Historic Sites of Manitoba: Swift Canadian Wholesale Market (312 William Avenue, Winnipeg)
Formerly the site of a lumber yard beside the Roblin Hotel, this structure at the southeast corner of William Avenue at Adelaide Street in Winnipeg was built at a cost of about $58,000 by the firm of J. McDiarmid in 1911-1912. The three-storey brick, masonry, and reinforced concrete structure was built for the Swift Canadian Company Limited (SCCL), a wholesaler for an array of goods including meats, dairy, poultry, and other products. The company was formed when the Swifts Company of Chicago acquired J. Y. Giffin and Company a few years earlier and, in January 1911, renamed it as SCCL.
The basement had meat coolers, soaking vats, pickling facilities, fire pits for smoking meats along with water and heating utilities, coal fuel storage, and an engine room with a 25-ton direct motor compressor. On the first floor was a showroom, market sales area, offices, delivery facilities, and a large beef cooler with rail-hanging capacity for six train-car loads of beef. The second floor housed freezers, butter churning room, smoking room, and hanging and packing rooms. The third floor contained large freezers, egg candling room, along with further hanging and smoking rooms. On the roof was a cooling tower for the ammonia-based cooling system which ran throughout the building. Operational on-site capacity later expanded to include a creamery.
The building was unveiled to the public with a two-day opening sale on 12-13 April 1912. Among the hundreds who attended the opening were Winnipeg mayor Richard Deans Waugh and members of the Board of Control. The dignitaries were toured through the facility by local manager W. T. Warren, who showed them its machinery and refrigeration facilities.
A memorial tablet containing the names of 84 Swift Canadian employees who served during the First World War was unveiled on 8 April 1919 by Captain John W. Wilton at the company’s Elmwood plant. Nine of its Winnipeg employees were killed in action, a list of whom is given below. The tablet was eventually given to the Elmwood Legion (Branch No. 9) at 920 Nairn Avenue in Winnipeg.
Over the past century, the building as hosted a variety of occupants.
Photos & Coordinates
First World War Casualties
“Swift Canadian Co.” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 December 1910, page 5.
“Packing firm change,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 December 1910, page 5.
“Permit has been issued for Sterling Bank Building,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 August 1911, page 1.
“Formal opening,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 April 1912, page 9.
“Wholesale market for Winnipeg,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 April 1912, page 5.
“Hundreds attend opening ceremony,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 April 1912, page 6.
“Swifts to unveil memorial tablet,” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 April 1919, page 12.
“Swifts honor fallen heroes,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 April 1919, Page 9.
We thank Glen Toews for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 22 May 2021