The Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth and last in a series of articles, written by former Canora resident Jonathan Kalmakoff of Regina, relating to the building and business activities of the Doukhobor Trading Company - the commercial arm of the Doukhobor Community which between 1907 and 1918, undertook a substantial amount of building and business activity on Second Avenue North in Canora. The articles not only examine the original Doukhobor builders and owners of these properties, but also track the subsequent owners and businesses to the present day.)

Incorporation

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Throughout its tenure in Canora, the Doukhobor Trading Company had conducted business as an unincorporated entity.

This finally changed in April of 1917 with the incorporation of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. (CCUB). As the corporate embodiment of the Doukhobor Community, it also assumed the commercial functions previously associated with the Doukhobor Trading Company. Accordingly, the powers and objects in the company’s letters patent included the following:

“(a) To carry on agricultural pursuits, and to manufacture the products of the farm, the mine, the soil and the forest; to manufacture, purchase or otherwise acquire, to hold, own, sell, assign and transfer or otherwise dispose of, to invest, trade, deal in and deal with, either at retail or wholesale, goods, wares and merchandise, and real and personal property, corporeal and incorporeal, of every class and description whatsoever and whatsoever required; to grow, produce, manufacture, buy, sell, trade, deal in and deal with raw materials, livestock, grains, fruits, agricultural products and all other products and by-products of the soil, the forest, the mine, the lakes and rivers; including among others the raising, buying, selling, trading in and dealing with cattle, sheep, horses and livestock of every kind, and to manufacture any and all materials, goods, products and merchandise of any and every kind from any of the foregoing;…”

Following the incorporation, the Canora property (including land, buildings, chattels and business) held in the name of Peter V. Verigin in trust was transferred to the new company and registered in its name. Thereafter, all business was conducted in the name of the CCUB and the longstanding trade name ‘Doukhobor Trading Company’ ceased to be used.

Sale of property

The final demise of the CCUB trading and business enterprise in Canora was precipitated by the Dominion Government’s closure of the Doukhobor reserves in July of 1918. At that time, the remaining village reserves in Saskatchewan were either homesteaded by independents or settlers of other nationalities, sold to community members who, in turn, deeded the land back to the CCUB, leased for the crop season, or reserved for the Soldier’s Settlement Board for returning veterans of the First World War.

The closure of the Doukhobor reserves necessitated the purchase of additional grain-growing lands on the prairies to sustain the CCUB’s population base in British Columbia. To this end, a land swap was negotiated, whereby the CCUB disposed of its property in Canora in exchange for a large block of land at Kylemore. The arrangement was made through William Frank, a real estate broker from Winnipeg, who acted as intermediary. 

Consequently, in October of 1918, the CCUB transferred its property in Canora to William Frank for the sum of $33,500. The sale proceeds were applied towards the CCUB’s purchase of 10,613 acres at Kylemore from the Chicago-based Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. under an agreement for sale for $265,343, brokered through Frank earlier that year.

Subsequent owners

While the Doukhobor Community presence in Canora ended with the 1918 property sale, its architectural legacy lived on through the buildings it constructed for many decades, where indeed, it continues to the present day.

Livery stable

The Doukhobor livery stable on Lot 11 changed hands several times over the years. 

It was purchased by Fred Buro in 1918 then assigned to Annie Buro in 1919. It was sold for taxes in 1922 and purchased by Mike Britsky in 1924. In 1936, the livery business was sold to Alex Popoff. It passed to Blashko and Martha Mazur in 1944, followed by George Olynyk in 1946.

In 1953, the livery stable was demolished by town order as its corner walls were badly cracked and out of plumb. In 1960, the now-vacant lot was sold to Peter and Nestor Ortynsky, who in turn sold it to John and Thelma Makowsky in 1977. 

In 1982, the lot was purchased by Doctors Swithin and Mamin Lee-Sing who constructed an office building where they conducted a medical practice.

In 1999, the premises was purchased by Dr. Bruce James Miller who established his medical practice there. In 2006, ownership passed to Wayne Seidle, who operated Seidle Law Firm there until 2016. Since 2016, Leland Campbell Law firm have occupied the property. 

Livery yard

Lot 12 of the Doukhobor livery yard passed to Fred Buro in 1918, Annie Buro in 1919, Mike Britsky in 1924, Alex Popoff in 1936, Blashko and Martha Mazur in 1944 and George Olynyk in 1946. Throughout this time, the lot remained vacant. 

In 1956, it was purchased by Wasyl J. Krukoff, who constructed a concrete block building and ran Krukoff’s Groceteria there. In 1963, it was purchased by Peter Danyluk, who operated Baldy’s Pool Hall there. 

Since 1977, it has been owned by John and Thelma Makowsky and used as auxiliary storage for their pharmacy on Main Street.

Lot 13 of the Doukhobor Livery Yard was assigned to Lillian Frank in 1919 and then the Land Security Company of Canada Limited in 1920. 

