5 6 7
a very interesting building in that it is also made of terra
cotta of an exquisite type. It's got a gothic motif...so it
looks very much like a cathedral; every second set of columns
has a little face with a tri cornered hat. The Curry building
was to be extended another 6 stories in 1928 then the great
world depression intervened and what we see today is a 2 storey
Another of the really amazing buildings on Portage Ave is
the former Birks building. It was originally built in 1900-1901
as Winnipeg's first YMCA. It had a massive strong textured
limestone façade on 2 sides it had a lot of ornamentation
a lot of Romanesque ornamentation. It looked a lot different
than it does today.
Once it was constructed the YMCA
became extremely popular. It was soon bursting at the seams,
when the YMCA left in 1912 of course they had to find another
buyer for their former building. They found a perfect match
in the Birks Jewellery Company. Henry Birk had started in
Montreal and Birk really wanted to be on Portage Ave. Just
like everyone else. But he didn't want it to look like the
old YMCA building. He hired Percy Nobbs of Montreal to create
a beautiful frieze on the front and the side of the building.
It's a magnificent mixture of
and terra cotta tile and mosaic tile. The frieze tells a number
of stories, actually. Lower on the frieze there are medallions
of terra cotta and they depict the materials used by jewellers.
There's an elephant for ivory. There is a man diving for pearls.
There are miners so that kind of tells the story of the jewellery
trade. It's a magnificent piece of art. Unfortunately right
now it's one of the vacant buildings on Portage Ave.
TIME BUILDING FIRE
NAR: While parts of Portage Avenue's past have been lost,
they have been relatively few. One old building that succumbed
is the Time Building.
The day that the time building burned down, I can remember
it quite vividly because we lived next door to the family
called the Redmonds and they owned JJH McLean's and they occupied
the ground floor of the Time Building. About 6:00 in the morning
their son called to me and banged on the door and said come
on we are going down to watch a fire. And it was raining and
it was blowing it was a really hard, hard wind blowing the
is what caused the fire the moisture and force of the wind
forced the moisture up into the sign and it caught on fire
and started the building. They tried to put the fire out and
were unable to do so. Eaton's had its own fire fighting system
its own wells and they were able to put a curtain of water
down the front of the building and on the side of the building
on Hargrave St to protect their own building. If they had
not done that they say the heat of that alone Eaton's would
have caught on fire that day. It was quite something to see
that building going up in flames In the middle of a rain storm
they couldn't put it out.
Previous page • Next