Tuesday, September 4, 2012

280 Memorial Boulevard - Mall Medical Building / WAG Studio

© 2012 and 2017, Christian Cassidy

Place: Former Mall Medical Building / WAG Studio
Address: 280 Memorial Boulevard (Map)
Constructed: 1947
Architect: Green Blankstein Russell
Cost: $200,000


Mall Medical Building (right) ca. 1940s (Source)

The roots of the Mall Medical Clinic can be traced back to an overseas army hospital in the final days of World War II.

Three Winnipeg-based Jewish doctors:
Alan Klass, David Bruser and Laurie Rabson, one recovering from illness and the others treating him, spoke of what they were going to do once they returned home. They came up with the idea of creating a joint medical practice for returning Jewish physicians.

Joint medical practices were still novel in Manitoba. Two exceptions were the Medical Arts group of 64 physicians which formed in 1923 and the Winnipeg Clinic group in 1938.

The original group of doctors, about a dozen of them with an average age of 38, included: Manly Finklestein, David Bruser, Laurie Rabson, C. H. Taylor, Ruvin Lyons, Sam Easton, N. Brook, Charles Bermack and Alan Klass. They represented a variety of specialties and had all served in the war.

March 4, 1947, Winnipeg Free Press

In early 1947, the Mall Medical Group purchased a piece of land at the north-west corner of The Mall, (now Memorial Boulevard), for $20,000 and hired architects Green Blankstein Russell to design a clinic. John Green is credited with as the lead. Claydon Construction was the contractor.

Ground broke on the two storey building with full basement on March 4, 1947 and the building was open by January 1948.

Aside from offices for the twelve doctors and three dentists, there was a pharmacy, laboratory and diagnostic equipment rooms.

January 6, 1950, Winnipeg Free Press

Shortly after opening, the group joined a unique program in association with the 1,500 member local of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and 15 garment factories.

It was a "welfare and sick" fund into which employers paid the equivalent of five per-cent of their total payroll and employees paid another one per-cent. The fund covered holiday pay as well as medical services and hospitalization costs for employees and their families. The scheme was seen as a model of industry – union relations.

October 30, 1958, Winnipeg Free Press

Sam Herbst was the business manager of the union and credited as the driving force behind the program. After World War II he travelled to displaced persons camps in Europe to recruit employees for the local trade.

In 1958, to celebrate his 25 years with the union, the Mall Medical Group, his union and the garment factory owners funded a $200,000 youth centre in Rehovot, Israel that was named for him. 

Herbst died in 1960.

During construction of the adjacent WAG (Source)

In 1957, the Mall Medical Group built a rental property to the rear of the clinic. It was long-time home to a Sam the Cameraman store.

In 1968, the clinic's future was in doubt when plans were announced for a new Winnipeg Art Gallery building. Originally, the entire triangle of land was to make way for the new building but, in the end, the clinic and its retail property were spared.

By 1990 the Mall Medical Group also ran clinics at 1194 Jefferson Avenue, 1717 Main Street and 1868 Portage Avenue. In 1992, they vacated this location. The group folded in 1996.

The following year, the Winnipeg Art Gallery purchased the building. Thanks in part to a $750,000 infrastructure grant, it converted the space into the Winnipeg Art Gallery Studio that provides art classes.

In September 2010 the WAG announced plans for a $30m Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC) to be built on the site of the former clinic and its rental property. The call for proposals for a three-storey, 45,000 sq. ft. centre was issued in July 30, 2012.

There is still no firm date as to when construction will begin, though demolition of this building got underway in late May, 2017.

My photo album of 280 Memorial Boulevard on Flickr 
280 Memorial Boulevard Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
Early Jewish Physicians in Manitoba MHS
Manitoba Medicine: A Brief History Ian Carr
Winnipeg Art Gallery History WAG

Winnipeg Art Gallery Winnipeg Downtown Places


WAG planning $30m Inuit Art Centre Free Press (Sept 2010)
WAG Announces Architect Selection Process for New Inuit Art and Learning Centre Winnipeg Art Gallery

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