History of the Centre

The Centre du patrimoine: its Mission, History and Features

The Centre du patrimoine is an archival and research center dedicated to the preservation, study, promotion and presentation of the Francophone and Métis history of Manitoba and Western Canada. The building’s construction is based on concepts in archival building architecture. The vaults are designed as enclosures within an envelope. Temperature and relative humidity are carefully controlled. The air is filtered through a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which meets the standards stipulated in the conservation policy of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface’s Archives Department.

The Centre du patrimoine’s dynamic and passionate team carries out its public mission and community engagement locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.


The Mission of the Centre du patrimoine

The mission of the Centre du patrimoine is to preserve and promote documents and resources of cultural, heritage, legal or historical value, the result of the presence of Francophones in Western Canada and Manitoba for over 250 years.


The Centre du patrimoine is here to offer you and the entire community:

  • A unique place to learn and discover the Francophone and Métis history of Western Canada.
  • The chance to do genealogical research on Francophone and Métis families in Western Canada.
  • A unique collection of Canadian historical archives – thousands of images and manuscripts, irreplaceable witnesses to Francophone and Métis history and culture.
  • Unique exhibits on the history of the Métis and Francophones of Western Canada.
  • A website visited by citizens from all over the world.


The Heritage Wall

The Heritage Wall that adorns the main entrance to the Centre du patrimoine includes elements of the façade of the former Cauchon Block, later known as the Empire Hotel.

Built in 1881-82 on the southeast corner of Main and York in the City of Winnipeg, the Cauchon Block was one of the most prominent commercial buildings. The plans, by architect Louis-Arsène Desy, were commissioned by Joseph-Édouard Cauchon (1816-1885), a journalist, politician, businessman and Manitoba’s first French-speaking lieutenant-governor. The building opened in February 1883 with eight businesses on the first floor and fifty offices on the other three floors. Particularly noteworthy was its impressive Italianate Victorian-style pressed metal facade with decorative cast iron columns and galvanized iron cladding with zinc detailing. All of these elements were locally made.

The subsequent economic decline forced the sale of the building to the firm of Dunn and Price of Quebec City, and in 1884 it became the first housing building in Winnipeg. Between 1885 and 1897, three fires caused serious damage. Two people died.

Purchased by the McLaren Brothers, the building flourished again when it was refurbished in 1905 as a luxury hotel, now called the Empire Hotel. Business flourished with the development of the Union Station, which in turn led to the construction of other hotels. The Empire Hotel remained open until the 1970s.

A debate over the fate of the building spurred local heritage preservation initiatives, but the building was not spared. In 1982, it was demolished. The Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg agreed with the owner to preserve the façade, elements of which are restored and incorporated into this heritage wall.

An incomparable heritage center, open to the world, the services offered by the Heritage Centre and the resources it preserves touch Canadians of all ages and backgrounds.