Kenneth McLeod was a real estate developer in Edmonton during the city's first real estate boom. He is best remembered for building the nine-storey McLeod Building in 1912, the tallest building in Edmonton at that time.
Although he was born at Port Elgin Ontario in 1858, Kenneth McLeod grew up on the American frontier when his family relocated to homesteads in Kansas and later Virginia. In 1876, the family returned to Ontario and Kenneth helped his father, Archibald McLeod, operate a sawmill. Kenneth then moved to Winnipeg in 1879 where he worked as a carpenter and a bridge builder for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Hearing rumours the Canadian Pacific Railway would be expanding into the Edmonton region, McLeod decided to relocate. He traveled on foot to Edmonton, leaving August 5, 1881, and arriving November 3, 1881. He bought two lots and built a modest cabin; when real estate prices increased the following year he sold his property for $700 - a considerable profit for the time. With his newfound wealth, he started a carpentry business building boats and buildings. In 1893, he became a city alderman. He was an alderman again from 1897 to 1900, and then again in 1905. While he served as an alderman, he began developing real estate. In 1893, he built Fire Hall No. 1. That same year, he opened a sash and door factory and planing mill in Edmonton. By this time, he had large holdings of farm lands, coal lands, and commercial properties in Edmonton.
McLeod was an ambitious builder. He set out to construct a building that would be 25 feet taller than the eight-storey Tegler building, the grandest structure in Edmonton at the time. In 1913, work began on his nine-storey McLeod Building located on McDougall Street and Rice Street. McLeod was inspired by the Paulsen Building in Spokane, Washington and he commissioned the same architect, John K. Dow, to design it. Built in the Chicago Style of architecture, the McLeod Building was made with terra cotta, ivory tiles and topped with a grand cornice. The building also possessed Edwardian architecture influences including window keystones, coloured tiles and classical ornamentation along the edge of the cornice. The McLeod Building was a colossal project; 1200 tons of steel were used in its construction - much in part because McLeod insisted on 11-square feet footings, enough to withstand the weight of 50 storeys. It was completed in 1915 at a cost of $600 000. Unfortunately, McLeod had run out of money before he could finish the interior. He completed his work with the aid of a city loan, finishing the lobby with a marble ceiling complimented by terrazzo tile. The McLeod Building was an architectural marvel and was Edmonton's first building to feature wired conduit, electric elevators, gas lighting, and a built-in vacuum system. The McLeod Building still stands today. It was declared a Provincial Historic Resource on January 3, 1995. City architect Eugene Dub purchased the building from the province in 1999 and began a massive restoration project eventually converting the space into condominiums.
After completing the McLeod Building, McLeod continued to serve the community of Edmonton as a public school trustee, a member of the Edmonton Board of Trade, and the director of the city's electric light plant. In 1930, Kenneth McLeod retired and moved to Vancouver. He died on July 27, 1940.References
Byfield, Virginia. In Three Wild and Zany Years Edmonton Burst Forth as a City. Alberta in the 20th Century, Vol. 3: The Boom and the Bust 1910-1914. Edmonton: United Western Communications Ltd., 1991.
Edmonton Public Library. Kenneth Archibald McLeod. Retrieved July 10, 2008
Herzog, Lawrence. The story of Kenny McLeod. Real Estate Weekly 24(32), August 10, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008
Government of Alberta. McLeod Building, Edmonton. Historic Places Stewardship. Retrieved July 10, 2008
Wells, Mark. Lofty Problems Plague McLeod. See Magazine, issue 636, February 2, 2006. Retrieved July 10, 2008