In 1920, David Feinstein purchased the lot and built a livery barn.  In 1926, the livery business passed to Mike Britski, followed by Walter Wasyliw in 1944. 

In 1953-1954, the livery barn was demolished and a concrete block building was erected.  It was leased in 1954, then sold in 1962 to John Janguls, who (along with W.J. Marchinko) ran Johnny’s Plumbing & Heating there. In 1972, it was purchased by Wilbert Matechuk and Peter Ostafichuk who (along with William Rehaluk) have operated W & P Plumbing & Heating Ltd. there until the present day.

Dwelling House

Throughout the years, the Doukhobor-built house on Lot 14 passed through the hands of a number of owners. In 1919, it was transferred to Lillian Frank followed by the Land Security Company of Canada Limited in 1920. 

From 1920 to 1926, the family of David Feinstein occupied the home. The next family to live in the house was that of Mike and Nellie Britski from 1926 to 1944. 

The last family to reside in the home was that of Walter and Sadie Wasyliw from 1944 until 1986. In 1961-1962, the Doukhobor-built barn and drive shed behind the house were demolished. The house itself was demolished in 1986. 

Since then, the property has remained vacant; however, the maple trees planted by the original Doukhobor builders still stand at the front of the lot, silent reminders of its communal past.  

 

Trading store

The Doukhobor-built store and warehouse on Lot 15 passed to the Land Security Company of Canada Limited and then David Feinstein in 1920. In 1926, it was purchased by Mike Britski, who operated the Independent Grocery there until 1942. The grocery business passed to William G. Pawlik in 1942, Nicholas G. Zbitnew in 1945 and then Felix Conan in 1945. 

The Independent Grocery store was leased in 1948, then sold in 1952, to Norman Swerhone, who operated it until 1978. In 1978, the property was purchased by Ernest and Marilyn Ludba who initially operated an arcade there. 

In 1981-1982, the premises was leased to Gladys and Terry Zavislak who ran The Clothing Line store there. After 1982, the Ludbas operated a taxi business at the property. In 1987, the buildings were destroyed by fire. The lot has remained vacant since that time.

Doukhobor Block and annex

In 1920, the Doukhobor Block and Annex on Lot 17 were assigned to the Land Security Company of Canada Limited. Over the next seven years, it leased the main floor of the Doukhobor Block to the Canora Grocery and Fruit Company (Joe Potashner, proprietor); the main floor of the annex to the Saskatchewan Produce Company; and the upper flats to various residential tenants. 

In 1927, the block and annex were leased to Andy Lunn, who carried out extensive renovations to the interiors and reopened the buildings as a hotel with 35 furnished rooms and a licensed cafeteria on the main floor. It was briefly named the New London Hotel; however, within months, it was renamed the Lunn Hotel after the proprietor. 

Over the next 27 years, the Lunn Hotel changed hands several times. At height of the Depression in 1936, it was foreclosed on by the Bank of Montreal.

It passed to William Paul Pugh in 1949, followed by Victor Remenda and William Stinka in 1953. In 1952-1953, the hotel rooms were redecorated and equipped with modern walk-in fridges, hot and cold running water, flush toilets and baths.

Disaster struck in 1954, when the annex building of the Lunn Hotel was destroyed by fire.  It was never rebuilt; however, the remnants of the concrete foundations are still visible at the back of the lot today.

Subsequently, the main block continued operating as the Lunn Hotel under a number of owners, who made minor changes but did not fundamentally alter the architecture of the building. 

 

These have included: Steve Nawakowsky and Alex Bodnarchuk in 1955, who leased the premises to Charles Butler of Biggar; Mayer Enterprises Ltd. in 1961; Stephen and Jean Kuzina in 1964; Lunn Hotel Ltd. in 1969; J & E Holdings Ltd. (James and Evelyn Hillier, proprietors) in 1975; Gratton Holdings Ltd. (Grady and Isabel Gratton, proprietors) in 1977 who added an off-sale liquor outlet on the west side of the building; Chodd Enterprises Ltd. (Guy and Fay Jolley, proprietors) in 1981; Mikann Enterprises Inc. (Mike and Anne Noel, proprietors) in 1982 who added a lounge addition on the building’s north side; North West Hotel Ltd. in 1985; Lunn Hotel & Cars Ltd. in 1998 (Earl and Eunice Reaney, proprietors); and 101198947 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Kenny Kan, proprietor) since 2013.

Now in its 90th year of continuous operation as the Lunn Hotel, the building has a liquor store, licensed lounge and cafeteria on the main floor, three private living quarters and four rentable rooms on the second floor, and eight rentable rooms currently used for storage on the third floor. 

The 105-year old building is one of the earliest buildings still standing in Canora. It is not only the only remaining Doukhobor-built structure on Second Avenue East; indeed, it is the oldest and largest communally-built Doukhobor structure still in operation in Canada today.  As such, it is certainly worthy of historic designation and preservation.