Some Old Winnipeg Buildings

by Randy R. Rostecki

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 29, 1972-1973 Season
Read 21 November 1972

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Mr. President, members and Honoured Guests of the Manitoba Historical Society:

Tonight, I would like to offer a chronological panorama of some of the treasures to be found among Winnipeg’s old buildings. In Winnipeg, the study of architectural history has not been extensively pursued or popularly supported. With the few notable recent exceptions of the Hugh John Macdonald home and the Michael Kelly residence - most old buildings were automatically torn down when they were considered to have outlived their usefulness. The list of architectural and historical wonders which have disappeared in the name of “progress” is a long one. That list includes the now much lamented 1884 City Hall; the Royal “Alex”; the Alexander Black residence on Lily Street; Bannatyne’s Castle; old Manitoba College; and many, many more. It is true that one cannot save all the old buildings in a city, for that is an impossible and even unwise task. There is a great proportion of ‘poor’ buildings in this city, but a handful remain which one should not dismiss very easily as useless derelicts, no longer efficient for modern use.

A few businessmen have started to protect old buildings, because the old structures retain an air of humanity in comparison to the skyscrapers and canyons which are developing along our streets. In five years, many of the buildings presented in this paper will have disappeared, the victims of wrecking-balls and bulldozers. In fact, although many of the photographs presented tonight were taken in late September and early October, some of the buildings in them have now been demolished.

I hope tonight to present a brief historical sketch of each building I have selected, along with some architectural information wherever possible. Not all the buildings presented tonight may be seen as worthy of preservation. Not all the worthy buildings which can be preserved are being presented. This is because of the fact that this is an audience with different degrees of interest, and Mr. Pruden says that he wants them awake, not asleep.

Ontario Bank

This building was erected in 1881 for the Ontario Bank, which had its head office in Toronto. Five years earlier, the Bank had established itself in the new city of Winnipeg. At the time the building was constructed, George Brown was the manager, and he also looked after the branches of the bank in Portage la Prairie and other leading towns. Early in 1882, Steen and Boyce spoke of the Ontario Bank in glowing terms, linking its growth with that of Winnipeg itself. “The existence of this truly great banking institution in the City of Winnipeg is another pledge for the rapid commercial development of the city, and forms a portion of the solid foundation on which her industrial superstructure is built.” [1]

Basically, this structure with its brick and stone-veneer front, was a radical departure from the type of building Winnipeg had known in the 1870s. A few brick buildings, such as the structurally-weak Canada Pacific Hotel, had been erected on Main Street as early as 1875. The big ‘boom’ in brick construction first came to Winnipeg in the early 1880s. The Ontario Bank was an early representative of this style of building. Though the bearing-walls are of brick, the main facade consists of red sandstone blocks, which make the building very dark. The original cornice was highly ornamental and projected a great distance over the street. A single granite column, polished to a glass-like finish, adorn the mullion between the two main windows. In its day, this building could have been set upon a Toronto street and it would not have been out of place, for its style is very much that of the typical Ontario bank.

In 1890, the Manitoba and North-Western Railroad occupied this building, selling out to the Commercial Club a year later. This social organization was a forerunner of the present club, known as the Carleton. The interior of the old bank has been re-modelled, but the exterior has been kept as close as possible to its original state, minus, of course, the ornate cornice. The lamentable fact about this building is that it shall fall after the negotiations for the Trizec development are completed. As it stands today, it is the oldest occupied building in downtown Winnipeg.

St. Mary’s Church

The cornerstone of St. Mary’s Church was laid on 15 August 1880, by Archbishop Taché. It was consecrated on 4 August 1881. The building could originally accommodate up to 1000 people. The rather plain, though pleasingly simple-looking church had its facade redesigned by Samuel Hooper in 1896, with corbelling and an off-centre bell-tower being added. During 1965, the mansard-roofed rector’s house was removed and replaced with a lawn. The old wrought-iron fence and gateway still remain, although the house itself has been destroyed. Once a prominent feature of the Winnipeg skyline, the church has now been overshadowed by the construction for the new convention centre. This centre has necessitated the destruction of two of St. Mary’s adjacent buildings; the Montessori School of 1903 and the nun’s house erected during 1885. St. Mary’s Cathedral was the first Roman. Catholic church in Winnipeg proper, and for many years boasted the largest Catholic congregation west of the Red River. The last major renovations took place during 1951, when much of the original stained glass was changed and the interior updated.

Bank of Montreal - 346 Main Street - DEMOLISHED

Another building which is doomed by the Trizec development was once the Bank of Montreal building, constructed in 1880, at what is now 346 Main Street. The style of this building is a very definite variety of Ontario bank type, presenting a massive, solid, red-brick wall to the beholder.

The Bank of Montreal established a Winnipeg branch during the Autumn of 1877, and for many years afterward, it was under the able direction of Campbell Sweeny. Built during the winter of 1881-82, its foundations are said to be composed of stones from Upper Fort Garry. During its first year of operation, the building was gutted by a fire. According to local legend, that conflagration began when William Van Horne, the Winnipeg manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and an avid cigar fancier, dropped his smoking “stogie” into a waste-paper basket. After the fire, the Bank and the C.P.R. moved into Knox Church, then on Portage Avenue. By 1913, when the new Bank of Montreal was opened just north on Main Street, the old building was already out-dated in the expanding modern metropolis of Winnipeg. The last use of ‘old 346’ was for a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. The building stands quite empty, awaiting the wreckers. Its front facade has changed very little in its ninety years of existence.

Avalon Apartments - 89 Notre Dame Avenue East

According to the Provincial Architectural Survey, the Avalon Apartments at 89 Notre Dame Avenue East were probably constructed during 1882. The building was originally used as the offices for the Winnipeg Lumber Company, formerly Jarvis and Berridge. During 1889, the building was purchased by Frank Nugent, a prominent Winnipeg attorney. He converted it into one of Winnipeg’s earliest apartment blocks.

The cornice work on this specimen is exceedingly ornate, with pressed metal faces and laurels emblazoned upon the entablature below the uppermost railing. The front and rear elevations are almost identical, each suite having its own verandah. The building is constructed of brick, being in the stretcher band (long sides exposed) which is common in Winnipeg. Of the ten buildings which occupy the 433-foot lot on what is, today, Pioneer Avenue, the Avalon is probably in the best structural condition.

