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PYRAMIDS ON THE PRAIRIES

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WINNIPEG GENERAL STRIKE
The most divisive event ever to occur in Winnipeg was the General Strike which took place during May and June 1919. "Thursday May 15, 1919 is a date that will live long in the history of Winnipeg" declared the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike. "In less than two hours the whole productive industry of an entire city was tied up. Not a wheel was turning in the big plants, not a street car was visible." Workers were convinced that their cause of improved wages, the rights to bargain as large groups and to organize politically were just causes.

The whole country was watching Winnipeg and wondering what was happening to the workers of Canada's third largest city. Worried employers saw a city paralysed by militant workers demanding collective bargaining, and higher wages; of mass demonstrations in the streets and the firing of the police force.

Businessmen and government leaders felt they were seeing the beginning of a revolution and an effort to establish Bolshevism. On May 16th, a Committee of 1000 was created to fight the strike. On June 1 ten thousand returning soldiers marched on the provincial legislature to express their support of the strike. On June 9th the entire police force is dismissed. Raids were conducted on strike leaders homes and offices and many like John Queen, R. B. Russell and A. A. Heaps were arrested. Finally on June 26 the strike committee called off the strike and called on workers to send a large group of labour representatives to every level of government. Of it was borne the beginning of a new political force. And a tradition of strong labour politics in Winnipeg.

REVIVAL
In the last twenty years Winnipeg Exchange District is seeing a great new revival. There are now artists, a series of restaurants and public events that are helping to bring the district to life. The combination of rehabilitated structures in the Exchange District and unimproved buildings is a boon for the diversity of people interested in finding space in the area. Not all buildings have seen rehabilitation and this is a good thing. While a processional firm may be able to a afford relatively high rents of $15 per square foot in improved buildings, non profit groups and artists are happy with less. Artists' studios and small independent businesses proliferate in structures like the Bate Building.

JOHN ATCHISON
One of Winnipeg's most distinguished architects was John Atchison. Atchison was born in 1870 in Monmouth, Illinois and studied at the Chicago Art Institute. In the 1890's, he worked in the offices of William Le Baron Jenney, who designed the first true steel-framed skyscraper, a step that completed the most radical transformation of construction techniques since the development of the Gothic System in the 12th century. Jenney's 1884 design for the Home Insurance Building in Chicago made him one of the best-known designers of commercial buildings in that city, at the time, the hub of North American architecture. Atchison opened his own office in Chicago in 1895 and practised there until 1905, when he came to Winnipeg on business. By 1906, he had become the city's leading architect with as much work as he could handle.

One of Atchison's first buildings was the Fairchild Building, at 110-120 Princess St., built in 1907. It was a radical departure from the styles of other architects, such as J.H. Cadham, reflecting Atchison's Chicago experience. It was built for the Fairchild Co., manufacturers of agricultural equipment. Since farm machinery was a public attraction, Atchison opened the facade at ground level to allow the public to see the latest in farm equipment. This metal-framed building looks quite modern and uses windows extensively to provide natural light and the entire rear facade features industrial glass a technique which did not become common for another 20 years.

Many of Winnipeg's most handsome buildings were designed by Atchison. The Maltese Cross Building at 66 King St. (1909) was designed to be completely fireproof...no wood was used, and the floors are concrete and window frames are metal.
Atchison is also responsible for the outstanding Great West Life Building at 177 Lombard, the Union Trust Building at 387 Main St., the Hamilton Bank at 395 Main St., the Boyd Building at 388 Portage Ave. and numerous churches and residences.

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