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A. Macdonald Building

Edmonton

Other Names:
MacDonald Building
MacDonald Lofts

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The A. MacDonald Building is a four-storey, red brick former warehouse and office structure located on two city lots just north of the former Canadian National Railway (C.N.R.) yards in downtown Edmonton. The designation applies to the exterior envelope of the building and land.

Heritage Value
The historical significance of the A. MacDonald Building lies in its provision of structural evidence of tremendous commercial growth of Edmonton prior to World War One, and of the city's role as a distribution centre for the provision of supplies to the developing regions to the north and west. As this produce was shipped to the northern reaches of the province by rail, the building is also representative of the central role played by the Canadian Northern Railway in the development of Edmonton and the city's warehouse district. Furthermore, it is a very good Albertan example of an early twentieth century warehouse building in the classical revival style.

MacDonald's Consolidated, the primary occupant of the structure from 1914 to 1949, was a pioneer wholesale grocery distributor in Western Canada during the period of settlement and urbanization, in the decade before World War One. It became one of three largest wholesale grocery suppliers in northern Alberta. The manager and principal owner of Macdonald's, Harry H. Cooper, was influential in helping make MacDonald's Consolidated a household name in Edmonton, and as a leader in Edmonton's business and civic life.

In 1965, it was replaced by a new warehouse to the northwest, as most manufactured foods were now being shipped out of Edmonton by truck and not rail. In 2001 it was renovated from an open warehouse to condominium apartments. It remains one the tallest and most attractive of the pier-and-spandrel style of buildings in Edmonton's historic warehouse district, and as such is an important landmark.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des 2103)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the A. MacDonald Building are those of an early twentieth century warehouse building in the classical revival style. They include:
- form, scale and massing;
- heavy timber post and beam system;
- restored red brick facade on stone base;
- masonry detailing including roman arches with keystones, rusticated columns, brick pediment, low peaked parapet, and vertical pier and recessed spandrel motif on the south and west elevations;
- four large arched loading bay doors on the west elevation;
- remnants of signage on the east facade [Macdonald's Consolidated Limited, Wholesale Grocers - - Fruit Merchants] and south [Cartage/Storage]; name plaque above entry;
- fenestration pattern on north, west and south elevations; double-hung windows;
- entablature with paired stone pilasters framing the main doorway on south elevation;
- row of brick corbels above the fourth storey windows.



Location



Street Address: 10128 - 105 Avenue
Community: Edmonton
Boundaries: Lots 231 and 232, Block 1, Plan B3
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
24
53
5
8 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
B3
B3
1
1
232
231



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.548137 -113.495135 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: 2003/05/21

Historical Information

Built: 1913/01/01 To 1914/01/01
Significant Date(s) 1914 To 1949
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Warehouse
Current Function(s): Residence : Multiple Dwelling
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the A. Macdonald Building lies in its provision of structural evidence of the tremendous commercial growth of Edmonton in the years leading up to World War One, and also of the role which Edmonton played as a distributor of goods and supplies - in this case, mainly food products - to the developing regions to the north and the west. In this regard, the building is also representative of the central role played by the Canadian Northern Railway in the development of Edmonton. In 1919, the Canadian Northern was amalgamated with the Grand Trunk to form Canadian National. The A. Macdonald structure is important too in its representation of a certain stylish aspect of Edmonton's downtown warehouse district, where the buildings were not all monotonous in design. The manager and principal owner of Macdonald's Consolidated, H.H. Cooper, is also important not only in developing his company and helping make its name a household name in Edmonton, but in his community activities as well.


HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Among the measures taken by Wilfrid Laurier to develop the northern portions of the North West Territories around the turn of the 20th century was committing the Dominion government to the assistance of the Canadian Northern Railway in its endeavour to reach the Pacific Ocean. With influence from the new Minister of the Interior, Edmonton's Frank Oliver, it was assured that this railroad would intersect Edmonton. When the grade for the new line was surveyed north of 104th (then Mackenzie) Avenue in the downtown core in 1904, it was evident that much of the property off the grade would be given over to warehouse development. Though it was then uncertain in what direction the Canadian Northern would extend out of Edmonton, it was assured that this line would open up considerable portions of the young city's vast hinterland to the west and north. Considerable quantities of equipment, goods and food products were certain to soon be on their way out from Edmonton to these areas as they became settled.

