Friday, 12 January 2018

208 Princess Street – Carriages, Cars and Community

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

The Red and Assiniboine Rivers were the first mode of transportation in the burgeoning settlement that would become Winnipeg. Canoes traversed the muddy waters, followed by York boats, barges, flatboats and steamboats. The floods in the spring, rapids in the summer and ice in the winter all made the river a challenging route to take. But travelling by land was no easier.  Meandering foot trails followed the paths of the rivers, laying the foundation for the later Portage Avenue and Main Street. Red River Ox Carts soon took to the trails, a painstakingly slow mode of transport but capable of carrying nearly a half ton load over the unforgiving terrain.  Stagecoaches appeared for a brief seven years, disappearing with the arrival of the first train from St. Paul, Minnesota on December 7th, 1878. 

The Red River Ox Cart was used to transport freight over rough prairie terrain.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society
Prominent citizens of Winnipeg were determined to see the city flourish, lobbying to ensure the Canadian Pacific Railway would bring its groundbreaking transcontinental railway through the city. In 1886 the railway arrived, further spurring the growth of the city. Expansion that originally followed the old trails along the rivers now followed the steel tracks of the railway, further creating a sprawling urban jungle.

The growing city was clearly in need of improved transportation, although the pioneering attempt at public transportation in 1877 was considered a failure in just one day. It was not until 1882 that a successful streetcar company took to the roads, with horse cars on rails in the summer and horse drawn sleighs in winter. Although the streetcar’s popularity did not initially explode as the horses slowly slogged through the muddy streets, demand did increase enough that by 1891 Winnipeg introduced electric streetcars. 

Capitalizing on the growing demand for transportation in Winnipeg was the McLaughlin Carriage Company. The company was started by Robert McLaughlin, a farmer from Ontario, who fell into the carriage business by accident, having sold his first sleigh to a neighbor who just happened to see it. With a growing reputation for the finest quality sleighs and wagons, McLaughlin went on to open a carriage plant in Oshawa and was quickly overwhelmed with more orders than he could possible fill. With two of his sons, George and Robert Samuel, McLaughlin began expanding westward, first to Saint John, New Brunswick and later westward.

Robert McLaughlin was the founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Company.
Source: Harvey Historical Society
By 1902, the McLaughlin Carriage Company arrived in Winnipeg and began construction on their own warehouse and showroom at 208 Princess Avenue. Located on the northwest corner of the block, the building was designed by Ontario architect James H. Cadham in the Romanesque Revival style. Cadham was a self trained architect, prolific in Winnipeg during the early 1900s, designing many of the buildings in the area that later became known as the Exchange District. For $20,000, a three story buff brick building was erected, with a heavy stone foundation, the rhythmic placement of windows in bays topped with graceful arches, all capped with a detailed dental cornice. The east façade facing Princess Street featured two large plate glass windows on the ground floor flanking the central main entrance. The south façade facing Ross Avenue was also finely dressed, featuring a single plate glass window on the corner and advertising painted on the wall above.

The McLaughlin Carriage Company in Winnipeg at 208 Princess in 1903.
Source: City of Winnipeg
The McLaughlin Company quickly found success in Winnipeg. By 1906 construction started on an expansion on the north side of their building, doubling their space. The same architect designed the expansion, at a cost of $20,700. Built with the same materials and in the same style as the original, the main distinguishing feature from the original building is the slightly wider window bays. Interestingly, the addition was never tied into the original building, resulting in some separation of the old and new facades over time.

The Princess Street facade shows the original building on the left and
the new additional on the right, seen here in 2015.
Source: City of Winnipeg
Inside, the building was supported by square timber posts and beams, with wood flooring.  Metal fire doors separated the old and new parts of the building and an ornamental tin ceiling was featured on the first and second floor of the original section of the building. There was also a freight elevator and walk in safe. The ground floor was used as a showroom while the upper two floors were used as storage, supposedly capable of holding “65 carloads of carriages” (City of Winnipeg).

An ad for the McLaughlin Carriage Company.
Source: City of Winnipeg
The start of the 20th century was a time of great change in Winnipeg, with innovation creating rapid change. On June 14, 1901, the first private automobile arrived in Winnipeg, ushering in a new era. The introduction of private automobiles did not spell the end of the horse era in Winnipeg, which was good for the McLaughlin Company, for McLaughlin had dismissed automobiles as a passing fad. Roads were being paved and progressed moved forward, with more and more automobiles taking to the new asphalt.

