I’m often asked what I think are Winnipeg’s most endangered buildings. Here's five of my top picks.
Fortune Block, 232 Main Street
Financed by Mark Fortune but sold to Alex McDonald when it opened, (it was McDonald who added the twin building to the south). This was home to the West's first school for the deaf and Winnipeg's (and likely Western Canada's) first female medical doctors in 1883.
With its decorative brickwork and prominent location it is a building that stands out, even in its rather sorry state. It has been sad to watch decline over the decades. The upper stories were apparently vacated in the 1970s so it's been a long, slow neglect. It has been the subject of recent demolition speculation.
Bathgate Block, 242 Princess Street
(Built 1882 - 83, Barber and Barber)
The unfortunate paint job and many unsympathetic renovations mask many of this building's handsome features. They can be better observed from the unpainted, side elevation.
It has sat empty since 2001. Around 2007 a plan to subdivide it into three buildings and convert them into condos did not materialize. It was cited last year by the city for foundation issues and loose brick work on the facade.
Sunset Manufacturing Building, 655 Logan Avenue
The hum of sewing machines is likely embedded in the walls of this building. Built for a barrel and bag manufacturer, it has been home to numerous bag and clothing manufacturers over the century.
Last year the Ontario Wind Turbine building located a couple of blocks east on Logan was torn down without anyone noticing or the city or heritage groups even knowing when the building was constructed. This building will likely meet the same fate. It is currently for sale or lease but has been empty or barely used for most of the past decade.
Vaughan Street Jail, 444 York Avenue
Thanks to Doors Open and Friends of the Vaughan Street Jail this building has won a place in the hearts of even many heritage-adverse Winnipeggers. That hasn't done anything to reverse its likely fate, though.
Unprotected by any heritage listing, the building is crumbling to the point that Doors Open tours are no longer held due to safety concerns. A bare minimum of repairs have been done to keep it from complete failure, such as the recovering of the roof a couple of years ago, but it will take a lot more to keep it from deteriorating further.
Monte Cassino Court, 637 Portage Avenue
Though it is along a stretch of Portage that has transformed itself in the past couple of years with McFeetors Hall, Richardson Science Centre, Harvey's and Pop Soda's all filling in empty spaces, Monte Cassino has stood defiantly vacant.
Last year there was a request for a demolition permit in order to wedge a nine-storey building onto the site but the developer withdrew their offer to purchase before the application was finalized.
I wouldn't call them endangered of demolition yet but I have to say that I would not be surprised to wake up one morning and find that the St. Charles Hotel is no longer.