Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Manitoba Law Courts Through the Ages

The First Court House

Prior to becoming a province, justice in the area which would become Manitoba was carried through by the Governor and Council of the Hudson's Bay Company. By 1836, their law court was built at Lower Fort Garry, the area known as the Red River Settlement was divided into four judicial districts. Each district had a magistrate or justice of the peace. In 1864, a resolution was passed declaring the the General Court should be regulated by the Laws of England.

When the Province of Manitoba was formed in 1870, Winnipeg was still only a town; however, it was the largest town. Therefore, following the creation of the Court of Queen's Bench Winnipeg became part of the provincial judicial structure and so required a courthouse. The first courthouse was housed in an adapted former store building at 494 Main Street, in 1870 (now the entrance way to Old Market Square).  A large addition was created in 1873 which was in fact larger than the actual original building. This location was used for the courthouse until 1881, and was demolished three years later in 1884.

The 1882 Law Courts

The Manitoba Law Courts then moved to their first Kennedy Street location. This much larger building was finished in 1882. Designed by Winnipeg based English architect C. Osborne Wickenden; it was the largest and most ornate structure built in Manitoba at the time for its purpose seeing as Winnipeg was the chief population point.
The Kennedy location was deemed poorly laid out and overcrowded less than ten years after it was completed. Trials were frequently being postponed because all courtrooms were occupied and so a new addition was required. Designed by architect Charles H. Wheeler the new 1893-94 addition was twice the size as the old section. The building with the addition is pictured below, the far right is the original Wickenden wing, the much larger section to the left is the addition by Wheeler.
The 1882, Kennedy Street location of the Manitoba Law Courts
From the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections

1916 Building

The Kennedy Street location was replaced by the current Law Courts building at 391 Broadway Avenue. The new building was designed originally by provincial architect Samuel Hooper in 1904; however, he was succeeded by his assistant provincial architect V.W. Horwood when he died in 1911.

Scandals surrounding the Department of Public Works (DPW) were occurring in the midst of the 1916 Law courts being built. The main issue was the costs of having provincial architects and the political regime's sponsoring the design and construction of all the new court houses and government buildings being built. Hooper and Horwood were both provincial architects employed through the DPW. Because of all the scandals Horwood was led into early retirement and the provincial architects office was abolished when the entire DPW was reorganized. These changes effectively rendered the 1916 Manitoba Law Courts building, the peak of grand judicial architecture. Moreover very few public buildings were created between 1918 and the 1950's.

Horwood was replaced by John D. Atchison, and he oversaw the construction until the building was completed in 1916. The 1912 building permit estimated the cost at $1 million, but an addition was built in 1914 at a cost of $155,000. 
Section facing Broadway Street

Section of the current Law Courts Building facing Kennedy Street

What Happened to the 1882 Building?

No longer used as the home of the Law Courts, the building was used for many different purposes. One of its last tenants was the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law. The Kennedy building was eventually demolished in 1965, and the University of Manitoba’s Robson Hall building, was completed in 1969 to permanently house the faculty.
Blind Justice, a stained glass window originally in the 1882 Court house, is now incorporated in
the Faculty of Law Building at the University of Manitoba.
The Kennedy building had a stained glass window executed by Robert Bell of Winnipeg and Robert McCausland Co. of Toronto which had been completed in 1893. The window represented Blind Justice and had been installed in the main staircase of the 1882 Law Courts Building. When the building was demolished the stained glass window was kept intact and presented to the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law by the Government of Manitoba in 1970.

1983 Addition 

The 1916 Law Courts got a $15.5 million upgrade between 1983 and 1987; built by Kraft Construction. This addition added an extra five floors, including twenty two courtrooms used for the Provincial Court of Manitoba. The older 1916 building is comprised of three floors used primarily for the Queen's Bench Court.