Since the death of the last owner, demolition is the likely course for all the old buildings on the north side of Pioneer. The 1950 flood hopelessly weakened most of them, and the activities of the ensuing tenants have brought about further deterioration in these structures. The end of the Avalon has also come because the area is looked upon as a “good, downtown location.” With the demolition of these ten buildings, the era of the “Louisiana houses” will end in Winnipeg.

(Note: 63-103 Pioneer Avenue were demolished in November-December 1972)

40 Ellen Street

This simple little house at 40 Ellen Street was erected by F. C. Innes, whom the July 1882, Henderson’s Directory lists as a real estate dealer. This small dwelling was probably typical of units for temporary residence built during the boom of 1881-1882. For many years, this house sheltered a new tenant every few months. Many of those early residents worked in the meaner occupations, ranging from “labourer” through “box manufacturer” to “student.”

At the most, this particular home had only three rooms; a small parlour, possibly a bedroom and some form of kitchen. The pedimented shelves above the windows and door seem to have been a common feature in the Winnipeg homes of the 1880s and early 1890s. The covering of the walls in ship-lap. A central chimney indicates that the house is heated by a stove or small furnace, which distributes its heat through a network of stovepipes.

The transitory nature of the builder was shown to be just that, for a year later, the next Directory did not even list Innes as a resident of Winnipeg. One does not know if Innes left here a wealthy man or a poor one, but the house at 40 Ellen remains as a memorial to the “boom” of ninety years ago.

B & B Block - 144-150 Princess Street

During the boom of 1882, two prominent Winnipeg businessmen pooled their available capital and constructed twin buildings on what was then Margaret Street. One of these men was J. M. Benson, called “Joe” by his friends and acquaintances. Benson was one of Winnipeg’s leading stable owners, having establishments on Owen Street, Margaret and Market Square. His old stable, constructed during the 1870s, was demolished to make way for the new, gaudy structure which is now called the Drake Hotel. Nicholas Bawlf, who had come to Winnipeg in 1877, was Benson’s partner. Steen and Boyce, in their 1882 Winnipeg trade index, named Bawlf as a man who had “secured the respect and confidence of the agriculturists of the Province generally ...” [2] Bawlf was the man who would later found the Winnipeg Grain Exchange.

To design their new buildings, the two partners hired the noted architectural firm of Barber and Barber. This was the same organization which designed the Police Court and the old City Hall. A great number of these highly ornamented buildings were constructed during the first boom. Unfortunately, many have been replaced by newer structures, or have been re-modelled to fit today’s accepted forms of drabness. While the first storey of the Benson Block has been substantially altered, the exterior of the Bawlf Block has remained virtually unchanged for ninety years. A look through the old slant-floor windows reveals an ancient interior with plain wallboards and very high ceilings. John Graham spoke of these buildings in the following manner:

“This building, with its neighbours ... presents a fascinating glimpse into the character of the Market Square as it developed with the City Hall at the east end. While each of the buildings is different in design and detail, they are similar in scale and intent, giving a quality of urban unity too little found elsewhere in the city.” [3]

Harris Block - 154 Princess Street

At about the same time the two partners were busily constructing their twin blocks, Alanson Harris was engaged just next door in building his business block and warehouse for agrarian implements. When new, this building was decorated with cresting and urns along the top of the cornice. The building was crowned with a statue of benevolent prosperity holding a sheaf of wheat. The firm of A. Harris, Son and Company merged with the Massey Equipment Company in 1891. The result of this amalgamation was the Massey-Harris Company, which is called today The Massey Ferguson Company Ltd. The old building of that pioneer firm stands stripped of most of its grandeur. The cresting, urns and statue have disappeared, while the first storey has been unfortunately disfigured.

Police Court - King Street & James Avenue

Though apparently constructed of red brick, this massive 1883 structure at the north-east corner of King and James is built with the common Winnipeg grey variety of masonry. Much of the original architectural beauty of this building was destroyed by renovations which took few of those details into account. For example, the original entrance to this building, once the Winnipeg Police Court, was located under the pediment on the front elevation. The windows on that floor were initially much larger. Also, a prominent tower was located on the roof of the James Avenue elevation, along with twin chimneys on King Street and a belvedere on its truncated roof. This building was designed by Barber and Barber, and now houses the Civic Employees’ Credit Union and the Good Neighbours Club.

360 River Avenue

This brick, L-shaped house at the corner of Scott Street and River Avenue has been occupied continuously by the Tyson family since June 1900. Originally built by a man named John Cope during 1883, it was the home of a brother of A. J. Andrews, a mayor of Winnipeg during the 1890s. In 1890, G. A. F. Andrews and his spouse skated into a hole in the river and were lost. Walter Tyson, who had come to Manitoba from Berlin, Ontario, purchased the home in 1900 from James Lord who had acquired the fashionable structure from the Andrews’ Estate.

Since that time, the building has withstood the elements remarkably well, despite the fact that it is not underpinned. As one might readily perceive from the first slide, the house was a popular style in Winnipeg during the 1880s. The roof had treillage running along its spine, finials Lit the gable-peaks, ‘gingerbread’ at the gables, labels over the windows and quoins at the corners of the walls. Inside, one can find the original woodwork, excellently carved, heavily varnished and superbly fitted. In most houses of this vintage, the old, varnished doors and staircases were painted. This usually occurred when the occupant decided that the colour scheme was out-of-date. According to the Tyson sisters, the original ‘light’ or transom above the front door was red in colour. Their aunt had this feature changed many years ago, as she did not want a red light in the front door! [4]

349 York Avenue

This neat, two and one-half storey residence near the corner of Carlton and York was kept in very good condition during its 89 years of existence. Built for A. D. May, a Winnipeg painter, it was constructed when York was one of Winnipeg’s finer residential streets. Between 1889-1890, it served as the home of Daniel McIntyre, of the Winnipeg School Board. Until it became vacant in the spring of this year (1972), it served as a well kept elderly ladies’ home. Its construction was wood frame, with clapboard siding. The pedimented porch and the sharply-pointed gables were perhaps the most distinctive features of this building.

