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Douglas Block

Edmonton

Other Names:
Dreger Block

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Douglas Block is an early twentieth century, three-storey building situated on a single lot in Edmonton's historic Strathcona commercial district. The building possesses a red brick facade and is accented by several classical details, including stone pilasters, keystones above each window, and a central pediment with decorative detailing and the words "DOUGLAS BLOCK" set in relief.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Douglas Block lies in its impressive, classically-inspired architecture. It also possesses heritage value for its association with the commercial development of Edmonton's Strathcona district and its connection to prominent Edmontonians James and Robert Douglas.

In 1899, the settlement of Strathcona was incorporated as a town. In the same year, James and Robert Douglas established a small general goods store in the community. The business produced steady profits and grew; by 1911, the store had expanded into the largest general retail establishment in Strathcona and boasted 16 staff members. The Douglas brothers decided to invest some of their accumulating wealth in real estate speculation. The following year, they commissioned well-known local architects Wilson and Herrald to design a new commercial building to be erected on Whyte Avenue. The Douglas Block was constructed in 1912, during the final years of Edmonton's pre-World War One building boom. It reflects the robust optimism of the period and expresses the civic prominence of the Douglas brothers. James Douglas was particularly esteemed, serving at various times as the President of the Strathcona Board of Trade, the Member of Parliament for Strathcona, and the Mayor of Edmonton. Though the Douglas brothers never housed their own retail enterprise in the Douglas Block, it served as striking symbol of their place within the community and remains a strong reminder of the early commercial development of Strathcona.

The Douglas Block embodies a classically-inspired design. The locally-made red brick exterior is accented by several classical elements, including stone pilasters, keystones above each window, and a stone cornice and pediment. The stone pilasters divide the front facade above ground level into three bays. The symmetry of the front facade, the diachromatic appearance of the brick and stone, and the visual impact of the crowning cornice, parapet, and pediment impart to the building an air of elegance, balance, and stability. At the time of its construction, the building provided floor space for retail outlets and upper floors for apartments. It exemplifies turn-of-the-century boomtown architecture and is an integral dimension of Old Strathcona's historic streetscape.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1000)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Douglas Block include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- flat roof;
- red brick facade and voussoirs;
- stone pilasters, voussoirs, keystones, and trim;
- projecting stone and sheet metal cornice and redbrick parapet with central stone pediment featuring foliate and other decorative designs and words "DOUGLAS BLOCK" set in relief;
- fenestration pattern and style.


Location



Street Address: 10442 - 82 Avenue
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Lot 28, Block 67, Plan I
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
24
52
29
7 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
I
67
28


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.518392 -113.499183 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: 1982/01/05

Historical Information

Built: 1912 To 1912
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Shop or Wholesale Establishment
Architect: Wilson and Herrald
Builder: Congdon and Oliver
Context: HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Robert and James Douglas began their careers as general merchants in Strathcona in 1899. That year, their firm Douglas Brothers Ltd., opened a small store on Whyte Avenue at 104 Street. The store expanded steadily and by 1911 had a staff of sixteen and was the largest general retail establishment in Strathcona. In July 1912, during the heyday of the Alberta building boom, they began construction of a large brick office building designed by architects Wilson and Herrald to serve as a symbol of the success and the prominence that they had achieved in Strathcona.

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE

The Douglas Block is a three-story structure constructed of local red brick which features classically inspired details such as stone pilasters, keystones above each window, and a stone cornice above which rises a parapet embellished with a central pediment inscribed with the words 'Douglas Block'. The Douglas Block occupies a prominent position on Whyte Avenue as one of the larger, more carefully detailed structures of the 1908 - 1914 period. The building has recently undergone extensive interior renovation appropriate for a heritage structure.

(Site Information Summary)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0510
Designation File: DES 1000
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 31225
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. 1000)
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