The 1983 addition consists of five floors and houses the court offices and registries of the Court of Appeal, the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court;  offices of court administration and court clerks are located on the second floor; courtrooms primarily used by the Provincial Court of Manitoba, as well as Sheriff Services offices and the Sheriff Lock-Up for in-custody accused persons making appearances in the court complex.  On the fifth floor are the chambers for the Provincial Court Judges. The older building also houses the Court of Appeal and the law courts library, known as the Great Library.

1983 Addition

The Great Library

Housed in the older, 1916 section of the current Law Courts building, the Great Library is the second largest of its kind in Manitoba, only the E.K. Williams Law Library at the University of Manitoba overshadows it. When it was originally built the library had stained glass skylights and cork flooring to muffle sound, both of these design elements have since been replaced.

Courtroom 210

Courtroom 210 is used along with four other courtrooms for the Court of Queen's Bench which is the superior trial court of Manitoba. This court has jurisdiction to hear both criminal and civil cases. This courtroom draws on many Greek and Roman architectural ideas. A prime example of the Roman influence is found above the Tuscan columns where one can see the Lictor Fasces. A lictor was an officer or guard who carried the fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of the unity and power or authority of Roman magistrates (ancient Roman judges).

Carter, Margaret. Early Canadian Court Houses. National Historic Parks and Sites Branch: Parks Canada. p.d. 1983. p.149 -151

“From Rural Parkland to Urban Centre: One Hundred Years of Growth at the University of Manitoba, 1877 to 1977” published by Hyperion Press for the University of Manitoba (1978) as a University of Manitoba Centennial Project.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Heritage home in North Point Douglas is an important part of our history

Barber house located at 99 Euclid Avenue is a vibrant centre for seniors in the North Point Douglas community. Before it was a Senior's Centre, it was another vacant & derelict building, and suffered from several arsons. But before any of that, it was a Red River Settlement home that stood as the City of Winnipeg developed around it. Barber house is named for its original inhabitants, the Barber family. It was built by journalist and businessman E.L. Barber. The house is one of just a few surviving examples of the Red River frame construction method employed by early settlers.

Barber House in 1900. Source: City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee

Edmund (sometimes spelled Edmond) Lorenzo Barber (1834-1909) was born in Hamden, Connecticut. He migrated to the St. Paul area in 1854 working for the Minnesota Democrat. In 1859 or 1860, he located to the Red River Settlement to work for his brother's dry goods business. Barber later opened at least one dry goods shop and traded in furs, hides and firewood. He developed business ties with John Christian Schultz, a rising businessman and political figure, through involvement in Schultz’s Nor’Wester and joint real estate transactions.

Schultz may have been rising in the political and business worlds, but he wasn't known for his ethical business practices. This caused friction between him and the francophone community of the Red River settlement. During the Red River Rebellion, Shultz became the leader of the newly formed, anti-Metis party called the Canadian Party. The Canadian Party had small scale military conflicts with Louis Riel's provisional government on numerous occasions. At one point, Shultz was taken hostage by Riel but managed to escape. There are rumours sometimes present as fact that Schultz hid in Barber House before fleeing to Ontario, but ultimately it is unverifiable if he hid there or not.

John Christian Schultz. Politician and leader of the Canadian Party

Edmund Barber married Barbara Logan in 1862. Logan was the daughter of Robert Logan, a well-known fur trader. This marriage allowed Barber, who was bent on establishing himself as a member of the elite, to enter into the social circle of the most well-to-do citizens of the Red River Settlement and early Winnipeg. Barbara's brother Alexander Logan was one of Winnipeg's first Mayors.

In 1873, the same year Winnipeg was founded, Barber bought the Nor’Wester newspaper from John Schultz. Barber would be editor and owner of the paper for the rest of its publication lifespan.  Many of his other business endeavours were not especially successful. The dry goods store he moved to the Red River Settlement to work at was struggling with the rebellion and a poor crop season. Even when Barber was buying up real estate property, he was unable to pay his suppliers for the dry good store, and had perpetually bad credit. A friend of his from Ontario strongly encouraged him to pay off his debts saying "a merchant's good name and credit is everything to him."