The second slide shows, in greater detail, the gable and its “gingerbread” trim. Unfortunately, the house was demolished a month ago to make way for the new convention centre. Despite being hailed as a “sagging rooming-house” by a local newspaper, the basement in this particular structure survived the ravages of the bull-dozers. Upon going down into the basement of the ruined house, I found that the 10" x 10" beams and piers had survived the destruction of passing bull-dozers and indiscriminate wrecking. This, therefore, exposes the myths about supposed decrepit buildings engendered by the local press in the name of ‘progress.’

I.O.O.F. - 72 Princess Street

The cornice of the present-day McDermot Building at 72 Princess Street, proclaims that structure to have been the headquarters of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, Manitoba Lodge Number One. When officially opened on 23 May 1884, [5] the first floor was originally used by the firm of Carscaden and Peck, “dealers in clothing, furnishing goods, hats, caps, and buffalo robes. ...” [6] Their business flourished during the 1880s, but the company had disappeared by 1900.

The I.O.O.F. had their principal rooms in the upper floors of this building until the construction of the Kennedy Street building in 1909. This structure remained as a branch I.O.O.F. until the 1940s, when it was converted into a clothes factory. The metal cornice is embellished with a symbolic arrangement involving the stars and the moon. Made of Winnipeg grey brick, the building has Gothic and Roman windows, at the third and second storeys. A veil of stucco has defaced the first storey, making it possible for a furniture company to present a more modern image.

Clements Block - 496 Main Street

Constructed in 1884, the present-day Clements Block stands on the site of Winnipeg’s first court house. Originally, the upper floors of the 1873 structure were devoted to a hall of justice and the sheriff’s office. The cellar served as a detention center, complete with cells for the inmates. When the Police Court was finished in 1882, the structure was sold to Henry Brown and Dan Rodgers. One portion became the Royal Theatre, and, presumably, the cellar became the rooms of the Hub Hotel! This situation continued until the old building was razed for the construction of the Clements Block in 1884.

Some expense was saved by the builders of the Clements Block, for they merely retained and built over the foundations of the courthouse. The walls, which are two feet thick, still exist below the concrete surface of Main Street. One cell, now devoid of its hardware, awaits any further inmates. Other cells have probably been destroyed because a large furnace was installed in the basement. Dorothy Garbutt described the old cellar in an August 1967 [7] newspaper article, but she failed to discover several other interesting facts concerning that dark hole. I discovered a tunnel mouth behind the huge, disused furnace. It had been walled in many years ago. On the other side of this wall, under what was formerly the Empire Photo Salon is another cell. This section is smaller than its counterpart in the north portion of the basement. Here, the old-style pyramid footings on the foundation are exposed to the eye of the observer. A half block south of the Clements Block is Birt Saddlery, which has its own dungeons. Perhaps this too was an early jail.

The Clements Block was once one of the finer and more unusual office buildings in Winnipeg. But the actions of time and owners have taken their toll. The Clements Block was a dollar a night lodging house until its closure by the Health Department a few weeks ago. The Clements Block is in poor condition, and the closure will probably mean the demolition of this building. But if it is razed, then the historic cellar will disappear. The City of Winnipeg does not know of the cellar’s existence, or, if it does know, it could not care less. The civic centennial is coming up late next year, and the plans which have so far emerged from the centennial committee are the usual sham and hypocrisy involved with commercializing our past. The true elements of our history lie not in the beer garden or the “Fort Apache” complex which are planned for 1974. But it is these two items which will be given preference over the real history which lies, forgotten in the cellar of a decaying office building.

Fortune Block - 232 Main Street

When he built his block at the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Main Street in 1884, Mark Fortune was already a well-established real estate agent. At the time of Fortune’s death on board the Titanic in 1912, Frank Schofield praised Fortune’s business acumen very much. Schofield stated that Fortune:

“began dealing with real estate on a small scale, handling both city and farm property. He made many of his investments at a time when others, having little faith in the future of this city, laughed at him. But time justified the soundness of his judgment, and he became the most active dealer in Portage Avenue property, believing that some day that thoroughfare would be the main business street of the city.” [8]

Judging from what has transpired since 1912, one could say that Fortune was an accurate prophet indeed!

The building at 234 Main Street is constructed of Winnipeg brick and has many interesting details over its Roman and Gothic windows. The upper storeys appear to be substantially as they were built, and, inside, one is confronted by an ancient corridor and stairway leading up to the antiquated second storey. Over the years, a portion of the building was altered for the development of a hotel, now known as the Commercial. An interesting feature of the building was the cornice, which girdled the roof-edge. Only a portion has survived the alterations which were done by past owners. It is a sad fact that many of Winnipeg’s older structures have been altered in the same haphazard manner.

Empire Hotel - 171 Main Street

Joseph Cauchon, an early Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, built his apartment block in 1884, at a cost of sixty-five thousand dollars. It opened on 19 October 1884. A report of the opening of what is now the Empire Hotel read that

“the basement is fitted up with two offices adapted for a surgeon or a physician, the remainder being arranged for apartments for families. The building is heated with steam and supplied throughout with hot and cold water-being lit with gas. A restaurant is in the building with all modern conveniences and appliances being provided for those occupying the premises.” [9]

Cauchon utilized the architectural services of L. A. Desy, and the engineering talents of John E. Ennis in constructing this building. One interesting point about this building is that the facade is made of cast-iron sections. These parts were ordered from an American Wholesale Catalogue, and assembled in Winnipeg by Ennis and his builders. The repetition of the motif of columns and arches came about because of the identical nature of the cast-iron segments.

In 1903, the name of this building became the Assiniboine Block, and a year later, the McLaren hotel family acquired Winnipeg’s earliest apartment block. During the next few months, a total of seventy-five thousand dollars was spent to modernize the building. The official opening of the ‘new’ Empire Hotel came during February 1905.

Local rumours seem to indicate that the Empire will soon be destroyed. The owner of the used car lot on the other side of York Avenue allegedly wants to acquire the Empire. Soon after the acquisition, the building would be leveled to provide more space for automobiles. For a building of its quality, age and condition, it seems an act of barbarism to subject that structure to those plans.

