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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 24

Second Empire Style in Canadian Architecture

by Christina Cameron and Janet Wright

Illustrations and Legends

Law Courts Building
171 Richmond Street, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Constructed: 1874-76
Architect: Thomas Alley
Material: Brick

The Law Courts Building offers a simplified version of the Second Empire style in public building. Pavilions have been suggested in the four central towers but these forms are not continued below the eaves line. The cut stone trim and highly decorative brick work under the eaves (features typical of Alley's work) add colour and texture to these surfaces but lack the full sculptural feel of high Second Empire detailing.

Despite its modest execution, this building achieved a sense of grandeur in the context of its site. Prominently situated on Queen's Square in the heart of Charlottetown, it stood next to the Provincial Building and was counter-balanced on the west side of the square by the Post Office. Together these three buildings created an imposing architectural ensemble that visually proclaimed their role as the core of provincial authority. Unfortunately the Pest Office is no longer standing and the Law Courts Building was severely damaged by a fire in 1976.
(Public Archives Canada.)

Court House
Kennedy Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Constructed: 1882-83 Destroyed by fire: 1957
Architect: C. Osborn Wickenden
Material: Brick with stone trim

With the erection of the Winnipeg Court House, Second Empire burst upon this prairie town with a sophistication that could rival almost any building in eastern Canada. Though not large, it has strength and monumentality as a result of its harmonious proportions and careful detail. All the standard Second Empire features are used, including symmetrical massing, mansarded tower, superimposed orders, semicircular and round windows, and of course the rich sculptural texture of the façade. "Designed after the French Renaissance," according to one contemporary source, the Court House became a landmark because of its 80-foot tower, "the highest in the city and a conspicuous object for miles around."

To produce such a fashionable building, it is hardly surprising that provincial authorities called upon an architect and contractor of experience. Wickenden, trained as an architect in England, had worked in New York before emigrating to Saint John, N.B. after the 1877 fire. It was in Saint John that he met J.G. McDonald, contractor for several major buildings at the time. They may well have decided together to try their fortune in boom-town Winnipeg where they collaborated on the Court House.

Ranged along Kennedy Street beside two other Second Empire buildings, the Parliament Buildings (Fig. 28) and the Lieutenant-Governor's residence, the Winnipeg Court House contributed to an imposing streetscape that served as a fitting embodiment of the power and permanence of government.
(Provincial Archives of Manitoba.)

Victoria City Hall
Centennial Square, Victoria, British Columbia
Constructed: 1878, 1881, 1890
Architect: John Teague
Material: Brick

John Teague, a native-born Englishman, settled in Victoria in 1858 and worked for a number of years as a contractor for the naval dockyards. In 1875 he set himself up as an architect and became the major local designer of the period. His most important work was the City Hall and, like many of his other public buildings, it was designed in his own particular version of the Second Empire style. It is interesting to compare Teague's building of 1878 with Perrault's Montreal City Hall (Fig. 1), just being completed that year, to demonstrate the widely differing interpretations possible within this idiom. In contrast to the heavy, plastic massing and detail of Perrault's design, the Victoria City Hall is more compact in plan and elevation, and has shallow detailing of a lighter and more two-dimensional character. In Victoria the style was labelled as either the "Italian" or "Anglo-Italian" style and in fact an Italian renaissance influence is evident in the round-headed windows with their circular tracery motif.

