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Cousins Residence

Medicine Hat

Other Names:
Former Cousins Home

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Cousins Residence is a two and one-half storey building located on two lots in Medicine Hat, on the south side of the South Saskatchewan River. The original home features a cross-gabled roof, decorative wood detailing and shingle work in the gable end, and a projecting bay window on the side wing. A substantial flat-roofed addition was added to this original construction in 1913.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Cousins Residence lies in its association with prominent early Medicine Hat entrepreneur and politician William Cousins.

In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) arrived in southeastern Alberta and established the townsite of Medicine Hat along its line. The fledgling settlement attracted immigrants to the area seeking their fortune along the track of the transcontinental line, among them young Ontarian William Cousins. Cousins arrived in Medicine Hat in 1883 with a wagon load of goods and established a general store. This initially humble enterprise - run out of a tent - was the beginning of Cousin's seventeen year career in selling general goods in Medicine Hat. In 1897, he constructed a new place of business - known locally as the "Stone Store" - which was a significant building in the community, representing the transition from the wood frame constructions of the frontier to the more impressive brick and stone buildings of a developing industrial economy. Cousins sold his business interests in 1900, but retained control of his small, though important, real estate holdings. Four years later, he had begun working full-time as a land developer. Cousins became an integral figure in southern Alberta's real estate boom from 1906 until 1912, establishing subdivisions adjacent to the townsite of Medicine Hat and in the communities of Taber, Irvine, and Saskatoon. Like other businessmen and entrepreneurs in the developing urban centres of the West, Cousins was also a significant contributor to the cultural and political life of his community. In 1907, he was elected the first mayor of the City of Medicine Hat. His ambitious plans for the city were frustrated and Cousins - disillusioned by public apathy and a hostile press - abandoned public office in 1908 after completing his second term.

When Cousins first arrived in Medicine Hat in 1883, he built a modest log structure for his residence. In 1896, he erected a far more elaborate and spacious residence in an area west of the settlement's rapidly developing downtown core. This neighbourhood had attracted many of Medicine Hat's most prominent citizens and featured a number of impressive homes. Cousin's residence was one of the grandest buildings in Medicine Hat at the time and contributed to the neighbourhood's prestigious ambience. The original Cousins' home, designed in the Stick style, expressed the picturesque aesthetic sensibilities of Victorian culture in its asymmetry - initially magnified by a front verandah wrapping around the side wing - and its decorative elements, including the woodwork and shingling in the gable end of the front and side facades. A two-storey addition was built on the side of the home in the early 1910s and the original verandah was removed, dramatically altering the home's character. Nonetheless, the Cousins Residence still evokes the social prominence of its original owner and some of the aesthetic ideals of the time.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1020)



Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Cousins Residence include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- Random Rubble foundation;
- cross-gable roof on original structure;
- gable ends supported by plain curved brackets and featuring false half-timbering and circular butted decorative shingles typical of the Stick style;
- projecting bay on side wing;
- wooden louvred shutters;
- original window sills, sashes, and storm windows;
- fenestration pattern and style;
- original interior elements, including hardwood floors, balustraded staircase and newel posts, doors and frames with rosette decorative features, baseboards and finial ornamentation, fireplace, mouldings, trims, fittings, and fixtures.



Location



Street Address: 271 - 1 Street SE
Community: Medicine Hat
Boundaries: Portion of Lots 8 and 9, Block 2, Plan 1491
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
5
12
31
5 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1491
1491
2
2
9 (ptn.)
8 (ptn.)



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.038982 -110.683821 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1982/11/29

Historical Information

Built: 1896 to 1896
Significant Date(s)
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Governing Canada : Politics and Political Processes
Historic Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling
Current Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

This resource derives its significance from its association with prominent Medicine Hat businessman and municipal politician, W. Cousins. He began his business career in this community in 1883, as one of its first general merchants. (The community of Medicine Hat was established in 1883, by the Canadian Pacific Railway.) He continued to function as a general merchant until 1900, at which time he sold his business but retained ownership of his real estate holdings. Initially he constructed his business operations from a wood frame store located on South Railway Street and resided in a cottage a block to the west of this store. In 1896, he constructed a new residence considerably west of Medicine Hat's expanding downtown core. In 1897, he built his new "stone store" on Toronto Avenue which constituted a notable addition to Medicine Hat's central housing district since it utilized local stone and brick.

Cousin's retirement from business life lasted for only four years. By November, 1904, he slid into real estate development on a full time basis. In addition to his small but profitable holdings in the central Medicine Hat, Cousins was also one of a number of individuals involved in the development of subdivisions adjacent to the original townsite during 1906 to 1912 real estate boom. He was also a major land developer in other Prairie communities, such as Taber, Irvine and Saskatoon. The recession which began in 1912 brought his career as an effective businessman to an end.

His involvement in local politics covered the years 1907 and 1908 during which time he served as Mayor of the now established City of Medicine Hat. His years as mayor proved to be frustrating despite his initial enthusiasm for the job. His interest was designed by his annoyance at the lack of interest shown in municipal politics by the populace and by "unfair" criticism from local press. He retired from politics in December, 1908 in order to devote his full attention to his land development projects.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0492
Designation File: DES 1020
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 11030
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1020)
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