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Burns Block


Other Names:
Burns Building
Shanghai Chop Suey

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The three-storey Burns Block has a marble clad front façade and flat roof. It is located on a vital pedestrian and commercial street, occupying a single commercial lot across from the Galt Gardens and the Carnegie Library in the Lethbridge downtown core.

Heritage Value
The Burns Block is significant because of its association with the institution of Burns & Co. and is valuable for its association with the commercial development of Lethbridge.

The Burns Block was built in 1911 by Patrick Burns & Co. to accommodate the Main Meat Market butcher shop. P. Burns & Co. was owned by Calgary resident Patrick Burns, who had moved west from Ontario in the 1870s. He began in business by freighting goods and cattle and by 1885 he was purchasing cattle on a full-time basis. With the development of the railway, Burns expanded his business into ranching, meatpacking and meat markets. Patrick Burns became one of the country’s most successful businessmen, eventually serving as a senator. P. Burns & Co. was a major meat supplier and retailer throughout Alberta and British Columba. The Main Meat Market was one of three butcher shops in Lethbridge owned by the company. The others included the 1908 Palace Meat Market, and the 1914 Dominion Meat Market. The P. Burns & Co. operated a meat market at the building from its opening in the early 1910s until the early 1940s.

The Burns Block is valuable for its association with the commercial development of Lethbridge. Built during a period of commercial expansion, the building has housed a variety of professional offices and commercial ventures, including accounting and real estate services, and the Remington Typewriter Company among others.

Gim Wong and Nee Wong (friends from Hong Kong) bought the building in the 1940’s and opened the Shanghai Chop Suey restaurant on the second floor. They rented out the main floor to various businesses over the years; however the restaurant remained and became a landmark. Today, the Shanghai Chop Suey is still owned and operated by a descendent of Gim Wong.

Designed by architect Edward Ernest Carver and originally valued at $20,000, the Burns Block used marble on its front façade – an uncommon building material at the time in Lethbridge. The building originally only had two floors, and was converted to three when the meat market closed. The sculpted roofline with decorative ornaments on each side further accentuates the building as an uncommon and interesting design in Lethbridge. The Burns Block’s rich commercial history attests to the continued commercial viability of the building given its key location in the downtown area, and its attractive design.

Character-Defining Elements
The character defining elements as expressed in the form, massing, and materials of the 1911 three-storey Burns Block, include the:

-rotating sign above door;
-flat roof with stepped parapet;
-exterior brick on south, east, and west walls;
-modillion cornice between second and third storeys;
-lighted sign on sign band;
-centre sign with “BURNS” incised in the marble;
-fenestration of north façade complete with punched openings above and storefront below;
-painted Shanghai sign on west exterior wall; and
-pattern style and detail of marble façade.


Street Address: 610 - 3 Avenue South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Lot 5, Block 33, Plan 4353S
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.69558 -112.83798 Digital Maps NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5506406 367451 Digital Maps NAD83


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2016/11/14

Historical Information

Built: 1911 to 1911
Significant Date(s) 1911 to 1950
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Eating or Drinking Establishment
Architect: Edward Ernest Carver

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0064
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link: https://www.lethbridge.ca/Doing-Business/Planning-Development/Historic-Building-Preservation/Pages/Historic-Resources.aspx
Data Source: Planning & Development Services City Hall, 910 - 4 Avenue South Lethbridge, AB T1J 0P6
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