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Manitoba History: Review: Jill Wade, Manitoba Architecture to 1940, A Bibliography

by W. P. Thompson
University of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 9, Spring 1985

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to

Manitoba Architecture to 1940, A Bibliography. Jill Wade. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1976. xvi, 109 pp., plates. ISBN 0-88755-116-5.

Jill Wade’s Manitoba Architecture to 1940 is the only major published bibliography of the sources in the history of architecture in Manitoba. The bibliography is in three sections: a list of 163 book materials; a chronological list of 539 periodical articles; and a list of 37 special materials. Book materials include both primary and secondary sources, as well as sources that are largely compilations of photographs or sketches. Articles are cited from national, prairie region and local Manitoban periodicals, though the bulk of them come from five major architectural periodicals (Canadian Architect and Builder, Construction, Dominion, Western Canada Contractor and Builder, and the RAIC Journal). These are supplemented by other sources, and for the period 1869 to 1888 before the first of the builder’s magazines appeared, Wade falls back entirely on sources like the Canadian Illustrated News, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Register. The special materials include a wide variety of sources including building construction documents, architects’ association records, municipal records, and photograph collections.

There are three useful indexes to the citations: by architect or builder; by building name; and by topic. The topics are primarily building type (e.g., firehall, parks) and secondarily place name (e.g., East Selkirk). The plates are perhaps superfluous, but they do give some indication of the kind of photographic evidence available.

Clearly, for anyone interested in exploring Manitoba architects, builders and buildings, Wade’s Bibliography is an essential tool. It is not perfect. Annotations for the books and special materials, or an introductory essay on sources, would have helped direct the researcher to sources most valuable to his or her topic. But Wade is correct to say that until the past decade there have been few serious studies of Manitoba’s architectural heritage. Her Bibliography then is a large and welcome foundation stone for further research.

In what follows, I will indicate how some of the principal sources on Manitoba architecture can be used to answer basic questions about how building was done and the people who did it. When a source cited in the Jill Wade Bibliography is mentioned, the following form will be used: City of Winnipeg, Index to Record of Building Permits (JW 738) with the parentheses containing Jill Wade’s citation number.

1. How to find the architect or builder for a particular building?

Unfortunately, the high physical mobility of residents usually means that, in researching an aged building, the obvious source, the owner, is difficult to track down. By using the records of the Land Titles office for the municipality or local directories (Henderson’s Directory for Winnipeg) (JW44), the original and subsequent owners/residents can be found by name. Occasionally one of these people will know the name of the builder or architect, and less frequently construction documents (plans, specifications, permits) will be kept. Regrettably, these valuable records are usually lost in the process of moving or of “spring cleaning”.

Fortunately, for many localities the adoption of legislation requiring health and safety standards for new buildings occurred around the turn of the twentieth century. In Winnipeg building permit records (JW 738) begin in 1900, while plumbing permit records exist from 1890 on (JW 739). These permits will list the owner, architect, builder or plumber. As is the case today, an architect may not have been involved, and in speculative building or owner-built projects, no contractor (builder) will be listed. These permits, however, are usually listed by the date the permit was issued, so that another record must be consulted to find when a building was begun. This can be found through the Assessment office records which will give date of construction and, in the case of Winnipeg and certain other localities, the building permit number as well.

For more prominent buildings Jill Wade’s Index by Building may be consulted along with several other sources. For Winnipeg, Randy Rostecki’s “The Historic Architecture of Winnipeg 1880-1920” (JW 99) is often helpful, though the lack of an index is a hindrance. The Canadian Inventory of Historic Buildings (CIHB) has information on thousands of Manitoba buildings stored on computer memory in Ottawa. Access to information is by building address, architect, building style (e.g., Gothic Revival), building type (e.g., school, church), and building construction (e.g., brick, log). Unfortunately, not many of these records have an architect’s name included. Another important source is the Historic Resources Branch, Cultural Affairs, Province of Manitoba. For the past several years Historic Resources has been conducting an architectural survey in places like Brandon, Portage, and Neepawa. For federal and provincial government buildings the appropriate public works department can be consulted. The Manitoba Department of Public Works has plans of buildings dating back to 1883.

