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Feature Article

ALFRED MERIGON CALDERON: DESIGNS OF STYLE & GRACE

Written By: Lawrence Herzog
Published By: Real Estate Weekly
Article © Copyright Lawrence Herzog
2004-08-19

Le Marchand Tower

He designed some of Alberta"s most graceful and stylish structures from early last century, yet chances are you've never heard of Alfred Merigon Calderon. His completed works include the Rene LeMarchand Apartments, Sheriff Robertson House, the Jasper National Park Superintendents Residence and Office, the Jasper Railway Station and the Edmonton Club (now demolished).

Alfred Merigon Calderon was born in Middlesex, England in 1861. A report from the City of Edmonton Planning and Development Department says he was the son of Phillip Calderon, a long-time member of the Royal Academy.

The younger Calderon began his architectural career with George E. Street, who designed cathedrals in Rome and Paris, as well as the London Law Courts. Calderon also worked in the office of Charles J. Ferguson and the first work he completed after articling was the design of a London residence for Alma Tameda. After her death, Talmedas residence was purchased by public subscription and presented to the nation because of its beauty and unusual design.

Calderon emigrated to Canada in 1887 and settled in Ottawa. He practised there for eight years, gaining experience designing high city buildings in New York, Washington and Baltimore.

Calderon was one of the architects to participate in the first meeting of the Ottawa Institute of Architects on January 15, 1889. For a time, his Ottawa partner was King Arnoldi, a renowned designer of churches.

Little is known of Calderons private life, but there is a record of his marriage to Helen May Bate in 1896. Professionally, he is credited with two notable Ottawa buildings -- the Lady Stanley Hospital and the Rideau Club. He also designed several private residences, including the home of J.D. St. Denis Lemoine on Wilbrod Street, constructed in 1901.

In 1906, Calderon moved to Edmonton. He arrived here just as the city was shifting into overdrive and architectural expertise was in high demand.

Membership in the Alberta Association of Architects (AAA) was imperative in those days as it differentiated trained architects from draftsmen and builders. Calderon applied for membership on June 21, 1906 -- the same day Roland Lines, another prominent Edmonton architect, also applied. Calderon was accepted as an AAA member at the next meeting on July 20th and was registered #3 in the AAAs roll book.

He was immediately active in the AAA and was named as an examiner for the University of Albertas School of Architecture in 1908 and again in 1909. The Hendersons Directories first listed him as an architect in 1908.

Calderons first notable design was the Edmonton Club, constructed in 1906 and demolished in 1971. Perhaps his best known Edmonton design is the Rene LeMarchand Apartments, which he completed in 1911.

Following instructions from LeMarchand, Calderon designed a grand mansion in the Beaux-Arts classical architectural style, popular in France at the turn of the 20th century. Recessed entranceways, towered over by columns capped with triangular pediments and walls of pressed red brick give the building an impact and heft

Calderon went on to design McIntosh House (1912) and the reconstruction of the Mercer Building (1922) before shifting his focus to Jasper. There he designed the Superintendents Residence in Office (now the information centre; 1913), Jasper Camera and Gift Store, the Railway Station (both 1925), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (1928) and other notable town buildings.

Its a testament to Calderons architectural dexterity and expertise that he could come up with something as grand as the LeMarchand Mansion and then design such rustic mountain structures. My favourite Calderon design is a lesser known one, tucked away in a residential neighbourhood east of downtown. Its the Sheriff Robertson House, built in 1912 as the retirement home for Walter Scott Robertson - Edmontons first sheriff after the formation of the province in 1905.

From its two-storey octagonal rotunda - complete with baronial fieldstone fireplace, alcove and cupola-crowned skylight - to finely detailed woodwork, wainscotting and fixtures, the house endures as one of Alberta"s best examples of "prairie design." The style, popularized by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the first decade of this century, is a simplification of the Chicago School of Architecture. Clean, sweeping lines, abundant windows and locally available materials are trademarks of the form. under the direction of Robertson, Calderon made it much more. Robertson wanted a house with the feel of a hunting lodge and he got it. Today, the structure is one of only two dozen Edmonton residences on the A list of the Register of Historic Resources.

Calderon was 55 years old when he enlisted in the Army in 1916. He went to France with the First Battalion, Edmonton Regiment and served on the Western Front with the Fourty-Ninth Battalion. His military career eventually spanned 18 years in the ranks and 13 years as a commissioned officer. When he retired, he held the rank of Captain.

Upon his return from active duty, he returned to architecture and on January 29, 1920 was elected second vice-president of the AAA. The following January he became president and, at the general meeting that year, gave a paper on domes.

In 1935 the AAA rewarded Calderon for his long service to the organization with a life membership. Captain Calderon died in Victoria, B.C. on July 18, 1936 after a lengthy illness. He was 75 years old.

If you'd like to offer your thoughts, please drop me an email at lawrenceherzog@hotmail.com. For information on reprints of previously published articles, check out my website at www.lawrenceherzog.com


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