Although entirely designed by John Teague, the City Hall did not assume its final appearance until 1890. Because of financial difficulties only the south wing, defined by the three bays to the left, was erected in 1878. In 1881 the Fire Hall was added to the rear of the south wing and by 1890, the economy of Victoria having greatly improved, the main façade was extended by 82 feet along Douglas Street and the clock tower was added.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

City Market Building
47 Charlotte Street, Saint John, New Brunswick
Constructed: 1876
Architects: J.T.C. McKean and G.E. Fairweather
Material: Brick

This market building was preceded by two earlier structures, both of which were constructed of wood and later destroyed by fire. To prevent a third mishap the new market was constructed of brick, a worthwhile expenditure for it was one of the few buildings in the area to survive the fire of 1877. Similar in spatial organization to a railway station, the plan consists of a front block with an imposing entrance, office space and an actual market area housed in a long functional structure at the rear, well lit by a row of clerestorey windows. The façade articulation with its semicircular windows and corbelling under the eaves seems to be a favorite decorative combination for public buildings of the Second Empire style in the Maritimes. Comparable treatment of exterior design can be found on the Charlottetown Law Courts (Fig. 31) and the Public School at Truro (Fig. 41).
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Byward Market Building
York Street, Ottawa, Ontario
Constructed: 1865-76
Architect: Robert Surtees?
Material: Brick

Following the lead of the federal government most Ottawa municipal buildings in the 1870s, including the City Hall of 1878 (demolished in 1931), were designed in the Second Empire style. Ottawa's Byward Market building, like the City Market building in Saint John, New Brunswick, of the same year, was planned with a long utilitarian market hall hidden behind a more style-conscious entrance block. It is a modestly detailed building but attractive for its gracefully flared mansard roof and central pavilion topped by a delicate, jewel-like lantern. Although the documentation is not conclusive, the design was probably the work of city engineer, Robert Surtees.
(Public Archives Canada.)

Falconwood Lunatic Asylum
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Constructed: 1877-78 Demolished
Architect: David Stirling
Material: Brick

In 1876 a competition was held for the design of the new Falconwood Lunatic Asylum. Eleven proposals were received and the contract was awarded to David Stirling of the Halifax firm of Stirling and Dewar. This firm had just completed a mansarded design for the Halifax Poor House in 1875 and it was perhaps this experience in institutional building that gave them an advantage over the other competitors.

The design reduced the Second Empire style to its most simple geometric forms. All decorative details were stripped away, leaving a pavilioned plan of heavy broad masses which pivot around the central block and tower. This illustrates well the close interrelationship between form and planning in that each of the separate units was an outgrowth of interior function. The central block housed administrative services; day rooms and recreation halls were located in the pavilions, and the intervening spaces were occupied by dormitories. The above illustration does not represent the building as completed, since research indicates that only the west or left-hand wing and central block were erected in 1877. The east wing was built between 1896 and 1901 in a similar style but with modifications to the original plans.
(L'Opinion publique [Montreal], 23 mars 1878, p. 180.)

The Athenaeum
Duckworth Street, St. John's, Newfoundland
Constructed: 1875-78 Destroyed: 1892
Architects: J. and J.T. Southcott
Material: Brick

In March 1861, the St. John's Library and Reading Room, Young Men's Institute, Mechanic's Institute and Museum were amalgamated into the Athenaeum. Land was granted by the governor for a building on Duckworth Street; however, construction did not begin until 1875. The design was by the father and son firm of J. and J.T. Southcott, leading local architects working primarily in the Second Empire style who provided a key impetus in creating the immense popularity of this style in St. John's. The lively exterior composition, which has been unified by the play of semi-circular and circular motifs of the door and window tracery and surrounds, reveals the accomplished style of the Southcott family. This building was one of many lost in the fire of 1892.
(Newfoundland Public Library Board.)

