Description of Historic Place
The Paris Building is an elegant Chicago-style office tower built between 1915 and 1917 and prominently located on the northwest corner of Portage Avenue and Garry Street in Winnipeg. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and the main floor interior.
The Paris Building is one of Winnipeg's best known and important early twentieth-century skyscrapers. The soaring columns and heavily-ornamented cornice, hallmarks of the Chicago style, and the wealth of Italian Renaissance surface detail, make it a landmark along one of Winnipeg's main thoroughfares, Portage Avenue. A closer reading of the building reveals an important deviation from typical Chicago style tenets and suggests another aspect of its value: its enlargement from a five-storey retail and office palace of classical inspiration built in 1915 into the present 11-storey tower, the result of a 1917 building program. This addition remains as a powerful reminder of enduring local ambitions for the city, and Portage Avenue, even during the depths of World War I. The skilful conjoining of the building's two sections into a seamless whole is a testament to the imaginative powers of Winnipeg architect Raymond Carey, who along with John Woodman also designed the original section. Like other similar towers of its day, the Paris Building's primary use was retail and office functions, and vestiges of that activity can still be found throughout. However, only in the main floor elevator lobby was there decorative attention inside the building, and this area has retained much of its integrity.
Source: City of Winnipeg Committee on the Environment Minutes, January 5, 1981
Key aspects of the Paris Building's important location and historical and physical landmark qualities are evident in:
- the location at the northwest corner of Portage Avenue and Garry Street in downtown Winnipeg, and the situation of the building in proximity to other important architectural treasures from the same period, including the Bank of Nova Scotia, Birks Building, Curry Building, etc.
Key elements that define the Paris Building's eclectic and animated skyscraper design include:
- its primary Chicago School-style attributes, including its 11-storey height, flat roof, tripartite division into highly detailed cornice and lower levels and more subdued middle storeys, strong verticality achieved with thin engaged columns extending the height of the building, grid-like pattern of the middle floor fenestration, etc.
- the secondary Chicago School-style features, including the careful composition of intermediate floors, with large expanses of windows formed into sets of four and further defined with delicate framing devices and decorated spandrels, the use on these upper levels of Italian Renaissance details carried out in foliated multi-hued terra cotta, especially at the cornice levels, tops of the columns/piers, etc.
- the dramatic curved corner element extending the height of the building and embellished especially at its bottom five and upper cornice levels with Classical, floral and figurative details
- the lower five storeys, of rich and complex design, organized into three distinct elements (lower two storeys with pilasters framing thin decorative arches, intermediate level a narrow attic-like band of short windows with engaged columns, and upper two storeys, taller and elegant, with two-storey engaged columns and the same kind of window configurations apparent in the top six storeys), each carried out in an opulent and bold classical vocabulary, including fluted pilasters and columns, capitals of various orders, highly decorated friezes, all of multi-hued terra cotta, etc
Key elements of the Paris Building's intact interior features include:
- the richly detailed main floor elevator lobby, with its impressive three-metre height and wealth of classical details, such as paired pilasters with Ionic capitals, beamed ceiling highlighted with intricate details, and its expensive materials, including marble wainscotting, brass elevator doors, etc.
- attached fluted columns in modest elevator lobbies on floors three through seven