This is a follow up report to one we did approximately a year ago, where were do a casual survey of all the houses, either lived in, empty or converted to businesses, left in Calgary’s downtown core. There are not many left. We lost one since that last report, and at least one more today is what I would say is possibly threatened in some way. We’ll no doubt be doing this again next year and it’ll be interesting to see what will happens by then. I am sure we’ll see more changes.
Before we look at the buildings, let’s clarify how a house qualifies for inclusion here and at the same time define the downtown core. For the former, we’ve kept it simple – a house is a dwelling, used as a residence or formerly used as a residence, that stills looks the part. Downtown is the centre core only, and not its outlying fringes. The Bow River is the north boundary, the CPR tracks the south, the Elbow River is the eastern limits and 14th St the same in the west. I think everyone would agree, these are all reasonable rules.
For the last report, called “Nine Houses” appropriately enough, we had miserable weather. This year’s visit, at least it was warm, but it was terribly foggy. Yuck, such flat light!
1) This example is from the mid-1940s. You might be surprised to hear this but the western section of downtown today, well into the 1970s, was mostly a residential neighbourhood. How the city has changed! On our last visit, it was occupied, but does not appear so this time. Plus it had a yard, which as you can see now is sort of chewed up. I tried to find what was going on with the building but came up short. I do get this gut feeling what ever is happening is not good, in regards its future. A chunk of land like that must be worth a tidy sum, even in today’s depressed markets. Heck if I lived there and developers showed up with a dump truck load of money, I’d be temped.
2) Designs by Manuel, a jewelley firm, owns the next house, located a few blocks away from our first find. Built in 1900, it’s in fine shape and I am sure will be around for some time to come.
3, 4, 5) The next house is empty and was so on our last visit as well. It’s also the nicest one we’ll look at, in our opinion, and it quite majestic. It’s also the only one seen made of brick. It dates from 1911 and right now it’s not exactly clear what will happen to it. No development permits, as of the writing of this report, have been found regarding the property. A small and very old garage can be found out back. I’d to look inside either it or the house.
Surrounding the building is a huge number of tall condo towers. Lots of people live in downtown, even more than in the old days, but almost all live in these types of buildings and not houses in the traditional sense. Next door is a restaurant. At its core is a once similar looking brick house, so heavily modified now that I don’t think it qualifies under the rules.
6) On the other side of the intersection is a former dwelling, a nice one, turned business, yet another jewellery store. Built in the 1910s its future, I would say, is assured.
7) Just a little to the east is a construction site, the former location of the only house lost this year. It was boarded up on our last visit, so we knew it was doomed at that time.
8) The next dwelling we’ll look at is located right behind, is owned by, and is even painted in the same colours, as the church beside it. This would have been the residence for the pastor and his family, but given there is a for-lease sign in front of it, they must be renting it out to the general public. The dwelling is a hundred and one years old and looks great.
9) Moving deep into the core, leaving the condos behind and finding ourselves amongst a sea of huge office towers we find an old home now used as a lawyer’s office. It was built in the early 1910s.
10) Right around the corner is a really oddity, a tiny, tiny house squeezed into an equally tiny lot, flanked on all sides by the big city. This is the most “downtown” of all the dwellings seen and it really looks out of place. It’s set back a bit and once had tall hedges in front (most since cut down) and as such is probably not seem by many passing motorist on the busy road out front.
Amazingly this is the newest of the houses seen in this article. It was built in 1950, which shows you how “new” Calgary’s downtown really is. As was common on post war houses, it is done up in that kitschy broken glass stucco so popular back then. On our last visit it was clearly occupied. Today a for-lease sign can be seen in the front window, which tends to suggest it may get rented out again and so presumably is not under threat of being demolished.
11) For the eighth and last house, we have to make our way to the far east end of downtown. This is the East Village, once a (downtrodden) residential neighbourhood that in recent years has mostly been home to many empty lots and some senior’s towers, but today is going through a rebirth of sorts. Trendy new condos are sprouting up everywhere.
Battered, hardly level and sagging in places, it looks at one time, given its length and that false front, that was it business with a home in the back. It was built in the early 1900s and is the very last dwelling of its type in that part of downtown and is used today as low rent a flop house of sorts. This one also has that retro broken glass stucco.
There you have it, eight houses, and a nice walk about town to document them all. Three of these buildings are used by businesses, are in good shape and as such, presumably, are safe from the wrecker. One is empty and boarded up, but I believe has some historical value so it may not necessarily get leveled. Three more are used for housing, although not all were necessarily lived in on the date of our visit, and also seem to have a future of sorts. Lastly, one does seem threatened, given that people have moved out, there is no sign saying it’s for sale or rent, and that the grounds around it have been bulldozed flat. I’d say something’s up. I hope to be wrong though (for the first time ever).
If things go well, these reports will become a yearly tradition for us and we’ll keep doing them until as long as things remains interesting and there are actually houses still left to document. Let’s hope for an update in roughly a years times.
Update: Silly us, seems we missed one house. I know, we NEVER mess up! There’s a former dwelling, now occupied by a jewellery store (what, another one?) on 6th Ave SW. It’s a fine building too, made of brick, two stories and around a century old.
To see the report we did last years on this same subject, go here…
More reports, then and now style, where we document something in downtown Calgary…
Calgary then and now – Stampede Parade.
Calgary then and now – the party house . Vintage views of houses in the downtown core.
Calgary then and now – Family of Man.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article sources: Calgary property records.
All the places seen in this report are publicly accessible.