Masonic Temple
650 Fisgard Street, Victoria, British Columbia
Constructed: 1878
Architect: John Teague
Material: Brick

Like the Y.M.C.A., the Order of Freemasons favoured the Second Empire style for their lodges during the 1870s. An example of this period of building is the Masonic Temple in Victoria, designed by the city's leading architect, John Teague, who was working primarily in the Second Empire style (see Fig. 33) and who, not surprisingly, was also a prominent member of the Masons. The construction contract was awarded to the firm of Dinsdale and Malcolm of Victoria. As originally constructed the building extended four bays along Douglas Street and three bays along Fisgard Street with a corner entrance accented in the roofline by a small tower. Shops occupied the ground floor and the lodge facilities were located on the second floor. In 1909 a large addition was built on the Fisgard Street façade and the original second-storey windows were bricked in giving the design, which was plain at the outset, its flat, lifeless appearance.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

39, 40
Young Men's Christian Association
950-964 Saint-Jean Street, Quebec, Quebec
Constructed: 1879
Architect: Joseph-Ferdinand Peachy
Material: Stone

The extant Y.M.C.A. building in Quebec has an asymmetrical plan, probably due to the exigencies of the building lot, but in other respects illustrates the major stylistic features of Second Empire. The contrasting colour and texture of the masonry, the fine detailing coordinated by rhythmic successions of structural openings, and the picturesque silhouette reflect the delight in rich surfaces and outline so characteristic of this style. The building initially housed four shops, a lecture hall, reading room, gymnasium and numerous apartments; however, all that remains of the once elegant interior is a grand staircase. Over the years, the exterior of the building has been sadly altered. The arcaded storefronts have been replaced by plate-glass windows and the roof has lost its patterned shingles, iron cresting and ornamental chimneys. In its present state, the Y.M.C.A. building in Quebec has a stolid and top heavy appearance far from its original inspiration.
(Fig. 39, source unknown; Fig. 40, Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Provincial Normal School
748 Prince Street, Truro, Nova Scotia
Constructed: 1877-79
Architect: Henry F. Busch
Material: Brick

Like many educational institutions in Canada during the 1870s, the Provincial Normal School, erected by the Provincial Department of Education as a teachers' training centre, was designed in the Second Empire style. Features such as the balanced pavilion massing and the play of concave and convex forms in the mansard roof were drawn from the Second Empire vocabulary; however, unlike the heavy classical detail found in purer forms of this style, the façade is lightly articulated by contrasting patterns and colours of brickwork. This lively appearance is further enhanced by the repetition of semicircular and circular forms which unite the façade. As originally built the roofline was decorated with iron cresting and a small ornamental cupola over the central pavilion. The architect, Henry F. Busch of Halifax, seemed to be a favourite of the Department of Education for in 1878 he produced a very similar design for the Halifax County Academy on Brunswick Street in Halifax.
(Engineering and Architecture, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.)

Pavilion central, Laval University
3-7 University Street, Quebec, Quebec
Constructed: 1854-56; addition 1875-76
Architects: Charles Baillairgé and Joseph Ferdinand Peachy
Material: Stone

Seen from the rear in this view, the main college building of Laval University is faithful to Baillairgé's design with the exception of the roof. Baillairgé's original conception for the structure called for a flat roof deck surrounded by an elaborate cast-iron balustrade. By the 1870s, this severely rectilinear design was apparently considered inappropriate, and the Seminary of Quebec engaged Peachy, a former apprentice of Baillairgé, to add the robust mansard roof. The round-headed dormers, iron cresting, central pavilion with lantern and side lanterns with weathercocks all contribute to the picturesque effect so dear to Second Empire ideals. The actual construction was carried out by master joiner Ferdinand de Varennes, a frequent collaborator with Peachy. Perched on the rock of Quebec overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, this gleaming metal-covered roof continues to be a prominent landmark of Old Quebec.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Collège du Sacré-Coeur
College Street, Sorel, Quebec
Constructed: 1877 Demolished
Architect: L.-Z. Gauthier
Material: Stone

