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Key Number: HS 18512
Site Name: LeMarchand Mansion
Other Names:
Site Type: 0104 - Residential: Apartment Building

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4


Address: 11523-11525 - 100 Avenue
Number: 23-25
Street: 115
Avenue: 100
Other:
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style: Beaux Arts
Plan Shape: H
Storeys: Storeys: 4 or more
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Stone
Superstructure: Metal
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Flat
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Main Porch - Type: Recess
Exterior: Recessed entrance.
Portico frontispiece. Entablature and cornice. Balconies.
Concrete block at base; concrete trim at base; Tyndall stone arch, insets and sills on top floors; cental entry with double doors - elaborate bevelled glass; offset domed towers above entry; bracketted projecting cornice.
The basement and first floor are faced with parging (a material containing cement) over brick meant to resemble sandstone. The basement has a rusticated finish, while the first floor resembles ashlar stone. Window and door openings in the brick facade have voussoirs with contrasting keystones. Other detailing includes an ornate cornice, iron balconies, pillars and pilasters, and triangular pediments. The first storey portico is surmounted by a second storey decorated with horizontal bands of contrasting stone and brick. The third and fourth storeys have four giant order columns which rise two storeys to be topped off by another pediment.
Interior: Natural heating; elevator 1st ever in the city; bevelled glass, marble flooring in the foyer; hardwood oak floors, refubished corridors. The entrance lobby had elaborate bevelled and stained glass, marble flooring, oak panelled walls, and a brass-hooded fireplace. Had elevator, natural gas for cooking and heating (was so new!) Each room had a window to the exterior, at a time when light shafts were commonly used to provide illumination for inner rooms. The suites had electric dumb waiters so that groceries or packages could be delivered with ease. Each suite had at least one fireplace, and many had two.
Environment: Neighbourhood: Oliver District Overlooking river bank, undeveloped land to the west. Not far from the Lemarchand Mansion hundreds of kilometres of virtually uninterrupted wilderness stretched westward to the Pacific coast. The Lemarchand Mansion, an essentially urban type of housing, provided a strong contrast to its setting. Prominent location at ravine edge; landmark.
Condition: Structure: Good. Repair: Good. 25 APR 1978.
Alterations: 1977 - Cost $4.5 million for restoration. Elevator first ever in the city; bevelled glass, marble flooring in the foyer; hardwood oak floors, refurbished corridors. Windows replaced with sealed units. Has been entirely converted to offices and shops.

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
West wing completed
1909/01/01
1911/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Offices, shops
Apartments

1909/01/01
Owner: Owner Date:
Ren‚ LeMarchand
1909/01/01
Architect: Alfred Calderon
Builder: Charles May
Craftsman: N/A
History: Erected as apartment house by Rene LeMarchand on former Hudson's Bay Co. Reserve. Central and east wings begun and completed 1909. West wing completed 1911. Functioned as an apartment building until after World War II, when some suites were converted to offices. Today composed of both residential and office space. A direct result of Edmonton's Boom-Town era of the early 1900's. It was possibly the first apartment house in Edmonton and apparently this city's most elaborate pre-World WarI building of this type. A community and local landmark: the combination of style and use of materials in LeMarchand Mansion is unique in Edmonton and possibly all of Alberta. William McNamara Mayor of Edmonton January - September 1914. Dates 1874-1953. 1917 Mayor McNamara lived here. To be restored and recycled In 1909, The Lemarchand Mansion was described by the Edmonton Bulletin as 'One of the Largest and most modern apartment houses in Western Canada'.
