Home / Accueil

Confederation Life Building

457 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1988/08/29

Primary elevation, from the west, of the Confederation Life Building, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism 2006
Primary Elevation
Cornice, of the Confederation Life Building, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism 2006
Contextual view, from the southwest, of the Confederation Life Building, Winnipeg, 2006; Historic Resources Branch, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism 2006
Contextual View

Other Name(s)

Confederation Life Building
Confederation Building
Édifice Confederation

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1911/01/01 to 1912/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/09/25

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Confederation Life Building, a steel-framed office tower constructed in 1911-12, is a notable presence on a stretch of Main Street in Winnipeg's Exchange District that is comprised of historic commercial structures as well as more recent civic facilities and performing arts venues. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint.

Heritage Value

The Confederation Life Building is an excellent example of the form and technology that defined Chicago School skyscrapers in the pre-World War I era of Winnipeg's development. Designed by Toronto architect J. Wilson Gray, the building is a superior expression of the style, named for the city in which it received its fullest interpretation. Enveloped primarily in a sheath of creamy terra cotta featuring low-relief ornamentation over a steel frame, the structure's grand facade is divided into a base and midsection crowned by an elaborate cornice. The designer exploited the strategic site on Main Street, which bends at this point, to create a gently curved facade that gives the building even greater presence. Built and occupied for nearly 50 years by the Confederation Life Association, an early insurance company on the local scene important to the capitalization of prairie development, the office tower also housed many other financial and professional firms contributing to the city's great economic growth of the early twentieth century. Its location across Main from a second period skyscraper marks the northern gateway to Bankers' Row, now part of the Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada.

Source: City of Winnipeg Committee on Environment Minutes, June 16, 1980

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that define the heritage value of the Confederation Life Building site include:
- its location on a bend in Main Street, its gently curving facade immediately flush to the sidewalk and roadway
- its historic and visual relationships with other important turn-of-the-twentieth-century buildings nearby, especially the Union Bank Tower across Main Street and the Imperial Bank of Canada to the south

Key exterior elements that define the skyscraper's heritage character and Chicago School style include:
- its irregular massing in two distinct sections forming an 'L' shape, namely the grand, formally conceived 10-storey front portion and the longer 11-storey north wing jutting well back to the east
- the steel frame and concrete construction featuring the latest in fireproof materials and proclaimed through the many windows and superficial front cladding of creamy terra cotta
- the strongly vertical and unified design of the facade articulated into three sections, including a two-storey base covered in polished granite and ornamented terra cotta, the symmetrical midsection of offices and the attic featuring a boldly modillioned cornice
- the flattened Sullivanesque-style treatment of the terra cotta, restrained to garlands and egg-and-dart details at the base and attic, prominent horizontal bands between the sections, and raised outlines around the windows and centre bay
- the many tall rectangular window openings rhythmically grouped in threes across the five-bay front except for end bays where the windows are in twos
- the centred main entrance with large double doors framed in granite and surmounted with the name 'CONFEDERATION LIFE BUILDING' resting on date stones in the terra cotta of the second floor
- the plain side and rear walls faced in buff brick and heavily fenestrated except on the north wall where windows are confined to the upper front portion and along the rear fire escape

Key interior elements that define the building's heritage character include:
- the ground-floor foyer lined with grey marble and egg-and-dart plaster moulding, and featuring a bronze-framed directory and three original pendant lights
- the office and boardroom on the ground-floor north side, both with their original layout and wood panelling, and with a walk-in vault off the boardroom
- the front staircase lined in grey marble with marble steps and a metal balustrade and a second staircase on the rear south side




Recognition Authority

City of Winnipeg

Recognition Statute

City of Winnipeg Act

Recognition Type

Winnipeg Landmark Heritage Structure

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Office or office building


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building

Architect / Designer

J. Wilson Gray



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

15-30 Fort Street Winnipeg MB

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places

Aerial view

Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada

Exchange District National Historic Site of Canada is located in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. The site consists of a densely built, turn-of -the-century warehousing and business…


Advanced SearchAdvanced Search
Nearby Places