The new college is an odd combination of traditional Quebec traits and fashionable Second Empire. The walls of evenly coursed rough-faced stone and the smooth cut-stone trim around doors and windows are common Quebec features. But the use of central and side pavilions, marked by cut-stone quoins, and the wonderfully flamboyant roof with convex central cupola and concave corner towers illustrate the inroads made by the new fashion. The architect of the Collège du Sacré-Coeur, L.-Z. Gauthier, later worked in Ottawa on a design for the western wing of the Archbishop's Palace. The construction of the college was supervised by Father Arthur St-Louis. The building's function as a classical college was short-lived, for the authorities were unable to obtain adequate funding and declared bankruptcy in 1880. From 1883 to 1888 it served as an Anglican high school under the name Lincoln College. The building remained empty until 1896 when it was refurbished by the Révérends Frères de la Charité of Montreal for use as a catholic commercial school known as Collège Mont-Saint-Bernard.
(Dominion Illustrated [Montreal], 18 April 1891, p. 375.)

Collège Notre-Dame
3791 Queen Mary Road, Montreal, Quebec
Constructed: 1880-81
Architects: François and D.A. Lapointe
Material: Stone

Although the architects for the college are identified as François and D.A. Lapointe, they apparently adopted with minor modifications an earlier design presented by prominent Montreal architect H.M. Perrault which was rejected by college officials. The building was intended to provide space for classrooms and student dormitories. True to the eclectic spirit of the age, the design combines Second Empire features with others borrowed from the Gothic Revival style, popular at that time in religious architecture. The original structure, now the central section of the enlarged building, was a plain mansard-roofed block with a central mansarded pavilion. The ecclesiastical affiliations of the college were expressed through the use of pointed gothic openings for the windows and door of the central pavilion and through the slender steeple (never built) that was meant to surmount the earth-bound tower. The added wings on each side of the building are sympathetic to the original design.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Saint Boniface College
Provencher Avenue, Saint Boniface, Manitoba
Constructed: 1879-81 Destroyed by fire: 1922
Architect: Balston C. Kenway
Material: Brick

The moving force behind the construction of Saint Boniface College was Monseigneur Alexandre Taché, Archbishop of Saint Boniface, whose determination to educate the French-speaking population of Manitoba is well known. This particular building, situated in a wooded area east of the old college and cathedral, housed the principal Catholic school in Manitoba at that time. Monseigneur Taché perhaps chose Kenway as his architect because of his familiarity with ecclesiastical construction: prior to his arrival in Winnipeg, Kenway had been architect and overseer for extensive renovations to the Old Stone Church in Saint John, New Brunswick. The contractors for Saint Boniface College were Gill and Mould, and J.B. Morache. Clearly functional in design and detail, the college falls naturally into the tradition of mansard-roofed buildings so familiar in ecclesiastical circles in Quebec. Only the central pavilion with its convex-ribbed tower makes an explicit reference to Second Empire sources. Early in the 20th century, wings were added to each side of the original structure.
(Provincial Archives of Manitoba.)

Sacred Heart Convent, F.C.J.
219 19th Avenue SW., Calgary, Alberta
Constructed: 1893-94 Additions: 1924
Material: Stone

In 1885 the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus established the first private school in Calgary, offering a full education in both English and French to girls from Roman Catholic families. Several years later, under the direction of the Superior of the Convent, Reverend Mother Mary Greene, this building was erected to provide more space for classrooms and living quarters for the Sisters and boarders. The builder and contractor was Thomas Underwood. Although the design for the Convent lacks the plasticity found in fancy Second Empire buildings, it nevertheless has such features as the mansard roof, central pavilion and a pleasing rhythm of semicircular openings. As it appears in this early photograph, the Sacred Heart Convent corresponds to a description found in the Annals of the Sisters, who were evidently well pleased with the structure. "The exterior of the house is nicely finished off. The pillared portico surrounds the front door, on the top of which is a balcony, to which we have access by a double glass door, opening from the hall of the second storey. Above this balcony in a niche covered with glass stands an exquisite statue of the Sacred Heart, 5-1/2 feet high, the gift of the Rev. Father Lacombe, O.M.I., who pronounces the building a perfect success and a credit both to the workmen and to those who planned the edifice."
(Public Archives Canada.)