*****
The Lemarchand Mansion is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful apartment buildings of its age in Edmonton. It was, after all, Ren‚ Lemarchand's ambition to build an apartment building which would be 'un des plus luxueux dans le genre au Canada' (one of the most luxurious of its kind in Canada). And so it was. Designed by the Winnipeg architect A.M. Calderon and built between 1909 and 1911, the Lemarchand Mansion cost an estimated $140,000 to $200,000 to complete. It was situated to command a stunning view of the river valley. The construction of the Lemarchand Mansion established the West End as an affluent neighbourhood and a prestigious address. The interior was the last word in elegance: the entrance lobby had elaborate bevelled and stained glass, marble flooring, oak panelled walls, and a brass-hooded fireplace. This building had more than just the mere appearance of luxury however, for it was equipped with many special conveniences and comforts. For example, it was the first building in Edmonton to have an elevator, and to use natural gas for cooking and heating. Natural gas was so new in fact, that it was not widely avilable, and so a coal degasifier had to be built on-site. Each room had a window to the exterior, at a time when light shafts were commonly used to provide illumination for inner rooms. The suites had electic dumb waiters so that groceries or packages could be delivered with ease. Each suite had at least one fireplace, and many had two. Pains were taken to ensure the suites were as soundproof and fireproof as the technology of the day allowed--concrete floors separated the storeys, and brick walls separated the suites. Not surprisingly, all this luxury came with a steep price tag: suites rented for between $40 and $100 a month, at a time when a workman's wage was maybe 50 cents and hour. The exterior of the Lemarchand Mansion is worthy of its interior; it is an elegantly designed building with considerable attention to detail. The building has an H-shaped plan with four storeys, three of which are red brick. The basement and first floor are faced with parging (a material containing cement) over brick meant to resemble sandstone. The basement has a rusticated finish, while the first floor resembles ashlar stone. Window and door openings in the brick facade have voussoirs with contrasting keystones. Other detailing includes an ornate cornice, iron balconies, pillars and pilasters, and triangular pediments. The entrance is the most elaborate part of the building. The first storey portico is surmounted by a second storey decorated with horizontal bands of contrasting stone and brick. The third and fourth storeys have four giant order columns which rise two storeys to be topped off by another pediment. This grand entrance was influenced by the very popular French Beaux-Arts revival of classical architecture. Ren‚ Lemarchand incorporated the elegance and sophistication of Paris, London and New York into his building, and imported a form of housing typical to these cities into a frontier town. Not far from the Lemarchand Mansion hundreds of kilometres of virtually uninterrupted wilderness stretched westward to the Pacific coast. The Lemarchand Mansion, an essentially urban type of housing, provided a strong contrast to its setting. It was designed to appeal to upper-income families, not just the couples and single people most apartments cater to. Larger suites with five, six, and seven rooms were intended to be used by families. With few exceptions, the housing form of choice in North America for this income group has historically been the single family detached house. In Europe and certain North American cities such as New York, apartment suites were, and continue to be, a very popular alternative. The Lemarchand Mansion is remarkable not only for its luxury, but also for introducing an alternate form of housing. Not surprisingly, such a remarkable building was the product of a remarkable man. Ren‚ Lemarchand came to Edmonton from Paris at the urging of his brother Alphonse Lemarchand, who was curate at the Church of St. Joachim. When Ren‚ Lemarchand arrived in 1905, he was prosperous and no longer young. There is an extraordinary story about how he had made his fortune. Allegedly, Ren‚ Lemarchand worked as butler for a wealthy and eccentric Parisian gentleman. In an age when most men owned only two or three razors in a lifetime, this gentleman used a new razor each day. Upon his death, he bequeathed his collection of straight razors to his butler, endowing him with a substantial fortune. There may be truth in this story, for one of Lemarchand's business ventures was 'The Finest Fruits and Fancy Goods Store in Edmonton' selling French and English razors (along with cutlery, pipes and other wares). After 1906, he sold his store to pharmacist J.P. Gagn‚, and invested his money in real estate ventures in Edmonton and Camrose. An enthusiastic Edmonton booster, Lemarchand secured investment funds from the Paris Waiters's Union, L'Union des garçons de Café, for the apartment building venture. After World War I, and getting on in years, Lemarchand lived mostly in Paris, visiting Edmonton only infrequently before his death in 1921. The Lemarchand Mansion suffered predictably during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Lower suites were converted to offices after World War II, but the building retained many long term tenants. In 1977, the building was designated a Provincial Historical Resource, and a $4.5 million restoration was undertaken. The most significant exterior change was the replacement of the original windows, which were double hung, with contemporary single pane sealed units. Today, the Lemarchand Mansion has been entirely converted to offices and shops.
