Heritage Canada's Top 10 Endangered Places List

The Heritage Canada Foundation posted their 2010 Top Ten Endangered Places List.  They have recognized the immense pressure of development that faces the Exchange District National Historic Site and its periphery.  Heritage Winnipeg along with Heritage Canada are very concerned for decisions that have been made regarding the historic and architectural content of the District. Heritage Winnipeg continues to advocate for a more transparent process to allow stakeholders an opportunity to be involved in the decision making process, and in addition to change committee structures that have not benefited the national historic site.


For Heritage Canada Foundation's Endangered Places List of 2010 click here.



Main Terminal Building of the Former Winnipeg International Airport

“Transport Canada has submitted the Main Terminal Building of the former Winnipeg International Airport, now named the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport to the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office (FHBRO) for formal evaluation because the Winnipeg Airport Authority (WAA) proposes to demolish the main terminal with the intention of completing a new facility."(1)

The Department of Transport (DOT) created a terminal building program across the country in the 1950’s and 60’s to improve safety and reflect Canadians growing self-awareness and confidence. It saw 8 large-scale modernist air terminals built by prominent Canadian architects. The terminals integrated Canadian artworks and were furnished with Canadian designed furniture. The program captured the federal governments support due to its intention of introducing passengers to a new image of modern Canada from the moment they entered the terminal building.

Winnipeg’s most prominent post-war [architectural] firm, Green, Blackstein and Russell (GBR) designed the Main Terminal Building in Winnipeg for DOT between 1961-64, during the boom time period of Winnipeg’s Post-war growth. A major renovation was done in 1984-86 by IKOY architectural partnership, which remained sensitive to the original design while altering interior spaces and circulation patterns.

The modernist aesthetic and adaptability of the Main Terminal Building is a result of its simplistic form and function design found throughout its materials and layout. The Mies van der Rohe inspired design of the terminal took David Thordarson and Bernard Brown (the principle designers from GBR) nearly 3 years to complete. The terminal building is a powerful interior space rooted in local materials. It became a type of regional expression “[symbolizing] the aspirations and cultural production of Canada in the post-Second World War era”(6).

The key architectural features include:

  • Large open mezzanine lobby area with a recessed open upper floor
  • Suspended interlocking light panels which stretch across the width of the building
  • Double steel columns between each bay of glazed curtain wall stretching from floor to above the dropped light panels
  • Use of tyndall-stone cladding the interior columns, end walls, back walls and upper band of the southern wall.

    Sources: Waldron, A. Air Terminal Building: James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. Historical Services Branch. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office

    For Current Issues regarding the Main Terminal Building please consult the WAA website.
    The James Armstrong Richardson International Airport made Heritage Canada's Top Ten Endangered Places List of 2008.



    Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre

    Upper Fort Garry is the place where Winnipeg and Manitoba was born and the site of significant historic events. Today, exciting plans are underway to reclaim and transform this treasure into a $19 million world class heritage park and interpretive centre. Highlights of this unique park include:

    • a design that demarcates the foundations of the original buildings and walls;

    • the original Governor’s Gate will remain;

    • interpretive and symbolic representations of the fort and the buildings that were once enclosed within its walls;

    • installations of art and other creative works within the park will represent the rich history of Upper Fort Garry;

    • outdoor gathering spaces for historical events and programs; and

    • a modern Interpretive Centre that houses meeting facilities and exhibitions.


    More information can be found at the Friends of Upper Fort Garry website.



    Parks Canada contributes $425,000 to Union Bank conversion

    Through the Parks Canada National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program, the Government of Canada has invested an additional $425,000 towards Red River College’s continued restoration of the Former Union Bank Building. Mr. Rod Bruinooge, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South stated that the conservation work done on the building will contribute to the historic sense of place of the Exchange District.

    The historic skyscraper banking hall located at Main Street and William Avenue is being converted into Red River’s culinary school, a restaurant and more than 100 student residences.

    The money will be used to help restore many of the historic doors and windows of the bottom three floors as well as assist in the renovation costs of the front foyer and banking hall. Conservation work will also be done on the historic Annex.

    The building is slated to reopen in 2011 for the first time since the last bank moved out in 1992.

    The cost-sharing program is also contributing $32,000 to the Gault Building to preserve the roof fence. The President of Artspace Inc., Cecilia Araneda, stated that the restoration will allow its character to grace the Winnipeg Skyline for generations.

    Sources: (2010, July 29). Government of Canada invests in heritage infrastructure in the Exchange District National Historic Site.

    For more information on the restoration and conversion of the Union Bank Tower click on one of the three Winnipeg Free Press articles below.

    Staff Writer (2010, July 29). red river college gets $425,000. Winnipeg Free Press.

    Belamy, B. (2010, June 14). downtown's status symbol. Winnipeg Free Press.

    Kives, B. (2009, October 16). heritage reborn. Winnipeg Free Press.



    Armstrong Point

    Heritage Winnipeg is pleased to announce that our first publication "Armstrong's Point - A History" is available for purchase.  Thank you to author, Randy Rostecki.

    You can purchase the book at $39.95 (taxes incl.) through our office by contacting us at 942.2663 or email at info@heritagewinnipeg.com.  If purchased before March 31, 2017, receive an additonal 30 percent discount. It makes a great gift.

    We accept cash, credit card, and cheque.




    Exchange District Guided Walking Tours

    May-September Weather Permitting
    Tuesday– Sunday 11 am and 2 pm
    Approximately 1.5 hours in duration

    Just north of Canada’s renowned corner of Portage and Main lies the spirit of the city– the Exchange District!

    Spectacular and beautiful, it is over 30 blocks of turn-of-the-century terra cotta and cut stone architecture unparalleled in North America! Explore incredible facades, spectacular interior spaces and unique detailing. This richness illustrates Winnipeg’s transformation between 1878 and 1913 from a modest pioneer settlement into the thriving metropolis that opened the West. The Exchange District now serves as a popular backdrop for today’s movie industry and is home to specialty retailers, restaurants, night-clubs, art galleries, wholesalers and Winnipeg’s theatre district. Discover one of North America’s most rare neighbourhoods!

    Tours begin at the Exchange District Info Centre in Old Market Square (King Street and Bannatyne Avenue).

    Adult (18-64 yrs) $5.00 Group tours also available
    Senior (65+ yrs) $4.00 Adult group $45.00
    Youth (10-17 yrs) $3.00 Senior group $35.00
    Family $10.00 Youth/Children’s group $25.00
    (Maximum of 12 participants per group)

    To book your group tour, or for more information call 942-6716.



    Barber House Update - 99 Euclid Avenue

    At the Historical Buildings Committee meeting in March 2000, a report was reviewed that included an assessment of the building condition and cost estimates for restoring the exterior and rehabilitating the interior for a new use. The report pointed out that in spite of the fire, “the original log superstructure is sound except for several areas of local deterioration requiring replacement of a few sections of logs. Second floor framing has sustained significant fire damage and is in need of total replacement along with the stairs. Exterior finishes and roofing requires replacement. This house could be readily insulated to current standards with insulation applied internally and externally.

    Repairs of this historic Red River log house is readily feasible. Barber House remains in basic sound condition and its status, as a rare example of this unique construction used by early pioneer settlers and founders of this city, is important. Costs associated with restoration of Barber House would not exceed new residential custom built construction cost levels and appears to be warranted based on historical significance alone.”

    Barber House is situated on a fairly large lot that is all city-owned. There is potential to subdivide the entire property for housing and still leave Barber House on its original site. Barber House could be rehabilitated into a single family dwelling with a contemporary interior and retain its heritage designation.

    The Historical Buildings Committee concluded by requesting that the Planning, Property and Development Department prepare a request for proposals for the land and building located at 99 Euclid Avenue. Development proposals must retain Barber House on its original site and its rehabilitation will require a Certificate of Suitability from the Historical Buildings Committee and a Heritage Permit from Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism.

    The Historical Buildings Committee welcomes the opportunity to arrive at a viable, satisfactory solution to this most challenging heritage opportunity.



    The Forks for People Not Profit - Position Statement

    What we are opposed to:

    We are opposed to the development of business ventures such as a luxury hotel, luxury condominiums and similar development plans at the Forks.

    The reasons for our opposition:

    The Forks has been a great success. It is currently receiving in excess of seven million visits per year. Much of its success is due to the Forks National Historic Site, the green space and the river walkways. It truly is the “meeting place” envisioned in the original Concept Plan. At the same time that the Forks is experiencing success, the downtown (which is physically and psychologically distinct from the Forks) is in a state of decay.

    It is generally agreed that a strong residential component is crucial for downtown revitalization. Thus, residential units at the Forks will only detract from this needed revitalization.
    As more space is used for housing developments, a hotel, office space, retail and other commercial development, the unique character of the Forks site can only be diminished.
    Any land used for buildings at the Forks will be lost for many generations. It is critical to reserve significant portions of the available land for future conversion to the green and recreational space that is so highly valued by Forks visitors. Survey data indicate that the main reasons for visitation are to browse, go for pleasure walks and use the River Walkway.

    Possible solutions:

    One solution that has recently emerged is the dissolution of the current self-sufficiency mandate of the Forks. This would put an end to the constant striving for revenue generation that is taking place.

    With funding from all three levels of government, an endowment or trust fund could be created. The revenue from this fund could maintain the Forks site, and support cultural, historical, musical, interpretive and recreational programming that would complement, not compete, with the attractions of a revitalized downtown.

    Contact persons for the group include Janis Kaminsky (774-5936), Stuart Kaye (474-8419), John McLeod (885-4446), Costas Nicoloau (453-3275) and Gladys Stupich (889-6476).



    The Exchange District



    The Exchange District encompasses some 20-city blocks in downtown Winnipeg, just north of Canada's most famous corner--Portage and Main. The Exchange District derives its name from the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, the centre of the grain industry in Canada, and the many other exchanges which developed in Winnipeg during the period from 1881-1918.

    At the turn of the century, Winnipeg was one of the fastest growing cities in North America and was known as the Chicago of the North. Some of Chicago's architects came north to practice in Winnipeg and many local architects were strongly influenced by the Chicago style. What remains of their work today is The Exchange District -- one of the most historically intact turn-of-the-century commercial districts on the continent.

    Winnipeg became the third largest city in the Dominion of Canada by 1911 with 24 rail lines converging on it and over 200 wholesale businesses. The Great War from 1914-1918 slowed its growth, however, and with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1913, there was a new route for shipping goods from Eastern Canada and Europe to the West Coast and from the Far East to the larger markets on the East Coast. Most of Winnipeg's development thereafter occurred on Portage Avenue and streets to the south. Winnipeg's slow growth meant that few of The Exchange District's Chicago-style buildings would be demolished.

    The Exchange District today flourishes as Winnipeg's commercial and cultural nucleus. This thriving and unique neighbourhood is home to an array of speciality retailers, restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries, wholesalers, and Winnipeg's theatre district. Its cobblestone streets and friendly pedestrian environment also contribute to The Exchange District's popularity as a period backdrop for today's movie industry.

    The Exchange District is comprised of approximately 640 businesses, 205 not-for-profit organizations, and 140 residences (and growing).

    The Exchange District is home to a variety of festivals and special events including: the Winnipeg Fringe Festival; the Jazz Winnipeg Festival; Music For Lunch concert series; etc, many of which occur in Old Market Square.

    The Exchange District is home to Winnipeg's theatre district with the Centennial Concert Hall which hosts the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature.

    The Exchange District boasts 62 of downtown Winnipeg's 86 heritage structures. These 62 structures represent approximately 2/3 of heritage building square footage and about 6% of downtown Winnipeg's total floor space area.

    The following are excerpts from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Agenda Paper titled: The Exchange District, Winnipeg, Manitoba, written by Dana Johnson, Historical Services Branch.

    "The Exchange District illustrates in a particularly vivid fashion the opening of the Canadian West
    at the turn-of-the-century, and especially the key role which Winnipeg played in the development of the early western economy. The Exchange District ...(contains) approximately 149 buildings, 117 of which predate 1914. One these 117 historic structures, 48 were erected before 1900 and therefore document the early development of the City of Winnipeg. A further 69 structures were constructed between 1900 and 1914, the years of Winnipeg's spectacular ascension to the status of metropolitan centre for western Canada. ... Three of (the buildings) - the Union Trust, the Confederation Life and the Bank of Hamilton buildings - have been declared of national architectural and historical significance, while the phenomenon of the construction of 12 skyscrapers in Winnipeg during the boomtime years...."



    Exchange District Becomes National Historic Site

    On September 27, 1997, the original core of the city of Winnipeg, the Exchange District, was declared a National Historic Site by the federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Right Honourable Sheila Copps.

    The Historic Sites and Monuments board recommended that Winnipeg's Exchange District be designated an historic district of national significance because it illustrates the city's key role as a centre of grain and wholesale trade, finance and manufacturing in two historically important periods in western development- between 1880 and 1900 when Winnipeg became the gateway to Canada's West, and between 1900 and 1913, when the city's growth made it the region's metropolis.

    A twenty-city block area composed approximately 150 heritage buildings, the Exchange District has joined the ranks of a handful of other urban areas which have also received this distinction. There are almost 80 municipally designated buildings in the Exchange District with a further 52 on the inventory, any of which may fit the criteria for municipal designation.

    This remarkable group of commercial buildings vividly illustrates Winnipeg's transformation between 1878 and 1913 from a modest pioneer settlement to western Canada's largest metropolitan centre. The district's banks, warehouses, and early skyscrapers recall the city's dominance in the fields of finance, manufacturing, wholesale distribution and the international grain trade. Designed by a number of well-known architects, these buildings reflect an approach to architecture that was innovative, functional and stylish. The First World War and the Great Depression contributed to the end of Winnipeg's spectacular boom era, leaving the district virtually intact. Through the efforts of dedicated citizens since the 1970s, the Exchange District has been preserved as a distinctive legacy from a formative period in Canada's economic development.

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