Molson Bank
288 Saint James Street West, Montreal, Quebec
Constructed: 1866
Architect: George Browne
Material: Stone

Built in 1866 the Molson Bank represents an early and formative stage of Second Empire in Canada. The self-contained block plan is simpler than the complex pavilion massing of high-style Second Empire and the roof, while gaining in prominence, has not yet taken on its full bombastic dimensions nor acquired the lively silhouette so characteristic of this style by the early 1870s. Nevertheless, the feeling of richness and plasticity created by the broken wall planes and projecting cornices, the baroque quality of the rich garlanded consoles of the attic storey (a motif prominently featured on the New Louvre), and the use of iron cresting and tall chimneys all anticipate the arrival of Second Empire.

George Browne, born in Belfast in 1811, was one of Canada's most prominent and brilliant architects of the 19th century. The Molson Bank was a late work, yet even at this advanced stage in his career he was able to incorporate new stylistic trends. It is not surprising, however, that Browne should have responded so enthusiastically to this new fashion for, as has been pointed out in J. Douglas Stewart's essay on Browne's Kingston architecture, his style always had an element of the "neo-baroque" in its material, texture, mass, and effects of light and shade. These characteristics can be found in the Molson Bank where, under the influence of the Second Empire style, they become enriched and accentuated.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Dominion Bank
King Street West at Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario
Constructed: 1877-79 Demolished: Before 1914
Material: Stone

From the year of its founding in 1871 until 1879 the Dominion Bank was housed in a leased storefront office on King Street East. The construction of a permanent banking house in 1877-79 was seen as a symbol of the Bank's maturity; the lavishness of the design, heavily ornamented with rich classical detail, would have offered further assurance to the public of the wealth and financial stability of this institution. The use of a corner entrance was a common compositional device for buildings located at an intersection; the rounded corner created a smooth visual transition between two façades at right angles to each other. Although enlarged in 1884, probably by the three-bay section visible to the left of the photograph, the Dominion Bank had outgrown this building by the early 20th century and in 1914 was replaced by a new head office designed by the Toronto architectural firm of Darling and Pearson.
(Public Archives Canada.)

View of Wellington Street in 1896
Ottawa, Ontario

This photograph of 1896, depicting from left to right, La Banque Nationale, the Bank of Ottawa and a corner of the Quebec Bank, illustrates the unified architectural character of Wellington Street in the post confederation era. Many features, such as the rusticated ground floor, round-headed windows and banded columns were borrowed from the new Post Office of 1873 (Fig. 19) which marked the eastern end of the street and these motifs were repeated further west in the design for the Bank of Montreal. This uniformity was certainly no accident for, following the example set by Baron Haussmann's urban planning in Paris, all building along Wellington Street had to be approved by the federal government. The result was the creation of a grand Second Empire thoroughfare which provided Canadians with an imposing symbol of the power and stability of their new nation.
(Public Archives Canada.)

Eastern Townships Bank
Head Office
241 Dufferin Street, Sherbrooke, Quebec
Constructed: 1875-76
Architect: James Nelson
Material: Stone

Branch Offices:
(1) 191 Principale Street, Richmond, Quebec
Constructed: 1876 Material: Brick
(2) 225 Principale Street, Cowansville, Quebec
Constructed: 1874-75 Material: Brick
(3)19 Gerin Lajoie Street, Coaticook, Quebec
Constructed: 1873-74 Material: Brick
By the mid-1870s the Eastern Townships Bank founded in 1859 had, according to its annual report of 1873, increased its business to such an extent that many of its old buildings were no longer adequate in size. Between 1873 and 1876 a head office in Sherbrooke and three branch offices in Richmond, Cowansville and Coaticook were constructed, all of which were designed in the Second Empire style. For the branch offices the Directors were "fully aware of the objections in the minds of some of the shareholders to an expenditure on what is called 'bricks and mortar'," and for this reason a very simple, standardized plan, which looks more like a residential building, was adopted, keeping the average cost of construction to $6,000. All three of these buildings have survived but none still functions as a bank.
(Dominion Illustrated [Montreal], 30 August 1890, p. 133.)

