Winnipeg's oldest private club opposes heritage designation

The oldest private club in Western Canada is opposed to a City of Winnipeg effort to confer heritage status upon its 113-year-old downtown premises.

City wants to confer special status on the Manitoba Club, a Broadway structure built in 1905

The City of Winnipeg wants to confer heritage status on the Manitoba Club. (City of Winnipeg)

The oldest private club in Western Canada is opposed to a City of Winnipeg effort to confer heritage status upon its 113-year-old downtown premises.

The city's historical resources committee has been advised to add the Manitoba Club's 3½-storey building on Broadway to Winnipeg's list of historical resources.

In a report to the committee, heritage planners describe the 1905 Manitoba Club as "an excellent example of the neo-classical and classical revival" architectural style in Winnipeg and note the building's brick-and-stone facades have barely been altered in more than a century.

Heritage planners recommend listing all four of the building's facades and original elements in the interior of the club as historical resources.

In a letter dated Oct. 28, 2017, Manitoba Club general manager Graham Davis writes the grand ballroom inside the structure was renovated in 2006 and requests no heritage status be conferred on any aspect of the building.

"The Manitoba Club does not exist as a public entity, therefore it is respectfully requested that the building at 194 Broadway have no heritage status," Davis states in a letter addressed to City of Winnipeg heritage planner Rina Ricci.

The nomination of the Manitoba Club is significant, said council historical resources chair Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).

"Heritage assets belong to all of us. If something has heritage value, the designation is bigger than the people who own the building," Gerbasi said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. "This is also located next to a significant historical asset, Upper Fort Garry."

The Manitoba Club's back patio faces the sole remaining wall of Upper Fort Garry, the 19th-century fur-trade administrative centre that's considered the birthplace of modern Winnipeg. The gate is now part of Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park, which occupies most of the block south of the Manitoba Club.

The main staircase within the Manitoba Club is one of the original elements heritage planners suggest should be preserved. (City of Winnipeg)

The Manitoba Club was founded in 1874, three years after Winnipeg was established. According to the city's heritage planners, the first clubroom was a rented space called the Red River Hall on Main Street. The hall burned down six months after it opened.

The club then moved to Garry Street and remained there until the existing building was designed by architect Frank Peters. Additions to the building were made in 1910 and 1913.

"This structure was built and greatly expanded in the decade prior to [the First World War] when Winnipeg and much of the province were experiencing significant growth. It has, since its formation, been an important institution locally and regionally and this building has served as its headquarters since the early years of the 20th century," city heritage planners wrote.

​The historical resources committee will consider the building's nomination on Feb. 15.​