Historic Sites of Manitoba: Steele Block / Metropolitan Store (360 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg)
Located at the southwest corner of Carlton Street and Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, this six-storey brick building was named for its owners, local photographers Frederick W. Steele and L. Steele. Designed by local architect W. P. Over, construction began in April 1903 under the supervision of James Young (carpentry), Angus McIvor (masonry and plastering), D. S. Craig (painting and decorating), and Andrew Noden (elevator), with glass-work and related finery managed by the Winnipeg Paint & Glass Company Limited. In its basement were two 75-horsepower boilers, each capable of producing 150 pounds of steam. Water from a 105-feet-deep artesian well was drawn by pumping equipment from the Stewart Machinery Company of Winnipeg and an electric elevator was installed by the Otis Company. The structure, with retail space on the first floor and residential apartments on the upper five floors, opened on 1 March 1904. Initial ground floor tenants included J. E. Lehmann and a branch office of the Canadian Bank of Commerce. The residential suites were outfitted in quartered oak and hardwood floors, and each had independent access to a fire escape.
On 16 October 1911, a switch in the basement was thrown for the first light bulbs in the city lit by hydro-electricity provided by the Pointe du Bois Generating Station via the Rover Avenue Electric Terminal.
The building was later acquired by Metropolitan Stores Limited, though the Steele Block name remained in common usage. The apartments were eventually transferred to the management firm of Oldfield, Kirby, and Gardner. A devastating fire occurred in the morning of 26 March 1941. The blaze raged for eleven hours before being subdued and damage was estimated in the ranged $125,000 to 150,000, a near-complete loss. In spite of the property damage, no lives were lost. During the summer of 1941, demolition of the burned-out premises was managed by the Canadian Wrecking and Salvage Company, and the remains of the upper four floors were removed fully. The facade for the lowest two floors was retained but the rest of the structure was not salvageable. A new two-storey Metropolitan Store was built on the same site by the W. A. Irish Company. The $50,000 premises opened on 26 February 1942. It boasted showcases of South African mahogany and a lunch counter with seating for over 60 guests.
Today, the site is part of the block occupied by the corporate headquarters of Manitoba Hydro.
Photos & Coordinates
“These prices only good until May 10th, 1903,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 May 1903, page 10.
“Building and real estate,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 August 1903, page 12.
“Building and Real Estate,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 August 1903, page 10.
“Interesting items of city and suburbs [New banks],” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 February 1904, page 5.
“New Steele Block nearing completion,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 February 1904, page 3.
“Local news paragraphs [Messrs. Read & Co.],” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 March 1904, page 10.
“We have moved - The Winnipeg Mantel Co.” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 October 1904, page 9.
“100,000 blaze ravages Steele Block,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 March 1941, page 1.
“Morning blaze,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 March 1941, page 4.
“Downtown fire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 March 1941, page 13.
“Steele Block fire is probed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 March 1941, page 15.
“Steele Block fire believed accident,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 April 1941, page 8.
“Slice 4 storeys off Steele Block,” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 July 1941, page 11.
“2 building permits aggregate $115,000,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 October 1941, page 13.
“That sinking feeling,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 October 1941, page 4.
“Outstanding events in Winnipeg's 1941 history,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 January 1942, page 2.
“New Metropolitan Store opens Thursday in Steele Block,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 February 1942, page 9.
“It happened 37 years ago [City Hydro ad],” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 October 1948, page 22.
358 Portage Avenue / Steele Block, Winnipeg Building Index.
This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.
Page revised: 1 December 2023