Building History

Historic plaque on the King and Bannatyne corner of the building.

Historic plaque on the King and Bannatyne corner of the building.

Artspace is housed in the historic Gault building, which comprises the half-block area of Arthur Street, Bannatyne Avenue, and King Street across from Old Market Square. The Gault building has a Grade II conservation designation from the City of Winnipeg.

The Gault Building

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The Gault Building was constructed in 1900 for wholesalers Gault Brothers Company Ltd., a subsidiary of Montreal-based A.F. Gault and Company. The architect was George Brown. A.F. Gault was one of Canada’s leading wholesalers and was best known for its Blue ribbon brand products. Originally four storeys, the brick and stone building is an example of Richardson Romanesque style, a style created by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson. A simple wooden post-and-beam system is used as a frame for a stone “stacking-up” method in which varying wall thicknesses are required at each level to support the weight of the floors above. The Romanesque rounded arches typical of the style are found in the windows and in the covered tunnel to the loading docks.1

3-arched windows

Romanesque rounded window arches and dray-way. The dray-way was originally used by horse-drawn wagons bringing stock to and from the warehouse. It is still used today, but we now have a hydraulic loading dock.

The large window openings provided light to the interior as electric light was not yet available at the time. They were made possible by the advanced state of masonry construction at the time and foreshadow the even larger openings to be offered by the soon dominant “Chicago Style” of masonry-clad steel frame construction.

In 1903 a six-storey annex was added along the south wall and two storeys were added to the original building. The architect for the addition was James H. Cadham. The facade of this new construction was designed and built to make it difficult to see that the Gault Building and its annex are, in fact, two separate buildings. Gaults Ltd. occupied the building until 1973.

Over the next ten years, the warehouse space was rented out to various businesses, including a number of arts and cultural organizations, some of whom became founding members of Artspace. In 1984 the Manitoba Centennial Centre assumed ownership of the building in order to lease it to Artspace Inc. for the next 99 years.

The Artspace Sign

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The original rooftop sign was still intact when the Gault Bros. sold the building in 1973.

Rooftop advertising signs were a common form of business advertising in the early 20th Century. The one atop Artspace was added in 1903 and originally read “Gaults Limited Importers Wholesale Dry Goods.” The sign was refurbished in 2011 and now reads “Artspace.” It is one of four original rooftop signs remaining in the Exchange District.

Randy with the roof-top sign (and he’s a pretty tall guy!).

Randy with the roof-top sign (and he’s a pretty tall guy!).

The sign is built in 24 sections using 3/4″ diameter iron rods to support a lattice woven from common wire. The letters are cut from 24 gauge galvanized sheet metal and secured to the sign with small gauge wire.

Building Upgrades

All six floors of the building’s interior were renovated in 1984/1985. It was a massive, $2 million project that converted the large open warehouse spaces into various sizes of office, storage, and exhibit spaces.

basement floor has been jackhammered and lies in heaps of concrete

Rebuilding the basement.

7-ceiling tiles

Renovations uncovered (and sometimes covered) original tin ceiling tiles throughout the building.

The stairwells were also rebuilt and the elevator was upgraded. The architects on the project were Gaboury & Associates and the project manager was Dominion Construction.

8-stairwells

Both stairwells from the basement to the sixth floor were completely rebuilt.

9-lobby beam

The main lobby floor was gutted.

Our building is rather beautiful now.

Our building is rather beautiful now.

The Artspace entrances have been modified to make the building a fully accessible facility. A self-operated elevator-style wheelchair lift was installed at the King and Bannatyne entrance in the spring of 2015. This replaces the older stair-lift model at the Arthur Street doors.

Artspace is currently in the process of restoring the building’s original windows. Three of the building’s 142 windows have been restored so far.

1 Source: Waddell, M. Ross. The Exchange District: An Illustrated Guide to Winnipeg’s Historic Commercial District. Heritage Winnipeg Corporation. Winnipeg: 1989. http://manitobia.ca/resources/books/local_histories/041.pdf