By 1907 McLaughlin’s sons were finally able to convince their father that they should produce automobiles. They set about creating the McLaughlin Motor Car Company and were just starting production when their engineer fell ill. The McLaughlin’s turned to an old friend, Bill Durant, who was working for the Buick Motor Company. An agreement was struck - Buick would provide the engines for the automobiles and McLaughlin would provide the rest of the parts. By 1908, the McLaughlin Company produced 154 automobiles, soon advertising its new products in Winnipeg.

A 1909 McLaughlin Buick, a brand favoured by Canadians.
Source: Generations of GM History
Although the new automobile company struggled, the McLaughlin brand was a favourite of Canadians, dominating the streets of Winnipeg in 1912. During the same year there were still over 6,000 horses plodding through the streets of the city, hauling freight and delivering essential services. By 1915 the McLaughlin’s conceded that carriages were becoming a relic of the past, selling their carriage company after producing 270,000 carriages. The same year the McLaughlin Company began producing Chevrolets, further investing in the automobile business.

A picture from the February 12, 1916 Manitoba Free Press,
showing the inside of the showroom at 208 Princess Street in Winnipeg.
Source: City of Winnipeg
In 1918 the McLaughlin Motor Company was sold to General Motors of Canada. George was appointed vice president and Robert Samuel was appointed president of the new company. They remained at the Princess Street building until 1924, when they moved to a different Winnipeg location. The building stood empty for nearly a decade after the McLaughlin Company left, eventually reopening as the Princess Street Dining Hall, as a soup kitchen that fed citizens during the 1930s depression. In 1942 the building was purchased the Beatty Brothers Limited, manufactures of farm implements. The building subsequently changed hands again in the 1970s, with various businesses occupying the space throughout the decades, until its final use as a storage facility. Despite changing owners, much of the building has remained unchanged, with minor alterations taking place on the ground floor.

Heritage Winnipeg would like to support the proper redevelopment and reuse of this important heritage building. Mixed used with retail on the ground floor and commercial/residential on the top floors would be ideal.  Allowing this historic building to once again make a significant contribution to the urban landscape of Winnipeg's downtown and the Exchange District, a national historic site.


SOURCES:

City of Winnipeg
www.winnipeg.ca/PPD/Documents/Heritage/ListHistoricalResources/Princess-208-long.pdf
winnipeg.ca/History/HistoricalDates.stm#1875

Generations of GM History
history.gmheritagecenter.com/wiki/index.php/McLaughlin

Harvey Historical Society
blog.harveyhistoricalsociety.ca/mclaughlin-motor-car-company/

Manitoba Historical Society
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/transportation.shtml
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/mclaughlinmotorcar.shtml
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/redrivercart.shtml

The Manchester of Canada
industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/automotive/mclaughlin-motor-car-company/

Winnipeg’s Great War: A City Comes of Age by Jim Blanchard


Thursday, 28 December 2017

First Church of Christ, Scientist – A Holy Transformation

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

On the north east corner of River Avenue and Nassau Street in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village sits a stately building reminiscent of a Greek temple. It was originally built as a place of worship, but not for the likes of Zeus or Athena. It was the burgeoning First Church of Christ, Scientist who erected the building, a grand church designed to accommodate a large flock. But in time the First Church of Christ, Scientist left the building and it’s fate seemed doomed as a Greek tragedy. But fate smiled kindly on the church, with new owners finding creative ways to make the heritage building shine bright again.

Mary Baker Eddy was born in 1821 in Bow, New Hampshire, to a family of devout Congregationalists. Although she was interested in religion from a young age and studied the Bible, Eddy was unappeased by the Calvinist doctrine imposed on her, always in search of something more. At 45, Eddy slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk, leaving her badly injured and bedridden. With no family for support during her time of need, Eddy turned to the Bible, reading a story about healing. Upon her reading of the Bible, Eddy suddenly found herself well again and filled with conviction that the Bible was the source of her healing. This belief lead to nine years of study to uncover the science behind spiritual healing, which she explained in her 1875 book, Science and Health.

