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M & J Hardware Building


Other Names:
M & J Hardware Limited
M. and J. Hardware Limited
Morrison and Johnston Hardware Building
Morrison and Johnstone Hardware Building

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The M & J Hardware Building is a two-storey building situated on portions of two lots in the Town of Lacombe's downtown core. The brick structure embodies an eclectic architectural design strongly influenced by Classical Revival ideas and features a dominant upper cornice, prominent pediment sign, decorative urns and gently sloping window arches with keystones.

Heritage Value
The primary heritage value of the M & J Hardware Building lies in its eclectic architectural style, typical of small-town Alberta's "main street" commercial buildings of the first quarter of the twentieth century. Secondary heritage value lies in its association with the early commercial development of the Town of Lacombe.

Built in 1906, the M & J Hardware Building is a fine example of the architecturally eclectic commercial buildings erected throughout small communities in Alberta in the early twentieth century. Marrying utilitarian considerations with Edwardian Classical Revival stylistic elements, these structures typically featured readily available materials simply massed in an elegant, though not ostentatious, classical composition. Much of the exterior of the M & J Hardware Building is composed of locally-made brick and sandstone. These materials are artfully arranged in a series of decorative classical features, including pilasters and segmental-arch windows with keystones. These elements are complemented by dominant cornices, a prominent pediment, and ornamental urns crowning the pilasters. The union of strong materials, solid massing, and elegant detailing projects an air of permanence, simplicity, and balance - qualities deemed vital for commercial endeavours in early Alberta. The M & J Hardware Building has undergone extensive conservation work and is now an integral part of Lacombe's historic downtown streetscape.

The M & J Hardware Building recalls the early commercial development of Lacombe and the significant contributions of the enterprise's founders to business and social life in the community. Like many central Alberta communities, Lacombe's origins can be traced to the completion of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1891. The new line stimulated the creation of numerous stations and a host of new settlements. In 1902, the community known as Barnett was incorporated as the Town of Lacombe. One year prior, local entrepreneurs Norman Morrison and James Johnston had purchased the community's first general store. They operated their hardware business out of this site until 1905, by which time they had outgrown the store and required new accommodations. They constructed the stately M & J Hardware Building in 1906. Both Morrison and Johnston were prominent local citizens; their elegant residences still exist as testimony to their social status. Morrison was especially important to the nascent community of Lacombe. Not only was he one of the wealthiest citizens in the district (and the owner of the first automobile in town), but he also served as alderman and mayor. M & J Hardware remained in operation from 1901 until 1975, making it Lacombe's longest running family business.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1944)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the M & J Hardware Building include such features as:
- flat roof surrounded by parapets on all sides;
- asymmetrical composition, with front facade divided into two storefronts of unequal size;
- brick facades and pilasters;
- simple entablature dividing first and second floors and ornamented with small pediment-capped brackets at each of the three pilasters;
- cornices, including main cornice along the parapet supported by large ornate brackets;
- parapet with decorative urns framing a pediment bearing the name and date of the building (M & J HARDWARE 1906);
- sandstone sills, keystones, and pilaster bases;
- fenestration pattern and style;
- second floor segmental-arch windows;
- "MORRISON AND JOHNSTON HARDWARE AND TIN SHOP" painted sign on the side of the building;
- exposed brick wall on second floor;
- fancy tin ceiling with curved cornice work in main floor washroom;
- tongue-and-groove wood panelling and exposed brick walls on second floor;
- hand-operated freight elevator.


Street Address: 4910 to 4912 - 50 Avenue
Community: Lacombe
Boundaries: Portion of Lots 19 and 20, Block 3, Plan RN1
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
2 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
RN1 (I)
RN1 (I)
20 (ptn.)
19 (ptn.)

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
52.463334 -113.729737 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2001/11/15

Historical Information

Built: 1906 to 1906
Significant Date(s) 1906 to present
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
Builder: George Mobley (most likely)

Lacombe's first hardware store was built on this site for George A. Reid in about 1894. The business was purchased, first by Morris and Taylor in 1897 or 1898, and then by W. Norman Morrison and James Johnston in 1901. By 1905 the operations of Morrison and Johnston Hardware Ltd. had outgrown the original wood frame store, and it became necessary to replace it. The building was moved one block north on 51 Avenue, where it later served as Lacombe's first hospital.

The new brick M. and J. Hardware Limited building was constructed in 1906. The two-storey structure had two storefronts, presumably to allow for two businesses to occupy the space, but from the start the entire lower floor was taken up by M. and J. Hardware. In 1912 the business was expanded with the addition of a Ford motorcar garage and workshop at the rear of the building. Gas pumps in front of the store followed in 1915; both of these features have since been removed. Though the lower floor has been altered over the years, the upper part of M. and J. Hardware Limited's building remains in almost original condition, and is evocative of its period of construction.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0935
Designation File: DES 1944
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 10527
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. 1944)
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