Description of Historic Place
The Union Bank Building Annex, a long narrow two-storey brick structure built in 1898 and converted to a savings bank in 1921, is located in Winnipeg's former Main Street financial hub, now part of the Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint.
The Union Bank Building Annex, an elegant terra-cotta-clad commercial facility, is a fine Winnipeg example of the competitive strategies used by chartered banks to woo customers in the early 1900s. Several neighbourhood branch banks had opened in the city by the 1920s, but the establishment of a savings bank in the downtown financial core, where opulent facilities were aimed at business clients, was an adroit move by the Union Bank of Canada to appeal to a wide range of customers. The annex, a former clothing store, had the added advantages of sitting next to the bank's Main Street headquarters and extending the depth of its lot to a second entrance off another busy avenue. Its conversion was designed by Northwood and Carey to integrate with the Italian Renaissance exterior of the bank's Chicago Style office tower and with the interior detailing of its main banking hall. This complex, partly occupied until the 1990s by the Royal Bank of Canada, which acquired the Union Bank in 1925, remains a visual and historic landmark in the Exchange District.
Source: City of Winnipeg Committee on Planning and Community Services Minutes, July 18, 19
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Union Bank Building Annex site include:
- the structure's prominent location on the west side of Main Street, extending the depth of its lot to Letinsky Place and with its east and west facades set flush to the public sidewalks
- its intimate association with, and interior access to, the Union Bank Building to the north
Key elements that define the annex's exterior heritage character and Italian Renaissance-influenced styling include:
- the narrow elongated and angled mass, mostly two storeys high with flat roofs, of brick and reinforced concrete construction
- the main (east) facade's continuity of order, style and decorative elements carried over from the adjacent Union Bank Building, slightly offset to give symmetry to the whole, and executed in terra cotta and laid in horizontal bands that add to the building's overall texture
- the east facade's classically inspired decoration, including a massive Roman-influenced round arch with an elaborate cartouche keystone, the heavy floral brackets and boxy balustrade, the arcaded cornice, etc.
- the shorter west facade, similar in design, material and ornament to the front and symmetrically organized into two bays by full-height terra cotta arches, also with cartouche keystones
- the variety of windows, including round-arched, large flat-headed and paired rectangular openings (in some cases, with transoms) in terra cotta surrounds, doorway transoms, etc.
- the details, including the double wood doors at both entrances; the name 'SAVINGS BANK' over the east entrance; on the west side a terra cotta cornice supported by three large floral brackets, a parapet panel with raised terra cotta letters ('THE ROYAL BANK OF CANADA' and 'SAVINGS BANK'), etc.
- the windowless south and north walls finished with buff-coloured brick and still bearing important traces of painted wall signage at the west edge
Key elements that define the annex's classically detailed interior include:
- the long narrow banking hall with a high coffered ceiling containing a large rectangular skylight and with east- and west-end mezzanines
- the elaborate details and finishes, including pilasters with Ionic capitals, a full entablature, marble flooring, mahogany doors, Doric columns under the mezzanines, a vault in the southeast corner, etc.
- the layout and intact wooden and glass partitions of the second-floor office area (east end)
- the circulation components, including the stairs leading from the banking hall to the basement and to the east and west mezzanines, and the entryway between the annex and Union Bank Building