Eddy went on to teach many about her system of healing, eventually founding the Massachusetts Metaphysical College. But Christian churches disappointed her once again, having no interest in her work. In 1879 Eddy took matters into her own hands and founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, becoming a teacher, author and preacher at a time when women were afforded little power or influence. As her popularity grew, so too did the controversy surrounding her practices. Eddy persevered through the opposition and continued to grow her church until her death in 1910.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
Source: Library of Congress and Encyclopedia Britannica
Three years before Eddy’s passing, plans began for the construction of a church for Eddy’s followers in Winnipeg at 511 River Avenue. To be built in two phases, construction started in 1910. The first phase of the building, a basement and first floor, opened in 1911, built in the shape of a Greek cross. In 1915 construction of a second story began, this time an auditorium with soaring ceilings. A grand dome was to crown the second story, but was substituted with a more affordable leaded glass dome in the roof of the auditorium, which was built to accommodate 1060 people in mahogany pews. The interior of the church was also outfitted with four grand staircases and green carpeting. The second phase of construction was completed in 1916, with the two phases costing a total of $100,000.

The original plans for the First Church of Christ, Scientist
in Winnipeg called for a large dome atop the building.
Source: Archiseek
The Church of Christ, Scientist in Winnipeg, as it was originally built.
Source: Century 21 Bachman & Associates
The Winnipeg architecture firm of Jordan & Over designed the beaux-arts style church. Walter Percy Over was an architect from Toronto, moving to Winnipeg to lead the firm of Darling & Pearson from 1902 to 1906, (at which time it was called Darling, Pearson & Over). Lewis H. Jordan was a New York born architect who moved to Canada around 1905, stepping in as manager of the Winnipeg branch of Darling & Pearson the same year that Over departed. In 1910, the two architects joined forced and opened their own firm in Winnipeg, Jordan & Over. The new firm went on to design many buildings including banks, churches, apartment blocks and two churches for the First Church of Christ, Scientist (one in Virden, Manitoba and the other in Winnipeg). Both were also elected as President of the Manitoba Association of Architects for various terms.

The Alloway and Champion Bank at 362 Main Street in Winnipeg (the small building on the right)
was designed by the firm Jordan & Over, completed in 1913.
Source: City of Winnipeg and Archives of Manitoba
The facade of Jordan & OVer's Alloway and Champion Bank was moved to the Forks in 2015.
Commemorating millionaire banker William Fordes Alloway,
who's $100,000 donation helped established the Winnipeg Foundation,
the first community foundation in Canada.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Over the years the leaded glass dome was removed from the church and the parishioners moved out. Ben Haber and Steve Freed purchased the building in 2004, with the intention of converting it into condominiums. But they found the building to be full of mold, asbestos and airborne spores, requiring the removal nearly the entire interior at a cost of over $700,000. With climbing costs, the condominium project was deemed financially unfeasible and the owners instead decided to demolish the church.

The City of Winnipeg and Heritage Winnipeg disagreed with the owners assessment of the church and purposed listing it as a heritage resource in place of issuing a demolition permit. Although advocates rallied for the designation of the building, it was not listed as a heritage resource, being placed on the commemorative list, which recognizes the historic value but does not prevent demolition. Despite this weak recognition, the church did manage to avoid demolition. It sat empty until 2008 when Giovanni Geremia and Brian Wall (of gw architecture) came to its rescue. Geremia and Wall partnered with Stonebridge Development Group to buy the church and convert it into condominiums. Recognizing the importance historic of the building to the community and considering the negative environmental impact of demolition, redevelopment was the only option considered by the new owners of the church.

A sketch of the facade of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, prior to redevelopment.
Source: Prairie Architects 
After three months of consultation with the community, stakeholders and the city, the new plan for the church included five floors, 46 one bedroom units (500 to 900 square feet), additional windows, balconies, bike storage and three car share vehicles. Although efforts were made to save various features of the original interior, in the end the church was completely gutted aside from a space on the fifth floor. Due to code restrictions, only part of the fifth floor could be used as a loft space with the inaccessible portion being left as a repository of the past.

