Canadian Pacific Railway Station

Heritage Railway Station of Canada

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Corner view of Canadian Pacific Railway Station, showing both the front and side facade. (© Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parks Canada, Kate MacFarlane, 1988.)
General view of the place
(© Parks Canada Agency/Agence Parks Canada, Kate MacFarlane, 1988.)
Address : 181 Higgins Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Recognition Statute: Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 52 (4th Supp.))
Designation Date: 1990-06-21
  • 1904 to 1906 (Construction)
  • 1904 to 1978 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Canadian Pacific Railway  (Organization)
  • Edward Maxwell  (Architect)
  • W.S. Maxwell  (Architect)
Research Report Number: RS-002

Description of Historic Place

Winnipeg’s Canadian Pacific Railway Station is a monumental 4 storey Beaux Arts building distinguished by a prominent entrance pavilion with massive columns. It is located at 181 Higgins Ave., and today accommodates some CP Rail offices as well as the Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg.

Heritage Value

Winnipeg’s Canadian Pacific Railway Station has been designated a Heritage Railway Station because of its direct association with national expansion through immigration and the growth and prosperity of the West. It also reflects the achievements of the CPR during this early period and the confidence of the company in its future. The presence of the CPR facilities and the construction of this station had a significant impact on the urban landscape of Winnipeg.

Winnipeg’s Canadian Pacific Railway Station was constructed in 1904-06 to designs by Edward and W.S. Maxwell of Montréal to accommodate Winnipeg’s growing requirements for passenger, freight handling and administrative space. In 1915 the platform and tracks were elevated on a substructure, and baggage handling, immigrant waiting space, and passenger access tunnels installed below. The station closed to passenger traffic in 1978.

This building reflects Beaux-Arts design in its use of classical orders and details, the symmetry of its facade and the plan of its central waiting room block. The west baggage and office wing, set well back from the main entrance pavilion, reinforce the symmetry of the principal facade. In the interior of the station, public spaces are impressive, well detailed, and finely finished. The various functions - passenger, both first class and second class, freight and administration - are clearly separated. Despite the loss of the associated Royal Alexander Hotel and adjacent federal immigration shed (1971), this station has retained its relationship with the railway and has considerable identify as a local landmark.

Heritage Character Statement, Canadian Pacific Railway Station, 29 May 1989. Heritage Assessment Report RSR-002,1988.

Character-Defining Elements

Character-defining elements of the Winnipeg Canadian Pacific Railway Station include: its block-like 4-storey massing under a flat roof, the square footprint of the main building together with the recessed rectangular footprint of the west baggage wing addition, its monumental scale, the symmetrical, classically ordered proportions of the facade (both vertical and horizontal), the prominence of its central entrance pavilion (expressed in relief), the balanced patterns of its fenestration on all facades, the rich plasticity of its classical exterior details including the portico, prominent columns, and a finely detailed pediment of the entrance, the use of stone detailing to create faux columns and a hierarchy of windows, the presence of elements specific to railway stations such as the dispatcher’s bay extrusion on the track-side exterior, and integration of a clock into the design of the pediment, the nature, varied textures and colours of its exterior materials (red brick and Tyndall limestone), the finely-executed craftsmanship evident in their assembly, the station’s construction technology, its clear definition into functional areas on both the exterior and the interior (main block, baggage/ office wing, and sub-grade service tunnels), the hierarchy of space expressed in exterior detail (a baggage wing less ornate than the central block) and exterior allocation of space (the symmetrical set back of the baggage wing from the main block), volumetric spatial relationships between exterior and interior places (i.e. the expansiveness linking the open portico to the main waiting room, the low panelled concrete wall describing the sub-grade tunnels along the north boundary of the site), and also between interior spaces one with another (i.e. the prominence of the central waiting room in relation to the more utilitarian volumes of service spaces), the original axial symmetry of the building’s interior organization and its circulation and access patterns as they evolved in 1915 alterations and subsequent railway use (including but not limited to the vertical circulation, the presence sub-grade passages and the raised the elevation of the passenger platforms, causing them to cross the original passenger and baggage doors), the hierarchy and nature of specific functions within the building as they are expressed in their historic layout, decorative treatment and original materials (particularly in the ground floor and gallery areas of the second floor of the main block interior, the distinction in the richness of materials used in public, private, and utility spaces),