty for a couple of years then was bought by Nicholas and Mary Syzek as a factory for their Winnipeg Brush Company (renamed the Winnipeg Modern Brush Company around 1948). The firm made various kinds of brooms and brushes. By 1945, the Syzeks were living in a suite at the back of the building. Their son Alexander Syzek continued to transect business from the building as recently as 2011.
The building was sold to its present owner in early 2016. After a period of thorough renovations, in which its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were upgraded, in late 2019 the building was offered for lease as office space.
Photos & Coordinates
“College of Pharmacy,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 February 1900, page 6.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
The History of Pharmacy in Manitoba by Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association Historical Committee, 1954.
Obituary [Margaret Lucinda Woodhull], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 February 1963, page 32.
History of the Faculty of Pharmacy, 1899-1999 by John W. Steele, University of Manitoba, 1999.
Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, 1800-1950 by Robert G. Hill, Toronto.
Page revised: 13 December 2019
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