As the line was being completed, a 'warehouse district' began to develop in downtown Edmonton west of 103rd Street and south of the new rail line, along three avenues which were named for the great rivers of the Northwest, the Athabasca (102nd Ave.), the Peace (103rd Ave.) and the Mackenzie (104th Ave). Among the companies to grasp the advantage of establishing a wholesale business in this district was the A. Macdonald Company, headquartered in Winnipeg. In 1905, this Company set up a large brick warehouse on the west side of 103rd Street just south of Athabasca Avenue. Its manager was Harry H. Cooper of Hamilton, who had served the Company for years. In addition to warehousing, the Company operated a mail order business from this premises and also leased a portion of the building to other firms.

In 1910, the Canadian Northern began to extend a line west from Edmonton towards the Yellowhead Pass; it would eventually go on to Vancouver. A year later they extended a branch line to Athabasca, and another one to Onoway and eventually Whitecourt. Though their projected line for the Peace River district fell through, another company, the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway began to construct a line to this region in 1912. The E,D and BC line was directly connected to the Canadian Northern line at the City's northwest boundary. As a result, the warehouse district of downtown Edmonton was made to expand even more, and soon facilities were developed on the north side of the track, along 105th Avenue.

Among the firms to establish a new warehouse along the north side of 105th Avenue was the A. Macdonald Company. During 1913-14, it erected a new large decorative four-storey warehouse and office building just west of the City's main north-south artery, 101st Street. This put the Company closer to the railway tracks than it had been before. Though date of construction cannot be exactly pinpointed, the facility appears in the Henderson's Directory for 1914. It was identified as Macdonald's Consolidated Ltd., reflecting a corporate change which had recently occurred in the Company. Due no doubt to the enormous expansion of business in Edmonton, Harry Cooper was able to invest heavily in the firm himself, and establish what appears to have been his own branch of the Company, or possibly a subsidiary company. Originally called H.H. Cooper and Co., it soon became known as Macdonald's Consolidated. The new building on 105th Avenue however had (and has) the name 'A. Macdonald Building' inscribed over its entrance. Nonetheless, for 35 years it would be the center of the wholesaling and distribution business of Harry H. Cooper and Macdonald's Consolidated.

Over the years, Macdonald's Consolidated played a major role in the distribution of goods, and primarily foods, to the regions north and west of Edmonton. During this time, Hooper became a prominent and much recognized member of the City's business community, serving terms as President of the Edmonton Board of Trade and the Chamber of Commerce. He served the City in other ways as well, becoming Chair of the Board of Governors of both the University of Alberta Hospital and the Alberta Division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He retired in 1949, but, before he passed away in 1954, Macdonald's Consolidated became a subsidiary of Canada Safeway Ltd. In 1965, Safeway built a new and larger facility at 14040-125th Avenue, which reflected the fact that most manufactured foods were now being shipped out of Edmonton by truck and not rail.

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE

The A. Macdonald Building was erected in 1913-1914. It is a four-storey brick structure built around a heavy timber frame. Although it was constructed as a warehouse, a great deal of attention was paid to the exterior of the building. It was carefully proportioned, with four large arched windows measuring out the long façade, pairs of double hung windows on the upper floors, a prominent entry on the short facade, and a heavy pressed metal cornice surmounting the whole. Inside, the degree of finish was not continued, except in the portion of the main floor which functioned as offices. The A. Macdonald Building represented a northward expansion of Edmonton's commercial district across the rail yards. Later development did not measure up to the scale of this building, and it still dominates the area. With its highly visible painted signage, it is a heritage landmark in the city.


Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0832
Designation File: DES 2103
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 54901
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. 2103)
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