Knox’s building is 100 years old in 2017. Construction began in 1914, but was delayed during the war, so it was only completed in 1917. This is the fourth building for Knox – and its construction was quite controversial in those early years. By 1914 the wealthy class of Winnipeggers had largely vacated the downtown area, moving to the new residential neighbourhoods across the river. The presbytery [regional body] wanted Knox to rebuild across the river, where the people with money lived. Knox’s pastor at that time was a fiery character, deeply committed to urban improvement, Dr DuVal. DuVal was enraged by this pressure and so at one presbytery meeting he thundered out “Do not the working poor and immigrant class of our city need a grand cathedral even more than the well-heeled and affluent? Indeed they do. And so we shall build the grandest cathedral of them all, and it shall be for the working poor and immigrant among us! And so they did. They built the largest Presbyterian [& after 1925, United] church in the city, as functional as it was beautiful, with a gym, and classrooms and, instead of a ‘sanctuary’ per se, they built an ‘auditorium’ – making all of the religious symbolism portable, a grand hall for the community to use for many purposes.
At that time, Knox used the newly developed steel in construction, coupled with re-inforced concrete, allowing the balcony to be entirely free-standing. While the exterior was constructed to be quite masculine, with the hard edges and sharp angles characteristic of neo-gothic cathedrals, the interior space was created to be very feminine, almost womb-like with curved lines and soft ambient light. A century ago they were balancing energies! The high ceiling (about 55 feet) is suspended by a grid of steel beams - quite a marvel in its day. Here are some links to sites relating to the history of the building: