Metropolitan Theatre

After being vacant for over 25 years, the Metropolitan Theatre finally reopened its doors to the public in November of 2012. Now named the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, it is currently home to a restaurant and lounge, and it also has facilities available to use for special events. The interior of the building is designed to be reminiscent of the older theatre and even retains some of the original fixtures.



For more information on the reopening of the Metropolitan Theatre, please refer to the following articles

CBC News Met Theatre to Reopen

Winnipeg Free Press Met Theatre Debut

Good news for the vacant Metropolitan Theatre! It is getting a new lease on life.

Built in 1919 by C. Howard Crane, the Met was originally called the Allen and renamed the Metropolitan after Famous Players cinema chain took it over in 1923. The theatre was the first of the ’movie palaces’ because of its large size and opulent interior décor. The Met has a typical exterior façade used on a number of Allen/Crane cinemas, but has one of the most attractive movie house exteriors that were ever built. One of the first movie “palaces” in Canada, the Metropolitan Theatre was one of the best works of C. Howard Crane, among America’s top-ranking theatre architects.

For Further information on the progress of the Metropolitan Theatre please read the following Winnipeg Free Press articles

Curtain Finally Rising on the Met Makeover
WSO and MET could make beautiful music together
Theatre remake still in the plan
Editorial: Play Acting wont save the MET

Restoration Work to Begin Soon

Show Over for Metropolitan
Historic Theatre to Supper Club

Airport Terminal Memories: Two CBC Videos

CBC has put up two great videos about the 1964 Winnipeg air terminal on their website.

Here is a look back at memories of the terminal, including an interview with Bernard Brown, one of the original designers, and excellent archival footage of famous landings at the airport. The video is about 3 minutes.

Here is a documentary CBC did on the airport when it first opened in 1964. About 12 minutes long.

Success at City Hall: Monte Cassino Court and Milner House!

Success! Two historic buildings have been saved from the wrecking ball recently. 

Monte Cassino Court, 639 Portage Ave.

The Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management, at their October 3 meeting, recommended that "the former Monte Cassino Court Building, 639 Portage Avenue, remain on the Inventory of Buildings under the terms of Historical Buildings By-law No. 1474/77, as the proposed development for this property is not being proceeded with."

This recommendation was ratified by City Council on October 19.

The minutes of the October 3 meeting can be found here (pdf).

See our previous posts on Monte Cassino court here (Sept 12) and here (Sept 2).

Milner House, 51 Balmoral St.

The Standing
Policy Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management, at their October 31 meeting, recommended that "Milner House, 51 Balmoral Street, not be removed from the Buildings Conservation List under the terms of the Historical Buildings By-law No. 1474/77.

This recommendation will go on to the Executive Policy Committee and City Council.

The minutes of the October 31 meeting can be found here (pdf).

See our previous post on Milner House here (Sept 2).

We congratulate the City Councillors, especially Councillors Swandel, Gerbasi, Havixbeck, and Browaty, for wisely opting to protect these buildings. They are safe from demolition for the time being. This provides an opportunity for proposals of viable re-uses for these historical buildings. Lets hope that the owners can come to the table with interested parties and work out a solution that will benefit Winnipeg as a whole. Lets have more successes like these!

Upper Fort Garry Update: Grain Exchange Curling Club Demolition

Demolition has begun on the Grain Exchange Curling Club to make way for construction of the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Park and Interpretive Centre. David McDowell photographed the beginning of demolition.
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associatescopyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associatescopyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associatescopyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associatescopyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associatescopyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates
copyright David McDowell, Clio & Associates

Airport Terminal Getting Attention

Update December 2011: Unfortunately, the old airport terminal has been demolished. Some of the artwork on display at the old terminal can still be found in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba, while some of the artwork was sent to Ottawa for display in a museum. Read here for more information.

