” At night a woman’s ghost walks back and forth between the five front windows”, said our guide as he led us on a tour of Winnipeg’s Millenium Centre, formerly the Canadian Bank of Commerce on Main Street. The tour was part of Winnipeg’s Doors Open event last weekend.
The ghost who supposedly floats by these five tall windows is that of a bank secretary who died in the building. Her story was just one of the interesting things I learned when I joined a tour of the Millenium Centre led by Mitch Rouire. Mitch’s company Storm Catering is in charge of all the events that happen in this former bank building.
I was interested in touring the Millenium Centre because many years ago there was an art installation there by artist Wanda Koop about a trip she and her mother made to her mother’s birthplace in Ukraine. I found the installation very moving and meaningful. The story of the exhibition was made into a movie In Her Eyes which I often showed to my high school students.
The 14 foot high ceiling in the main part of the Millenium Centre features this impressive lit dome.
The cavernous main lobby of the former bank has Corinthian columns and marble walls and floors.
The day I visited, the main floor of the Millenium Centre also featured a display of historical wedding attire courtesy of the Costume Museum of Canada. The Millenium Centre has become a popular venue for Winnipeg weddings. The Costume Museum which is temporarily closed, houses many of its artifacts at the Millenium Centre.
We got to peek into the vault. We learned that in the basement under this section of the building there was a stable for the horses and wagons that transported money to the bank from all across Western Canada.
I went into the opulent bank manager’s office with its walnut woodwork and leather chairs.
The manager even had his own sitting area and fireplace.
We saw the office where the ghostly secretary probably met her demise. Women spent the night here bringing the bank’s accounts up to date, recording the amounts of every cheque cashed in individual ledger books for each banking patron. These ledgers were moved up and down from the vaults many floors below with a hydraulic elevator.
The bank superintendent’s office had an ornately carved ceiling, a fireplace and a private bathroom all done in marble. An X on the floor in the centre of the room marks the spot where the second last superintendent of the bank committed suicide.
They say the superintendent’s ghost haunts the stairwells during social functions at the Millenium Centre. The story may just be a ploy to prevent guests from wandering around the dark corridors of the building on their own.
Mitch took us up above the dome and we were surprised to find it was lit by flourescent and not natural light. The dome was very dusty and dirty. Mitch said they cleaned it once but then it was much too bright down on the main floor.
We learned that many Hollywood movies have used the Millenium Centre for a set, including Shall We Dance, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Divide and The Arrow.
On either side of the lobby as I exited the Millenium Centre were these intricate engravings. This one is titled Banking and shows a banker receiving funds from two citizens.
This one titled Commerce shows a banker accepting sheaves of wheat from merchants. This is very appropriate since Winnipeg’s Exchange District where the old bank building stands, was the site of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. Grain drove the economy of Winnipeg for many decades.
I was glad I had a chance to take a tour inside this magnificent building just two blocks away from my home. I am looking forward to going there again at the end of June when I am invited to a wedding reception at the Millenium Centre. I wonder if I’ll see any ghosts?