a preservation of
the MILLENNIUM centre
a heritage winnipeg property
This project came to fruition because of a love for the unwanted
The former Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building located at 389 Main St. in Winnipeg has always been my favourite of the many heritage buildings in Winnipeg’s massive exchange district.
a brief history
Opulently intimidating, it stands as a silent witness forever reminding passing motorists of this city’s former glory. Opening in 1912 and being a pillar of the well-known 'Bankers Row' it was a symbol of stability for the booming Winnipeg economy of the time. However, with the bank departing and leaving it abandoned to time in 1969, and it narrowly saved of its life in 1979, it would sit vacant for 30 years. It would periodically become home to squatters who used its toilets for what they were designed for, even though they were no longer in service. To this day, calcified excrement can be seen in some of those restrooms.
Thankfully starting in 1999 and culminating in 2002, the main floor banking hall was transformed into a banquet hall to be used for weddings and galas. Also on the main floor and available for usage - generally for wedding photos - is the lavishly decorated Tapestry Room, which served as the former bank manager’s office. Scarcely also used (mostly for movie shoots) and usually out of the public eye is the former Regional Superintendent’s office located on the 3rd floor. Entirely lined with oak paneling, with an ornate plaster ceiling and a hidden private bathroom made entirely of marble that overlooks Main St. This office is the threshold of where the abandoned goodness begins as it is the last area the public normally ever sees.
the here and now
I had once previously been part of a small select group that had the chance to see parts of the abandoned upper floors of that mysterious building.
What I saw blew me away.
This was already my favourite of Winnipeg's heritage buildings just from the exterior architecture alone. Now, however, seeing it inside and its mysterious wonders and pristine abandonment - that unlike other buildings was not desecrated by graffiti - I knew I had to one day get back inside to capture it. However like most pet projects, it fell to the wayside.
Then on May 28, 2016 - for that years annual “Doors Open” festivities, the Winnipeg Free Press ran a story about the Millennium Centre and how Heritage Winnipeg plans to renovate the upper floors over the next ten years. I then knew that now was the time to try and preserve a relic of the past before its done away with for good - albeit in the best possible way of restoration and occupation.
Once inside it's plain to see what are the original elements in the design from the extravagant era the building was built verses what the rather ugly "modern renovations" of the 1950/60s era brought, such as where false ceilings were added and walls covered in ceiling tiles. Aside for the odd small change made to a door nameplate for a movie shoot, nothing has been touched on floors three to six since the CIBC left in 1969. Ominous shadows cast on the walls of vacant hallways from the daylight entering through pigeon stained windows. Former walk-in safes used to hold bank records, appearing as if they were just carelessly left open. All granite washrooms with solid oak stall doors. Cubicles reminiscent of a 1950’s office where one could just picture bankers in white shirts and black skinny black working on mechanical calculators and typewriters left an interesting feeling of nostalgia in me. One trespasser even took the time to write in the dust on one of the cubicles ‘Don Draper was here - 1963’.
The following photos mostly follow the order of rooms you would pass through on each floor starting off from the main staircase, and then ascending floor by floor. The first photos you'll see are in the Superintendents office on the third floor just down a hallway from the stairs. Eventually we make our way up above the sixth floor where we see the elevator cable relay. The series then concludes by heading down into the basement to see the main bank vaults.
It is with very special thanks to Heritage Winnipeg, its Executive Director Cindy Tugwell and the members of the Board of the Millennium Centre for allowing this to be possible, I give you the finalized goal of cataloging and virtually preserving the very rarely seen upper abandoned floors of one of Canada’s most extravagant and influential heritage buildings. Please enjoy.
These photographs are not-for-profit.
They are provided to preserve the history of an influential Canadian establishment. Please contact for usage.
If you would like to learn more or donate towards Heritage Winnipeg, please click the 'learn more' button below to visit their site.