Memorable Manitobans: Charles Arnold Barber (1848-1915)
Born in Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1848, he apprenticed as an architect and opened his own practice in 1870. He moved to Winnipeg in 1876 and, with his brother Earle William Barber, headed the architectural firm of Barber & Barber which designed many buildings before, during, and after the city’s first boom, which ended in the early 1880s. Many of their buildings were ornate, often with Italianate flourishes. They designed the Winnipeg City Hall (1883-86) in Victorian eclectic style.
There were constant rumours of corruption and dishonesty against Barber, a rival architect describing him as “an artist truly whose canvas is that of cunning and whose tools are those of deception.” At one point, it is believed that he practiced with architect James R. Bowes.
Barber left Winnipeg in 1887 following a charge of election bribery, and returned in 1892. In Montreal in 1903 he and his wife were arrested for extortion with violence, and the court heard that they had behaved similarly before in many other cities. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. He died at New Westminster, British Columbia on 22 September 1915.
Some of his architectural works in Winnipeg included:
Death registration, British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Quiet Dignity: Aspects of Building Schools in the Winnipeg School Division No. 1, 1871-1928 by Giles Bugailiskis, MA thesis, Department of History, University of Manitoba, 1990.
Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada: 1800-1950
Utility Building / Bawlf Grain Exchange II (164 Princess Street), City of Winnipeg Historical Buildings Committee, June 1979.
J. Bowes & Son, Architects in Ottawa by Elizabeth V. Krug, Bytown Pamphlet Series No. 73, The Historical Society of Ottawa, 2008.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 23 April 2022