159 Carlton Street

This neat, little one and a half storey house was once the residence of James H. Fairchild, of the Fairchild farm equipment company. This structure was constructed with two Gothic windows adorning its gables, and a highly ornamented verandah. This verandah might have once covered the full length of the house, with a central entrance under the pediment. A wooden structure, this house was originally covered by an early form of ship-lap. The ship-lap was later covered with insul-brick siding. Demolition showed that the wooden supports of this building had stood up remarkably well since its construction in 1886.

When first built, the Fairchild residence had a York Avenue location. According to the system of lots in that area, Fairchild must have built his home at the rear of a York Avenue site. Early listings in Henderson’s cite a house at 73 York and later at 355 York, because of a numbering change. Number 159 Carlton began to appear sometime after 1900. Logically, the Fairchild residence faced on York. The extremely small size of the lot upon which 159 Carlton was located seemed to indicate that the first seventy-five feet from York had been sold to another party. This type of conclusion leads one on to other thoughts concerning land use, the taxation structure on Carlton at that time, and the spread of the downtown core area which finally engulfed the old residential areas.

Old Y.M.C.A. - 584 Main Street

Now a branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. this building at 584 Main Street originally housed Dingwall’s Jewellery Store. The upper storeys were occupied by the Y.M.C.A., the organization which built this structure in 1886. At the time of the opening of this building, the “Y” had been established in Winnipeg seven years, having started “under the best auspices.” [10]

The use of shelves and labels above the windows, prominent spandrels, plus the corbelling and immense cornice make this the most interesting old building on that particular portion of Main Street. From the street, much of this ornamentation appears to be carved wood. The bearing walls of this old edifice are made of Winnipeg grey brick. This striking eclectic example of an urban building appears to have been kept in good repair throughout the years.

Wesley College - 515 Portage Avenue

Here is a picture of the place where I am receiving some of my education. This structure was once the main building of Wesley College and is now a part of the University of Winnipeg complex. James H. Ashdown, founder of a family which has had much to do with the institution, laid the cornerstone of Wesley College on 26 June 1894. He was assisted by Principal Sparling, Thomas Nixon and others. Nearly two years later, and after the Methodists had spent seventy-seven thousand dollars to build the college, “Wesley” officially opened. Much of the expense arose because sandstone from Alberta was used in the walls.

The building now known as “Wesley Hall” is also called “The Castle,” because of its resemblance to a medieval fortress. The many parapets, towers and generally massive size of “Wesley” lend themselves very well to that terminology. Though modernized inside the four stone walls, the exterior has been kept very much in its original state. The fine quality of this building helps to show the fine quality of education at that institution.

Olafson House - 539 William Avenue

This Victorian residence with a domed tower is located at 539 William Avenue, near Isabel Street. This structure was originally the home of Gisli Olafson, a prosperous Winnipeg grain merchant. Olafson had immigrated from Iceland to Argyll, Manitoba, during 1886, only to endure three years of failure as a farmer. During 1889, he came to Winnipeg and entered the grain trade, erecting the Olafson Block at the corner of King and James. By 1895, Olafson was able to move out of the 1882 terrace at 543 William, into his palatial residence just next door. At that time, this area of the city was the “Icelandic” section. In the early Henderson’s Icelanders predominate in the listings for the area.

This trim, two and one-half storey house is of the popular tower style found in Winnipeg between the middle 1890s and 1910. Its verandah and balcony are good examples of Victorian gingerbread effects. The tower is unusual, for it has a domed roof instead of the more typical pointed variety. The Olafson residence is now used as a boarding house, but is kept in quite good repair by its owners, who seem to cherish every brick in its walls.

527 Alfred Avenue

This little house, now no more than a hovel, was probably typical of the sort of housing which would be encountered by a labourer or an immigrant in the Winnipeg of the 1890s or early 1900s. Constructed sometime in 1896, this was the dwelling of a labourer. A sample unit of this sort might only have contained one or two rooms. If the family had several children, then a house like this one would possess many serious disadvantages. When one compares a structure such as this to a residence such as Olafson’s or Hugh John Macdonald’s, one becomes aware of the glaring disparity between social classes in the Winnipeg of that time.

J. S. Woodsworth, in My Neighbour, gave some very detailed accounts of the homes of the poor. Woodsworth described a Polish home in Winnipeg in the following manner:

“Shack - one room and a lean-to.
Furniture - two beds, a bunk, stove, two chairs, table, barrel of sauerkraut.
Everything very dirty. Two families lived here.” [11]

Woodsworth’s earlier work, Strangers Within Our Gates contains a section entitled “The City,” which gave many vivid accounts of immigrant housing in Winnipeg. Generally, the homes were inadequate and unclean, the majority owned by slum-landlords. The little house at 527 Alfred is still occupied and still bears its original decorative features. Small, turned wood porch brackets and finials on the gables helped to add rays of light to the occupant’s otherwise drab existence.

J. F. Mitchell - 211 Rupert Avenue

John Fletcher Mitchell had become a very prominent Winnipeg citizen by the year 1896. Mitchell, a native of Colborne, Ontario, had come to Winnipeg in 1881, to participate in the boom. After serving as an apprentice at the Vulcan Iron Works for half a decade, Mitchell did odd jobs until 1893, when he established his first photographic studio, in the Boston Hat Works building. Photography must have been prosperous then, for less than three years later, the cornerstone for his new Rupert Avenue building was laid. Mitchell entered into public life a year later, when he was elected as the MLA for Winnipeg North. Among his accomplishments was the introduction of the Workmen’s Compensation Act in 1907. His death in 1943 touched off one of the best Masonic funerals Winnipeg had ever seen.

Engaged Ionic Columns seem to support the first storey of this brick and stone edifice. The stone is native Manitoba limestone, but is a veneer only. Under the stone is the supporting brick of the walls. Red Ontario brick ornaments the face of the second storey, with pilasters, corbelling and decorative brick patterns being dominant features. The striking character of this building, once the offices of the Winnipeg Record and The North-Ender is partly explained by the series of arcades found in the window and door openings. The use of limestone also offers light and dark contrasts for the viewer’s eye. Unfortunately, this unusual building will probably be demolished when the Chinese Businessmen’s Association remodels the area.

