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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Abandoned Manitoba Summer Edition - Downtown Winnipeg

Here are five historic sites to see while attending ManyFest, a street festival in downtown Winnipeg with many forms of music, entertainment, and food. A wide variety architectural gems await visitors to downtown Winnipeg, perhaps some not as well-known as others.

Search the MHS Historic Sites of Manitoba database for a complete list of historic sites.

Paris Building

Paris Building

The 11-storey Paris Building at the corner of Portage Avenue and Gary Street was built on behalf of the Paris Canadian Investment Company (hence, its name) in two stages. The first five storeys were put up in 1915 and the upper six floors were added in 1917. Aside from incidental renovations, the building has mostly retained its original appearance, which features terra cotta prominently. Terra cotta is highly ornamented and colourful ceramic made from baked clay. Durable and attractive, yet relatively inexpensive, it was widely used in the early 20th century but is rarely used today except for repairs on these older buildings. There are over a dozen fine examples of terra cotta in Winnipeg’s downtown, and I encourage listeners to check out the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation’s excellent tour on this subject.

St. Boniface City Hall

St. Boniface City Hall

Built in 1906, the three-storey brick City Hall building on the north side of Provencher between Langevin and Saint Joseph, contained offices for the Secretary-Treasurer, Town Clerk, School Board, and Mayor of the City of St. Boniface. Council chambers were on the second floor, with residences for the Chief of Police and his assistant on the third floor. The court room and eleven jail cells (two for women, nine for men) were located in the basement. With the formation of Unicity in 1972, the building has since hosted several government and cultural groups.

The Fire Fighters Museum of Winnipeg / Fire Hall No. 3

Fire Hall No. 3

While we’re talking about Halls, another fine old example is the Winnipeg Fire Hall No. 3, a stone and brick structure on Maple Street near the former CPR Station on Higgins. It was one of five fire stations built in 1904. Fire equipment was stored on the main floor, with bedrooms, common room, and offices for firefighters on the second floor. A one-storey extension at the rear of the station housed the stable and hayloft, from a time when firefighting equipment was pulled by horses. Renamed No. 2 in 1974 and closed in 1995, it sat vacant until become home to the Fire Fighters’ Museum of Winnipeg in 1999. The museum has an extensive collection of fire apparatus, artifacts, photographs, and information about the history of fire fighting in Winnipeg, from 1882 to the present.

Workers Compensation Building

Monarch Life Building

Not all of our featured sites today date to the early 20th century. The downtown area also features several fine example of Modernist architecture. Modernism was dominant in the period after the Second World War and used such materials as glass, reinforced concrete, and steel. A recent book by historian Jeff Thorsteinson (on Green Blankstein Russell & Associates) gives an excellent overview of Winnipeg’s modernist buildings. Considered by historians to be one of the city’s best examples of modernist architecture, the Monarch Life Building on the north side of Broadway between Carlton and Hargrave was built in 1961 for the Monarch Life Assurance Company (founded in Winnipeg in 1906). Since 1999, it has been home to the Workers Compensation Board.

Woodbine Hotel

Woodbine Hotel

If you get thirsty during your tour of downtown Winnipeg, why not check out one of the several old hotels in the city’s downtown core, such as the Winnipeg Hotel on Main, the Vendome Hotel on Fort, and the Garrick Hotel on Garry? Some people think of them as unsavory and unsafe, but this is not generally true. They offer good food and drink at reasonable prices. The Woodbine Hotel, on Main just north of Portage, began in 1878 as Dufferin Hall and its interior features wonderful pressed-metal ceilings and interesting historical décor. My friend Christian Cassidy offers an “historic pub crawl” of the early downtown hotels and I encourage anyone interested to keep an eye out for them, as they are excellent.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Abandoned Manitoba


This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 September 2018

Historic Sites of Manitoba

This is a collection of historic sites in Manitoba compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. The information is offered for historical interest only.

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