Winnipeg's modernist air terminal is in danger of demolition once the new terminal opens at the end of October. Heritage Winnipeg has been advocating for its preservation and adaptive re-use. The threat to the Winnipeg Airport terminal has been getting a lot of media attention this week. Below are a few of the highlights.

CBC has an online poll asking whether the 1964 air terminal is worth saving. Please take a moment to vote here.

Gordon Sinclair, Jr. wrote a column in the Winnipeg Free Press: "Why Our Terminal Shouldn't Be Terminated"
Read the article here.

Elizabeth Fleming also had an article in the Winnipeg Free Press's View from the West: "Don't Rush To Demolish Heritage"
Read the article here.

Terry MacLeod interviewed Arni Thorsteinson of Shelter Canadian Properties on CBC Information Radio. Mr. Thorsteinson spoke about a proposal by Shelter Canadian to use part of the air terminal for commercial space and to renovate part of it to house the Western Canada Aviation Museum.
Listen to the interview here.

Steven Stothers has dug up a 1964 article on the Winnipeg air terminal, as well other modernist terminals in Canada, from Canadian Arts magazine. It provides some perspective on the impact of the art and architecture of the terminal when it was originally built.
Check it out here.

We will keep you posted on further developments regarding the 1964 Winnipeg air terminal. Don't forget to vote in the CBC poll!

Winnipeg Airport Terminal - threatened with demolition!

City Hall Update: Monte Cassino Court, Sam Steele School, and the River Heights Lawn Bowling Club

An update on advocacy issues from the Sept 12 session of the Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Mangement at City Hall. Councillors Swandel, Browaty, Gerbasi, and Havixbeck were present. Monte Cassino Court is safe for now. Habitat for Humanity plans to demolish Sir Sam Steele School to build affordable homes. And we have a new addition to the Heritage Conservation List: River Heights Lawn Bowling Club!

Documents of the Sept 12 session can be found

Monte Cassino Court, 639 Portage Ave.

We reported in our last post that the developer of 639 Portage Ave., which is currently on the Inventory of Historical Buildings, had applied to demolish and redevelop the site. This would require that Monte Cassino Court not be placed on the Buildings Conservation List. Mark Theisen, the owner of the building, informed the committee on Sept 12 that the developer had backed out and the proposal would no longer be pursued. With the proposal off the table, the Councillors decided to leave Monte Cassino on the Historical Buildings Inventory unchanged. 639 Portage Avenue is once again up for sale or lease, waiting for someone enterprising to take on its redevelopment.

Sir Sam Steele School, 15 Chester St.

See the story in the Winnipeg Free Press here.
See the report of the Historical Buildings Committee here.

Habitat for Humanity applied to demolish this old school, listed on the Buildings Conservation List, to build affordable housing. The committee approved the plan to de-list the building to make way for demolition because it is in very poor condition. The roof leaks and there is no plumbing, and equally importantly, the building lacks community support for redevelopment. This is an unfortunate result of the neglect of the building for many years. Heritage Winnipeg has made a proposal to the City to encourage owners of heritage buildings to maintain them in order to prevent demolition by neglect.

It is our understanding that Habitat for Humanity will re-use bricks from the school and include a commemoration of Sir Sam Steele.

River Heights Lawn Bowling Club, 1360 Grosvenor Ave.
image from Google Street View

Download the administrative report (including a short history of the building) here.

This historic Lawn Bowling Club will be placed on the Heritage Conservation List as a Grade III Heritage Building "based only on the age, special historical and architectural significance of the property." Owner Rick Strauss was quite happy about the recognition of the Club, which has been continuously operating for over 100 years.

Upcoming issues at City Hall: Milner House

William E. Milner House, 51 Balmoral St.