* * *
LEMARCHAND MANSION (1911) A Touch of Paris in Edmonton
Rene LeMarchand wanted to make a lasting contribution. His vision was an apartment complex which would reflect the cosmopolitan luxury of Paris and London, one which would take advantage of this city's most endearing natural feature - the lush and meandering North Saskatchewan River valley. LeMarchand came to Edmonton from Paris in 1905. Already in his late 50s, LeMarchand had saved a sizeable sum in an extraordinary way. For years he worked as a butler to a Parisian gentleman who insisted on using a new razor blade just once. This was at a time when most men would own but three or four blades in a lifetime. Upon his employer's death, LeMarchand was bequeathed the collection of once-used razor blades which he immediately sold. Those funds and the investment he secured from the Union Gar‡ons de Caf‚ (Paris Waiter's Union) provided the financial foundation for his Edmonton building. In 1906 and 1907 he assembled the land for about $4,300. The building was designed by Alfred Marigon Calderon. Construction began in 1909 and the building was completed in 1911. Estimates of its cost range from between $140,000 and $200,000. For rents of $40 to $100 a month, tenants could live in the city's first natural gas heated building. Since natural gas wasn't yet available, LeMarchand built a coal degassifier plant on site. Tenants used one of the first elevators installed in the city, enjoyed spacious five to seven-room suites that boasted at least one fireplace if not two, and enjoyed the natural light provided by the window found in every room of the suite. This was an uncommon touch, for most apartments of the time used lighting shafts to brighten interior rooms. And of course there was the building's style - Beaux-Arts, a French classical architecture popular in France at the turn of the century, featuring recessed entranceways with towering columns and triangular pediments on top of the columns. Alberta Culture has noted that the combination of style and use of materials in the mansion is unique to Edmonton and possibly all of Alberta. Through its imposing stature, luxurious design features and elaborate architecture, it is a striking symbol of the spirited economy of the boomtown era. Its style reflects the French heritage of the community and is a good example of Late Victorian, French classical influence. LeMarchand is said to have returned to Paris about 1916. He maintained his interest in the building until his death in 1921. The Montreal Trust Company took title in 1923 as administrators of LeMarchand's estate. The building remained in the hands of LeMarchand's estate until 1949. That year it sold for $150,000 and passed through numerous hands in the years to come. Although some suites remained until 1977, many of the lower floor apartments were converted to offices following the Second World War. Restored in 1977 at a cost of $4.5 million, it once more reflects the elegance of Old World style in this prairie oasis. During the renovation, the mansion's interior was restructured, but its former elegance had returned. The doors feature elaborately-designed bevelled glass. The foyer has marble flooring, a brass-hooded fireplace surronded by oak-panelled walls and a large stained glass panel dominates the ceiling. The refurbished corridors continue the charm with oak panelling, hardwood oak floors, wool carpets and brass fixtures. Designated a Provincial Historic Resource on July 13, 1977, the red brick LeMarchand Mansion continues to command architectural attention and aesthetic appreciation.