Eastern Townships Bank
241 Dufferin Street, Sherbrooke, Quebec
Constructed: 1875-76
Architect: James Nelson
Material: Stone

A design for the new Head Office in Sherbrooke was not approached with the economical restraint shown for the branch banks. The Annual Report of 1874 states that "the Directors feel also that in a work of this kind ... they are justified in having a handsome as well as useful building, and they believe that the shareholders will agree with them in the opinion that while extravagance should be avoided, yet there is something due to the position of the Bank as one of the most successful institutions in the country."

James Nelson, prominent Montreal architect, was commissioned to prepare the plans and the $37,000 construction contract was awarded to Mr. Quigley and Company, "late of Quebec." A new rear wing was added in 1903. This building still functions as a bank, serving as the branch office of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce since its amalgamation in 1911.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

The Victoria Block in 1879

Victoria Block
15-17 Victoria Street, Clinton, Ontario
Constructed: 1877-78
Builders: William Cooper and Thomas Mackenzie
Material: Brick

Typical of commercial building, the Victoria Block has compressed the sculptural massing of the high Second Empire style into a compact, rectangular plan. The projecting tower and the central focus of the façade create the illusion of the characteristic pavilion plan without its space-wasting projections on the street front. But for the loss of the roof cresting and alterations to the storefront windows the building has changed little over its 100-year history and even today it remains a prominent feature of the town's streetscape.

William Cooper and Thomas Mackenzie owned a planing mill and ran a successful contracting business in Clinton. It has not been determined whether they were responsible for the design of the Victoria Block or whether they were working under the direction of a yet unknown architect.
(Drawing, H. Belden and Company, Illustrated Historical Atlas of Huron County, Ontario [1879; reprint ed., Belleville, Ontario: Mika Silk Screening, 1972], p. 18; photograph, Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Saint James Street, Montreal, Quebec

Looking south along Saint James Street, the four-storey building on the right in the foreground was erected in 1871 for the City and District Savings Bank. Across St. John Street on the other corner is the enormous structure built by Thomas Barron and known as Barron Block (Fig. 55).
(Public Archives Canada.)

Barron Block
Saint James Street, Montreal, Quebec
Constructed: 1870-72
Architect: Michel Laurent
Material: Stone

This massive commercial block, situated at the corner of Saint James and Saint John streets in what was referred to as "one of the most princely parts of the city," provided prestigious office space for the Montreal business community. While economic considerations may have determined the use of a block plan which made maximum use of the expensive urban lot, its embellishment was certainly not fettered by any sense of frugality. The four-storey design has been punctuated by large, arched windows surrounded by pilasters and finely carved stone decorations. Each floor is divided by a heavy entablature which breaks forward at intervals to be supported by columns of the ornate Corinthian order. Despite the simplicity of the plan this lavish plastic ornamentation gave the building a palatial appearance appropriate for offices of many of the city's merchant princes.
(Canadian Illustrated News [Montreal], 27 Aug. 1870, p. 136.)

Odell Block
172-184 Wellington Street North, Sherbrooke, Quebec
Constructed: between 1877 and 1881
Material: Brick

Construction of the Odell Block, now known as the Gregoire Building, was probably begun soon after 1877 when the owner, Thomas B. Odell, purchased from a Mr. Long a small parcel of land adjoining his own property on Wellington Street which together made up the site of his new building. The construction contract was awarded to G.B. Precourt but the design was very likely the work of an outside, yet unnamed architect. Following the standard arrangement for a business block the ground floor was "divided into a number of large and spacious stores..., The upper flats of the building being occupied by lawyers, notaries and insurance agents." The Odell Block, typical of large commercial buildings of the Second Empire style, was distinguished, however, in its original form by the extensive use of oval dormers that lined the mansard roof — since replaced by the present round- and flat-headed dormers.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

