Description of Historic Place
The Manitoba Legislative Building, erected in 1913-20, is a monumental reinforced concrete, steel and stone structure on a formal landscaped site between Broadway and the Assiniboine River in downtown Winnipeg. The provincial designation applies to the three-storey building and the grounds it occupies.
The Manitoba Legislative Building, the pinnacle of Beaux-Arts Classical architecture in the province, is an imposing seat of government symbolic of local strength and vitality and of the import of the official functions that occur within its walls. The solid, massive edifice, which dominates its expansive site and is visible from various vantages, is a disciplined expression of classical Greek Revival styling crowned by a symbol of youth and enterprise, the Golden Boy, graced by allegorical and historical ornament, and proudly wrapped in local Tyndall limestone. The immaculate interior, housing Canada's only circular legislative chamber, superb ceremonial and public spaces and more than 350 rooms, is equally elaborate and sumptuous in materials and motifs drawn from antiquity, legal and legislative history, war, royalty and Manitoba's natural heritage. The whole is a magnificent showpiece in keeping with the grandeur and inspirational symbols of its time and with the building's role as a locus of political life and important public events. Designed by F.W. Simon and Henry Boddington III of England, built by Thomas Kelly and J. McDiarmid Co. of Winnipeg, and enriched by many artistic works, the structure represents an epic undertaking, albeit one attended by wartime exigencies and financial and political scandal, among other reversals. It is the second legislative assembly on the Broadway grounds, a government precinct since the early 1870s.
Source: Manitoba Heritage Council Minute, May 12, 1989
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Manitoba Legislative Building site include:
- the landmark location on Broadway among other government, commercial, residential and religious structures and public open spaces
- the building's placement, facing north, within expansive grounds that include formal drive- and walkways, rolling lawns, trees, gardens, commemorative monuments, etc.
Key elements that define the building's stately Beaux-Arts Classical architecture and symbolism include:
- the symmetrical H-shaped massing, rising three storeys from a high base, and sheathed in channelled and ashlar Tyndall stone, etc.
- the strong horizontal lines reinforced by the flat roof, continuous modillioned cornice, parapet and other banding elements, rhythmic arrangement of windows, etc.
- the multi-tiered central tower, with offset corners, fluted Corinthian columns, full entablature, copper-panelled dome with small round dormers, cupola crowned with the Golden Boy, etc.
- the porticoes on each facade, including their large stone staircases, colonnades with giant order columns, full entablatures, pediments, finely detailed entrances, etc.
- the extensive fenestration, including rectangular windows throughout, some framed by architraves, others in relief surrounds, etc.
- the exuberant and profuse details throughout, including stone and metal balustrades, pilasters, engaged columns, belt courses, niches, raised panels, urns, etc.
- the exceptional historical and allegorical sculptures, including twin sphinxes flanking the north pediment, figures and groupings of figures, etc.
Key elements that define the building's legislative function include:
- the Legislative Chamber with horseshoe-shaped members' benches rising in tiers, elevated Speaker's Chair flanked by loges, media and public galleries, etc.
- the wealth of symbolic features, including niches holding bronze statues; murals and other imagery, etc.
- the refined appointments and furnishings, including the domed ceiling, arches, marble and walnut trim, elegant mouldings, members' desks, etc.
Key elements that broadly define the building's opulent and spacious interior include:
- the formal plan incorporating a central core of public, ceremonial and legislative spaces, with outlying committee and reception rooms, private ministers' and general offices, etc.
- the access points, including the north vestibule with marble flooring, columns, archway, coffered ceiling, etc.
- the sequencing and separation of spaces and variety of circulation patterns supported by wide, high-ceilinged hallways, marble staircases with decorative balustrades and skylights, etc.
- the impressive details and finishes, such as black and white marble floors throughout, Tyndall stone walls and columns, vaulted ceilings, decorative mouldings, etc.
Key elements that define other significant functional and ceremonial spaces include:
- the Grand Staircase Hall, with heavily decorated central skylight, columns and pilasters, channelled main-floor stone walls, life-sized bronze bison on high stone pedestals, wide staircase with marble steps and solid balustrades, etc.
- the Pool of the Black Star, set in marble surrounds in a circular space with columns, a ceiling open to the Rotunda, sculpted highlights, etc.
- the Rotunda, with high semicircular walls, enriched with columns, entablature, large round arches, marble balustrade, etc.
- the Lieutenant-Governor's Room, panelled in walnut inlaid with ebony and hand-carved imagery, etc.
- the Speaker's Reception Room, with marble flooring, columns and pilasters, modillioned cornice, barrel vault and coffered ceiling sections, copious detailing, etc.
- the double-height library, including mezzanine galleries, elaborate coffered ceiling, detailing, etc.
- the spacious offices, washrooms, fireplaces, antechambers, intact furnishings, etc.