Description of Historic Place
The Marlborough Hotel, built in two phases (1913-23), with a later north addition, is a richly detailed edifice of concrete, steel, brick and terra cotta located just off Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and the following interior elements: mezzanine tea room; original stained-glass windows; main-floor dining room and coffee shop; eighth-floor ballroom; and basement press club and fireplace.
The Marlborough Hotel, of expansive proportions, opulent appointments and storied origins, is one of Winnipeg's finest early twentieth-century hostelries, as well as an excellent but rare commercial example of Late Gothic Revival design. The facility's singular front of red brick with terra cotta arches, buttresses, tracery and foils, and its enriched interior spaces, reflect the prosperity and optimism of the pre-1914 era. The structure also exhibits an aesthetic unity that testifies to the skills of the architects (James Chisholm and Son, followed by J.H.G. Russell) and the craftspeople engaged in its two-stage development. The hotel, an ambitious, but failed boom-time investment by local Italian immigrant entrepreneurs, rose above its early reversal to become a stalwart of the downtown hospitality trade, one that has made several physical and business changes to maintain its currency. The establishment also is notable as the founding site of the Royal Canadian Legion (1925) and long-time home of the Winnipeg Press Club.
Source: City of Winnipeg Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development Minutes, April 6, 1998
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Marlborough Hotel site include:
- the building's situation on the east side of Smith Street between Portage and Ellice avenues, adjacent to a mix of historic and modern commercial structures, with its walls abutting the public sidewalk and lanes
Key elements that define the hotel's exceptional Late Gothic Revival exterior include:
- the substantial nine-storey rectangular form, organized around a central light well and of reinforced concrete and steel construction with brick walls and a flat roof
- the symmetrical front (west) elevation with its base and upper floors richly articulated in a soft grey terra cotta, a subdued mid-section of dark red brick, rows of paired rectangular windows and a terra cotta crown, including an exquisite broken pediment with a foil motif
- the massive arched main-floor and mezzanine openings, slightly pointed, set between buttresses with offsets, adorned with mouldings, tracery, quatrefoils and shields with coloured terra cotta flowers, and complemented at the top of the facade by arched two-storey window surrounds with keystones, etc.
- the steel and cast-iron canopy, heavy with Gothic ornament, that spans the main floor's five middle bays
- the wealth of additional detail, including pilaster strips, engaged pinnacles, grapevine and other mouldings, heavy iron light fixtures, lug windowsills, polished granite along the base, etc.
- the angled south wall with one finished bay that wraps around from the front and otherwise plain brick cladding, lower-level brick buttresses, generous, rhythmically organized fenestration, etc.
- the east elevation, plainly finished and well lit by windows in wood casings, the very large Concert Ballroom openings, etc.
Key elements that define the building's opulent, Gothic-inspired interior and hotel function include:
- the spacious public and service areas, including the lobby, mezzanine and guest floors with broad, long hallways, kitchen facilities with ornate tin ceilings, etc.
- the main-floor restaurant with a two-storey rib vault ceiling, walnut wainscotting, plaster finishes, an orchestra gallery, etc.
- the high-ceilinged cafe embellished with stained glass, bracketed ceiling arches, foil detailing, etc.
- the mezzanine tea room with stained-glass windows and deeply recessed ceiling panels delicately ornamented in gold leaf
- the grand two-storey Concert Ballroom with articulated wall surfaces defined by tall windows, wood panelling, elegant wood-framed entrances, etc.
- the basement Club Room with its heavy ceiling beams, oak accents, tile floor, fireplace, etc.
- details such as the wrought-iron staircases with Gothic detailing, etc.