233-237 Dundas Street, London, Ontario
Constructed: 1875
Material: Brick

Commercial blocks such as this could have been found in most urban centres across Canada of the 1870s and 1880s. Unlike the often grand and lavishly executed Second Empire designs constructed for public and even commercial institutions such as banks, these commercial blocks, generally built as investment properties to be leased out, did not function as architectural symbols representing a specific organization. The designs tended to reflect greater economy, in order to provide a maximum return for the investor. The typical solution, as illustrated by the Dundas Street block, was a building compact in plan, making full use of the expensive urban lot but sufficiently rich and grand in detail to attract an affluent clientele.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Osler Block
5-7 Main Street, Dundas, Ontario
Constructed: Before 1875
Material: Brick

As it appears today Osler Block has been stripped of all its festive Second Empire dress resulting in its present austere appearance. In its original condition, iron cresting trimmed the roof, carved woodwork decorated the dormer windows and an additional tripartite dormer with semicircular openings accented the small projecting pavilion. Only the coloured and patterned shingles of the mansard roof preserve a hint of its once picturesque demeanor. The second storey remains unchanged but the ground floor has been completely altered by the loss of a plate-glass store-front which occupied the four right-hand bays and by the removal of the decorative pediments which defined the windows and two main doorways, one centrally placed on the façade and the other on the far left-hand side of the building.

Osler Block was built as an investment property for Briton Bath Osler, a prominent Hamilton lawyer and entrepreneur who resided in Dundas. The ground floor was leased as office space while the second floor was, and still is, occupied by the local Masonic Lodge.
(Canadian Inventory of Historic Building.)

Gerrie Block
Princess Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Constructed: 1881 Demolished: ca. 1956
Architect: Charles A. Barber
Material: Brick

Gerrie Block is one of a series of warehouses built in this district during the years of Winnipeg's rapid expansion. The six attached brick structures known as Gerrie Block were erected by R. Gerrie and Company for wholesale mercantile purposes. In spite of the utilitarian function of the warehouses, the design is an attractive version of Second Empire, especially in the handling of the mansard roof with its cresting, patterned shingles and semicircular dormers. The potential monotony of the broad roof is relieved through the rhythmic articulation of individual units, punctuated by ribs and carved finials. Although economic considerations are evident in the careful use of the city lot and the modest ornamentation, Gerrie Block is, in the context of warehouse construction, a fashionable and well-appointed building.
(Provincial Archives of Manitoba.)

Windsor Hotel
Peel Street, Montreal, Quebec
Constructed: 1876-78 Demolished: ca. 1960
Architect: William W. Boyington
Material: Stone

One of the finest examples of Second Empire design in Canada was Montreal's Windsor Hotel. At the time of its erection, it ranked among the most luxurious hostelries in North America. Contemporary observers praised its elegant fittings including "the main dining-hall with its marble floors, gigantic mirrors, and lovely landscape paintings," the grand promenade which "fairly bewilders the eye with its splendour," the bridal chamber, a "charming bijou" with velvet carpet and furniture in silk, and the entrance hall which "reminds the traveller of some of those grand old Italian palaces." To complete this vast project at the cost of almost one million dollars, the sponsors engaged an American architect experienced in hotel construction, William W. Boyington of Chicago, and drew on numerous local and American firms and craftsmen. The first lessee was J.W. Worthington of Montreal. The impact made by the Windsor Hotel is well summed up by a contemporary traveller from Britain who writes that "the rooms of the Windsor at Montreal fairly astonished us. There is nothing in the hotel way in London comparable to the house, except perhaps the Grand at Charring Cross and if adjectives must be used I could say the Windsor was the grander of the two."
(Public Archives Canada.)

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