2. How to find information about a particular architect or builder?

By checking Jill Wade’s “Index by Architect, Builder, etc.” many of the sources of biography, lists of works, and writings by and about the architect or builder and his works can be found.

First, considering the biographies of architects and builders in Manitoba, in terms of amount of information and relative reliability the best secondary sources are the Legislative Library “Manitoba Biography Scrapbooks” (JW 717), Frank Schofield, The Story of Manitoba (JW 111) and, for several of the most prominent early architects, Canadian Architect and Builder, v. x, January, 1897 (JW 203). In addition, there are five architects’ biographies in George Bryce, A History of Manitoba and its People (Toronto, 1906). These individuals are G. Browne, J. H. Cadham, S. Hooper, J. H. G. Russell and C. H. Wheeler. For American architects who worked in Manitoba there is the Obituary Index to American Architects at Avery Library, Columbia University. Unfortunately there is nothing quite like this for Canada, but this may be remedied in the next few years by Robert G. Hill, an architect in Toronto, who has in progress a “Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Architects.” For more recent architects, the Manitoba Association of Architects does have obituaries of many of its members (JW 711). At present Edith Paterson is writing a history of the Winnipeg Construction Association (formerly the Winnipeg Builders’ Exchange) and it’s to be hoped that this will throw light on the lives of the city’s contractors and craftsmen.

For a list of architect’s or builder’s works the most comprehensive and reliable primary sources are the architect’s own records—when these are still available or extant—and municipal permit records. Important secondary sources include the Legislative Library’s “Manitoba History Scrapbooks” (JW 718), the various architectural periodical articles cited and indexed by Jill Wade, and special building articles in local periodicals like the Manitoba Free Press (JW 238, JW 253) or The Commercial (1882-1937).

3. How to find the original condition of a building?

Knowing the original form of a building’s construction is important to the architectural historian and to the restorer. Their different purposes coincide in that they both need to know the facts about a building’s design, construction and alteration. To discover the layout and construction, three types of sources are usually consulted: construction documents; plans, photos, or views; and verbal descriptions.

Second to the building itself, construction documents are the primary source of information. They can be found either through the architect’s office, from the owner (e.g., JW 715 or JW 728), or from municipal records (e.g., Winnipeg, Inspector of Building, Plans, JW 736). Unfortunately, for most nineteenth century and early twentieth century buildings, these documents did not exist or have been lost. Except for a recently discovered plumbing permit, this was the case with the Hugh John Macdonald House restored by the Manitoba Historical Society.

Luckily, there is very often some other visual evidence of what a building was like. The principal source for photos and views in Manitoba is the Provincial Archives. Among its many collections, three are especially important for building views. These are the general collection of building photos (organized by locality and under this by building type), the Lewis Benjamin Foote Picture Collection (JW 727) containing photos from 1902 to 1948, and the Historical Survey of Manitoba Architecture (JW 723) containing photos made from1964 to 1971. All these and other collections are easily accessible, through a master card index that includes references to building by name and building type under each locality.

Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century it was common for major buildings to have fire insurance. In 1917 the Western Canada Fire Underwriters Association produced a Fire Insurance Plan of Winnipeg, Manitoba in 7 volumes (JW 137). Such plans are very useful for an indication of building materials and overall plan shape, and practically every building in the city of any size is shown!

Besides Wade’s citations of specific articles, two general sources of verbal descriptions of Manitoba buildings should be mentioned. In the early 1880s Steen and Boyce, Publishers, produced a series of booklets on major Manitoba towns. Their purpose was to provide a commercial promotion guide to communities. In doing this they gave useful simple descriptions of commercial buildings mentioning size, cost of construction and dates of building. Winnipeg, Brandon (JW 123), and Portage la Prairie were so covered. Shortly afterward W. T. Thompson and E. E. Boyce edited The Industries of Winnipeg ... (Winnipeg, 1886). This book provides similarly useful descriptions of business buildings, and in addition has many simple shaded line engravings of both public and commercial buildings.

T. Mayne Daly House “The Maples”, circa 1890, Brandon.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Page revised: 17 August 2011

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