Bawlf Residence - Northeast corner of Assiniboine Avenue & Kennedy Street

Nicholas Bawlf erected this impressive residence during the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. The year 1897 also marked the twentieth anniversary of Bawlf’s arrival in Winnipeg. The house even has a date stone to commemorate those two important milestones in Canada’s history.

With its soaring tower, the old mansion is located at number 11 Kennedy Street. It is constructed of grey brick and has limestone trim. Originally, the Bawlf residence had a large two-storey portico on the Kennedy Street side, but this was removed. After Bawlf’s death in 1914, the house was sold and went through various owners. At one time, a fraternity was located there. Today, number 11 Kennedy is called the Jasmin Apartments, or, if one is a resident, it is termed “The Castle.” If the WATS (Winnipeg Area Transportation Study) study is implemented, then the Bawlf House will fall, because of bridge approaches which will occupy land on Kennedy and Edmonton Streets. Once one of Winnipeg’s most beautiful homes, it is in fair condition despite constant abuse.

McIntyre Block - 416 Main Street

The first structures to occupy the site of the present McIntyre Block were a number of small, wooden structures built in the 1870s. During the early months of 1882, a fire destroyed those buildings. Among the businesses which met a very warm climax was that of Alex. McIntyre. His entire stock of wholesale liquors was consumed in numerous explosions that night. Later that year, McIntyre constructed his new building, which became the second building on that site. That particular edifice, which was made of brick and had a massive metal cornice, met the same fiery end as its precursors had met in 1882. A devastating conflagration destroyed the first McIntyre Block in the early spring of 1898.

The sons of Alex McIntyre set about clearing the burnt-out site and began building a new block. This new building was designed by the architectural firm of Cadham and Grayson. The original facade of this building gave it the distinction of a stepped cornice. Furthermore, the original main building was only five stories in height. Inside, some evidence of what was once some sort of light-court can be found. An early elevator gave service to the upper floors. Ten years later, in 1908, Cadham and Grayson redesigned their 1898 building, adding two storeys to give the block its present rectangular shape. The addition was added so skillfully, that one cannot tell where the old joins the new.

The building is constructed of brick, with a limestone veneer on the main facade. The limestone is of a rock-face cutting, and causes the building to stand out in great detail. The spandrels are of a very ornate design. Also, Cadham and Grayson made good use of recessed panels to give the building more of a three-dimensional effect. The upper levels of this building have had little renovation, and, consequently, are in a deteriorated condition. Despite the spoilage of the main floor by the renovations of various business concerns, the McIntyre Block still presents a pleasant face on the drab west side of Main Street.

Royal Trust - 436 Main Street

During 1899, the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White were commissioned by the Bank of British North America to design a new banking house for Winnipeg. However, the deal with the Bank fell through, and Royal Trust picked up the contract. As a result, when the new structure was opened, its first occupant was the Royal Trust Company. Today, it remains as a good example of early twentieth century banking architecture. The Royal Trust are no longer the occupants, for the firm of Newman-Maclean have acquired the structure. The Banque Canadienne Nationale occupies the first floor of the Newmac Building.

The building is very much the product of a revival of the Renaissance and the firm of McKim, Mead and White were the chief exponents of that revival. A monumental pediment topped with urns grace the cornice of this building. Ionic columns support that pediment, while engaged columns lend their own effects on either end. The motif of the ground floor is that of vermiculated stone. It is with little wonder that many observers have called buildings of this sort “temples” rather than “banks.” Wayne Andrews, an American historian, has stated that McKim, Mead and White, became “the foremost advocates of a return to the Renaissance.” [12] The truth of this statement can be seen in the Royal Trust building. Fond use was generally made of classical columns, and examples of this workmanship can be seen in the Bank of Montreal at Portage and Main Street, certainly one of the later works of McKim, Mead and White. It is in the Bank of Montreal that one may see the “classical revival” associated with the Renaissance in its full flower. Lastly, the Taylor Residence at 611 Wellington Crescent is an example of the revival as it pertained to the home of a wealthy Winnipegger.

Belcher Residence - 37 Edmonton Street

George Browne, a Winnipeg architect, was responsible for this towering structure at 37 Edmonton Street. The estimated cost of this building in 1900, was approximately $7,300.00. [13] This fine residence was built for Henry Martyn Belcher. At that time, Belcher occupied a position as the managing director of Gaults, Ltd. Belcher was the President of the Winnipeg Board of Trade in his later years.

Belcher obviously needed such a large house because of the simple fact that he was the father of seven children. William Martel lists 37 Edmonton as one of Winnipeg’s beautiful homes in his 1903 Souvenir of Winnipeg. Within the next few years, it is quite probable that Number 37 will be razed by some developer and replaced by a progressive and modern building.

Salvation Army Citadel - 221 Rupert Avenue

To quote the Salvation Army Harbour Light cornerstone: “This stone was laid by R. J. Whitla, Esq. June 15th, 1900.” It was with that ceremony involving one of Winnipeg’s most respected citizens, that the Salvation Army began to complete its new Citadel and Barracks. J. Wilson Gray was the architect of this brick and stone building. The cornice is highly unusual, involving the varied uses of masonry details. The Salvation Army used this building for administrative acts until the building was replaced by the Colony Street Citadel in 1960. Since that time, the Rupert Street structure has served as a place where the gentlemen of Main Street and its environs can ‘dry out’ after a day’s or an evening’s partying.

Edmonton Duplex - 368 - 370 Edmonton Street

One can easily detect Bavarian influences on this 1901 duplex which stands in the shadow of Knox Church. The bays, the bracketing, and gingerbread detailing were products of the genius of Johann Schwab, a German-Canadian architect. Schwab was also responsible for a number of German churches in Winnipeg, as well as Lauzon’s Block and the German Hall on Heaton Avenue.

Originally, the house was built at a cost of eight thousand dollars, much of which probably went into the carving of the wood. The verandah originally extended to the bays, where separate porch entrances were located. The first two occupants were the partners in ‘The Commonwealth,’ a haberdashery located next to the Clement Block. Their names were Martin A. Hoover and Alfred Town, and their house was an excellent example of eclecticism. By 1901, Winnipeg had become more cosmopolitan. With the blending of nationalities, the styles of architecture brought by immigrants were becoming more accepted by established Winnipeggers.