An effort was made to save the organ screen and reuse it in the lobby,
but brittle plaster and hazardous material made the effort futile.
Source: Century 21 Bachman & Associates
Four years after construction started, Studio 511 opened in 2013. With mortgage payments in line with the cost of renting in the area, all the units in the church quickly sold. Heritage Winnipeg recognized the contribution of the owners in conserving an historical neighbourhood landmark, honouring Stonebridge Development Group and gw architecture with the Heritage Winnipeg Special President’s Award for Studio 511 in 2014. The First Church of Christ, Scientist is an excellent example of how built heritage can be successfully repurposed in a profitable fashion while taking into consideration the needs of the community and environment. From the past we can forge a beautiful future, filled with creative solutions and no need for demolition.

The renovated First Church of Christ, Scientist as Studio 511 in July 2017.
Source: Google Maps

Read more about the renovation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in


SOURCES:

Appraisal Institute of Canada
aicexchange.ca/adaptive-re-use-of-an-historic-church-structure/

Archiseek
archiseek.com/2010/1916-first-church-of-christ-scientist-winnipeg-manitoba/

Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada
dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/183
dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/133

Century 21 Bachman & Associates
www.century21.ca/bachmanassociates/blog/PRAYER_TO_FLARE_A_condo_conversion_in_the_heart_of_Osborne_295699

City of Winnipeg
www.winnipeg.ca/PPD/Documents/Heritage/ListHistoricalResources/Main667-long.pdf
www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/Heritage/ListCommemorativeResources.stm
www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/Heritage/MunicipallyDesignatedSites.stm#3

Encyclopedia Britannica
www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Baker-Eddy
gw architecture
www.gwarchitectureinc.com/single-post/1A16EE5C-1427-4968-9496-63F4EF3D5E4C

Google Maps
www.google.ca/maps/place/511+River+Ave,+Winnipeg,+MB+R3L+0C9/@49.8782682,-97.1492268,3a,75y,15.81h,104.39t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sR-pu6ooTom0IdsADnZazWg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0x52ea7400dd8b8439:0xaf5d4b78f9bf8a37!8m2!3d49.878583!4d-97.149198

Heritage Winnipeg
www.heritagewinnipeg.com/blog.html?item=144

Mary Baker Eddy Library
www.marybakereddylibrary.org/mary-baker-eddy/the-life-of-mary-baker-eddy/

Prairie Architects
Church of Christ, Scientist Community Consultation from September 2000

Winnipeg Free Press
www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/Alloway-Arch-unveiled-at-The-Forks-to-celebrate-community-foundations-329984791.html
When a heritage church doesn't have a prayer by David O’Brian on February 21, 2008
Panel trying to save church by Joe Paraskevas on February 20, 2008

Monday, 18 December 2017

Cheers to West Broadway's Community Heritage!

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

On the corner of Langside Street and Sara Avenue an unassuming three story brick building has sat for over one hundred years. A long time grocery store, the building is located in the heart of the West Broadway, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. The building has quietly watched the neighbourhood rise, fall and rise again, serving the community as both a grocery store and apartment. It changed owners many times over the years, but remained a cornerstone in the neighbourhood, looking much the same as it did when first built. In the fall of 2017, the once grocery store was reborn as a restaurant, breathing new life into an old space, where locals can once again gather, nourishing their bodies and souls.

Born in Ireland in 1814, James Mulligan came to Canada with the British military in 1848. Mulligan was promised some land upon completion of his military service, which seems to have ended with an early retirement after he lost an arm. A river lot on the north shores of the Assiniboine River in the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg) was given to Mulligan, bounded by Maryland Street, Furby Street and Portage Avenue. Mulligan then set about purchasing more property in the area, including some on the south side of the Assiniboine River. By 1878 Mulligan had become one of the largest property holders in the fledgling City of Winnipeg.

Map of Winnipeg in 1880.
Source: Heritage Winnipeg
As the 1880s began, Winnipeg began to grow at a feverish rate, with rampant land speculation in anticipation of the arrival of the railway in 1882. As land values skyrocketed, Mulligan was eager to partake in the potential for wealth. With his land mostly unoccupied, in 1881 Mulligan began subdividing his property, selling residential lots. By 1882, the railway had arrived and Mulligan had sold most of his property, and so began the West Broadway neighbourhood in Winnipeg.

In 1903, James Spence, who held land just east of Mulligan, followed suit and subdivided his property into 63 residential lots, further expanding the neighbourhood. Middle and upper class family built large, well crafted, single family homes, with most of the neighbourhood filled by 1915. Low rise apartment buildings, schools, churches and a hospital were also built, while commercial development mostly restricted to Portage Avenue, Broadway and Sherbrook Street.

