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The Manitoba Club - An Historic Landmark in Winnipeg

On July 16, 1874, just one year after Winnipeg had been incorporated as a city, ten men met at the St. James Restaurant. Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne was a successful merchant who unreservedly engaged in public life. Joseph-Alfred-Norbert Provencher was a former journalist who was appointed commissioner for the federal Department of Indian Affairs in Manitoba. Gilbert McMicken was a government employee and police commissioner who had played an integral role in the incorporation of Winnipeg. William Osborne Smith was a solider that commanded Fort Osborne in Winnipeg. W. Gouin was the collector on Inland Revenue in Winnipeg. Charles William Radiger was another solider and also one of the owners of Winnipeg’s first liquor store. Joseph Royal was a journalist, lawyer and politician, elected to the first Legislature of Manitoba in 1870. Henry Thomson Champion was a solider and banker. W. B. Taylor and Major Taschereau seem to have been lost in history. Together these ten men, several who would become outstanding leaders of in the community, formed the Manitoba Club.

The Manitoba Club was a private social club for gentlemen, the first of it kind in western Canada. Smith was elected as president while various other prominent citizens were selected for a total of 25 members. The club rented the Red River Hall in the McDermot Block to serve as their clubhouse, located on the corner of Main Street and Lombard Avenue. The space was furnished with a rented billiard table, sofas, chairs, desks, glassware and crockery, ready for gentlemen to socialize and entertain.

William Osborne Smith, the first president of the Manitoba Club, circa 1887.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and the Manitoba Legislative Library
Unfortunately, the Club’s first location was short lived. On January 11, 1875, a fire started at the McDermot Block. An historic building, the wood was extremely dry and prime for combustion. Although the city had a newly acquired steam fire engine, the fire fighters arrived too late and the entire building was lost. The Club lost $1000.00 worth of furniture in the fire and had no insurance to cover their losses. Undeterred, the Club relocated to a rented house on the east side of Main Street less than three weeks later. New furniture was purchased, a new billiard table rented and this time, insurance coverage was acquired.

Red River Hall, located inside the McDermot Block at the corner of
Main Street and Lombard Avenue, was the first location of the Manitoba Club.
The building burned down on January 11, 1875.
Source: The Manitoba Club: 100 Years 1874-1974
As the years passed, the city grew and the Club flourished. The membership was growing and the rented house was quickly becoming too small. Foreseeing the need for a larger clubhouse in the near future, the Club purchased land on the west side of Garry Street, about half way between Portage Avenue and Graham Avenue, in 1879. Plans were drawn up and $12,000 was allocated for the construction of a new clubhouse. After spending about 50% more than anticipated due to unexpected cost overruns, the new clubhouse opened in the fall of 1881, welcoming 150 members.

The Garry Street location of the Manitoba Club, circa 1900.
Source: University of Manitoba
The real estate boom in Winnipeg, fueled by the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, drew investors from around the world, with fortunes being made overnight. This was much to the benefit of the Manitoba Club, with the new found riches of enterprising men funding its success. This moment of glory was short lived for both the city and the Club, with the boom going bust by the summer of 1882. At the Manitoba Club, dues went uncollected, bills were unpaid, the clubhouse was allowed to fall into disrepair and by 1887 members were seriously considering closing the Club.

It was 15 years of hard times for the Manitoba Club, taking on more debt and getting by with just the bare necessities. By the start of the 20th century, it would seem that things were looking up for the Club, once again mirroring the fate of the city. The Club membership overflowed with leaders of the Winnipeg business community so much so that by 1902 more space was desperately needed. After some debate, it was decided that instead of expanding the current clubhouse, a new clubhouse would be built. Three lots on Broadway, 306, 307 and 308, between Fort Street and Main Street, were purchased for $8,000 from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Broadway was a broad, tree lined street that ran through the heart of the Hudson’s Bay Reserve, and exclusive enclave were many of Winnipeg’s elite had built their lavish homes in the 1880s.

