Description of Historic Place
The Ralph Connor House, a three-storey brick Jacobethan Revival mansion built in 1913-14, sits on a well-groomed lot overlooking the Assiniboine River from Winnipeg's historic Armstrong's Point neighbourhood. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and the following interior elements: main floor interior (including entrance foyer) and circulation spaces.
The Ralph Connor House is an exceptional Winnipeg example of Jacobethan Revival domestic architecture, noted for its complex roof structure, warm red-brown brick facades contrasted by limestone dressings and opulent interiors. Designed by architect G.W. Northwood, the mansion was first associated with Charles William Gordon, a Presbyterian minister, social reformer and best-selling author of international renown. As 'Ralph Connor', he penned 25 popular novels known for their moralistic, action-oriented plots of good versus evil and for their portrayals of early life in Ontario and the West. The most popular works were incorporated into Manitoba school reading programs in the 1940s, and three were made into silent movies. All the while, Gordon maintained a Winnipeg ministry, served as a military chaplain during World War I, was moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada during the formation of the United Church of Canada in 1925, and was eventually involved in the League of Nations. The house has retained a high degree of physical integrity due to its successor occupant, the University Women's Club of Winnipeg, a pioneering organization that has long promoted the advancement of women in the community and has diligently conserved the Ralph Connor House since 1939.
Source: City of Winnipeg Committee on Environment Minutes, June 20, 1983
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Ralph Connor House site include:
- its location on the north side of the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg's naturally secluded Armstrong's Point district, amongst dwellings similar in age and appointments
- the park-like setting of mature trees and shrubs, with a stout stone pillar marking the north entrance to the site's formal driveways, and brick pillars and iron gates marking the south
Key elements that define the house's handsomely crafted Jacobethan Revival style include:
- the asymmetrical three-storey structure with a complex roof featuring steeply pitched cross-gable and hipped sections, wall dormers and one smaller gable and two shed dormers
- the facades of red tapestry brick with limestone dressings on a high stone foundation
- the large rectangular windows throughout with decorative limestone surrounds, lintels and mullions, some featuring six-pane top lights; also three dominant bay windows, a large stacked bank on the south elevation with rows of four windows separated by limestone medallions, etc.
- the exquisite details and materials, including stacked chimneys, cedar shingles, limestone coping and accents throughout, bracketed eaves, label mouldings, etc.
Key elements that define the stately house's spacious interior layout, finishes and details include:
- the formal central-hall plan with well-lit rooms coming off broad hallways
- the large double-return wooden staircase featuring simple and elegantly carved balustrades and newel posts and generous landings with built-in window seats
- a formal front entrance opening on to a private vestibule and hallway containing a large wood-panelled storage closet; and a side entrance leading to a wide hallway panelled in quarter-cut oak
- the parlour with mahogany woodwork, a dentilled cornice and a bay window with river views
- the large dining room featuring a bay window, mahogany panelling, a mahogany beamed ceiling, a lit alcove housing the buffet and an ornate wood-and-tile fireplace
- Dr. Gordon's study with an oak-beamed ceiling, oak bookshelves with glass doors lining the walls and a fireplace featuring Moravian-inspired tiles depicting biblical scenes
- the basement billiard room with mahogany panelling and a Moravian terra cotta fireplace
- the refined details and finishes, including crown and other mouldings, beamed ceilings and quarter-cut oak woodwork throughout, hardwood floors, leaded-glass windows and doors with brass hardware, period light fixtures, six fireplaces, a rear staircase, bedrooms with large walk-in closets, porcelain bathroom fixtures, etc.