Mar 262014
Deutsch-Canadier block Calgary

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.

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

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.

Rules of exploration: show respect, don’t trespass and take only pictures.

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.

Deutsch-Canadier (Eastern) block

The Deutsch-Canadier (Eastern) block, boarded up and empty.

Eastern Block Calgary

The building is just over a century old.

Calgary Eastern Block

An interesting light fixture.

Deutsch-Canadier block

The sign posted in the entrance way warns its unsafe to enter.

Calgary Deutsch-Canadier block

It was once home to many businesses, including a used book and collectible store.

Deutsch-Canadier block Calgary

I understand the block is slated for demolition but until then it’s being used as an ersatz billboard.

Vicary House Calgary

This circa 1905 house sits directly behind the Eastern Block.

Marilyn Monroe gas mask

Not sure the meaning, but I like it.


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8 Comments on "Deutsch-Canadier (Eastern) Block"

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Bernie Nemeth
Really enjoying your look back series. I actually lived near here once many years ago in a house very similar to the 1905 model pictured above. Room and board was something like $60/month. I was 16 years old, fresh off the farm and attending school at what was known then as the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art and is now known as SAIT. I was taking a course in agricultural mechanics in preparation for my life’s career as a farmer. Rode a trolley bus downtown and transferred at the Bay Parkade for the Crescent Heights trolley for the rest of the trip. Walked up and down this street to downtown many times, but have never once set foot inside the Eastern Block. This was the location where I first resided in Calgary. (next to the firehall) And as for the lifetime career, it turned out to be in the… Read more »

Another old building doomed as you said.
Really just a plain looking building even in its hey day,it was functional looking.
Surprising it lasted so long,the developers wanted to build a Hotel with condo apartments;)
If you search (Deutsch-Canadier) on the City of Calgary web site there is an development application on record.
When you let a building get that run down there is really not a lot you can do with it,unless it’s part of a bigger project.
In the 80’s we lost so many great old buildings,before you could say Heritage.
They could always find faults with an old building if they wanted.
Interesting story Bernie,thanks for sharing it.
As always Chris I enjoy your articles.

Victor Hobart
Victor Hobart

I work for the utilities department and saw a report saying the building suffered some foundation damage due the floods last spring. This is likely why it will fall, although who ever owns it clearly only maintained it to the absolute minimum standards, and a lack of upkeep would be a contributing factor. I bet it was due to be condemned anyway. I could tell by looking at it.

Cassandra P
Cassandra P
I saw your blog post about the Canadier-Deutsche Block and wanted to let you know about a project I am working on. I am a visual artist living in Calgary who previously ran an art gallery and had a studio in this building. After the 2013 floods the building was completely shut down and we have since relocated. We were renting the end store front on the South side of the building and were the last tenants in this building. Being in this space for just over a year was interesting to say the least and I continue to be completely fascinated by this building and the house located behind it. I am currently working on a miniature of Eastern Block that will be displayed with a series of paintings and a book of photographs of the abandoned apartments and store-fronts (that were condemned in Spring 2012, shortly after we… Read more »