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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Bay Downtown's missing elevator lobby mural

The Bay, Downtown Winnipeg
 Bay Downtown Interior 2 IMG_20140413_154704
Top: September 3, 1927, Winnipeg Tribune
Middle: March 2010
Bottom: March 2014

Pioneer Days at Fort Garry 1861*, the large mural over the elevator bank on the main floor of The Bay Downtown, is gone. The 54-foot by 10-foot, oil-on-canvas work has been a fixture in the store since early September 1927, ten months after it opened. (*The HBC site states that the year in the title is 1861, the original Tribune story says 1859 and the original Free Press story says 1860 !)

The work shows a trading day at Upper Fort Garry, which can be seen in the distance. On the left is an Aboriginal village and on the right is the steamship Pioneer unloading passengers and cargo. The foreground shows a collection of Metis, Aboriginals, HBC workers - including the governor and a missionary interacting. (A better photo can be seen at Winterbos on Flickr.)

September 3, 1927, Winnipeg Free Press

There were actually TWO large murals unveiled at the time. The store had a second bank of elevators directly across from the first one. It was removed in 1948 when the escalators were installed. the other mural was “The Building of Fort Charles 1668” which depicted the construction of the Company's first fort with the Nonsuch anchored in James Bay. (It is believed that this mural is at the Manitoba Archives - to be confirmed !)

 The Bay, Downtown Winnipeg

Word is that this mural was recently removed by a professional art conservator and is now in storage.

When I got a tour of the building a few years back, I noticed that aside from being quite faded, (I'm not sure if it was ever cleaned of the years of dust and cigarette smoke), it also had some condition issues and was coming away from the wall in places (as above).

Hopefully, it will be restored and either be brought back to its old home, which may be unlikely given the uncertainty of the store's future, or that a new home will be found for it. Sitting in storage, as presumably its sister mural has been for 60 years, would be a sad ending.

I have contacted the conservator and The Bay. I will let you know what, if anything, further I find out !

About the Artists

The Bay, Downtown Winnipeg

The artists were a pair of men based in Montreal at the time, both known for their historic scenes: Adam Sheriff-Scott (1887 - 1980) and Edward Tappan Adney (1868 - 1950).

Sheriff-Scott's most famous image is likely Chief Trader Archibald McDonald descending the Fraser, 1828  which was used as the cover of the Peter C. Newman book Caesars of the Wilderness: Company of Adventurers Vol. 2.  Some other works can be seen here and a World War II recruiting poster using his art here.

Adney is known for more than just his paintings. He was a writer (and here), illustrator, photographer, military man and is credited with saving the art of birch bark canoe construction.

Related:
The sad story of the Royal Alex Hotel's Challener murals
The future of the Downtown Bay  Winnipeg Free Press
wpg x hbc

My other Bay Downtown posts:
450 Portage Avenue Winnipeg Downtown Places

The Bay Parkade Winnipeg Downtown Places
The Paddlewheel Restaurant Winnipeg Downtown Places
Zellers' 79-year run in Winnipeg West End Dumplings

1 comment:

Keir said...

I was absolutely shocked to find them simply removing the mural, but reading your post I am slightly more relieved. Thanks for the post.