Historic Sites of Manitoba: Maw Block (280 William Avenue, Winnipeg)

This site on William Avenue in Winnipeg was formerly the location of a warehouse for the agricultural implement firm of Watson Manufacturing Company Limited (WMCL). Founded in Ayr, Ontario, the firm expanded to Winnipeg and, in 1882, it built a multi-storey structure measuring 50 feet by 100 feet. Due to financial shortfalls, the company halted local operations in the early 1890s. The building was vacant until February 1897 when it was acquired by Joseph Maw & Company for around $15,000. Within a month, demolition of the old structure had begun. A new three-storey warehouse, based on designs of local architect J. H. G. Russell, was completed within the year. The facility boasted gas lighting, steam heating, and an elevator, with early tenants including commercial, professional, and social organizations.

The building was badly damaged by fire on 20 April 1924 with water used by the fire crews resulted in flooding of local streets. Damage was assessed at $35,000, not including losses and damage to nearby buildings and businesses. The inferno was particularly devastating to the Army and Navy Veterans’ Association which had its offices in the block. Among the losses were many of its artifacts, emblems, photographs, flags, and assorted items of significance from the Red River Expedition, Fenian Raids, Boer War, and First World War.

In the aftermath of the fire, the top floor of the largely gutted building was removed and the remaining two floors were renovated by the Malcom Construction Company. It was acquired by the federal government. Later sold to the provincial government, it is now operated by the municipal government.

Maw Block looking west

Maw Block looking west (1900)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Streets - William - 1.

Maw Block

Maw Block (circa 1903)
Source: An Illustrated Souvenir of Winnipeg, William A. Martel & Sons, 1903.

Maw Block

Maw Block (October 2016)
Source: Nathan Kramer

Maw Block

Maw Block (May 2017)
Source: George Penner

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.89923, W97.14061
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Maw (1854-1916)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Maw Garage (111 Princess Street, Winnipeg)

Manitoba Business: Malcom Construction


“The Watson Manufacturing Company Limited,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 15 November 1882, page 4.

“Manufacturing ploughs for the Northwest,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 12 June 1883, page 5.

“City Council [Communications - Watson Manufacturing Company],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 12 June 1883, page 8.

“People in paragraphs [Mr. A. G. E. Watson],” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 10 March 1890, page 8.

“Now it is the Watson Manufacturing business,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 29 April 1890, page 1.

“Pure manila binding cord!” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 15 August 1890, page 5.

“The Watson Company,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 20 December 1890, page 13.

“Business troubles - the Watson Manufacturing Company closes down,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 3 February 1891, page 2.

“City and General [The property at the corner of King and William Streets...],” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 27 February 1897, page 8.

“City and General [Men are at work demolishing...],” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 20 March 1897, page 6.

“The old Watson building,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 29 March 1897, page 8.

“Fair will be extended,” Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 21 July 1897, page 5.

“Elevator accident,” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 3 August 1897, page 6.

“By M. Conway,” Manitoba Morning Free Press, 8 April 1898, page 5.

“To let - second flat of Maw Block,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 February 1902, page 11.

“Local notes [The Hoover Manufacturing Company...],” Manitoba Free Press, 20 March 1902, page 7.

“January 4, 1904 Winter Term Begins - Central Business College,” Manitoba Free Press, 29 February 1903, page 2.

“To open new club rooms,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 March 1904, page 3.

“Powerful building company organized,” Manitoba Free Press, 21 August 1905, page 8.

“Local News [Owing to their rapidly increasing attendance...],” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 December 1907, page 10.

“1891 - 1920 [Joseph Maw & Company Limited],” Manitoba Free Press, 15 July 1920, page 47.

“Prized veteran records laws in Maw Block fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1924, page 1.

“Records list in Maw Block fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1924, page 17.

“Firemen fighting Maw Block blaze,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1924, page 1.

“Maw Block destroyed by fire, loss $100,000,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 May 1924, page 11.

“Official fire loss is placed at $35,000,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 May 1924, page 1.

“Maw Block fire is being investigated,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 May 1924, page 1.

“Veterans to occupy temporary quarters,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 May 1924, page 5.

“Zulu outfit is saved from Maw Block fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 May 1924, page 13.

“Capt. D. M. Bruce has found Zulu costume,” Manitoba Free Press, 27 May 1924, page 11.

“Veterans get new quarters,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 July 1924, page 6.

“Permit issued for $15,000 repair work,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 August 1924, page 17.

“2,000 sq. ft. in Maw Block,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 November 1924, page 40.

“Home away from home open for new Canadians,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 October 1969, page 3.

[Photo caption], Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 1975, page 3.

“Consumer Help Offices opened,” Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 1975, page 20.

Maw Block (280 William Avenue), City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, April 2015.

We thank George Penner for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 5 November 2023

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