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Winnipeg’s Windsor Hotel reduced to rubble following fire

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An historic hotel in downtown Winnipeg that was destroyed by a fire has been demolished.

The City of Winnipeg confirmed Thursday that the Windsor Hotel was officially torn down overnight.

“The WFPS ordered an emergency demolition of the building to ensure the fire was fully extinguished and to ensure the scene was safe when crews departed,” the city said in a statement.

The city added Manitoba Hydro restored power to Beacon Hill Lodge, a seniors care centre located nearby.

Rubble from the Windsor Hotel is seen one day after a fire swept through the historic building. (Image source: Jon Hendricks/ CTV News Winnipeg)

The Windsor Hotel was built in 1903 and in the late 1980s and 90s, through to the early 2000s, the Windsor Hotel was the place for blues music.

Winnipeg's Big Dave McLean was one of many regular performers who loved to take the stage at the hotel.

"It was wonderful man. It was one of the most popular blue venues in Canada," said McLean.

But after the fire Wednesday, which kept crews busy for several hours, fans of the once-marquee venue are now the only ones singing the blues.

"The building has a lot of fond memories for me, and I hate to see it go."

McLean is not alone in that feeling. After being built, the hotel played host to a wide variety of people over the years – everyone from labourers to teachers to even Charlie Chaplin.

"He was part of a touring group that came in from England," said Christian Cassidy, a local history blogger. "These people in these travelling shows would have been very much working class entertainers. I'm sure there were probably two or three people piled into the room with Charle Chaplin."

In 2010, Heritage Winnipeg tried to get the Windsor Hotel designated as a heritage building, but the city didn't agree.

Over the years, it fell into disrepair and the building was ordered to vacate earlier this year due to safety concerns for residents living in the building.

A door is seen amid the rubble of the Windsor Hotel on Sept. 13, 2023. The city completed demolition of the building overnight following a fire. (Image source: Devon McKendrick/CTV News Winnipeg)

"We've got a bigger problem than just how do we keep these heritage buildings maintained. We've got to keep them occupied and viable so that these fires don't start in the first place," said Cindy Tugwell, the executive director of Heritage Winnipeg.

In this case, fire has permanently removed an iconic piece of Winnipeg history from the landscape.

"The building had such a history, whether it was up and rocking or not. It was still the building where it all happened. And now that's going to be gone," said McLean

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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