McINTYRE, ALEXANDER, soldier and businessman; b. 10 March 1841 in Lobo Township, Upper Canada, son of Joseph McIntyre, a farmer; m. 1872 Margaret Malissa Falconer, and they had two sons and a daughter; d. 7 June 1892 in Winnipeg.
Alexander McIntyre was a notable example of the central Canadians who came to Manitoba and who, during the 1870s and 1880s, remade the province into an image of Ontario. Since he was a member of the military expedition under the command of Colonel Garnet Joseph Wolseley* which arrived at the Red River settlement in August 1870, he was among the first of these adventurers but was by no means the youngest. Nearly 30 by that time, he seems to have worked on his father’s farm after completing a rudimentary public school education. He had perfected his skill as a marksman in the Ontario militia, and his involvement in the Red River expedition may have provided him with his first source of capital, obtained in the form of an enlistment bounty.
A military bounty warrant entitled the recipient to select any 160 acres from the apparently vacant territory of the new province. It was probably the sale of such real estate that enabled McIntyre to form a partnership with a Mr McIvor and open the White Saloon on Winnipeg’s Main Street in 1871. From that base, McIntyre continued his speculation in land, especially in the “half-breed scrip” that flooded the land market in 1876. Like bounty warrants, scrip was only redeemable in land. Unlike the warrants, however, scrip was a form of money printed in $20 and $160 denominations. Since scrip was deemed to be currency, not real estate, its major attraction to speculators was that it might be used to obtain credit from a bank to the extent of its full face value. Thinking scrip could only buy worthless land (bald prairie well beyond the river frontage they preferred), most Métis traded it for cash, getting $4 or $5 for each $20 scrip note. Buyers then had the option of using their acquisition either as collateral to command greater credit or as the means to buy land. Either way, a five-to-one return on investment was easily realized. A combination of both uses of scrip enabled McIntyre to expand his business.
By 1879 he was engaged with a new associate and advertising his firm, McIntyre and McCulloch, in the more respectable terms of “Wholesale Dealers in Wines, Liquors, and Cigars.” The firm still operated out of the same Main Street location. After the boom in Winnipeg town-lots in 1880–81, McIntyre set off on his own in the venture that made his name a landmark in the city. In 1882 he contracted for the demolition of several small buildings near the site of his former business and financed the construction of a four-storey office building. Since the work unfolded in three distinct phases, as he acquired the land and managed the financing, the block exhibited several separate patterns of architectural detail reflecting their completion dates of 1884, 1886, and 1890. None the less, contemporary newspapers of the 1890s agreed that the McIntyre Block, mainly built of red brick, was “the largest and finest business structure in the city.”
Certainly the building was McIntyre’s most valuable asset. Preoccupied with its construction, he refused an invitation to contest a seat on the Winnipeg City Council in 1886. His only non-business pursuit was the militia; he was commissioned paymaster of the 91st Battalion of Infantry (Manitoba Light Infantry) in 1889 and kept up his reputation as a skilled marksman. Another reason for his aversion to municipal politics was a chronic, debilitating illness which eventually took him to Los Angeles in the hope of a cure. Returning to Winnipeg evidently in better health, he started work on a palatial private residence, but did not live to see it completed. He left an estate valued at $280,000, of which the McIntyre Block represented $178,000.
The building that was the monument to McIntyre’s career did not last much longer than its builder. Fire consumed it in 1898. William Litchfield, the building manager and the principal administrator of the McIntyre estate, oversaw reconstruction on a larger, more architecturally symmetrical plan. Litchfield’s building was the McIntyre Block that endured for nearly 75 years.
A 20-minute colour documentary film, The McIntyre Block, directed by Bob Lower, was made by the National Film Board in 1977.
NA, RG 15, DII, 1, vols.1479–82. PAM, MG 14, C92. Begg and Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg. Manitoba Morning Free Press, 8 June 1892, 3 Feb. 1898. Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 2 Feb. 1898. I. J. Saunders et al., Early buildings in Winnipeg (Parks Can., National Hist. Parks and Sites Branch, Manuscript report, no.389, 7v., Ottawa, 1974–77). Schofield, Story of Man., 2: 206–9. D. N. Sprague, “Government lawlessness in the administration of Manitoba land claims, 1870–1887,” Manitoba Law Journal (Winnipeg), 10 (1980): 415–41.