Construction of the Whalen Building
These photographs of the construction of the Whalen Building in Port Arthur were taken by Forde Studio and bound into a book for James Whalen. He and three associates had formed the Commercial Exchange Building Company of Port Arthur and bought the old car barn site on North Cumberland at Van Norman for the sum of $111,000.00. Whalen promised (and succeeded) to build an eight-story fire-proof building to be ready for occupancy by December 31, 1913.
Architects Brown and Vallance of Montreal changed the skyline of the Lakehead with their design for the Whalen Building. The building was the first "skyscraper" to be built in the City of Port Arthur. The building was constructed 1913-1914 by Canadian Stewart Company, Limited, Montreal, Toronto, Fort William.
The Whalen Building was finished in light grey terra-cotta and trimmed with cream colored and poly-chrome terra-cotta. The building’s terra cotta panels covering the exterior contain carved ornaments including human heads, animals, and floral ornamentation. While many of the individual sculptures are identifiable, the relationship of these to one another is vague. The symbolism identifies the Whalen Building as Canadian and part of the British Empire.
For more information, see "Thunder Bay's First High-Rise and its Terra-Cotta Symbolism," by Patricia Vervoort, SSAC Bulletin SEAC, 1989.