Where’s the Cake?

100th Birthday for 457 Main -Winnipeg Assessment & Taxation Office Building

457 Main today and in a circa 1914 postcard complete with windows that opened

2012 marks the 100th birthday of the current home of the City of Winnipeg Assessment & Taxation Department.

The Confederation Life Building at 457 Main was completed in 1912 at a cost of $400,000. One of Winnipeg’s early skyscrapers, the ten storey steel and concrete structure was designed by architect J. Wilson Gray of Toronto. The curved façade is sheathed in white terra cotta with a base of polished granite. It is designated as a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (yes those people from The King’s Speech) pass by in 1939

The Confederation Life Company began its Winnipeg operations in 1879 and by 1912 had outgrown its previous building located on the same site. The new office tower also offered space to lawyers, loan companies and manufacturers’ agents. There was even a barber shop in the basement. However, by mid-century Winnipeg’s commercial axis was shifting southward and the Confederation Life Building was becoming antiquated. In 1960 Confederation Life would build again and sell 457 Main. Vacancy in the building rose. A 1961 Assessment Department inspection stated “minimum maintenance…dull corridors-poor electrical fixtures-not too clean.”

By 1982 the building was reported as vacant for some years but renewal was coming. In 1984 major renovations were carried out prior to Parks Canada occupying it. New elevators, windows, roof, heating, electrical, plumbing and finishes all went in. The elegant copper-plated cage elevators were out. A new second stairwell was constructed on the back of the building, allowing the original iron fire escape to become “for historical purposes only.”

In 1999 the Property Assessment Department moved in with a 15 year plus lease. Employees sometimes had “hot and cold” feelings about the new location, far from the shady environs of Broadway-and had lots of time to think about it on the occasionally wayward elevators.

Although this existing lease was not scheduled to expire till January 15, 2015, a new 25 year-lease went before City Council earlier in the year. This commences in 2012 and reportedly includes some upgrades to the lighting and building envelope.

1919 General Strike: mounted police charge past 457 Main

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