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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Bon Accord Block (637 Main Street, Winnipeg)

Link to:
Photos & Coordinates | Sources

Located at the northeast corner of Main Street and Logan Avenue in Winnipeg, the Bon Accord Block was designed by John Danley Atchison and built at a cost of about $200,000 by the William Grace Construction Company, as overseen by William Henry Carter, for Arthur Matheson Fraser. Construction began after April 1906 and continued into 1907. The block’s name borrowed the motto from the Scottish city of Aberdeen, and commemorated the local influence of Scottish immigrants. The phrase remains visible above the south entrance along Logan Avenue.

The completed building was originally five storeys with retail and office space on the first three floors and residential apartments on the top two levels. In its early years of operation, Oldfield, Kirby and Gardner handled suite rentals. From December 1917 to March 1922, one of its commercial tenants was the Bon Accord Clothing Company.

By the mid-1920s, the financial viability of the building was in question, as taxation began to exceed rental income. Fraser sought relief by appealing his municipal tax assessment. In 1926, he filed a legal challenge and the case was heard by Justice Alexander Casimir Galt at the Court of King’s Bench. Galt decided in favour of Fraser. The City of Winnipeg subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in February 1927 dismissed in favour of Fraser. The City then appealed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal and in June 1927 was heard by the panel of Charles Percy Fullerton, Robert Maxwell Dennistoun, James Emile Pierre Prendergast, and Walter Harley Trueman. This time, the decision went in favour of the City and Galt’s original decision was overturned. Eventually, the building’s assessed value was reduced from $75,000 to $13,352. By 1931, however, with rental income in decline, the ratio of taxation to net rental had reportedly risen as high as 188%.

In July 1932, Fraser (who had left Winnipeg in 1928) sold the block to Wellington Wilson (1863-1933) and Mathilda Ellen Morgan Wilson (1873-1934), who lived at Treherne before moving to the city around 1929. The Wilsons resided in the Bon Accord Block until their respective deaths in the following two years. The property was then acquired by Oldfield, Kirby and Gardner. After a decade of legal action and assessment appeals, a lasting solution was found. In 1934, appraisor Thomas Briggs recommended reducing the building to a single floor. Following salvage of building materials, including bricks, lumber, pipes, stone, sittings, windows, glass, and flooring, the upper four floors were demolished by contractor Frank Reade Lount. The work began in April 1935 was completed at a cost of $8,000.

From around 1939 to 1962, the structure was home to the Oak Theatre. Around 1947, a fabric store established here by Samuel Mindess and Frank Gilfix moved into the remaining floor and gradually expanded into neighbouring retail units in the building, becoming Mitchell Fabrics, and operating there until 2017 by which time the firm occupied the entire building. In 2018, the building was taken over by the Main Street Project and converted into a homeless shelter. Most exterior remnants of Mitchell Fabrics were removed in 2020, with the dismantling of awnings and completion of a new paint scheme.

Photos & Coordinates

Bon Accord Block nearing completion

Bon Accord Block nearing completion (1907)
Source: University of Winnipeg Archives, Western Canada Pictorial Index,
Winnipeg Free Press Collection (A1294, 38758)

East side of Main Street, between Henry Ave and Logan Ave, with Bon Accord Block in background

East side of Main Street, between Henry Ave and Logan Ave, with Bon Accord Block in background (1918) by Robson Studio
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Streets - Main 1918 - 1 [N17272] [Outsize 552].

Bon Accord Block

Bon Accord Block (no date)
Source: Rob McInnes, WP3500

View of Bon Accord Block in left background, looking south from Higgins, two months before demolition began

View of Bon Accord Block in left background, looking south from Higgins, two months before demolition began (16 February 1935) by C. Frank Munton
Source: Archives of Manitoba, C. Frank Munton collection, 3.23.1 [N19802]

Bon Accord Block

Bon Accord Block (March 2017)
Source: George Penner

Bon Accord Block

Bon Accord Block (December 2018)
Source: Nathan Kramer

Bon Accord Block

Bon Accord Block (December 2018)
Source: Nathan Kramer

Bon Accord Block

Bon Accord Block (October 2020)
Source: George Penner

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.90268, W97.13536
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Memorable Manitobans: John Danley Atchison (1870-1959)

Memorable Manitobans: Arthur Matheson Fraser (1852-1948)


“The Bon Accord Building,” Manitoba Free Press, 11 October 1906, page 17.

