Tuesday, September 4, 2012

280 Memorial Boulevard - Mall Medical Building / WAG Studio

Place: Former Mall Medical Building
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 the final days of World War II. Two Manitoba doctors at an overseas army hospital, one recovering from illness and the other treating him, talked about what they were going to do when they returned home. They came up with the idea of creating a joint medical practice for returning physicians.

Large, 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 in 1938.

I cannot find record of who the two original doctors were, but the original group of twelve included: Charles Bermack; Sam Easton; David Bruser; Alan Klass; Laurie Rabson; Manly Finklestein and Ruvin Lyons. They represented a variety of specialties and had served overseas.

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 (Memorial Boulevard) and hired architects Green Blankstein Russell to design their 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 12 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. (Rehovot is the birthplace of current Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz.)

Herbst died in 1960.


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. Originally, the entire triangle of land was to make way for the new building. In the end, the clinic and its retail property were spared.

WAG Studio

By 1990 the Mall Medical Group also ran clinics at 1194 Jefferson Avenue, 1717 Main Street and 1868 Portage Avenue. In 1992 Mall vacated this location, (its unclear when the group folded.)

The following year the Winnipeg Art Gallery purchased it. A $750,000 infrastructure grant helped convert it into the Winnipeg Art Gallery Studio that provides art classes.

In September 2010 the WAG announced plans for a $30 m Inuit Art and Learning Centre (IALC) to be built on the site of the former clinic and its rental property. Originally intended to be open for its centennial celebrations in 2012, the call for proposals for a three storey, 45,000 sq. ft. centre was not issued until July 30, 2012. The IALC is expected to open in 2014.

WAG planning $30m Inuit Art Centre Free Press (Sept 2010)
WAG calls for Inuit centre architectural concepts Free Press (July 2012)
Call for Proposals Winnipeg Art Gallery
WAG Announces Architect Selection Process for New Inuit Art and Learning Centre Winnipeg Art Gallery

Early Jewish Physicians in Manitoba MHS
Manitoba Medicine: A Brief History Ian Carr
Winnipeg Art Gallery History WAG

Winnipeg Art Gallery Winnipeg Downtown Places


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