Somerset School - Sherbrook Street at Notre Dame Avenue

Somerset School catered to the Icelandic populations of Winnipeg’s central north end after its 1902 opening. Its site is on Sherbrook Street, north of Notre Dame Avenue. Somerset bears a close resemblance to Isbister and Pinkham Schools, and was probably designed by J. B. Mitchell; architect for the School Board and designer of the latter two structures.

The plan of Somerset is that of the ten-room, three-storey school house with an assembly hall in the basement. Built at a total cost of $36,738.00, it was named for J. B. Somerset, an early school superintendent in Winnipeg. The high turret gives this building the air of a medieval fortress. This brick and stone fortress of education was closed by the School Board in June 1972. Today, it stands quite empty, a vacant citadel of the Winnipeg educational system.

Fort Garry Court - Northeast corner of Broadway & Main Street

Today’s Fort Garry Court was the ultra-modern, ultra-respectable, Strathcona Block of ‘three score and ten’ years ago. The Manitoba Free Press of 22 February 1902 reported that

“Plans and specifications have been prepared by George Browne, Architect, the doyen of the profession in Winnipeg, and tenders will soon be called for a square of buildings to be erected on the corner of Main Street and Broadway for Lord Strathcona. From the plans prepared there seems to be no doubt that Winnipeg is to have a residential building which will surpass anything of its kind in Canada. Surely the building season of 1902 could not have been opened more auspiciously than by the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Co. on this historic site.” [14]

Divided into several blocks, this apartment house has a central open court. Within this court is a bandstand, complete with fancy handrails and a tiled roof. The significance of these once-fine structures is lost in the roar and rush of Main Street traffic. Both Broadway and Main Street can no longer be considered as prime residential streets. Office buildings and parking lots now flourish where once stood finer mansions and yards of Winnipeg’s social elite. In among the business and commercial properties stands this now-decaying apartment building.

Hood Apartments - 539 Sargent Avenue

Canada was experimenting with different building materials during the early 1900s. One experimental material was in the form of the concrete building block. Many of these blocks were vastly different from the present-day ‘cinderblocks’ used by the construction industry. Some blocks were meant to simulate cut-stone, while others were slightly larger replicas of today’s blocks. The rock-faced variety has survived in the old Hood Apartments on Sargent Avenue at Langside. The plain block variety can be seen by examining the homes of the residents of Giroux, Manitoba. But the concrete block was still an unusual item in Winnipeg’s building trade in 1904.

The demand for materials created by the building boom in cities like Winnipeg was supplied in part by the concrete blocks of such companies as the North-West Pressed Stone Company, whose block had a ‘great feature ... a double air space ... it is impossible to pierce a wall built with these blocks without encountering an air space.’ The company’s block-making machine turned out between four and five hundred blocks a day. A competitor had ‘five block machines at work constantly in Winnipeg and established over thirty complete block yards through the West’ ... Normally concrete blocks were formed in much the same way as bricks: a well-watered mix was poured into a mould or a stiff mix was tamped in ... a new Toronto process changed this ... As the concrete remained in the absorbent mould it hardened further under the influence of the dampness, producing a denser block than could be made by other methods. [15]

These blocks, according to Thomas Ritchie, were known as “Miracle Patent Stone Building Blocks.” As a building material, the concrete block was cheaper than cut-stone and was probably much stronger.

W. J. Hood, the builder of this apartment building, occupied the area where Lloyd’s Grocery Store is situated today. In 1906, Hood built the small attached house at the north side of the block. It is a shanty-type structure, but has a high wooden cornice which gives it a very unusual front elevation. It seems to be a house which was erected in a hurry without any sympathy for its exterior condition or proportioning.

Union Bank - 504 Main Street

Built during 1904 and opened to the public the following year, the Union Bank at the corner of William Avenue and Main Street introduced the skyscraper to the Canadian prairie. Number 504 Main Street was virtually the first steel framed building erected in this city. The initial excavations and completion of the steel framework took approximately seven and one-half months. The first picture shows that steel skeleton just before the outside walls were about to be built. According to the Cyclopedia of Architecture, Carpentry and Building, this picture was taken on 14 May 1904. Picture number two showed the building half-completed on 2 July 1904. Another eighteen days showed the building as it was in the third picture. Needless to say, the construction process of the Union Bank was indeed quick.

Darling and Pearson were the architects who designed this highly ornamented building. The firm of Shankland came up to Winnipeg from Chicago to perform the actual task of erecting the $350,000.00 structure. It is a ‘fire-proofed’ building, having terra cotta and other materials about its frame. Terra cotta blocks adorn the lower storeys of this building, while the upper walls are finished in yellow pressed brick. The banking room is still very ornate, despite some renovations.

For the past ten years, approximately half of the eleven storeys in the Royal Bank have been vacant. Space is not rented in this building because of a number of alleged factors. The first is that this particular area is no longer a prime business location. The second factor is that the rental rate per-square-foot is too high. The third is that the Royal Bank will not renovate the structure because it wants to either sell or demolish the building. Thus, the existence of the Royal Bank building hangs in the balance. If it is demolished, then its loss will be a great one to this city, for it is truly one of Winnipeg’s architectural treasures.

Gifford Hall - 424 Wellington Crescent

In 1906, Elisha F. Hutchings, the President of the Great-West Saddlery Company, moved from Gifford Hall on Martha Street. With his move, he transferred the name of his home to the new $30,000.00 mansion he had built on Wellington Crescent at Park Road. Sixty-five years ago, the area known as ‘Crescentwood’ was just being developed by C. H. Enderton. Enderton had obtained most of his land and the title for the area from the Munson Estate. The old home of the Munson family now houses the Richardsons.

