Heritage Resources Branch
Manitoba Provincial Heritage Site No. 8
Empire Hotel Facade Remnants
Centre Du Patrimoine, 340 Provencher Blvd, St Boniface
Designation Date: February 18, 1976
Designation Authority: Honourable R.E. Toupin,
Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Cultural Affairs
Present Owner: The City of Winnipeg
The Empire Hotel Facades are exceptional structures of cast iron, galvanized iron sheet metal and pressed zinc, industrial materials that were rarely used to clad buildings in Canada and of which only a few examples remain across the country. The elaborate facades, featuring Victorian Italianate interpretations of Greek temples and Italian Renaissance palaces, were installed on the Cauchon Block, a large retail-office building designed by architect Louis-Arsene Désy and erected on Winnipeg’s Main Street during a speculative boom.
The facades’ material properties and striking details made the Cauchon Block an outstanding aesthetic landmark in a time and place dominated by wood-frame and masonry construction. That the facades’ components were produced entirely by local manufacturers also was significant, given the fledgling state of Winnipeg’s industrial development in the early 1880s. Constructed for Joseph-Edouard Cauchon, Manitoba’s first francophone lieutenant-governor, the building was converted into the city’s first apartment block in 1884. It was again transformed in 1904-05 into its longest-standing function, a hotel, after the Canadian Northern Railway’s main line and yards were established at the rear of the site.
Upon the structure’s demolition, its rare metal facades were retained. A restored portion now stands in the entrance atrium to the St. Boniface Historical Society’s Heritage Centre.