“Scotch emigration to the Dominion,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 November 1906, page 9.

“To Rent,” Manitoba Free Press, 27 November 1906, page 22.

“Building a railway,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 February 1907, page 11.

“Improvement in North End,” Winnipeg Tribune, 13 March 1907, page 4.

“A fine new structure,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 April 1907, page 2.

“Offices,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 July 1907, page 23.

“Rainfall was exceptional,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 July 1907, page 5.

“Cheapside's opening sale,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 sept 1907, page 11.

“John D. Atchison,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 December 1907, page 36.

“Counsel raps Fraser letter,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 February 1923, page 2.

“Says taxation system same as capital levy,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 March 1924, page 6.

“Court appeals on assessment are opposed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 February 1925, page 13.

“Fraser's assessment appeal occupies entire afternoon,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 March 1925, page 5.

“Court to hear appeal on tax by A. M. Fraser,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 April 1926, page 1.

“City won't buck min. wage for 'teen-age boys,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 16 April 1926, page 8.

“Court decision affects Winnipeg assessment,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 May 1926, page 1.

“City and district [Appeal dismissed],” Manitoba Free Press, 25 February 1927, page 7.

“Appeal notice filed on court decision,” Manitoba Free Press, 15 April 1927, page 6.

“Assessment appeals in excess of two hundred,” Manitoba Free Press, 21 May 1927, page 3.

“City of Winnipeg - Sittings of the Court of Revision,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 May 1927, page 14.

“Alderman object to cutting street weeds,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 July 1927, page 6.

“A. M. Fraser plans for removal from Winnipeg,” Manitoba Free Press, 11 May 1928, page 13.

“Pioneer couple of North Winnipeg congratulated on their golden wedding,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 March 1932, page 11.

“Bon Accord Block purchased by Mrs. M. Wilson, $75,000,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 July 1932, page 24.

“Letter to the Editor [Interpretation of word “Value” in assessment],” Manitoba Free Press, 4 April 1933, page 4.

“Union Mission will open here,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 November 1933, page 10.

Death registrations [Wellington Wilson and Mathilda Ellen Wilson], Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Dies at 70 [W. Wilson],” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 13 December 1933, page 2.

Obituary [Wellington Wilson], Winnipeg Tribune, 15 December 1933, page 4.

Obituary [Wellington Wilson], Winnipeg Free Press, 23 December 1933, page 5.

Obituary [Mrs. Matilda Ellen Morgan Wilson], Winnipeg Tribune, 26 May 1934, page 11.

Obituary [Mrs. Matilda Ellen Wilson], Winnipeg Tribune, 29 May 1934, page 5.

“Owners of Bon Accord Block appeal assessment,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 June 1934, page 3.

“Bon Accord sold; four stories to be taken off top,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 April 1935, page 3.

“Building notes,” Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 27 April 1935, page 15.

“Salvage material for sale,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 May 1935, page 2.

“Man injured in fall down elevator well,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 June 1935, page 1.

“Effect of unjust property taxation,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 December 1935, page 5.

“One class of building which can be erected,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 April 1936, page 24.

“Mr. Justice A. C. Galt, veteran jurist, dies after long illness,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 July 1936, page 3.

Obituary [Arthur Matheson Fraser], Winnipeg Tribune, 3 April 1948, page 4.

Winnipeg civil files (ATG 0012A), #241 - A. M. Fraser vs City of Winnipeg, GR0276, Archives of Manitoba.

Manitoba Court of Appeal indexes and files (ATG 0168), #48/27 - A. M. Fraser vs City of Winnipeg, GR0727, Archives of Manitoba.

Orders-in-Council (EC 0003B), Order-in-Council #38557, GR1530, Archives of Manitoba.

Companies Office corporation documents (CCA 0059), 309B - Bon Accord Clothing Company, GR6427, Archives of Manitoba.

City of Winnipeg Building Permit #495/1906, City of Winnipeg Archives.

637 Main Street - Bon Accord / Mitchell Fabrics Building by Christian Cassidy, Winnipeg Downtown Places.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer, George Penner and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 22 November 2021

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