Manitoba Historical Society
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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Assiniboine Block / Empire Hotel / Cauchon Block (171 Main Street, Winnipeg)

Designed by architect L. A. Desy and constructed in 1883 for Joseph-Edouard Cauchon, Manitoba’s first francophone Lieutenant Governor, the building was intended to be a commercial building but an economic slowdown made it difficult for Cauchon to rent out space, and he was eventually forced to sell it to a new owner, who converted the Empire into the city’s first apartment block. In 1896, after a fire, the building was extensively renovated to become the Assiniboine Block, Winnipeg’s first apartment block. It was again transformed in 1904-1905, under the supervision of architect Alexander D. Melville, into its longest-standing incarnation, the Empire Hotel, after the Canadian Northern Railway’s main line and yards were established at the rear of the site.

In 1974, Great West Life Assurance Company purchased the building and an adjoining lot. After a feasibility study found the building too costly to renovate, parts of its unique metal facade were removed and the rest was demolished in 1981. The facade was reconstructed in the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre. For this, the St. Boniface Historical Society and Corbett Cibinel Architects were given a Heritage Winnipeg Conservation Award in 2000.

Assiniboine Block, later the Empire Hotel

Assiniboine Block, later the Empire Hotel (circa 1903)
Source: An Illustrated Souvenir of Winnipeg

Empire Hotel

Empire Hotel (circa 1912)
Source: Rob McInnes

Facade of the Empire Hotel in the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre

Facade of the Empire Hotel in the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre (March 2017)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.88990, W97.13523
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

The Early History of the Cauchon Block, Later the Empire Hotel by Randy Rostecki
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 21, Number 3, Spring 1976

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Abandoned Manitoba

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba Plaques for Persons, Events and Sites of National Historic Significance

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Provincially Designated Historic Sites

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Municipally Designated Historic Sites

Some Old Winnipeg Buildings by Randy Rostecki
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 29, 1972-1973 Season


Empire Hotel Facade Remnants, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch.

Glines House / Tremblay Apartments (55 Hargrave Street), City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, July 1989.

Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, 1800-1950 by Robert G. Hill, Toronto.

We thank Rob McInnes for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 14 August 2020

Historic Sites of Manitoba

This is a collection of historic sites in Manitoba compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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