The West Broadway neighbourhood in Winnipeg, highlighted in red.
Source Google Maps
It was during this initial period of growth that a three story mixed use building was erected at the corner of Langside Street and Sara Avenue. Although the entrance is placed on the pleasingly angled front corner of the building, the official address is 164 Langside Street. Set amongst a residential area, the building fits in well with the similarly clade three story apartment buildings on the other side of Langside Street. There are few records of the building from this early period, with the 1913 reference to the Hill Brother’s Grocery at the corner being the first concrete proof of its existence. As it was a rather small and subdued building constructed during a period of opulence and grandeur, it would have been unlikely to garner much attention in the historical record.

The Hill Brother's Grocery, owned by James and William Hill,
was the first proprietor listed at 164 Langside Street.
Source: Winnipeg Downtown Places
The two main facades of the building, facing Langside Street and Sara Avenue, are a plain red brick with a small, brick dentil cornice detail running along the roofline. The entrance to the building is located on the angled front corner of the building, set back from main façade, creating somewhat of a portico effect. Display windows flank the entrance on the ground floor, featuring multi paned windows and a cornice detail that wraps around the front corner of the building. The second and third floor facades on Langside Street have matching sets of paired one over one windows, accented by a light stone sill. Single one over one windows in the same style continue the pattern on the angled section of façade above the front entrance. On the Sara Avenue façade the same style of window is used in a variety of sizes, spread inconsistently over the two upper floors. A small door on the far north end suggests a separate entrance to the upstairs apartment. The north and west facades of the building are a plain, unadorned buff brick with a smattering of windows on the second and third floors. The north west corner of the building is cut away, making room for a fire escape.

164 Langside as seen in 2016.
Source: CBC News Manitoba
After nearly a decade at the corner of Langside Street and Sara Avenue, William Hill sold the grocery store in 1922. It remained a grocery store though, first as part of the Red and White chain and later as part of the Shop Easy chain. In 1942, under owners Jack and Alma Schiller, the store was christened the “Langside Grocery,” a name that held fast for several decades. Owners continued to come and go, sometimes living upstairs, sometimes changing the name.  

Outside the first incarnation of the Langside Grocery on February 15, 1978.
Source: The Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Downtown Places
With the end of World War II, a shift began to take place in West Broadway. The allure of newly built suburban neighbourhoods and the rise of a car-centric culture saw the leafy streets West Broadway being abandoned, with elegant homes being subdivided and low income tenants moving in. Crime and poverty were on the rise and prolonged disinvestment saw the neighbourhood fall into disrepair. The grocery store felt the effects of the decline, as the violence spilled over into its space, with holds ups becoming far to common of an occurrence. A particularly horrific altercation in April of 1996 was the final tipping point, with the grocery store being closed for good soon afterwards.

By the mid 1990s, community groups, dismayed by the sad state of the neighbourhood, began to take action. Reinvestment in housing slowly began to yield results, with housing values on the rise by 2001 and a growing fear of gentrification instead of decay. The grocery store soon became a part of the revitalization of the area, sold to architect Don Courtinage and artist Pat Courtinage in 1999. They converted the building into a main floor studio and a second floor office space.

164 Langside is designated as a West Broadway Heritage Site.
Source: Langside Grocery Instagram
In 2013 the building was sold again, this time to siblings Jason, Ryan and Shelley Armstrong. The three purchased the building with the intention of converting it into a pizza restaurant that would serve the local community. But those plans were put on hold in when it was instead rented out to in the Canadian comedy series Sunnyside. The grocery store was converted into a fictional café known as Dark Roast, used regularly as a set until 2015. After the departure of Sunnyside, the siblings once again began work on their pizza restaurant.

164 Langside was the set for the fictional cafe "Dark Roast" in the Canadian comedy Sunnyside.
Source: Canstar Community News

Initially the restaurant was to be named Corticelli, serving appetizers, personal pizzas and drinks. As plans were developed for the space, it was recognized that large pizza ovens would overrun the small footprint of the ground floor, leaving little space for diners. Instead the owners opted to serve locally sourced, French inspired small plates, accompanied by a wine and cocktail bar.

