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Feature Article


Written By: Lawrence Herzog
Published By: Real Estate Weekly
Article © Copyright Lawrence Herzog

Buildings from 1911 and 1912 lost in time

Between Edmonton's incorporation as a city in 1904 and 1912, the population catapulted from 8,350 to more than 50,000, as newcomers poured into the region. They were drawn by jobs in farming, resource, industry and business sectors, and the opportunity to own land.

After Edmonton was chosen in 1905 as the capital of the province of Alberta, others came to work in the new government of Alberta. To meet all the demand, hundreds of new buildings were constructed.

Some of Edmonton 's great surviving landmarks were built during this heady time, including the Alberta Legislature, Rutherford House, Lemarchand Mansion, Magrath Mansion and a couple of dozen classic schools and churches. Others, like the city's grand court house, the Tegler Building, the original Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Canadian Pacific Railways Building, have been lost to time.

These, and other lost buildings, can be viewed at the Edmonton Public Library's excellent history website at www.epl.ca/EdmontonPortal. Here's a look at a few of the buildings that were constructed in 1911 and 1912 and later demolished.

Court House, 1908 to 1912

Constructed starting in 1908 and finished in 1912, the old Edmonton Court House was a classically influenced building that occupied nearly 40 metres of frontage (122 feet) along 100th Street just north of 102nd Avenue.

Distinguished by six massive Greek influenced columns atop a granite foundation and clad with sandstone, the impressive building cost more than $250,000. It was designed by the province's Department of Public Works, with final oversight by Allan Merrick Jeffers, the provincial government architect who is credited with the design of the Alberta Legislature.

Inside, the classical elegance continued with more Greek columns around a rotunda, a staircase made of marble, plaster and ornamental iron, skylights, panelled bronze doors, and oak panelled courtrooms. Construction was beset by a shortage of materials and the building wasn"t completed until the summer of 1912 -- two years later than first anticipated.

In 1954, an addition to the main building doubled the number of courtrooms to eight, but even the extra space couldn"t handle the ever increasing workload. The building's march to a sad demise gained steam in 1962, when Edmonton passed the Civic Centre Plan.

That plan was the beginning of the end for every single historic building fronting Sir Winston Churchill Square. The Market Building, the Post Office, the Court House and the Civic Block (Edmonton's first brick municipal hall) were all demolished between 1964 and 1995.

Even the learned opinion of Vermont landscape architect David Kiley, who designed the park for Sir Winston Churchill Square and called it "the most beautiful building facing the square" did not sway our councillors in their determination. The property that housed the Court House was sold to Woodward's for $675,000 and was part of a land swap that saw the province acquire the land that now houses the Law Courts Building west of 97th Street and south of 103rd Avenue.

In the summer of 1972, the Court House met its fate with the wrecking ball. In its place, a new Woodward's store, part of Edmonton Centre, was built.

Tegler Building, 1911 When the Tegler Building came crashing down in a blast of dynamite at 9:23 the morning of December 12, 1982, a building that had been an integral part of downtown life in the city for more than 70 years was, in an instant, no more. The well-loved Edmonton landmark was constructed in 1911 on a 100-foot frontage at the southeast corner of 102nd Avenue and 101st Street by Robert Tegler, who had arrived in Edmonton from Ontario in 1901 and then got into the real estate business.

Tegler knew opportunity when he saw it and when James Ramsey, a retailer from eastern Canada, agreed to lease 18,000 square feet of the main floor, the development was in motion. Ramsey's Department Store went on to become one of Edmonton's most successful merchants of all time.

Edmonton architects Herbert Alton Magoon and his partner George Health MacDonald designed a classically styled six-storey office building, clad in red brick and sandstone. The Classical detailing included corner quoins, pilasters and a two-storey balcony with engaged tonic columns and a balustrade which accented the upper floors. The sandstone was quarried from Rocky Coulee near Fort Macleod while most other materials, excepting items like marble and oak, was sourced locally.

Tegler originally intended the structure to be steel frame with wooden partitions. But the construction tender from George A. Archibald Company of Calgary proved to be so favourable that he decided to use concrete and make the building fireproof throughout, the first in the city.

James Ramsey's store was bought by Eaton's in 1928. The main floor of Tegler's Building eventually became Zellers.

When the Tegler fell in a great cloud of dust that December morning in 1982, it angered many Edmontonians and overnight gave birth to the heritage movement that continues to grow. Several significant parts of the grand old structure were salvaged, including the ornate balconette, Ernest Huber's 1914 mural of early Alberta life which graced the lobby above the elevators and chunks of marble.

Some of that marble ended up in fireplaces built in six new cabins at Jasper's Alpine Village in 1990. The balconette and mural were used in the construction the Tegler Manor at 9943 110th Street.

Canadian Pacific Railways Building, 1912

Demolished by the City in 1993 in the face of a campaign by citizens to save it, the Canadian Pacific Railway was Edmonton's last vestige of early railway operations on Jasper Avenue. Constructed in 1912, the seven-storey building at 10012 Jasper Avenue was also one of the city's first steel frame buildings.

In its lifetime, the CPR Building was home to railway ticket and telegraph offices, a freight terminal and a mortgage company. It was even the broadcast headquarters for CFRN Radio for some 30 years. Created by Winnipeg architect W. Wallace Blair, design flourishes included massive stone columns and intricate relief sculptures depicting the coats of arms of Alberta and British Columbia, a farmer and a plow in a field, aboriginals and the CPR crest.

In 1969, the magnificent facade was concealed under a false "cheese grater" front and low grade concrete. When they were peeled away in March 1993, what was then known as the Tower Mortgage Building was transformed from an ugly duckling into a swan, revealing one of Edmonton's most spectacular remaining examples of classical revival architecture.

Unfortunately, city council voted eight to three to demolish the building and replace it with a two-storey handbag store that went out of business a short while later, leaving the space vacant for years. In one of the most idiotic moves of all time, the City decided that some of the significant elements from the CPR Building should be grafted onto the front of the new structure " curios of a dismembered past as a perpetual reminder of the irreplaceable loss.

Next week: Vanished Buildings of the 1913 Boom

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