November 06, 2008

Urban Textures 2

Winnipeg surprised us all with its lovely old buildings that haven't been torn down for future development like most of Calgary's core. In Calgary there is movement afoot to save the remaining old buildings but it is too late for a great number of them.

Winnipeg however, has the 20 block Exchange District National Historical Site that contains over 100 turn-of-the-century buildings including massive stone and brick warehouses to elegant terra-cotta clad skyscrapers.

The shipping industry up the Red River from the south started Winnipeg's boom in the mid-1800s but that was a mere stepping stone for the development that the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) brought with its railway lines extending across Canada in the late 1800s and the thousands of settlers that passed through Winnipeg on their way west to claim homesteads.

Winnipeg held titles like - 1905 "fastest growing city of its size in North America"; 1911 "one of the largest rail centres in the world"; "agriculture centre of the country" with over half of the world's wheat sales during the 1920s. At this time financial institutes were lining up on Main Street, turning it into Banker's Row and creating an unrivaled architectural showcase of prosperity. This area also became the entertainment capital of western Canada with opulent theatres and cabarets drawing Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers north.

After being named a National Historical Site in 1997 by the Federal Government, the Exchange District has become Winnipeg's hub of arts and culture, home to art galleries, studios, theatres, festivals and museums.

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