Virtual Heritage Winnipeg Vignettes

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Union Station

Of the many railway buildings in Winnipeg, the crowning glory is Union Station, which closes the vista down Broadway with its imposing bulk and dome. Originally opened in 1911, the building was intended by the Canadian Northern Railroad and Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad to surpass the nearby station of the Canadian Pacific. Winnipeg's Union Station is a shining example of Beaux Arts architectural style.

Designed by Warren & Wetmore who were responsible for Grand Central in New York, Union Station extends for some 350 feet along Main Street and is not quite symmetrical, the triumphal arch entrance being offset to close the axis of Broadway. The entrance doors are set under a projecting decorative iron canopy. Passing through a small intermediate space, the passenger emerges into the large central hall.

The exterior of the building is quite austere. With the exception of detailing around the entrance and the ground floor, the facade has a plain white limestone finish with little embellishment. The area around the main entrance has fine detailing in the doorways, canopy and decorative ironwork.

Of particular note is the rotunda. This large room has welcomed thousands of immigrants and visitors to Winnipeg, it's impressive dome alluding to the wonders that await beyond the doors. Other than cracks in the rotunda floor, the building has survived the years well. Platoons of soldiers marched through the station in the 1940s. Their combined weight and rhythmic step caused the floor to flex and break.

When railway traffic declined in Canada, Winnipeg was left with a mostly-empty station. In recent years much of the facility has been converted into office space. The building still serves as a VIA rail station and the home of the Winnipeg Railway Museum.