Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Allman Block at 594 Main Street

Article by Laura McKay, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg Corp.
To follow up on this or any other articles on the blog, contact Heritage Winnipeg's Executive Director.

The Allman Block - photo circa 2007, courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report
Date Listed as a Municipally-Designated Heritage Building:
November 27, 2014

Character Defining Elements:

Exterior:
1) the east-facing building located mid-block on Main Street and part of an historic streetscape; and
2) ornate roof with metal pediment, carved keystone and signage reading "Allman Block"

Interior:
1) ornamental tin ceiling on the ground and second floors;
2) entrance foyer in the southeast corner;
3) main staircase including wood and tin accenting;
4) original wood accenting in the hallways and offices on the second and third floors;
5) period doors with original hardware and glass; and
6) Skylight on the third floor


For more information about character-defining elements and other changes to Winnipeg's heritage by-laws, click here.

History:

Daniel F. Allman moved to Winnipeg in 1899 and set up a clothing store at 580 Main Street, in the building known as the Cheapside Block. He mainly carried "Gents' Furnishings, Men's, Youth's, and Children's Clothing, Hats, Caps, and Furs" and his store included the special feature of dust-proof wardrobes to keep the articles of clothing clean.

Second floor staircase ca 2007. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
 In 1904, clothing retailer Daniel F. Allman decided to build himself a new store on Main Street, expanding his business and investing in rental space in the floors above. His store was on the main floor of the building, with the top two storeys as office and residential space to meet the increasing demand for such space downtown.

Interior shot of the first floor ca. 2007 - note the tin ceilings from the CDEs listed above. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg historical report.
Original tenants of the upper floors included the Shamrock Pool Rooms, Bently Portrait Company, and the offices of solicitor Max Steinkopf and real estate agent S.C. Wilson, the latter of whom also lived in the building. Another early tenant was the Swedish Canadian Colonization Company. The upper floors had a separate entrance and were thus given the address 592 Main, to differentiate from the business in the front.

Allman continued to own and live in the building until his retirement in 1924. It was then purchased by the Royal Trust Company but sold again in 1930 to merchant A.F. Higgins before being repurchased by the Royal Trust in 1939. From 1949 on, the building was owned by a variety of tenants including everyone from doctors and dentists to unions and jewellery stores. After 1950, the top two floors became almost exclusively residential until 1980, after which no residential tenants are listed.

Winnipeg Architect John H.G. Russell ca. 1902. Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society website.
The building was designed by popular Winnipeg architect John Hamilton Gordon Russell, who was also responsible for a great number of Winnipeg buildings including the Hammond Building (which currently houses the office for Heritage Winnipeg, among others), the Wesley Hall Annex, and McArthur House (current home of Macdonald Youth Services).

Caricature of the influential architect from 1908/1909. Image courtesy of the MHS website.

This is only a small sample of his buildings, which were built not only all over Winnipeg but Manitoba. Find a complete list of his buildings on the MHS Memorable Manitobans site here. He was widely influential, serving as the First Vice-President (1906) and President (1910) of the Manitoba Association of Architects and was a member or served with numerous other boards and community organizations. He died in 1946 and is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.

North facade ca 2007 - note the difference from the front facade pictured above. Photo courtesy of the City of Winnipeg Historical Report.
The Allman block represents a good example of a two-part retail building, a style dating back as far as Roman times, but more recently becoming quite popular in North America from the 1850s to 1950s. Essentially two structures under one roof, these buildings often have very different facades, reflecting their different purposes.

 

Sources & Links:

City of Winnipeg Historical Report - Long
City of Winnipeg Historical Report - Short
Memorable Manitobans: John H.G. Russell  

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