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Victoria Block – Ouellette Avenue – 1893 – 1945

Today we take a look at one of the downtown buildings from Windsor’s past. This building stood on the s.w. corner of Ouellette and Chatham St., where the Royal Bank is today. Romanesque in style, the building was designed by architects Maycock & Newman. The three story building was built with shops on the ground floor, offices on the second and the third reserved for Lodges.

It was originally commissioned by the mayor of Windsor at the time, Oscar Fleming and I believe his brothers. Somewhere along the line, the building became known as the Victoria Block.

The final design varied slightly from the rendering above, as the corner turret was never built. It was a very impressive structure, and was home to Kresge’s until the night of December 23/24, 1945.

At 12:05 am on Dec 24th, a fire was spotted in the building, and the blaze was described as “the biggest fire in Windsor’s history”.

The fire raged all morning, and into the next afternoon, and when all was said and done, the building was destroyed. Damage was pegged at $1,000,000 (adjusted for inflation, $1 million 1945 dollars = $12.7 million today)

    “The photo above shows the Victoria Block as it looked in the cold light of early dawn after the fire that destroyed its stores and offices was subdued by the eight-hour fight of the Windsor Fire Department, directed by Chief Clarence J. DeFields. The fire was discovered around midnight and the fire trucks arrived at the downtown intersection at 12:05 am. At the time the picture was taken the firemen were mopping up the smouldering embers deep in the debris of the three-story building and one of the firemen can be seen directing a stream of water in the interior as others try to shovel away the thick ice formed on the sidewalk. The ice hanging from the walls of the Victoria Block gave it a Christmasy look but hide the black smoke stains that the ruined building will present to Ouellette avenue. Another fireman can be seen atop the Woolworth building to the left as he inspects the damage done to it. At one time it seemed that the fire fighters would not be able to save the adjacent buildings.”

Kresge’s rebuilt on the same site, and the site is now home to the Royal Bank.

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