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Collier's $7500 House


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Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Collier’s $7500 House is a T-shaped five-level split house situated on a large corner lot in the London Road neighbourhood in the City of Lethbridge. The Modernistic Cape Cod home features a T-shaped plan with Dutch gable roofline, an asymmetrical entryway, wide lapped wooden siding, and prominent corner extruded windows at the second storey. An attached garage and attached greenhouse are located on the north side of the property.

Heritage Value
The Collier’s $7500 House, built in 1942, is highly significant for its innovative design, and as a symbol for new expressions of modern living in Lethbridge.
The plan was purchased by the first owners of the house from Collier’s Weekly magazine in 1937, an influential US-based magazine that ran from 1888 to 1957, and had two million subscribers at the height of its circulation. Designed at a time of recovery from the early part of the decade during the Great Depression, the plan was designed to experiment with new ideas in interior space planning for more modest residential clients who could no longer afford the luxury of a large, traditional house. In the 1930s, Lethbridge had embraced the Period Revival style, a time of cozy, entrenched traditionalism and the last stage in the development of traditional architecture at the threshold of the modern era. Nothing too modern was acceptable. The design of the residence was considered highly progressive at the time, as one of the first split-levels in Lethbridge and for its innovative space planning. The T-shaped five-level split plan with a connected garage, ingeniously considered space and function, delineating the main public spaces such as the living, dining rooms and kitchen as connected and open concept in the one storey portion, with more private living spaces in the two-storey portion. Each level in the two-storey portion of the house was connected by a half-flight of stairs with each floor having a specific function: laundry in the basement, flex space for an additional room on the first floor; kitchen, living and dining room on the second floor; children’s bedrooms and main bathroom on the third floor and master bedroom on the fourth floor. The interior features innovation in space provisions utilizing built-in storage, display space, and furniture including seating in the living room and a desk and bunk bed in the children’s room. The large rectangular box projecting from the roof is the master bedroom’s closet.

The plans were designed by a prolific and progressive architectural team of New York architects, Fordyce and Hamby, whose most well-known design was the James V. Forrestal Building (1969), the United States Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, DC. The architects’ goal for the plan was to design a modern yet economical house for Collier’s Weekly that had the “comfort and dignity of living in a large house, with the convenience and the cost of a small one” (Colliers Weekly, April 3, 1937). The plans were designed from the inside out, focusing on rational floor plans and thoughtful use of space.

Collier’s $7500 House is further significant as a rare and early example of the popular Cape Cod inspired Modernistic style. This residence represents an early expression of the modern movement that would eventually dominate as the primary building type in the city. The Cape Cod style, originating in the eastern US, features steeply pitched rooflines, clipped gables, a large central chimney and minimal ornamentation. Cape-cod modern houses were immensely popular with the middle class, as they were affordable and well-suited to the suburban ideal; clean. The home represents this style through its prominent Dutch gable roofline, its extruded bay windows at the second storey, its prominent ‘chimney’ in the form of a rectangular box, and minimalist wide lapped siding. Elements such as its glass block, ribbon windows, and blank walls, bridge the traditional period influences.

Collier’s $7500 House is further significant for its association with the original owners of the house, Marian and Noel Brandley from Stirling, and prominent second owners, Robert and Edith Niven. First owner, Noel, a district rancher from Stirling, with his wife, Marian (nee Proctor), purchased the house plans from Collier’s Weekly for $3. The couple with their three children, moved to Lethbridge and had the $7500 house constructed for a cost of $14,000 by Oland Construction. Shortly after its completion, Marian was called to a mission in Montreal; Noel married Marian’s sister, Kathleen in 1946 and had six more children. They sold the house and moved out to Lazy 7 Ranch south of Monarch in 1949. The second owners, Robert and Edith Niven owned the house for nearly 45 years from 1953 to 1987. Robert Niven, a pioneer family in Lethbridge was a partner in Niven Brothers, a truck equipment company started in 1912 in Lethbridge. Edith was an avid gardener and active member of the Lethbridge and District Horticultural Society. The Nivens had the greenhouse constructed on the front of the house.

The Collier’s $7500 House is also valued for its connection to Lethbridge’s arts community. Several of the home’s owners were prominent artists including Wilfred Roy Beny, a well known artist and photographer, Jeff Spalding, internationally recognized artist, writer, and former director and curator of the Lethbridge Art Gallery, (1988-1998) as well as several artists, graphic designers, curators, and professors at the University of Lethbridge.

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Collier's $7500 House include:
-location on a corner lot at 7th Avenue South and 13th Street South in the inner city historic neighbourhood of London Road;
-set back from the road, centred on property;
-well landscaped lot with mature trees;
-later added greenhouse attached to exterior of the front of the house;
-form, scale, and massing of house as expressed by its: one and two-storey T-shaped split-level plan; medium-pitched Dutch gabled roofline with narrow overhanging eaves and closed soffits on one and two storey portions; second storey overhanging on south façade to provide shelter for doorway;
-masonry construction including: concrete foundation and smooth white stucco-at gable peaks;
-Cape Cod elements including: extruded bay corner windows on two storey portion; simple wide lapped siding; Dutch gable rooflines with clipped eaves at gable peak; large rectangular box mimicking prominent interior chimney; louvres at gable peaks;
-modern-style elements including: ribbon windows; minimalist detailing; window with glass block at basement level;
-fenestration such as: triple assembly, 1-over-1 wooden-sash casement windows with exterior storms in extruded bay windows; wooden-sash casement windows in ribbon assembly with wooden exterior storms; multi-pane wooden sash windows with multi-pane storms at basement level; original wooden door with three stacked horizontal panes, original Art Deco inspired hardware and original wooden storm door;
-additional elements including: original doorbell, mail slot, milk door; lighting; attached garage with extended roof awning; and
-original interior elements including: five-level split floor plan with one to two rooms per floor, organized by activity; curved ceilings; stairways with curved closed balustrade with circular cut-outs; original art deco hardware; inlaid linoleum floors; built-in cabinets, closets, and display space; built-in furniture including telephone desk, seating in living room, buffet in dining room, bunk-beds, desk, wardrobe in master bedroom; closet in rectangular box; access to balcony off master bedroom.


Street Address: 704 - 13 Street South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Portion of Lot 5, Block 8, Plan 5728S
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
Portion of Lot 5

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.689314 -112.824518 Digital Maps NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2016/06/13

Historical Information

Built: 1942 to 1942
Significant Date(s) 1942 to 1942
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling
Current Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling
Architect: Fordyce & Hamby (New York)
Builder: Oland Construction Co.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0425
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 97659
Website Link:
Data Source: City of Lethbridge City Hall, 910 - 4th Avenue South, Lethbridge, Alberta T1J 0P6
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