At just over a century old, the Milnes Block in Claresholm Alberta appears to be in fine shape. In this then and now report we look at this handsome structure, first in 1911 and again how it appears today. As can be seen, it has changed little. For this building, it’s as though time has stood still.
Constructed in 1910, the Milnes Block was located at a prestigious spot on the southwest comer of the two busiest streets in town. It was also close to the train station. Given its commanding position and the solid brick construction, you just knew it was an important place.
The building named after its financier, Thomas Milnes. A prominent figure in the community, he was both an entrepreneur and politician. In the 1910s he served as the town’s mayor.
When the original photo was captured, the corner of the building was occupied by the Dominion Bank. This company was later merged into the present day Toronto-Dominon Bank in the 1950s although it’s not know if the branch seen was still operating by then or not. On either side it appears there were several other businesses also on the main floor. The image is not clear enough to identify them however.
When built, the top floor was occupied by a hotel type business catering to travelling salesmen. In each unit there was a display room to sell their wares along with some small living quarters in behind. Back in the those days, salesmen would travel from town to town (by train) peddling all manner of goods. It was quite common to see this. It’s not know what the top floor is used for today – offices perhaps?
The building is constructed in an Edwardian Commercial style. Many business blocks, retail outlets, warehouses and factories, in small towns and big, were built in this manner – you’ll see them all the time. Features common to this design philosophy include a robust appearance with generally understated and simple accents and an uncluttered layout with large windows and open spaces. Brick was almost always the main building material of choice. This one also has some sandstone elements (accents, sills, keystones, etc) which was not uncommon in Southern Alberta, since deposits of this material could be found all over the area.
The building itself seems to have changed little from then to now. Other that once sat beside it are gone, save for the one brick structure directly to the left of it. It blends in well with its neighbour. I bet no one misses that muddy road!
Clearly the Milnes Block is well cared for and hopefully will continue to serve for some time to come. I understand it retains many of it original interior design elements, including a staircase, wood floors and lath/plaster walls. It is a Provincial Historic Resource and has been recognized as such for over a decade. Several business operate out of it today.
Many documents found by this author (including the old postcard seen in this report) refer to the building incorrectly as as the Milne Block or in possessive form as the Milne’s Block. The name stone on the eastern facade confirms what we already knew and it shows it spelled Milnes, clearly with an “s” and minus an apostrophe.
Claresholm is located a hundred and thirty kilometres south of Calgary and is located along the #2 highway. Home to roughly three and a half thousand people, the town was established in the early years of the twentieth century. At one time a CPR branch line used to pass through town. It arrived in the 1890s before the town was even founded and was closed and abandoned in the late 1990s.
The original image is a scan from a postcard sourced by this author. The postmark is from 1911 and it was sent to a recipient in Burmis Alberta, some 100km away from Claresholm.
If you have an old postcard like the one seen in this report, showing a street scene or building, by all means send it to us. Contact information can be found further down this post. They need not be taken in Southern Alberta and can be from anywhere in Western Canada. Once received (a scan or the original), we’ll visit the spot to see what it looks like today and then we’ll post it to this blog. Originals can be returned.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2014.
Location: Claresholm, AB.