Hutchings had arrived penniless in Winnipeg in 1876. After receiving some education at Alex. Begg’s abortive night-school, he opened what has become Birt Saddlery in 1878. The first Gifford Hall was built around 1887. This structure eventually became a cheap rooming house. It remained that way until the Disraeli Freeway was put through its site. However, Hutchings became one of Winnipeg’s most prosperous businessmen. Wherever he journeyed, his name was like magic and he was honoured. By 1911, Hutchings was reportedly worth two million dollars, and this is interesting in light of the fact “that he was required to pay his rent daily in advance before opening his premises for the day” [16] at the outset of his business career.

Today, Gifford Hall is the German Consulate. Despite some alterations for office space, much of the old residence remains intact. The grand staircase was not touched; neither were the hand painted walls in the reception hall. Seeing the structure makes one realize why its 1906 cost was so great. When it was built, it stood alone among the trees. Its closest neighbours were the Munson house and a few dwellings on Ruskin Row.

Gordon Residence - 514 Wellington Crescent

James T. Gordon had arrived in Manitoba in 1876, coming for the purpose of farming. However, by 1879, when he had had enough of that perilous occupation, he came to Winnipeg. For three years, Gordon worked for the Dick and Banning Lumber Company. After 1882, he engaged in the lumber business and eventually established himself as one of Winnipeg’s leading citizens. By 1914, Gordon was the president of many companies, including Monarch Life, Royal Canadian Securities, Gordon, Fares, Iron side and the Standard Trust.

Gordon built the large house at 514 Wellington Crescent in 1909. He occupied that building for several years. In later years, this building was the home of William R. Bawlf and later that of Victor Sifton. Today, number 514 is the home of Senator Douglas Everett.

The house is in excellent condition and still possesses its original slate roof and side porches. The exterior walls of this building are adorned with brown pressed brick. Inside, the woodwork is still the original dark oak, while at the head of the stairs is a very ornate leaded glass window. Parts of the design of that window include the initials “J. T. G.” and the figures of a knight, a thistle and a beaver. A matching coach-house is situated at the rear of the building. It once had a turntable for the family automobile.

Fortune Residence - 393 Wellington Crescent

Along Wellington Crescent, there are several homes which are misnamed by the local residents as the “Fortune House.” This large stone and stucco building with the half-timbering over the upper levels, was the last home of Mark Fortune. Built in 1910 at 393 Wellington Crescent, it was his residence for two years. Mark Fortune and his son, Charles, perished aboard the Titanic. Mrs. Fortune and her daughters, who had left the house for a happy European vacation, survived the Titanic, and returned to Winnipeg, widowed and fatherless. Soon after, the house changed owners. In 1921, a W. P. Riley was listed in Henderson’s as the occupant. Today, the house stands just outside of the jurisdiction of the Crescentwood Homeowners’ Association. This group prevents the building of high rise apartments and forbids multiple tenancies in the old mansions. This group also looks after the interests of its members when disputes arise with developers or the City. Being outside of the boundary, the Fortune house has been divided into suites and its original interior is completely destroyed. A coach house with a deep basement stands on the riverbank behind the mansion. It is quite possible that a high rise building may soon occupy that site.

Stovel Residence - 6 Ruskin Row

Chester D. Stovel, of the printing family, had this mansion built for himself in 1910. Located at 6 Ruskin Row, the home is now being restored by its owners. Woodwork which was painted over many years ago, is now being refinished with a great deal of effort. As one comes through the front entrance, one is struck by the excellent condition of the reception hall. The prevailing motif is that of very dark hardwood. A crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling and still works perfectly. The stained glass windows are of a fine design, and are located throughout the house. Number six Ruskin Row boasts many fireplaces and has five chimneys to prove this point. This massive residence looks down Yale Avenue towards Stafford Street. Built of orange brick and cutstone, it was a fitting contemporary for the old Davidson home, later known as the Evans estate.

Ashdown Residence - 529 Wellington Crescent

During the building season of 1912, the Wellington Crescent area of Winnipeg saw a new addition to its ranks of mansions. James H. Ashdown, the original “Jimmy” Ashdown of hardware fame, built his last residence at number 529 on the Crescent, near Academy Road. The architect on this project was the prominent Winnipegger, John H. G. Russell. By 1912, Russell already had had such triumphs as Augustine Presbyterian Church; the McArthur Building; and the Great-West Permanent Loan Building. When completed, Ashdown’s house boasted a green tile roof, which is still in good repair; limestone walls; and a tile-roof garage with an automobile turntable and grease-pit. With its sixty-four rooms, it is a magnificent mansion.

If the Shriners had not acquired the old Ashdown House as their Khartum Temple in 1956, this building would probably have been demolished as the Isaac Pitblado and the William Mulock residences on either side had been. Today, Khartum Temple stands in excellent condition in a sea of asphalt, for the old lawn has become the Shrine parking lot. The quality of its condition is indicated by the fact that not a crack mars its limestone walls. The interior of the first storey has remained unaltered, and at the head of the stairs, leaded glass proclaims the Ashdown family mascots. A fitting final home for one of Winnipeg’s pioneers was this house at 529 Wellington Crescent.

I will now present a number of buildings and scenes which may be familiar to many present in the audience ...

And in closing, may I echo the words of David Treush, president of the Interior Designers’ Institute of Manitoba, on the matter of old buildings:

“I think a city has to have something by which to measure its heritage. A city with only new buildings is like a mind without a memory.” [17]


1. Steen and Boyce (ed.), Winnipeg, Manitoba and Her Industries, (Winnipeg. Steen and Boyce, January, 1882), p. 21.

2. Steen and Boyce, ibid., p. 93.

3. John W. Graham, A Guide to the Architecture of Greater Winnipeg, 1831-1960. (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1960) p. 10.

4. Interview with Tyson sisters, October 23, 1972.

5. H. S. Seaman, Manitoba Landmarks and Red Letter Days - 1610-1920, (Winnipeg: Holly S. Seaman, 1920), p. 76.

6. Steen and Boyce, op. cit., p. 81.

7. Dorothy Garbutt, in Winnipeg Free Press, August 12, 1967.

8. Frank Schofield, The Story of Manitoba, Vol. 3, (Winnipeg: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1913), p. 40.

