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Bergthaler Waisenamt

48 Main Street, Altona, Manitoba, R0G, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1992/11/24

View to the main elevation of the Bergthaler Waisenamt, Altona 2005; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage & Tourism, 2005
Main Elevation
Contextual View from the Southwest of the Bergthaler Waisenamt, Altona 2005; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage & Tourism, 2005
Detailed View of the original signage on the Bergthaler Waisenamt, Altona 2005; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage & Tourism, 2005
Detail Image

Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1916/01/01 to 1916/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/06/29

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The concrete block Bergthaler Waisenamt, a simple storefront facility converted to residential apartments, is located near the north edge of Altona's downtown. Situated at the front of a narrow grassed lot on Main Street, the two-storey structure, built in 1916, faces a green space with a few trees and a Canadian Pacific Railway line that divides the town. The municipal designation applies to the building and its small lot.

Heritage Value

The Bergthaler Waisenamt is a good illustration of the mutual aid institutions introduced by Mennonites who settled in southern Manitoba in the mid-1870s. Based on a centuries-old tradition established by Mennonites in Prussia and Russia to administer estates and aid orphans and widows, the 'Waisenamt' gradually expanded into other financial services before its operations collapsed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The building is an excellent example of the use of concrete blocks, a visually impressive, economical and fire-resistant construction material. The building has accommodated various functions over the years and is one of the few historic structures that still stand on Altona's Main Street.

Source: Town of Altona By-law No. 1385, November 24, 1992

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage character of the Bergthaler Waisenamt site include:
- the placement of the structure on a narrow grassed lot beside similarly sized buildings on the east side of Main Street in Altona's business district

Key elements that define the building's external character and concrete block construction include:
- the high two-storey rectangular form with a flat roof, simple cornice, asymmetrical front (west) facade and solid side walls
- the concrete construction, including the concrete blocks designed to mimic rusticated stone, the concrete window sills and heads, foundation and four wide front steps with a landing
- the distinctive proportions and fenestration of the front facade, with paired single entrance doors set opposite a large rectangular-shaped bi-window and tall rectangular openings on the upper level; also tall rectangular openings centred on the rear facade
- the conservative decorative features, such as the plain metal cornice with one surviving bracketed end, the date '1916' centred in raised numerals on the fascia, etc.

Key internal elements that define the heritage character of the building include:
- the direct entrance into the main-floor space, divided into open front and rear rooms with a staircase to the basement and the side-hall entrance and staircase that leads to the second-floor rooms

Key elements that recall the building's original function include:
- the concrete header inscribed with the words 'THE BERGTHALER WAISENAMT 1916' above the main-floor front window
- the concrete basement vault




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (MB)

Recognition Statute

Manitoba Historic Resources Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Heritage Site

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type


Multiple Dwelling


Commerce / Commercial Services
Bank or Stock Exchange

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

PO Box 1630 Altona, MB R0G 0B0

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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