The exterior of the new Langside Grocery restaurant.
Source: Peg City Grub
Original tin ceiling tiles were savaged and reinstalled during the renovation of 164 Langside.
Source: Langside Grocery Instagram
The grocery store officially opened as a restaurant in the fall of 2017. Although the official name is Corticelli, the local community tends to still call it by its former name, the Langside Grocery. A dark wood bar dominates the room as the salvaged tin ceiling draws your eye upwards. Doing their best to not change the original space, the new restaurant accommodates about 30 people and features a patio in the back yard with room for 28. It is intended to serve the local residents, a cozy space to gather and commune, harkening back to an era before cell phone overtook peoples’ lives. Often packed with people, the growing success of the Langside Grocery is a tribute to the owners who let the character of the heritage building speak for itself and for focusing on the people who matter the most, the local community.

The newly renovated interior of the Langside Grocery at 164 Langside in 2017.
Source: Langside Grocery Instagram

SOURCES

Canstar Community News
www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/metro/Former-storefront-a-bustling-restaurant-454147073.html?k=XUpa3c
www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/metro/Comedy-set-turned-pizza-eatery-388698522.html
www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/metro/correspondent/Imagining-sinfully-good-coffee.html
www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/metro/Take-a-walk-down-Sunnyside-367232601.html 

CBC News Manitoba
www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/sunnyside-restaurant-real-1.3694318

Google Maps
www.google.ca/maps/place/West+Broadway,+Winnipeg,+MB/@49.8839795,-97.1648138,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x52ea73f9a330569b:0x9acdf1fbf244032!8m2!3d49.8841219!4d-97.1569803

Langside Grocery Instagram
www.instagram.com/langsidegrocery/?hl=en

Manitoba Historical Society
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/mulligan_j.shtml

Neighbourhoods of Winnipeg
now.winnipeg.ca/history/west-broadway

Peg City Grub
www.pegcitygrub.com/read,post/661/langside-grocery-charming-old-new-neighbourhood-haunt-has-destination-cocktail-bar-aspirations

The Uniter
uniter.ca/view/favourite-local-place-to-eat-new-independent-business/

West End Dumplings
westenddumplings.blogspot.ca/2011/05/west-broadway-neighbourhood-history.html

Winnipeg Downtown Places
winnipegdowntownplaces.blogspot.ca/2016/07/164-langside-street-hill-brothers.html

Friday, 1 December 2017

Main Street Heritage Becomes Urban Home

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Scott Block has been reincarnated numerous times, all the while retaining its original character, as a timeless landmark on Main Street in Winnipeg. The block was originally constructed for a furniture company during Winnipeg’s boom period at the turn of the 20th century but bad luck seemed to follow it though the next century, constantly undoing the efforts of its well intended owners. Fortunately, bad luck is no match for perseverance. In 2017 a rehabilitated Scott Block was filled with life once again, a testament to the determination of the owners, Heritage Winnipeg and the City of Winnipeg to preserve priceless heritage on Main Street while adapting to a new century.

Thomas Scott was 29 years old when he first arrived in Manitoba in May of 1870, commanding a unit of the Ontario Rifles in the first Red River Expedition. The founder of the Perth Exposition, Scott was the son of Irish immigrants who had settled in Ontario. Scott’s first stay in Upper Fort Garry lasted only seven months, with him returning to his home in Perth in December of 1870. Scott would soon return to Manitoba, this time as the head of the Second Red River Expedition, arriving at Upper Fort Garry in November of 1871. Sent to defend Canada from the Fenian Raids, their mission came to a close when the United States Army arrested the Irish invaders at the boarder in October of 1871.

The bustling settlement at the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers must have impressed Scott during his time in Manitoba, for after the Second Expedition, he chose to stay and make Winnipeg his home. Scott continued to be active in the militia until 1874, when he retired and started a furniture company. The Scott Furniture Company, originally located at 276 Main Street between Upper Fort Garry in the south and Bankers Row in the north, the company was well situated in what was then the retail center of Winnipeg. The main focus of the company’s business was outfitting commercial and institutional buildings but they also sold high end furniture to the public. With the arrival of the railway, the city booming and money poured in from all over the world, bolstering the prosperity of Scott’s company.

Thomas Scott, circa 1902.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and Representative Men of Manitoba.
If starting a successful furniture company was not enough to keep Scott busy, he also became involved in politics after his retirement from the military. He contested his first seat and lost in 1874, but would go on to be elected Mayor of Winnipeg in 1877, and was enthusiastically re-elected in 1878. In addition to being mayor, Scott served both as an MLA and MP for numerous years, with his last post ending in 1887.