A view of Broadway in 1900, showing J. H. Ashdown's luxurious home, which was built in 1897.
Source: Virtual Heritage Winnipeg and the Archives of Manitoba
S. Frank Peters, an architect with a civil engineering degree from Toronto University, was hired to design the new clubhouse. An advocate for a distinctive Canadian style, Peters envisioned a three and a half story dark brick building on a stone foundation in the Neo-Classical style. The building cost $90,000.00 to build. The front façade, facing north, featured a symmetrical design with fluted stone columns supporting an entablature and deck, creating a grand portico entrance, rectangular windows highlighted with stone keystone and sills, dentil cornicing, carved stone panels and hipped gable dormers. The decorative elements continue around the other three facades of the building with the main deviation seem on the west façade, where the hipped gable dormers were replaced with eyebrow formers.

A postcard of the Manitoba Club from 1910.
Source: Manitoba Historical Society and Gordon Goldsborough
A view of Broadway shortly after the construction of the Manitoba Club, which is visible on the left.
Source: City of Winnipeg and Peel's Prairie Provinces
Construction of the new clubhouse started in 1904, with the building at 194 Broadway officially opening on October 11, 1905. The interior featured a basement for food storage, refrigeration, the furnace, washrooms and staff work space. The first floor had smoking rooms, dining rooms, private parlors and a writing room. The second floor had a large dining room and the library. At the top of the building of the third floor, there were bedrooms and facilities for the servants. Upon entering the building through the front doors, one was greeted by the Grand Staircase, designed specifically by the architect to showcase the Jubilee Window. The window, commissioned by the Club in 1897, celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was originally installed in the Garry Street clubhouse. The design included maple leafs, roses, thistles, shamrocks and fleur-de-lis as symbols of the members homelands and a Club crest with a bison head, sketched by member F. Phillips.

The Grand Staircase in the lobby of the Broadway Manitoba Club
features the Jubilee Window, as seen here in 2007.
Source: Environmental Space Planning
In 1910, a sunroom also designed by Peters, was added to the west side of the building. Architect John D. Atchison stepped in in 1913, designing an addition on the east side of the building making use of the same style and materials as Peters. It included a billiards room on the first floor, card rooms on the second floor and on the third floor, additional bedrooms and a manager’s suite. In 1930 an addition was added the back of the building, with a further addition of a staircase added beside the 1930 addition in 2007. The interior of the building has undergone extensive renovations throughout its history, modernizing the facilities while maintaining high quality finishes and historic character. Aside from the additions, the exterior of the building has remained relatively untouched throughout its 114 year history.

The main lobby of the Manitoba Club featured a custom made wool carpet from Donegal Mills in Ireland, with the Club crest in the center. Installed in 1959, the carpet has long since been replaced but the crest from the center was saved.
Source: The Manitoba Club: 100 Years 1874-1974

In February of 2018, the City of Winnipeg heritage planners recommended placing the Manitoba Club at 194 Broadway on the List of Historical Resources. This designation is to specifically protect all of the buildings facades along with any original features still in the interior. It would also protect the building from demolition. Unfortunately, the Manitoba Club has asked that the building not become designated, as it is not owned by the public. Winnipeg’s built heritage is a repository of history, culture gems and architectural marvels that create a sense of place and opportunities for future development. To leave all privately owned built heritage unprotected is selfish and irresponsible, risking irreplaceable artifacts for petty and shortsighted reasons. Heritage Winnipeg strongly supports the designation of this significant building, as heritage is a community asset for all.

The Green Room in the Broadway Manitoba Club, as seen in 1974.
Source: The Manitoba Club: 100 Years 1874-1974
The Billiards Lounge, seen here in 1974, features six regulation size snooker tables,
oak paneling and portraits of all of the Club's past presidents.
As of 2017, the room has remained relatively unchanged since it was built in 1913.
Source: The Manitoba Club: 100 Years 1874-1974
The Oak Room, seen here in 2017, has remained unchanged in its lifetime,
featuring quarter-sawn oak paneling and views of the historic Upper Fort Garry Gate.
Source: Manitoba Club

Blog by Cheryl Mann, on behalf of Heritage Winnipeg


120 Years at the Manitoba Club: 1874-1994 by the Manitoba Club

CBC News Manitoba

City of Winnipeg

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Environmental Space Planning

Henderson’s Directory of the City of Winnipeg and Incorporated Town of Manitoba, 1880

Historica Canada

Manitoba Club

Manitoba Historical Society

The Manitoba Club: 100 Years 1874-1974 by Mary Lile Benham

Virtual Heritage Winnipeg

Winnipeg Real Estate News


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