Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Heritage On Main: The Cadomin Building at 280 Main Street

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


280 Main Street ca. 1920. Image courtesy of the Manitoba Archives and Greg Agnew.
In 1906, the completion of the T. Eaton Company store shifted the retail centre of Winnipeg from Main Street to Portage Avenue. However, despite this shift, businesses continued to build along Main Street north of Portage, particularly along what is known as "Banker's Row" - roughly the area of Main Street from Portage to William Avenue - where the opulent regional headquarters of the country's major banks stood.

280 Main Street today - home of CDI College. The six bays that were originally entrances to businesses have been filled in with windows and cement.
South of Portage, Main Street continued as it had for decades, as the home for hotels, small shops, and apartment blocks. The Cadomin Building joined this group in 1912, constructed as a modest two-part commercial block.

This multi-use style of building can be traced back to Roman times and was immensely popular throughout both Europe and North America. The first and upper floors of these buildings are divided both in function and occasionally in exterior design, with the lower levels reserved for retail while the upper floors housed residential, office, or storage space.

280 Main Street ca. 1920. Image courtesy of the Manitoba Archives and Greg Agnew.
Designed by architect John Danley Atchison, the Cadomin Building was constructed for a total cost of $50,000 in 1912. The steel frame structure was 100 x 120 x 39 feet (30.5 x 36.6 x 11.9 metres). Plaster and tin was used for accenting materials at the roof, along with concrete accents throughout. The exterior walls were made of tapestry brick.

John Danly Atchison ca. 1913. Image courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society Memorable Manitobans website.
Atchison was a very well-known architect and also designed Dennistoun House, the Kennedy Building, the Canada Permanent Building, Manitoba School for the Deaf, the Curry Building, and the Bank of Hamilton, among others.  A list of Atchison's other Winnipeg buildings can be found here.
A cartoon of John Danley Atchison, ca. 1908/1909. Image courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society Memorable Manitobans website.
The 1912 plans called for a symmetrical Main Street façade with six bays. On the ground floor, these made up the entrances to five retail shops and a large display window. Two centrally located doors provided access to two of the shops, as well as to the staircase that lead to the second floor offices.

Fire at the Scott Block, 272 Main Street, March 23, 1914. You can see the Cadomin Building in the foreground. Reproduced from V. Leah, Alarm of Fire [Winnipeg: Firefighters Burn Fund, 1982], p. 75
The first and second floors were separated by a wide band of tapestry brick, decorated with small concrete ornaments. The south wall was shared by the Scott Block (272 Main Street) and in 1948, a 50 x 51 foot (15.3 x 15.6 metre) addition was added for $14,000. In the original plans, the ground floor was divided up into eight stores, with the largest at over 2200 square feet (206.8 metres), located in the northeast corner. The other shops varied in size and two vaults were also located on this floor.

272 Main Street, after its recent facade restoration, for which it won an Annual Preservation Award in 2014.
The second floor was accessed through the grand Main Street staircase, or by a small stairwell at the northwest corner, via a Graham Avenue entrance. Twelve separate offices branched off a main hallway, and there were two sets of men's and women's washrooms and two more large vaults on this floor.
The second floor ca. 2003 when the City Report was prepared. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
 The Cadomin Building was originally owned by the Canadian Dominion Development Company, who was also the Contractor. A real estate and investment firm, the company established their Canadian headquarters in the building.

Second floor windows, ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
Early ground floor tenants included milliners Floy and Hazelle Jones, coal and billiard supplier J.D. Clark Company, the Winnipeg Map and Blue Print Company, and Nordheimer Piano and Music Company. Second floor tenants included photographers Foote and James, Dominion Pottery, the Canadian Club, and the Theosophical Society.

Roof detailing on the Cadomin Building, ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
In the 1920s, the Italian Consultate was a tenant, along with contractors William Newman Company and J.P. Tremblay. The Canadian Dominion Development Company occupied the building until 1929 when they moved their offices too Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Charles H. Wilson, founder and president (1883-1924) of Wilson's Furniture. Reproduced from Wilson's of Winnipeg, 100th Anniversary [Winnipeg: Wilson's Furniture, 1983], p.1
In 1974, the Wilson Furniture Company moved into the Cadomin after renovations converted the building into a furniture showroom. The company was founded in 1883 by Charles H. Wilson, a cabinet maker from Shelbourne, Ontario. Wilson's previous building had been expropriated to make way for the Trizec development, leading to the move.

C. H. Wilson Furniture Store on Market Avenue ca. 1887. Reproduced from Wilson's of Winnipeg, 100th Anniversary [Winnipeg: Wilson's Furniture, 1983], p. 2

Undated photo of a Wilson's Furniture truck prior to their move to 280 Main Street. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
Later alterations to the exterior of the building were extensive - the southern three bays of the Main Street façade were filled in with unsympathetic stucco panels, large metal display windows replaced the northern openings, and a large metal sign was added above the ground floor openings. A new entrance was also added at the northeast corner of the building. The upper floors remained mostly unchanged from the original design.

Wilson's Furniture in the Cadomin Building, ca. 1978. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
Wilson's Furniture in 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
In 2003, when the City of Winnipeg's Historical Report was prepared, both the ground and second floors were being used to display furniture. New acoustic tile ceilings had been hung on both levels and new lighting installed. The original Main Street staircase to the second floor had been altered to branch off to the side, rather than ending directly on Main Street. 

The main floor being used to display furniture, ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.

ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.

ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
The only original materials left in the interior were the floor radiators and baseboards along the north and east walls of the second floor. The second floor windows and roof have not been altered from the original design.

The staircase to the second floor ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.

The staircase to the second floor ca. 2003. Image courtesy of Murray Peterson, City of Winnipeg.
In 2003, the Cadomin building was evaluated for heritage designation after the Wilson Furniture Company closed its doors. As per the news  article below, the building was not designated, as the committee wished to leave demolition as a possibility for redevelopment.

Click here to read the Winnipeg Free Press article ca 2003.

280 Main Street Today

Today, 280 Main Street is the home of CDI College. A post-secondary institution, the college focuses on preparing students for careers in business, technology, art and design, and healthcare. There are 26 other locations for the college across Canada, serving communities from British Columbia to Ontario.


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