It was near the end of his political career that Scott decided he had had enough of the furniture business and sold his company to his son, Frederick W. Scott and partner, John Leslie, in 1885. Leslie left the company in 1895, leaving Frederick to continue on his own. By 1904 the furniture company was thriving, giving Frederick the confidence to build the company a new home at 272 Main Street, next door to their old location. Wasting no time, the call for tender went out in March and the building of the Scott Block was finished by December of that year, just in time for Christmas.

The architect's drawing of the front facade of the Scot Block from 1904.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Free Press.
Architect James H. Cadham designed the new building for the Scott Furniture Company. Interestingly, Cadham had also come to Winnipeg with the First Red River Expedition, although he chose stay to after this trip, not waiting to return a second time. Cadham designed a robust six story building in the Romanesque Revival style for the company. The style is evident in the building’s front façade, which was made of thick, rough, red sandstone masonry with round, Roman arches over two of the windows and set back entrance.

Wesley Hall at the University of Winnipeg was constructed from 1894 to 1895.
It is one of the best examples of Romanesque Revival architecture in the province,
a style popular in Winnipeg from the late 1880s until about 1914.
Source: Alpha Masonry.
Romanesque Revival was an expensive style to execute, which is likely why the three facades of the Scott Block not facing Main Street received a simpler treatment. A steel frame supplemented with timber joists was used to support an outer skin of clay bricks on these facades. Other than windows, the only point of interest on these facades was the metal fire escape affixed to the back wall of the building.

The front façade of the Scott Block was 50 feet long, while the sides of the building were 120 feet. It sat atop of foundation of concrete and stone, with a full basement below. Inside the ceilings were adorned with pressed tin, a more affordable alternative to decorative plaster that added a layer of fire retardant. When it was built in 1904 it was a modern building that made a bold statement, making it clear to all those who passed by, the Scott Furniture Company was a success.

The new Scott Block at 272 Main Street was next door to the
company's former location at 276 Main Street.
Source: Downtown Winnipeg Places.
Unfortunately, the new home of the Scott Furniture Company was short lived. About six months after opening, on June 13 of 1905, an electrical storm sent a bolt of lightening towards the building, hitting the metal fire escape on the rear façade and sadly setting the building on fire. As the flames engulfed the building, all the contents were destroyed along with the company’s former building when the north wall of the Scott Block fell on top of it. When the smoke cleared, $150,000 of inventory was lost, three fire fighters were injured and only the front façade of the Scott Block remained relatively undamaged.

The front facade of the Scott Block after the fire on June 13, 1905.
Source: Peel's Prairie Provinces.
A view of the back of the Scott Block after the fire on June 13, 1905.
Source: City of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba Archives.
Undeterred, Frederick promptly started rebuilding the Scott Block. About five months after burning, on November 15, 1905, the Scott Block was reopen for business. Cadham had resumed his role as the architect, but this time he designed the upper floors of the building as office space to rent, instead of showroom space for the furniture company.

Although misfortune continued to plague the Scott Block. Disaster struck again on March 23, 1914 while over 100 people were at work in the building. A fire erupted from an improperly disposed match by someone in the ground floor offices of the Cowan Construction Company. Flames spread throughout the building, forcing the daring escape of some of the occupants of the upper floors by way of windows and firefighters’ net. Although injuries were incurred and the building with its contents were in ruins, luckily no lives were lost.

The fire at the Scott Block on March 23, 1914.
Source: City of Winnipeg and V. Leah. 
The fire at the Scott Block on March 23, 1914, as seen from the back of the building.
Source: City of Winnipeg and Archives of Manitoba.
Surprisingly, Frederick decided to rebuild the Scott Block for a second time, again in the vision of the original architect, Cadham, whom had passed away in 1907, so the architectural firm of Pratt and Ross were hired. What was left of the exterior walls were attached to a new interior concrete frame while the top story of the building was completely removed and a new iron cornice installed. Starting with the second floor, window wells were inset into the north and south facades, allowing more natural light into the building. Despite the interior being substantially changed, some of the original elements remained, including the main staircase.

