Impact of the historic site not fully realized until recent return of the NHL to the site
In 1902, 3,000 jubilant supporters packed into the Main Street Auditorium to watch the Winnipeg Victorias come from behind to beat the Toronto Wellingtons 5-3, clinching their third and final Stanley Cup championship.
Two years later, that flourishing young metropolis would further cement its reputation as one of Canada's big league cities as the dramatic Eaton's Building began to rise along Portage Avenue. The tenth largest department store in the world, it was estimated in 1960 that 50 cents out of every shopping dollar spent in Winnipeg happened at "the big store." With a floor area nearly double that of the 30-storey Richardson Building, its scale and presence made her a Portage Avenue icon and one of Canada's most significant buildings of the early 20th century.
A century ago it was the place for fashionable Winnipeggers to see and be seen. Surrounded by the stately homes of the city's well-to-do, Central Park with its Victorian flower gardens, tennis courts and bandshell stage was the centrepiece of one of Winnipeg's finest residential neighbourhoods.
In 1914, the park would gain a distinctive landmark that stands today as the last remnant of its Victorian beginnings. Local businessman Thomas Waddell was informed three years after his wife's death of an unusual clause in her will stipulating that if he were to remarry, he would be legally required to spend $10,000 building a memorial fountain in Central Park or he would forfeit his claim to her $56,000 estate.
Central Park's makeover has re-established the inner-city facility as the heart of what is now the city's densest and most ethnically diverse neighbourhood.
In 2007, the American Institute of Architects launched a public survey to identify "America's Favourite Architecture." With the Empire State Building, the White House and the Washington National Cathedral finishing in the Top 3, the list exposed a strong public connection with heritage buildings. Of the Top 50 favourite structures in the United States, only five were built after the Second World War.
These results raise the question: Do people prefer historic buildings for their character and style or, like a favourite pair of faded blue jeans, is time and familiarity an important factor in the public perception of architecture? Will the steel and glass modernist buildings that replaced these styles be just as well-loved when they are old enough to be considered historic? If so, should we work to protect them in the same way we do the brick buildings of the Exchange District?
As the calendar moves into the dog days of August, thousands of Manitobans will head out on their summer vacations to explore the architecture and metropolitan character of different cities across the continent. From weekends in Minneapolis or Chicago, to road trips through Ontario and Quebec, many will travel near and far in search of an inspiring urban experience.
Few of us, however, will explore our own city with the same curiosity we display abroad. We often spend our vacations walking the neighbourhoods of distant cities and then return to our hurried lives, rarely slowing to appreciate Winnipeg from that same pedestrian perspective.
The design of the Holy Trinity Anglican Church came as the result of Winnipeg's first international architecture competition.
It's been an exciting few weeks for Winnipeg. First, Mark Chipman ended public speculation by confirming that our NHL franchise will once again carry the Jets name. Then it seemed as though every few days brought a press conference celebrating the start of a major new construction project in our city. These announcements included a highrise hotel on Portage Avenue, another at the McPhillips Station Casino, a new University of Winnipeg field house and the long-awaited renovation of the Metropolitan Theatre.
These four projects alone represent almost $200 million in construction activity and will play an important role in the growth of the city's economy, while inspiring optimism and civic pride in our community.