It appears that time is running out for the 100 year old Deutsch-Canadier (aka Eastern) Block located on busy MacLeod Trail near downtown Calgary. Neglected and showing its age, the building has been boarded up recently and its future is uncertain. I have been told it may be slated for demolition and signs posted on many doorways seem to suggest that. They state the building is unsafe to enter, which could only mean bad news.
I can’t help but thinks its days are numbered. Shoot it while you can!
Located right behind and owned by the same individual or group, is a slightly older house, also boarded up. I am willing to bet it’s on the endangered list as well.
The Eastern Block was constructed in 1912. Well actually some reports cite 1910, while the city’s own website, at the time of this report anyway, says that date is unknown. Hmmm. Regardless, it was one of the first business blocks constructed outside the downtown core. The area around it at the time was mostly residential although the Warehouse District was not far away.
When built the main floor was home to a multi-language (with emphasis on German) publisher. They produced two German language periodicals, “Der Deutsch-Canadier” and “Deutsch-Canadisher”, a general newspaper and farm style journal respectively. Of course, this explains why the building was named the Deutsch-Canadier Block at the time.
With the coming of World War One, anti-German sentiment forced this publisher to close, although by then they had recently moved to another location anyway. With that, the building was given its current name, the Eastern Block.
The Deutsch-Canadier Block was constructed in the Edwardian Commercial style which was common in the era, especially so for factories and business blocks. Buildings of this type could be elaborate and ornate, or in many cases, like as seen here, would be fairly simple, utilitarian and business like. Large windows and open spaces were a common design element no matter the level of complexity.
As was the case with these types of buildings, businesses occupied the lower level while the upper was apartments. This arrangement was kept, I believe, until the end.
At various times (after the German publisher moved out) the business floor was occupied by a grocery store, a meat shop, pharmacies and far to many other enterprises to mention. In recent memory, a book and collectible shop occupied one end of the building and remnants of its sign remain. Other recent occupants include a Geeks Squad-ish computer repair outlet and a physic reader (I wonder if she saw the building’s demise in the cards?). Signs from these two businesses can still be seen. Over one door was a very neat light fixture which I admit I would love to have.
The building is clearly run down and has been for quite some time. In the 1990s, when I was a truck driver, I delivered some pipe to it and got to go deep inside the bowels of the building. Even back then it was…well…a seriously grimy and filthy dump (no mincing words here). The city does not consider it historically or architectural significant, hence why I believe it will soon fall. No one loves it.
Looking at old photos of the structure, it has changed very little since it was built. Today, a portion of the front facade above the second floor windows is missing, but otherwise it looks much as it did.
For many years now the south facing wall has been used as a sort of ersatz (haha, a German word) billboard. I recall one featuring Einstein selling a nearby condo complex. He must be spinning in his grave! Today, there is a big blue ad pushing a financial investment scheme. I guess this allows the owner to still make some money, even though the building is empty.
MacLeod Trail passes right in front of the Eastern Block. The best angle to photograph it from is across the street – but you’ll have to wait for a break in traffic to get a clear view. Speaking of that, I wonder how many people driving by, thousands of them a day, even notice the building? Not many I bet – everyone’s life is too hectic and busy to pay it any mind.
At the time the building was constructed, the present day MacLeod Trail, which is northbound only, was then known as 2nd Street East. The historic version of MacLeod Trail, until the 1960s was actually located east of the core. It’s a busy road and a main artery into downtown from the south.
Warnings posted on the front of the building mentioned it’s unsafe to enter. They do not clearly state why, although it seems they hint that the building may have a structural weakness.
Behind the Eastern Block is an old house built in 1905, which was occupied until recently. Some historians refer to it as the Vicary Residence, which was the name of a person or family who lived in for a time. While we explored it, which was during an earlier visit in February, the owner, or the person who claimed to be the owner, dropped by and spoke to us. He had little to say about what was the future holds in store for this old house and it’s neighbour the Eastern Block. Perhaps he could see that we appreciate historic buildings and maybe did not want to break the bad news to us. Some one stencilled an interesting Marilyn Monroe image on the house – she’s seen wearing a gas mask. I am not sure what the symbolism means.
The area around the Eastern Block was for the most part residential well into the 1970s and 80s and in fact even until recently a few scattered homes were located nearby. The Vicary House is one of the last such dwellings in the area. Funny how things have come full circle and people are moving back to the area. The dwelling of choice today is condos however. Ugly, ugly condos (IMO).
The Curtis Block, an old and somewhat similar looking two story brick structure (actually three separate buildings joined together) used to sit directly north of the Eastern Block. It was torn down recently and the property converted to parking. I bet they (whoever they are) have big plans for the land, which the Eastern Block and Vicary Residence also sit upon. Remember what I said about condos earlier? I am sure they are on the way.
The subjects seen in the following reports are all located within a couple blocks of the Deutsch-Canadier (Eastern) Block…
Calgary then and now – Louise Block and Bell Block.
The (Big Yellow) Enoch Sales house.
The Big Green Motorhome.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: February and March, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.