Edmund Barber.

Barber never did head his friend's advice. Barber's store theoretically should have bounced back. The rebellion ended, crops had a better season, and the population of the area continued to increase. But despite all of these external factors swinging in Barber's favour, the store was never consistently profitable. In 1871, Barber opened a second store in Portage La Prairie, which promptly failed and closed. In 1873, he bought a saloon which should have been a very profitable venture, but that failed as well.

Edmund and Barbara moved into a tiny home called Thistle Cottage. The cottage was much too small for their growing family, and they desperately needed a new home. Barber house is thought to have been built sometime in the 1860's but lack of records make it hard to say for sure. It is a two-storey, seven or eight-room log house. Like the story about Schultz hiding there, much of the information about Barber house is difficult to verify. It is unclear if the house was built by Barber himself, or if he paid somebody else to build it for him. Some records suggest the house may have been built earlier on and another property, and Barber purchased the house and paid to have moved to his lot.

Barber House, Date unknown.
The house was built using Red River Frame construction, an adaptation of the post-on-sill building method, popular in New France. The house was probably set into a stone foundation with perhaps a root cellar for storage. The frame was probably squared oak logs and the horizontal logs were likely also oak. As oak was the fore most material for permanent construction and the supply of oak on the plains somewhat limited, the logs were probably floated down the Red or Assiniboine from elsewhere.

A one-storey veranda topped by a balustrade once extended across the façade, while a wooden enclosure sheltered the doorway. It is not known whether these were original elements or later additions. Most of the veranda was demolished sometime after 1959. Prior to then, it had been enclosed with windows and the balustrade had been removed.

Barber House, date unknown.
Many other changes were made to the premises over the years. The exterior was stuccoed in the early 1920s, and the roof was clad with asphalt shingles. Interior changes included the addition of wood panelling, floor coverings, and various layers of paint and wallpaper.

Barber House, 1959.
Barber died in 1909,  but his descendants continued to live in the house for decades. The City of Winnipeg purchased the house in 1974 but the Barber House unfortunately sat vacant for many years, and was the victim of several arsons.  It was purchased by a group called SISTARS - Sisters Initiating Steps To A Renewed Society in 2010, with the intent to turn it into a community centre for seniors, but almost as soon as the sale went through, the house was once again set on fire by an arsonist.

After the house was the victim of arson in 2003, Heritage Winnipeg didn’t want to see it vacant and vulnerable anymore, fearing demolition but instead wanted to develop a plan to get a family living in the historic home once more and to take care of it.

Heritage Winnipeg was involved in a restoration/rehabilitation study for the house.  Heritage Winnipeg had numerous meetings with both the provincial government and the city about the heritage elements of the home, both interior and exterior.  They also consulted and had presentations and discussions with the Point Douglas Resident’s Advisory Committee and community memers about occupying the home with tenants, and making it available to the community once a year for Doors Open Winnipeg.

After much searching the SISTARS started working with the federal government to build a daycare on the vacant land behind Barber House. SISTARS had enough money to expand their project. The community of Point Douglas voted to see Barber House become incorporated into the new daycare facility. Through SISTARS dedication to the community, they developed a plan to turn Barber House into a community centre for seniors. The new daycare would connect to Barber House, and it would become a project that would bring generations together, and allow children to learn from their elders.

At this point Heritage Winnipeg saw the community enthusiasm for this use of the home, and laid aside its plans to move forward as a residence. Heritage Winnipeg was excited to hear of the community centre plans, and stayed involved in a support role to help the new community centre come to life.  In 2010, SISTARS made their intent official to turn it into a community centre for seniors, but almost as soon as the sale went through, the house was once again set on fire by an arsonist.

