Thursday, January 27, 2011

555 Main Street - Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall

Centennial Centre, Winnipeg
Place: Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall (Website)
555 Main Street
March 27,1968


Green Blankstein Russell Associates; Moody Moore and Partners; and Smith Carter Searle Associates.

Russell Johnson.
Status: Renovations in Process


Emailing: Centennial Concert Hall
Site ca. 1964, Playhouse Theatre on right (source)

Canada's Centennial was a time to think big. Not just in terms of celebratory events like Expo '67 but also for bricks and mortar "legacy projects." Manitoba had two centennial celebrations in a short period, with the province's in 1970, which allowed planners to think even bigger.

In 1960 a plan was fromalized to construct an entire arts district on a five acre site across from the new Civic Centre as a way to “commemorate Canada’s centenary and initiate a broad scheme of urban renewal in Winnipeg’s Point Douglas Area” (source - accessed 2008.) In time it would include a concert hall, museum, planetarium, theatre centre and parkade.

City Hall Overview (Edited)
Ca. 1950s showing future location of Civic Centre and Centennial Centre
Original photo source.

The scheme was not without controversy. The project wold cost tens of millions of dollars, take five years to construct and require the demolition of four square blocks. Boosters of the plan poiinted out that the rejuvination that it would spur along Main Street would more than make up the cost an inconvenience. 

In 1963 a Manitoba Centennial Corporation board, chaired by Maitland B. Steinkopf, was chosen to oversee the planning, construction and fundraising.

Centennial Concert Hall

The 2300 seat Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall was the first building for the new district. It replaced the 800 seat hall in the Winnipeg Auditorium (now Manitoba Archives) building on Vaughan 

On March 27, 1968 Governor General Roland Michener cut the ribbon at an opening reception. The following night a gala opening concert featuring performances by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Theatre Centre and Royal Winnipeg Ballet took place. Dignitaries in attendance included Governor-General Roland Michener and Mrs. Michener, Lieutenant-Governor Richard S. Bowles and Mrs. Bowles, Premier Walter Weir, Secretary of State Judy La Marsh and Maitland B. Steinkopf, chairman of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation and 2,000 others. 

The Concert Hall was a hit. Christopher Dafoe of the Free Press called the building a "proper temple for the arts." (WFP March 29, 1968.) The Royal Winnipeg Ballet scrambled to change the venue for their last concert of the season to the Concert Hall.

Aside from The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Opera, it has hosted thousands of performances including Pink Floyd (1970), The Bee Gees (1974,) Burton Cummings (who launched his solo career there in 1979), the Rusalka Ukrainian Dancers (2003) and The Tragically Hip (2009.)

Since that time the Manitoba Centennial Centre, which still manages the Concert Hall, Museum, Planetarium and Manitoba Theatre Centre, added the MTC Warehouse Theatre, Artspace and the Production Centre for Film to their portfolio of holdings.

Steinkopf Gardens

On May 29, 2009 the Manitoba and Federal Governments announced a $5 million infrastructure project to renovate the Concert Hall. Components include the underground parkade refurbishment, "a new acoustic enhancement system and significant stage sound and lighting improvements" and a redevelopment of the Steinkopf Gardens.


Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall Homepage
Centennial Concert Hall Winnipeg Building Index

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