This historic home is in danger of demolition. The 2 1/2 storey Dutch Colonial revival house was built by George W. Ford in 1909 for W.E. Milner and his family. William Edwin Milner was a well-known figure in the city's grain sector. After his death in 1942 his wife owned the house until 1952. Then she sold to her son, who lived there until his death in 1990 at the age of 97. The house was then sold to Great-West Life who have demolished all other houses on the block to extend employee parking. It is a Grade III Heritage Building in Councillor Gerbasi's ward. Unfortunately, several attempts to move the home have failed. The cost to move it could be up to $300,000, which is an increase of 25% since 2004. Great-West Life has sent a letter of intent to the City to delist the house. It may go to the Downtown Development, Heritage and Riverbank Management Committee in the coming months.


Historical Buildings Report

Monte Cassino Court, 639 Portage Ave.


Built 1907-10, 639 Portage Ave. was home to a succession of merchants until the last tenant, National Typewriter. It has floor-to-ceiling windows on the main floor and lovely stone and stained glass accents. It has stood vacant since 1997. In July a proposal to demolish it for a residential unit cleared one hurdle when the city centre planning committee approved it. It is currently listed on the city's Inventory of Historical Buildings.

All applications to remove buildings from the Inventory of Buildings which the Historical Buildings Committee recommends as having special architectural and historical significance must be heard by the relevant Community Committee for a recommendation, the appropriate Standing Policy Committee depending on the location of the property, the Executive Policy Committee and Council.


Historical Buildings Overview
City Centre Community Committee report - July 5

Building History

(paraphrased from the City Centre Community Committee report of July 5)

The former Monte Cassino Court building was built between 1907 and 1910 with retail space on the ground floor and eight residential suites (four per floor) on the second and third floors. Much of the exterior has remained unchanged; the interior includes updated areas (ground floor and part of the second floor) and unaltered space (part of the second and all of the third floors). Because of an extended period of vacancy, some of the exterior and interior elements have deteriorated.

This mixed-use structure was originally built in 1907 as a one-storey commercial block with three shops, but due to the ever expanding Winnipeg economy, its owner saw an opportunity to expand its commercial potential and in 1910 renovated the ground floor retail space and added two floors of residential suites, naming the new structure Monte Cassino Court.

This building is an excellent example of the Two-Part Commercial style with classical detailing, named to reflect the structure's use for both commerce and multi-tenant residency and the fact that the exterior design is divided vertically into two distinct sections according to this differential use. The ground floor, although heavily altered, features several entrances and large display windows for the retail space, separated by a large sign (replacing the original cornice) that leads to the upper floors with their brick and stone accenting, regularly placed windows with ornate stained glass transoms and a heavy overhanging metal cornice finished with a stone capped brick parapet.

The interior is mix of old and new. The original tin-ceiling staircase at the east end illuminated by a large skylight is intact. The suites included ornate millwork, transom windows and ornamental tin throughout. Most of the layouts and finishes are still present, although the building's long vacancy has led to the deterioration of some of the materials.

National Typewriter and Office Equipment bought the building in 1966. The business was sold in 1996 and the building has remained vacant since 1997.

There are both exterior and interior elements that would require approval if alterations were planned, including the original millwork and wood flooring, transom windows, central staircase (including skylight), and ornamental tin ceilings throughout.

Proposed Redevelopment

Raymond Wan of Raymond S.C. Wan Architecture, on behalf of the owner, Pamjon Investments Ltd., applied to reszone the land on which Monte Cassino Court stands from a Commercial District to a Residential Mixed Use District.

The applicant seeks approval to consolidate two existing lots into one and rezone from "C2" Commercial District to "RMU" Residential Mixed Use District to allow for the redevelopment of the site by constructing a new, nine storey, 32 unit residential multi-family development with main floor commercial. It will be a mixed use building with commercial uses on the first floor and residential uses on the upper floors. The proposed tower provides significant transparency and articulation, in order to break down the overall massing and to provide visual interest from the street.

The development will have 20 ground level exterior parking spaces at the rear of the building.

The proposed development meets several key goals of Plan Winnipeg and the projected trend away from single-family and towards apartment/condo multiple-family units.

