Description of Historic Place
The Free Press Building is a generously detailed six-storey structure completed in 1913 in downtown Winnipeg and now enclosed in a neighbourhood dominated by post-1980 development, including its own north-side office addition. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint with the following interior elements: two-storey lobby, exterior revolving doors and articulated plasterwork on the main and second floors.
The Free Press Building, often referred to as 'The Old Lady of Carlton Street,' was the majestic home to one of Winnipeg's major newspapers for almost 80 years. During the first half of the twentieth century the `Winnipeg Free Press' was one of Canada's most important daily newspapers, with a national and even international readership under its owner Clifford Sifton (a major federal cabinet minister) and legendary editor John Dafoe. This building was the newspaper's landmark headquarters, originally housing the printing presses and related machinery, public and business offices and office space for reporters, editors and other employees. Designed by John Woodman and Raymond Carey, with a 1926 addition by A.E. Cubbidge, the building is a grand Edwardian Classical structure with a powerful facade of brick, terra cotta and stone. This confident style befitted an enterprise that was commercially successful and whose principals were used to being heard in the halls of power as they pursued their ideas of how Canada, and the West, should develop.
Source: City of Winnipeg Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development Minute, May 4, 1998
Key elements that define the building's landmark quality include:
- its location on the west side of Carlton Street, just north of Portage Avenue, with its grand facade flush to the public sidewalk
Key external elements that define the building's theatrical Edwardian Classical style include:
- the impressive bulk of the building, constructed of reinforced concrete, six storeys high, with a flat roof
- the symmetrically composed main (east) facade, defined by three pavilions of complex design, intervening window bays and a heavily articulated base floor
- the animated design of the pavilions, vertically proportioned and featuring terra cotta accents, two-storey arched windows, carved stone sills and stone panels with the inscription 'A.D. 1912'
- the muscular base-floor design, with tall corner and centre doorways and large arched openings, all carried out in heavily articulated, banded terra cotta that wraps around to the south elevation to encase the corner openings
- the use of a variety of materials on the main elevation, including dark brick on the upper levels, smooth Manitoba limestone and overworked terra cotta accents at grade, around doors and windows and as ornamentation at the roof level, etc.
- the varied fenestration, including arched and square-headed multi-paned openings of the south and east elevations, some with metal accenting and some with delicate stone frames, and the plainer openings of the rear (west) wall
- emphatic highlights and details such as the structure's stone entablature with carved stone panels and shields with the provincial coat of arms, a brick and stone parapet with an iron railing, metal buffalo heads, etc.
Key external and internal elements that define the building's newspaper plant function include:
- the carved stone panel above the entrance inscribed with the building's construction date and name, 'THE FREE PRESS'
- building signage, including on top of the west elevation a metal sign fence with the words 'FREE PRESS' and the painted sign on the south elevation parapet that reads 'Winnipeg Free Press'
- the main entrance revolving doors
- the highly ornamented public interior space including the two-level front lobby with its curved mezzanine stairs, all finished in marble with metal accents, the ornate lobby ceiling embellished with plasterwork, etc.