The fire didn't however stop the future plans for this large community project. The rehabilitation project went ahead, and many viewed the house as a metaphor for Point Douglas itself. Point Douglas was one of Winnipeg's first residential neighbourhoods, but after the Canadian Pacific Railway put their tracks through it, the neighbourhood became more industrialized, and began to fall into great disrepair. The population became comprised of mostly immigrants, whose interests were largely ignored or neglected by the government. Barber House, like Point Douglas, spent a long time being ignored and neglected. Residents describe Barber House as "rising like a phoenix," out of the ashes of the 2010 fire. There are many people dedicated to working towards Point Douglas itself following suit, and rise from the ashes.

The daycare and rehabilitation of Barber House was successfully completed and in February of 2012, Heritage Winnipeg held their held their 27th annual Preservation Awards at Barber House and presented the SISTARS organization on behalf of the community with an award for the successful rehabilitation of this historic home and for its integration into the social fabric of the community. 

Barber House in Present Day.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Victory on Main Street

269 Main Street is an address that has had a long history of tenants. For the past 80 years, the address has been home to the Victory Building, originally called the Federal Building. However, before the Victory building was constructed, a handful of other buildings were also located on the lot.

The very first building to stand at that location was The Grace Church, built in 1871. Over the next decade a number of small commercial establishments popped up, as well as a residential unit on that corner which served as a classroom for the newly created Winnipeg School Division before the Central School was constructed.

It was prime land, and the Northern Pacific Railway Company wanted to build a hotel on it. Their plans were realized when the Manitoba Hotel opened on the site on New Year’s Day, 1892. It predated the Royal Alexandra (which wouldn't be built until 1906) as Winnipeg's best luxury hotel. It was unlike anything that had been built in Western Canada at that time, and was ranked among the most prestigious hotels in the country.

The Manitoba Hotel
Unfortunately, less than a decade after its grand opening, the Manitoba Hotel burned down in the early hours of February 7, 1899. The story goes that it was so cold, (-53 degrees with the wind-chill) that the firefighters' hoses froze, and they were unable to do anything to save the building.

The Manitoba Hotel engulfed in flames
After the fire burned out

After the Manitoba Hotel burned down, the lot sat empty for close to a decade, until 1911, when the Industrial Bureau Exposition Building opened its doors. Businesses would rent space inside the building to display and sell their latest technological innovations to the public. During the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, the building was used as the headquarters of the Citizens Committee of 1,000.

The Exposition Building
This building also had a short lifespan, and was demolished to make way for the construction of the new Federal Building. Construction began in 1935, and the building opened in 1936. It was built by the department of Public Works, now known as Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), the federal department that still owns the building today. George William Northwood was the building's architect.

Back in the early 1930s the average per capita income in Manitoba had fallen 49%, and the province and the city were in desperate need of jobs and income. The Federal Building project was a boon to the community, as it was one of the only buildings constructed in Winnipeg during the Depression. The project saw 1.5 million dollars in contracts flow into the economy, and a large number of jobs were created.  As a result, it is considered to be the second largest depression relief project in Canada, and one of the most effective job-creation projects that took place in Winnipeg during the 1930s.

To provide employment relief for Winnipeg during the project, efforts were made to have as many construction resources and materials come from local sources as possible. With just one exception, every company that worked on the building as a general or subcontractor was Winnipeg or Manitoba based. Even the building's exterior was local in origin, being made from Tyndall stone, a type of limestone native to Manitoba.

The Victory Building, formally called the Federal Building. Date unkown
The Federal Building was designed to efficiently house the offices of multiple government departments in one location, which was a new idea at the time, and which continues to be the case today. The building is seven stories high, with four stories in the tower. In its earlier days, the top floor served as a residence for the people who worked shovelled coal into the furnace that heated the building.
Victory Building in 1935, formally called the Federal Building
It’s also extremely well-constructed. The steel used came from Selkirk, Manitoba and was put through an extensive series of tests at the Agricultural Engineering Laboratory at the University of Manitoba. During the construction, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that the contractor was able to give an ironclad guarantee that the building would hold up against anything it might encounter in its lifetime.

