The building at the north west corner of Ouellette and Maiden Lane has been for most of its life known to Windsorites as the home of Lazare’s Furs, however the art deco styled building we know today isn’t the the original look or design of the building.
The building was originally built in 1928 and designed by architect Albert Lothian, and was the home of a local real estate firm called the Reaume Organization, Limited. The specialized in developments in the Riverside area, having developed Jefferson & Patrice around Wyandotte Street today. In that sub-division Albert Lothian designed two homes, one on Jefferson just north of Wyandotte, and another on Patrice, just south of Wyandotte.
The building opened in early 1929, with the real estate firm’s offices on the second floor, and ground floor retail.
Copeland’s Book Store that survived into the 1990s occupied the ground floor retail space, and was in 1929, Windsor’s oldest book store.
Prior to the city wide renumbering following amalgamation, the building that is today’s 493, was numbered 461 under the old system.
While a small photo only in this ad for the company, the office area looks very similar to other Albert Lothian designed spaces. However the time in the office appears to be short lived. By 1933 there were ads in the paper to indicate that the second floor was being split between the Reaume Corp and a women’s seamstress. By 1934, there is no longer any mention of the Reaume Organization.
There was news in December 1932 to indicate the previous owners of the property were suing the Reaume Organization for failure to make installment payments on the property where the office was built. It was alleged that $16,000 was owed by the Reaumes and that they were collecting $600 a month rent for the Copeland’s Book Store space (nearly $13,000 a month in 2023 dollars).
By the late 1930s it appears that Copeland’s had moved out and a drug store was occupying the ground floor space.
In 1941, the building changed hands and new owners Lazare’s Furs hired Windsor Architects Sheppard & Masson to redesign the building as a single tenant Fur Store. They put on a new facade, reconfigured the ground floor retail space and second floor for fur storage. Along with the new look, they added the distinctive neon sign along Maiden Lane. Despite the Art Deco look, the building and the look were done in 1941.
The fur business was booming at Lazare’s quickly reached capacity in their budling. The second floor was being used as both fur storage and fur manufacturing. In May 1944, the company announced they would be expanding and adding a third floor to the building. This last modification gave us the budling we all know today.