In 1882, James Robertson and Co. commissioned a warehouse on the north side of Pacific Ave. between Main and Martha streets. In 1884 Robertson and his company’s local manager commissioned English immigrant and prominent Architect Charles H. Wheeler to design another building further east on Alexander. Wheeler hired Thomas Kelly as the contractor. Robertson leased the building to George Duncan Wood and Company.
George Duncan Wood relocated prior to 1900 and John Dyck Ltd. moved in.
The SmartBag company of Montreal bought John Dyck out in 1906, purchased the property from James Robertson and proceeded to hire Daniel Smith to design the second section of the building. In 1913 the SmartBag Co. merged with Woods Manufacturing Co. and became Smart-Woods Ltd. Due to the mergence of the two respected businesses, more room was needed and the third section was commissioned through John Woodman and Raymond Carey Architects. Many other tenants have resided in the SmartBag Co. building (as it is most commonly known) throughout the years. Prosperity Knitwear was the owner prior to its purchase by Sport Manitoba.
Section A was originally built as a two-storey structure using the mill construction method (solid brick walls, square timber beams and post interior support system and wooden plank floors). A third floor was added prior to 1900. The same method of construction was used on Section B in 1906. The largest and final section was built using reinforced concrete, the latest in technology at the time. This 5-storey building’s facades face three prominent thoroughfares (Lily St., Alexander Ave. and Pacific Ave.) and as a result the building is seen as defining those intersections and being an important contribution to the historic streetscapes.
Due to its three-decade construction period, the complex has ties to three important periods in Winnipeg’s growth including the real estate boom of the early 1880’s, the turn of the century growth phase and the period prior to the First World War when the city was at its growth pinnacle.
The oldest portion of the complex was one of the 22 oldest buildings in the Downtown and one of the eight oldest warehouses. It was seen as a rare, handsome and one of the most intact early examples of the Romanesque Revival Style.[i] The characteristics of the Romanesque Revival Style are:
solid brick with a raised stone basement
rusticated stone accenting around windows and doors and at roof level
use of the arch above the windows and doors
The larger building was built in 1913 and is a simpler, more modern rendition of the Romanesque Revival style with a limestone base, arched windows and brick exterior walls with stone accenting around windows and doors.
The Historical Buildings Committee recommended that the building be listed as a Grade II on December 11 2008. Along with Heritage Winnipeg, the HBC wanted a designation of grade II for “a more vigorous form of protection that is difficult to repeal” but decided to “support the less restrictive heritage designation to allow Sport Manitoba to amend its plans for the athletic centre, which could fill a recreational void in the inner city” [ii]
On January 6th 2009, The SmartBag Company Building was placed on the HBC Conservation list as a grade III building. Including the character-defining elements:
Section A and B (built 1884 and 1906)
o 3 masonry walls (North, South and West) of the north facing structure
o metal decorative cornice of the main façade
o paired and arched second and third stody windows with continuous stone sllls and brick accenting
o other main façade details including pilasters with decorative metal caps and decorative brick panels
o railway track lintels on the ground floor windows and the original windows on the third floor of the west façade
o Structural elements (wood beams and posts) and wood 2nd and 3rd floors
Section C (built 1913) (all elements pertain to north, south and east elevation
o Reinforced concrete facade
o Rusticated stone-clad base and dark brick upper floor cladding with stone accenting
o Stone belt course above the forth floor windows and the stone capping
o Original industrial sash windwons on all levels including raised, square-headed basement opening, large ground floor elements and arched fourth floor windows with stone keystones
o Main entrances (two on north and one on south) featuring bull’s eye windows above doors recessed in rusticated and smooth-cut ashlar, prominent surround and keystones
o Deeply recessed square-headed loading bays on the south façade
o Columns with mushroom capitals at all levels.[iii]
In June 2009, the HBC approved the first phase of the rehabilitation to section C and approved the partial demolition of section A and B to make room for the field house on the condition that the northern façade be retained and integrated into the new development.[iv]
On October 15th 2009, “an independent Engineer’s report deemed [the entire structure including the north façade] structurally unsound”. “After significant deliberation and consideration of various options the HBC amended the existing Certificate of Suitability to appove-in-principle the complete demolition of [the 3 story building] upon submission of the development proposal”[v] and on condition that the site would not be used as surface parking while vacant.
On February 2nd 2010, issued a statement that “they hope[d] to move forward with plans to build a $15-million field house on [the site of] a three-storey component of the Smart Bag building”[vi].
Due to the designation as grade III rather than the recommended grade II, a partial demolition was allowed. The Fire Department considered all three sections as one building therefore the demolition was seen only as a partial and under grade III designation was not required to go to Property and Development. Sport Manitoba was given approval to demolish sections A and B no longer needing to retain the more ornamentally complex north façade as was part of the previous compromise.
Feb 18th 2010 HBC supported the demolition based on proof of significant structural compromise to the structure, thorough review alternatives, and support demonstrated for the proposed interim/future use of the site by the applicant”. The proposed second phase of the renovations is building a multimillion-dollar field house that includes educational, therapeutic and recreational components in the location of the original two sections of the building.
June 2010 sections A and B were demolished. Construction of the field house is in the beginning stages.
[i] Heritage Planners Report December 2008
[ii] (2009, January 7. Kives, B. Sport Manitoba to revisit inner-city field house plan. Winnipeg Free Press).
[iii] Council Minutes Jan 28th 2009, City Clerks Department
[iv] City of Winnipeg Briefing note. February 19, 2010. (1)
[v]City of Winnipeg Briefing note. February 19, 2010. (1)
[vi] 2010, February 2. Kives, B. Sport Manitoba revisits field house. Winnipeg Free Press
December 2008. 145 Pacific Avenue SmartBag Company (George Duncan Wood and Co. Building). City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee Report.