Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. 2, Brandon, Manitoba

Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. 2, Brandon, Manitoba

Posted on: October 18, 2018 7:15 am

This eye-catching exhibition hall, located in Brandon, Manitoba, was built in 1913. Designed by architects Shillinglaw and Marshall, it is a rare surviving structure associated with the Dominion Exhibition, an agricultural fair held annually in various Canadian towns and cities from 1879 to 1913 to promote progressive farming methods. With its classically detailed entrance facades and domed corner pavilions, the building is a good example of the exhibition halls inspired by the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known as Chicago’s World Fair. It has clear roots in the tradition and style of this building type, and expresses very well the exuberance and monumentality of its Beaux-Arts models. Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. 2 evokes both the festive character of the fair and Brandon’s vital role in the agricultural development of the Canadian West.

While agricultural fairs have a long history in Canada, in the mid-19th century, agricultural and industrial exhibitions became increasingly popular events in Canadian cities and towns. Imbued with the idea of progress, these exhibitions not only informed farmers about the latest agricultural methods and machinery, they also displayed a wide variety of manufactured and agricultural goods, from livestock to sewing machines, to both urban and rural audiences. In 1879, the federal government established the Dominion Exhibition, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture. First held in Ottawa, it became an annual event that rotated around the country. When Brandon was selected for the Dominion Exhibition’s location in 1913, it was already a significant agricultural centre with a well-established tradition of agricultural fairs. Using the $50,000 grant awarded to the host city, the local agricultural association set about creating a permanent park on a suitably grand scale. Several new buildings were constructed, including Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. 2. Meant to serve as a display hall, this single-storey building had an open plan with large windows to provide natural light. Its exterior is showy and grand, reflecting Beaux-Arts principles of design. Painted white to give the appearance of stone, its rectangular form is firmly anchored by large corner pavilions and prominent classical porticos centrally located on the principal facades. Like a number of other exhibition halls built in the early 20th century, its Beaux-Arts style can be linked to the architecture at the influential and dazzling World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. Dominion Exhibition Display Building No. 2 is a rare surviving example of the type of exhibition halls built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for agricultural fairs in regional centres across the country. In 1999, the building was designated as a national historic site and a decade later, restoration efforts began with the goal of returning the building to its former glory.

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