Description of Historic Place
The Merchants Building, erected in 1898 and doubled in size in 1902, is a large four-storey brick and stone warehouse on a bustling street corner in Winnipeg's downtown Exchange District. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and listed exterior and interior elements.
The Merchants Building, a dignified Romanesque Revival-style storage facility of huge proportions and solid mill construction, is an impressive presence on one of the main corner sites in Winnipeg's central warehouse district. Though erected in two large sections, the building appears as a unified whole, typical of its style in scale and massing and built of durable stone and brick skillfully balanced in detail and ornament. These attributes reflect planning by a single architect, J.H. Cadham, whose aesthetic sensibility helped shape what is now the Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada, an area filled with early commercial structures representative of Winnipeg's heyday as supplier of goods and services to the developing West. A prime location, and features such as strong load-carrying capacity, expansive floor plans and covered loading docks, have well served the warehouse's occupants, initially hardware dealer George D. Wood and Co., followed by other wholesalers, garment makers and office tenants.
Source: City of Winnipeg Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development Minutes, February 26, 2008
Key elements that define the character of the Merchants Building site within the Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada include:
- the prominent corner location at southeast McDermot Avenue and Arthur Street in proximity to other designated business structures from the 1882-1901 period, such as the Telegram, Sures and R.J. Whitla and Company buildings and the Albert and Stovel blocks
- the warehouse's placement, extending nearly a half block south from McDermot and including two finished facades (north and west) set tight to the public sidewalks, maintaining the built edge
Key exterior elements that define the building's scale, Romanesque Revival style and warehouse function include:
- the massive, L-shaped footprint of two large four-storey sections joined at a covered east-west driveway, both sections rectangular in plan, on raised stone foundations and with flat rooflines
- the unpretentious materials, including the high base of large rusticated limestone blocks (up to ground-floor windowsills), walls finished in common buff-coloured brick, corbelled brick and rusticated stone trim, etc.
- the well-lit principal facades, rhythmically divided into bays (five on the north, 13 on the west) by brick pilasters, including in each bay vertical rows of tall, paired and square-headed windows with transoms, supplemented by paired basement openings, two offset square-headed entrances on McDermot and three round-arched openings on Arthur, including the driveway and in the 1898 section a raised loading dock
- the unadorned south elevation, including multi-paned industrial-style windows on the ground floor, an orderly arrangement of upper-level fenestration, a row of small vertical openings at the east corner, etc.
- the east wall, also unadorned, including in the 1902 section the round-arched driveway opening, numerous windows (some with segmental arched wood frames and industrial glass), a compact one-storey corner section integrated with a brick chimney, a raised loading dock, etc.
- the modest details, such as the cornice of corbelled stringcourses and modillions, corbelled brickwork above fourth-floor windows, rusticated stone lintels and windowsills, stone steps, wood-and-glass doors topped by large transoms, some decorative wood sashes, the complementary and differentiated design features of the three west-side arches, etc.
- the corporate graphics painted on the upper east and south walls
Key elements that define the building's interior character include:
- the sturdy support system, including some exposed timber posts with splayed metal or cast-iron capitals, heavy wood joists and brick walls, etc.
- the durable materials, such as plank wood flooring, high ceilings with pressed metal panels, carved wooden staircase balustrades, etc.
- the vestibules off the McDermot entrances
- the massive freight elevators and the ca. 1940s passenger elevator