The Victory Building was designated as a Classified Federal Heritage Building by the Department of Canadian Heritage on October 10, 1990. It is a prime example of Classical Modèrne, a school of architecture that uses elements from other classic styles like Beaux-Arts and Art Deco. Classical Modèrne was often used for buildings constructed as relief projects during the Depression in Canada and the United States, and is embodied in the designs of many different types of institutional buildings, such as museums, courthouses, banks, and government offices. Buildings in this style usually have exteriors of smooth, flat stone, have recessed windows, and their design motifs are typically balanced and symmetrical.

Looking up from the main doors

 As expected for a building in this style, the Victory Building has many elegant touches, both inside and out. For example, the main stairwell in the foyer proves to be more important and elegant than one would think a stairwell could be. It isn't just a bare or boring set of stairs – it has beautiful original railings, and surprisingly interesting views. Its walls and stairwell are also made of Tyndall stone, and the railings are brass.

Brass railings on the stairs
 On November 7, 2005, the Federal Building was re-named the Victory Building by PSPC, in honour of Canadian Veterans, and also to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

A study was completed by PSPC in 2006 to identify areas that could be restored to be more in keeping with the building’s original heritage character. The study confirmed that "many interior areas of the Victory Building have been altered to meet modern requirements without much consideration for its heritage character over the years."  Pages upon pages of documents provide details on the changes that have been made to the building since the 2006 study. It is impressive how much detail, thought and careful work have gone into ensuring the heritage value of this building would be preserved as close as possible to its original state.

Lobby light fixtures

Since the study was done, experts from the Canadian Conservation Institute and PSPC’s Heritage Conservation team have targeted areas for restorative work, to return the building to its original beauty. For example, the team worked to uncover the original colours and stencil pattern found on the ceiling. These intricate features were painstakingly restored when the ceiling was rehabilitated in 2013. Work was also performed on the main lobby elevators to return them to their original appearance.

The beautifully detailed ceiling

Overall the Victory Building is valued for its architectural, environmental and historical significance. It contributes to its environment because it is a large, highly visible structure on Main Street with a bold, dramatic impact on the streetscape. It is a very attractive building with a commanding presence. It has architectural heritage value due to its height and tower, its arched windows at ground level along Main Street, its decorative entrance, and the unique angle on which it’s situated.

The impressive lobby elevator

After the revolving door of buildings that have been located at the site throughout our city's earlier days, we are thrilled to see that the iron-clad guarantee made by that contractor all those years ago has proven to be true, and that the Victory Building is here to stay. Its unique heritage character has been maintained excellently, and it will continue to be a Main Street landmark for future generations.

Crest on the exterior of the building

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Firefighter's Museum of Winnipeg

56 Maple Street, home to Fire Hall No. 3 was an active fire hall in Winnipeg until 1990. It was built in 1904 and was one of five fire halls built in Winnipeg that year. Those plans for Fire Hall no. 3 would be used to build 14 more fire halls in the city.

Fire Hall No. 3
Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee
Winnipeg's early buildings were built primarily with wooden frames. Wood frame buildings are inherently more susceptible to fire, and buildings back then weren't anywhere near what we would consider fire safe by modern standards. Fire was a deadly concern for Winnipeg and other North American cities. The Great Chicago Fire raged for two days in October of 1871. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed much of Chicago's downtown, primarily wooden frame buildings.

Wooden buildings being built closer and closer together made fire a growing concern for the growing city of Winnipeg. On September 24, 1874, Winnipeg's first volunteer fire brigade formed. Some of the members were prominent Winnipeg men. A few of the members: Thomas Ryan; a Winnipeg retailer who would go on to be elected Mayor, J.H. Ashdown; one of Winnipeg's first millionaires, and William Code, the man with nine lives.