The architect's drawing for the second reconstruction of the Scott Block.
Source: City of Winnipeg.
The third incarnation of the Scott Block continued to be rented out as office space with various tenants coming and going. At some point during the 1960s or 70s, metal cladding was installing over the front façade of the building and smooth limestone replaced the rough red masonry of the first floor. Surely the intention was to modernize the look of the building, but the result completely obliterated the historic character of the building.

The metal clade front facade of the Scott Block in 2010.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson.
By 2001 the Scott Block sat empty, a shadow of the proud building it once was. It stood decaying until 2010 when Space2Work purchased it, a development company owned by Mark and Shelley Buleziuk. The new owners set about redeveloping the building as commercial space, stripping the interior back to its original elements with newly exposed ceilings soring up to 5.8 meters. On the exterior, the metal cladding was removed to reveal the heavy, red stone of the original design.

The Scott Block in 2010 after the metal cladding was removed.
Source: City of Winnipeg and M. Peterson.
In 2012, the Scott Block was listed by the City of Winnipeg as a municipally designated site, acknowledging its heritage value and protecting it from demolition. Two years later in 2014, construction was complete and Heritage Winnipeg recognized the work done at the building with the Preservation Award of Excellence – Commercial Conservation for “the daring unveiling and conservation of the Scott Block's original handsome façade.”

The Scott Block remained vacant, being dealt another bitter blow in its long history. New concrete floors were too heavy for the building’s structure, rendering them unsafe, resulting in no occupancy permit being issued. Faced with the burden of an unrentable building in need of costly repairs, the owners asked the city to remove it from the List of Historical Resources to make it easier to sell. Heritage Winnipeg opposed the delisting, fearing it would set a dangerous precedent, allowing this heritage building to be demolished due to a costly mistake.

The Scott Block in 2014 after being renovated.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and Gordon Goldsborough.
Fortunately, the City of Winnipeg sided in favour of preserving heritage, and the Scott Block remained listed and protected from demolition. In light of the decision, the owners decided to redevelop the building once again, this time as 40 micro apartments on the top four floors and commercial space on the ground floor and in the basement. Targeting people interested in living an urban, car free lifestyle, with the apartments ranging in size from 400 to 700 square feet.  

In April 2017, after spending around $7 million on renovations, the Scott Block was reborn as the Scott Block Lofts. The building features a rooftop patio, two two-bedroom apartments, a collection of one-bedroom and bachelor apartments, four affordable apartments and two commercial spaces. Bike storage is available and there are three indoor parking spaces for the commercial units. As of November 2017, all the residential units are occupied and construction is being completed on the commercial units. When finished, Brandish, a marketing company and the Grey Owl Coffee Company will be moving into the spaces on the main floor.

The newly renovated Scott Block in 2017.
Source: Space2Work.

Heritage Winnipeg is thrilled to see the Scott Block again wholly occupied and full of life as both a commercial and much needed residential space. The success of the project is a testament to the owners recognizing the high demand for residential rental units in the downtown of Winnipeg.


SOURCES:

Alpha Masonry
www.alphamasonry.com/projects/wesley-hall-university-of-winnipeg/

Architectural Style of America and Europe
architecturestyles.org/romanesque-revival/

City of Winnipeg
www.winnipeg.ca/PPD/Documents/Heritage/ListHistoricalResources/Main-272-long.pdf

Downtown Winnipeg Places
winnipegdowntownplaces.blogspot.ca/2012/05/272-main-street-scott-block.html

Heritage Winnipeg
www.heritagewinnipeg.com/blog.html?filter_category=24

Historica Canada
www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/fenian-raids/

Manitoba Historical Society
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/scott_t1.shtml
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/scott_fw.shtml
www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/sites/scottblock2.shtml

Peel’s Prairie Provinces
peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcards/PC001322.html

Space2Work

This Old House
www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/all-about-tin-ceilings

West End Dumplings
westenddumplings.blogspot.ca/2014/07/the-scott-furniture-blocks-last-hurrah.html

Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
www.winnipegarchitecture.ca/wesley-hall-university-of-winnipeg/

Winnipeg Downtown Places
winnipegdowntownplaces.blogspot.ca/2012/05/272-main-street-scott-block.html

Winnipeg Free Press
www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/reno-highlights-old-meets-new-look-105659703.html
www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/history-is-not-on-their-side-268224682.html