Did you know that Winnipeg is sometimes called The Chicago of the North? My husband Dave was fond of saying that to people we met on our recent trip to Chicago. I checked his claim out when I got home and indeed it is true. At the turn of the century Chicago and Winnipeg were actually rivals. They were both transportation hubs. 15 years prior to World War I Winnipeg was the fastest growing city in North America. Chicago architects came to Winnipeg to practice their craft and they designed many of the buildings in the Exchange District of downtown Winnipeg where we live. Their style also influenced local Winnipeg architects.
The Maltese Cross Building at 66 King Street is a good example of a Chicago style structure in Winnipeg. It was designed by J.D. Atchison. He was born in Illinois and trained at the Chicago Art Institute before moving to Winnipeg in 1905. He lived and worked here till 1924 and designed more than a 100 buildings in Winnipeg.
The Confederation Building was designed by a Toronto architect Wilson Gray but he used the Chicago style. Because there is so much intact Chicago style architecture in the Exchange District of Winnipeg where our condo is located, it has often served as the shooting location for movies set in Chicago, like Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez.
I walk by this former Great West Life Building every day on my way to the gym and had no idea till now that it was designed in the Chicago style by a Chicago architect in 1911.
Here is my son’s Canadian Mennonite University graduating class in 2007, standing on the front steps of the main building on their Shaftesbury Blvd. campus. I’ve just found out the building was designed by none other than Chicago architect J.D. Atchison in 1921.
This Union Bank Building designed by Chicago architect Atchison is right near my home. It’s nice to know that even though it may be a while before I get to visit Chicago again, I can walk out my front door and see buildings just like the ones in Chicago all around me in Winnipeg, The Chicago of the North.