* * *
STATELY MANSION MAINTAINS BEAUTY, DIGNITY IN OLD AGE
By Sharon Adams Of The Journal
The Rene LeMarchand Mansion was once the envy of all Edmonton - the poshest apartment house in the city at the turn of the century. Located on the corner of 116th Street and 100th Avenue, it represented a style of life many people aspired to in an era when 'swell' and 'dandy' described luxury and modern convenience. Today, the building atop the hill overlooking the Royal Glenora Club and Victoria golf course is increasingly being surrounded by towering highrises. It looks somewhat out of place and out of its time, slightly unfashionable, a bit too fussy for modern taste, like a maiden Victorian aunt in dusty velvet and yellowing lace, tolerated, but for the most part, ignored. Tracking down the history of the once stately mansion is difficult for the stories exist mainly in the minds and memories of those who once occupied the spacious apartments. The building was built in 1909 by Rene LeMarchand, a former valet to a nobleman in France, who brought his taste for living in the grand style to Canada with him when his brother, a parish priest, persuaded him to immigrate to Edmonton in 1905. Ingenious Devices Old copies of the Edmonton Bulletin and Capital indicate the building, designed by A.M. Calderon and contracted to Charles May, a mayor, was scheduled for completion in September, 1910. It was not ready for complete occupancy until 1912, perhaps because of a series of builders' strikes and the economic recession which preceded the First World War. At the time the contract was signed, it was estimated the building would cost $140,000, but later advertisements show the final cost to have been about $200,000. A wonder of its time, the building contained many innovative and ingenious devices to make living easier, which were commented upon in newspapers and architectural magazines of the day. The building contained 43 suites from two to seven rooms each, renting for $40 to $100 per month. The parlor and dining room of every suite on the north side of the building was outfitted with a fireplace. Shared Room An early article boasted there would be no 'inside rooms' and commented favorably on the plan which thus eliminated unsightly and spaceconsuming ventilation and light shafts. There was a modern elevator with an operator, a doorman and mail chute servicing each floor. Kitchen ranges were outfitted to burn gas, which was produced in a coal-degassifier attached to the building and buried underground for safety. The degassifier, which was made obsolete in 1924, when Edmonton switched to natural gas, was lauded for saving the tenants the trouble of dealing with fuel. Mrs. J. Percy Page, widow of the former lieutenant-governor, recalls moving into the apartment shortly after their marriage. 'We were anxious to get into the building because it was the only place that had gas in the kitchens, and I was used to that; and there was a fireplace. 'We originally shared a room with another married couple from November 1911, when my husband sent for me to join him here, until March, 1912, when our suite was completed. We took all our meals at the Cecil Hotel on a meat ticket until then, so I was really glad to have my own kitchen. 'The building was really impressive,' Mrs. Page remembers. 'For 25 or 30 cents the janitor would bring up enough wood to keep the fireplace burning for an evening...And there was a dumbwaiter to deliver things you ordered from the main floor to wherever you lived. 'The whole place was pleasant and roomy and the bedrooms and kitchen were especially large.' Hints of Charm Mrs. Page was not the only one entranced by the aura of the building. Who could resist the charm only hinted at in this description from the June 28, 1909 edition of The Bulletin: 'The entrance will be through an open court facing on Victoria Avenue. A driveway will lead up to circular sweep around a fountain, and a bed of flowers to a wide portico with escalated pavement and flanked by a huge marble column.' Wise designers, conscious of newspaper pages filled with details of deaths in apartment fires, were also concerned with safety. Each floor of the building was 'deafened' with two inches of mortar, and each apartment was surrounded with brick walls and supplied with a private fire escape. There have been several fires within the block over the years, all easily contained and extinguished at their point of origin, primarily because of this system. No Two Alike Yet the appearance of the building was important to the esthetically-minded owner. Dennis Pearson, an instructor at NAIT who is compiling material for a book on early architecture within the city, says the building was considered quite attractive for its age, and was built with an eye towards investment. 'The building was constructed in the eclectic style typical of the time, with strong influences of the English renaissance, evident in the windows and arches, with a French touch added by the metal balustrades.' Other architectural features include separate cleaning flues for each of the 70-odd fireplaces, and, of course, the windows. 