Description of Historic Place
Standing five storeys tall at an important intersection in Winnipeg's Exchange District, a national historic site of Canada, the Bate Building is one of the district's oldest structures, completed in 1883. The City of Winnipeg's designation applies to the building on its footprint and public areas inside.
The Bate Building was one of the first substantial brick warehouses that came to define Winnipeg's Exchange District, a dense collection of warehouses that was the basis for wholesale trade in Western Canada from about 1885 to 1920. Before 1885, the district was more typically composed of smaller brick buildings that contained manufacturing and small warehouse operations. After that date, buildings like the Bate Building (originally called the Lyon Block) came to predominate, many designed with reference to the Romanesque Revival style, an architecture whose muscular form and detailing made it suitable for massive brick buildings. The Bate Building is a good example of the style, and boasts high levels of architectural integrity inside and out. In its functional evolution from warehouse to offices, and in the two-storey addition made in 1905, the building also recalls the changing economic face of the district, as the demand for premium downtown commercial space spread beyond the traditional Main Street business centre. The Bate Building is also an important element in maintaining the historical continuity of the streetscape at the McDermot Avenue-Albert Street intersection.
Source: City of Winnipeg Council Meeting Minutes, May 19, 1981
Key elements that define the Bate Building's landmark qualities include:
- its location at the northeast corner of McDermot Avenue and Albert Street in the Exchange District, with its south and west walls aligned with other adjacent buildings
- the historical and visual connections to other notable buildings at the same corner, including the Telegram and Silvester-Wilson buildings and the Albert Block
Key elements that define the exterior of the Romanesque Revival-style building, and its modification on the first floor for retail/commercial space in 1905, include:
- the bulk of the building's five-storey height, with its two main facades (west and south) defined by their brick walls and stone accenting, the division of the elevations made with brick pilasters with stone capitals, etc., and the utilitarian north wall and east wall, which is of unrelieved brick and which also features a large painted sign at the southern topmost edge
- the large number of arched windows (first to fourth floors) arranged in pairs, the flat-headed windows of the fifth floor, the arched doorways on the west side and the delicate brick hood-moulding and ornamental brickwork accenting openings on the first three floors
- the complete entablature featuring a heavy overhanging modillioned metal cornice
- the 1905 stone-clad ground-floor retail and office entrances on the south side (wrapping around to the west side), including the recessed and columned double entrance at the southwest corner, the recessed entrance at the southeast corner, the large display windows, the modillioned cornice above, etc.
- the narrow fire escape on the west wall
Key elements that define the Lyon Block's office function, dating to 1905, and continuing in 1942 and renamed as the Bate Building, include:
- floor plans on levels two through five that feature on each floor a long hallway with high ceiling, numerous sturdy doors that open off the hallway, with glass panels and tall glassed transoms, interior windows in south-facing offices, decorated safe doors along each hallway, etc.
- finishes and details in each hallway and offices, including heavy, dark baseboards, railings, casings around doors and windows, opaque patterned glass in most doors and windows, decorative pressed metal ceilings in many offices, etc.
- the tall-ceilinged, airy spaces of the ground floor with elaborate pressed tin ceilings
- the wooden staircase, with plain wooden railing and balusters, the delicately detailed steel cage passenger elevator, the hand-operated elevator in the northwest corner, etc.
- the words 'BATE BUILDING' in the frieze on the south facade and the signage on the building's east facade