William Code had a career marked by unfortunate and dangerous incidents. He was stepped on by horses, got frostbite many times, and  and was severely injured in the Ashdown Warehouse fire of 1883. Ashdown sold anything and everything, including dynamite, which was used for railway construction. As the warehouse burned, the firefighters quickly realized they would need to get the dynamite out of the building before it turned catastrophic. Code was injured in the process. He later narrowly avoided being crushed by a falling wall during the Manitoba Hotel Fire of 1883. 

The Manitoba Hotel burns in 1883.
One of Code's most famous incidents was when he became "The Human Icicle." During a fire fight in the middle of winter, Code actually froze to the ground. His fellow fire fighters had to free him by chipping him apart from the ground. They went to the nearest hotel for him to thaw and warm up. After all he went through, William Code lived to be 92.

William Code when his body was frozen.
In April of 1877, the volunteer fire brigade became a full-time force with two teams of 20 men. In 1882, a full time fire department made up of paid fire fighters was finally implemented. 36 fire fighters, a captain, his assistant, 17 horses, four steam pumpers, three chemical wagons, three horse-drawn hose wagons, one hood and ladder wagon, and 8,700 feet of hose.

A central station on William Avenue opened in 1883, and two other buildings opened soon after. These three buildings made up Winnipeg's early fire hall system. The firefighter's who lived and worked out of these buildings described them as "beautiful shells, with slum like interiors." But in 1904, the new fire halls were constructed. 

Fire halls were frequently built on busy street corners, so that they would be prominently seen. The towers in fire halls did tend to be eye catching, but their purpose was functional, not aesthetic. The length of the towers was as long as they needed to be to allow fire hoses to be hung to dry.

Early horse drawn wagon with a ladder.
Fire Hall No. 3 was built in a historically fire prone area, to better the chances of reaching fires in time to put them out before too much damage was done. But its location was also chosen because it was near the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, a spot where it would be easily seen by new arrivals to Winnipeg from across Canada and abroad. The presence of a fire hall would bring a sense of security to new comers. Fire Hall No. 3 cost nearly twice as much as the other stations constructed in the same year. The reason for this was because of its prominent placement near the CPR station and so more money was spent on ornamental embellishments of Fire Hall No. 3. 

The building itself draws influences from several architectural styles. It was designed by brothers, Alexander and William Melville, who designed many other Winnipeg buildings. The interior was simple and utilitarian. First and foremost, Fire Hall No. 3 needed to be efficient, to allow fire fighters to move through it as quickly as possible, and to enhance their ability to do their work. The exterior blends Classical and Romanesque architecture. It is made of stone, and it cost $22,000 to build.
There are four large equipment doors on the ground floor with rounded stone arches and raised keystones. The second store is brick with rusticate stone sills and rectangle windows and each window is made of leaded and bevelled glass. The original roof has been replaced, and the original was more ornamental than the present roof.

Fire Hall No. 3 in present day
The interior of the fire hall has been changed very little since its construction. The second floor had bedrooms, a common area, and offices. The first floor was designed to house equipment and horses. The front area was where the wagons and pumpers were stored, and the back area houses horses with a hayloft. Originally there were 10 stalls for horses. The stalls were eventually replaced with a kitchen, a washroom, and storage space as horses in the fire fighting industry were replaced with motor vehicles. 

The Fire Hall sat empty for four years after it was decommissioned in the 1990s. It officially opened as the Fire Fighter's Museum of Winnipeg in 1999. Today, it is a monument to the history of fire fighting in Winnipeg. The Fire Fighters Historical Society, which was formed in 1982, by a group of fire fighters and former fire fighters, among them was William Code. Code kept amazing archives of the history of the department, and major fires in Winnipeg. 

Early 1870 hand pump.
 The museum is open year round Sundays from 9 am - 3 pm. They have an amazing inventory of vintage fire fighting equipment like early fire vehicles, rescue apparatus, and more. They also have pictures, artifacts, and other information about fire fighting in Winnipeg.

An early fire extinguisher.
Visit their website for more information, and to plan your visit!