9. Fred C. Lucas, An Historical Souvenir Diary of Winnipeg, (Winnipeg: Cartwright and Lucas, 1923), p. 194.

10. Alex. Begg and Walter R. Nursey, Ten Years in Winnipeg, (Winnipeg: Times Publishing, 1879), p. 218.

11. James S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, (Toronto, Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, 1911), p. 108.

12. Wayne Andrews, The Architecture in New York, (New York: Atheneum, 1969), p. XV.

13. Provincial Architectural Survey - “37 Edmonton Street.”

14. Manitoba Free Press, February 22, 1902.

15. T. Ritchie, Canada Builds - 1667-1967, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), pp. 239-41.

16. Henry J. Boam, Twentieth Century Impressions of Canada, (London: Sells Ltd., 1914), p. 598.

17. Winnipeg Tribune, April 20, 1972.


Unpublished and Primary Sources

Baird, Andrew Browning. Diary of Travel to Edmonton, N.W.T., unpublished Diary manuscript on deposit in University of Winnipeg Archives.

Henderson Directory Co., Henderson’s City of Winnipeg Directories, 1880-1920. (Winnipeg: Henderson Directory Co.)

Interview with Tyson Sisters - 360 River Avenue, October 23, 1972.

LaRiviere and Gauvin, Manitoba Directory, years 1876-77; 1877-78; 1878-79. St. Boniface: LaRiviere and Gauvin.

Provincial Archives of Manitoba/University of Manitoba. An Architectural Survey of Winnipeg. Five volumes, unpublished, on deposit in the Manitoba Archives. (quite good, supplied much information on 504 Main Street)

Steen and Boyce (ed.) Winnipeg, Manitoba and Her Industries. Winnipeg: Steen and Boyce, January, 1882.

Winnipeg City Council (ed.) Souvenir of the City of Winnipeg, Presented to the Members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Winnipeg: Bishop Co., September, 1884.

Winnipeg (also Manitoba) Free Press, 1880-1972.

Winnipeg Tribune, 1820-1972.

Thompson. William P. The Architecture of Manitoba. Unpublished brochure for a travelling exhibition, on deposit in the Rostecki Library. (Winnipeg: Manitoba Association of Architects, May. 1970.)

Western Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Atlas of Winnipeg, Surveyed in 1917, with corrections to 1918. Two volume set on deposit in the Manitoba Archives.

Published and Secondary Sources

Andrews, Wayne. Architecture in New York, New York: Atheneum, 1969.

Begg, Alexander and Nursey, Walter. Ten Years in Winnipeg. Winnipeg: Times Printing and Publishing House, 1879.

Begg, Alexander. History of the North-West. 3 vols. Toronto: Hunter, Rose & Co., 1895

Blake, Herbert W. The Era of Streetcars in Winnipeg, 1881-1955. Winnipeg: Herbert W. Blake, 1971.

Boam, Henry J. Twentieth Century Impressions of Canada. London: Sells Ltd., 1914.

Bowles, Frances. Manitoba’s Government House. Winnipeg: Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba, 1971.

Bryce, George. A History of Manitoba. Toronto: Canada History Co., 1906.

Careless, J. M. S. “The Development of the Winnipeg Business Community,” in Proceedings and Transactions on the Royal Society of Canada, 1970. Ottawa: Royal Society of Canada, 1970. pp. 239-54.

Chafe, J. W. An Apple for the Teacher. Winnipeg: n.p., 1967.

Douglas, William. The House of Shea. Winnipeg. Bulman Bros., 1947.

Elliot, George B. Winnipeg As it is in 1874 ... and As it was in 1860. Winnipeg: Printed at the Daily Free Press Office, 1874.

Graham, John W. A Guide to the Architecture of Greater Winnipeg, 1831-1960. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1960.

Grant, George M. Ocean to Ocean. Toronto: James Campbell and Son, 1873.

Grant, George M. Picturesque Canada. 2 vol. Toronto: William Briggs, 1882.

Gowans, Alan. Building Canada, An Architectural History of Canadian Life. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Hamilton, Alice. Manitoban Stained Glass. Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg Press, 1970.

Hislop, Mary. The Streets of Winnipeg. Winnipeg: T. W. Taylor Co., Ltd., 1912.

Hopkins, John Castell. Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1912. Toronto: Annual Review Publishing Co., 1913.

Legge, Alfred O. Sunny Manitoba. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893.

Jackson, James A. The Centennial History of Manitoba. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970.

Lucas, Fred C. (ed.) An Historical Souvenir Diary of the City of Winnipeg, Canada. Winnipeg: Cartwright and Lucas, 1923.

Macoun, John. Manitoba and the Great North-West. Guelph: World Publishing Co., 1882.

Manitoba Library Association (ed.) Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1971.

Martel, William (ed.) Winnipeg. (Winnipeg: Martel Brothers, 1903) (pictorial presentation of the city at the turn of the century.)

McRaye, Walter (ed.) Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Canadian Publishing Co., 1925.

Morton, William L. Manitoba: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

O’Donnell, John H. Manitoba As I Saw It. Winnipeg: Clarke Bros., 1909.

Parker, C. W. (ed.) Who’s Who and Why. V. 2. Winnipeg: Canadian Press Association, 1912.

Reynolds, George F. The Man Who Created the Corner of Portage and Main, in Papers read before the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Manitoba Historical Society, 1971.

Ritchie, T. Canada Builds, 1867-1967. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

Robertson, J. P. A Political Manual of the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories.

Seaman, Holly S. Manitoba Landmarks and Red Letter Days-1610-1920. Winnipeg: Holly S. Seaman, 1920.

Spence, Thomas. Useful and Practical Hints for the Settler on Canadian Prairie Lands. St. Boniface, n.p., 1882.

Spence, Thomas. Historical Outline of the House of Stovel. Winnipeg: Stovel Co. Ltd., October, 1931.

University of Manitoba? Manitoba Essays. Toronto: The MacMillan Co. of Canada, Ltd., 1937.

Winnipeg Foundation. The Winnipeg Foundation, Serving Winnipeg for Fifty Years. Winnipeg: Wallingford Press, 1971. (pamphlet.)

Woodsworth, James S. My Neighbour. Toronto: Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, 1911.

Woodsworth, James S. Strangers Within Our Gates. Toronto: Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, 1908.

Page revised: 22 November 2014