The Planning and Land Use Division recommends approval for the following reasons:
- The proposed use is compatible with the area
- The proposal is consistent with Plan Winnipeg 2020 and Complete Communities Direction Strategy
- The height, massing, and design are contextually suitable with the area
- The existing building has been vacant since 1997 and would require significant costs to upgrade to meet current Code requirements

Summary of the City Centre Community Committee report - July 5, 2011

"At the request of the owner who is intending to demolish the property, the Historical Buildings Committee evaluated the structure on June 16, 2011 and determined it to be eligible as a Grade III structure. The Committee is recommending that because of the property's special historical and architectural significance that it be considered to be placed on the Building's Conservation List under the terms of the Historical buildings bylaw No. 1474/77 (as amended)."

"While the subject property has been deemed as having historical value by the Historical Buildings Committee, Decision-making Committees consider issues in a much broader context, including factos such as economical viability, neighbourhood well-being, etc. The building has been vacant since 1997 and would require significant costs to upgrade to meet current Code requirements."

However, the Winnipeg Public Service recommended:
- that Monte Cassino Court not be placed on the Buildings Conservation List under the terms of the Historical buildings By-law No. 1474/77 (as amended) as its long-term economic viability is "very uncertain";
- that when the owner has prepared a firm development proposal and has made a formal application for a building permit, a demolition permit may be issued;
- that the land be rezoned to a Residential Mixed Use District;
- that if the by-law is not enacted within 24 months after adoption of the report by Council, the matter shall not be proceeded with unless an extension has been applied for and approved by Council.

1964 Winnipeg Aiport Terminal to be demolished: unanswered questions

The Winnipeg Airports Authority and Transport Canada intend to demolish the old terminal, opened in 1964, after the new terminal comes into operation at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

Heritage Winnipeg and the Manitoba Historical Society are asking: Why do they want to demolish one of Canada's finest examples of 20th-century architecture?

Our organizations are working together to ensure that the heritage value of the Terminal to Winnipeg and Canada is given full and proper consideration, and that, as a federal building originally commissioned as part of an iconic group of architecturally significant buildings, any process for change is transparent and involves the public.

The WAA, Transport Canada and the Federal Government have left the public in the dark so far. Why did the Federal Government halt a heritage assessment of the building in 2008? Why did the WAA reject a redevelopment proposal involving Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd., Huntingdon Real Estate, and the Western Aviation Museum? Why has there been no further redevelopment effort? The WAA claims that the building is in poor shape. Can they document this? Why would they and Transport Canada neglect the terminal for so many years?

Why so many unanswered questions and unexplained actions? This is an important building to Winnipeg and to Canada's aviation history. Why keep the public in the dark?

Heritage Winnipeg has sent a communiqué to the media in order to bring this issue to the attention of the community.

Winnipeg Airport Communiqué

For more background information:

Winnipeg Airport Background

Barber House Revived!

Winnipeg Free Press:
Metro Winnipeg:
Winnipeg Real Estate News:

After decades vacant and several fires, Barber House is back again.

The Sistars, a Point Douglas community group, have succeeded in restoring the house to turn it into a combination Seniors' Centre and Daycare. The grand re-opening was Wednesday, August 3. Speakers from Sistars spoke about the challenges they had to overcome to complete this project, as well as the history of the house. Dignitaries from various levels of government also spoke, along with the architect, Wins Bridgman.

Barber House restored.

The new Daycare, attached to the rear of the house.

Guests lined up for the re-opening ceremonies.

The new roof above the remains of the old house.

The original logs from the Red River frame construction were retained, sporting burn-marks from the many fires.

MP Vic Toews, Councillors Eadie and Nordman.

The family Bible, gifted to the Sistars.

                                        Councillor Ross Eadie.

Councillor Grant Nordman.

MLA Christine Melnick.

Architect Wins Bridgman.

The ribbon-cutting!

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