'The windows were all constructed on the site', says Mr. Pearson, 'and no two are exactly alike. In fact, the sizes may vary by as much as two inches.' Since the windows are not a uniform size, storm windows are not interchangable. To eliminate confusion each window was equipped with a removable sill which covered a deep storage area for the storm window. It was a simple matter for the janitor in the fall to remove the sill, extract the storm covering and place it on the special runner track built into the window frame. The real story of the building, however, is not in facts and figures, but in memories of those who have lived there - many for long years. Childhood Memories A lawyer, who lived there as a child, remembers the bootlegging that took place during prohibition. 'No government was going to tell my mother she couldn't serve wine with Sunday dinner,' he says. 'My father was a lawyer, too, and had a great deal of trouble once when some workmen stole her cache of dandelion wine, and he had to explain why she couldn't prosecute them for stealing something she had no right to possess in the first place.' He also recalls racing in stocking feet up and down the halls with their highly polished floors and making sneak visits to the ruins of the gas plant (forbidden absolutely). But perhaps the fondest memories are those of 80-year-old Mrs. L.M. Cook, who has lived there for 37 years. 'It's really home here', she says, 'and the owners have always kept it up nicely.' Entertaining When Mrs. Cook first came to LeMarchand, she paid $8 a month for her small one-room suite in the basement overlooking the courtyard at the back of the building. 'At that time they had a hard time getting people to move in,' she says. 'I guess because it had fallen out of fashion. People would ask me how I could stand to live in the basement, but I would point to the window, and the courtyard. 'In the early days when the women were hanging out their washing in the yard there, my view always changed. How many women can open their curtains to see some red longjohns on a branch not two feet away? I thought it was very entertaining.' Love has alway had a way of complicating the lives of those involved with the building, from the earliest days when construction was almost halted when a plasterer attempted suicide when his bride-to-be left him standing at the altar. And then there was the time when a tenant's wife ran off with her lover who was appearing in a stock company. They went to Hollywood where the man had a successful career as a genteel, if dissipated, screen lover. Financial Crises Unfortunately, the grandiose plans of M. LeMarchand never really saw fruition. For a few years the building catered to exclusive tenants, then management was plagued with a number of problems, particularly financial crises. First came a recession, then a war, a short boom followed by another recesion and then depression. 'During the '30s,' Mrs. Cook recalls, 'they were practically begging people to move in.' After the Second World War, the building was turned over, in part to professional offices due to a shortage of office space in downtown Edmonton. Today the number of apartment suites has been reduced to between 25 to 30. The oak panelling has been painted over, the floors have been refinished, and the suites are much smaller. Adapted Mrs. Cook says renovations have been a continuing fact of life for the building. 'They were forever tearing down and putting up walls. And what a time they'd have getting through all that brick and mortar!' Yet this is perhaps the prime reason for the building's survival. Mr. Pearson comments: 'It's one of the few buildings that has been adapted for new use, but has been maintained in its original style. It's still something to see.' And, it will likely remain something to see, perhaps for some time yet. A spokesman for the owners of the building - the elderly widows of two city businessmen who acquired the building in the '40s - says the prospect of razing the building is remote. Both womem, for one, are very attached to the building, and neither wants to displace any of the people who have made their homes there for up to half a lifetime, she says.
* * *
LeMARCHAND BROUGHT A TOUCH OF PARIS TO EDMONTON
By Gail Gravelines
When Rene LeMarchand decided to get in on Edmonton's real estate boom in the early 1900s, he chose to build what would become the most modern, if not the most elegant, apartment building west of Toronto. His vision? An apartment complex reflecting the cosmopolitan luxury of Paris and London, located on what was then prestigious Victoria Avenue (now 100th Avenue) and 116th Street, with 43 suites on four storeys offering the most modern conveniences of the time. Today, the red-brick LeMarchand Mansion - designated a provincial historic resource on July 13, 1977 - continues to command archtectural attention. Restored in 1977 by Leamac Industrial Development Ltd. at a cost of $4.5 million, LeMarchand Mansion again reflects the idea of building a touch of Paris in Edmonton. LeMarchand came to Edmonton from Paris in 1905 encouraged by his brother, a priest in the Oblate Missionary Order in Edmonton. ... Although the mansion's interior has been restructured - the layout of the original suites has been long lost - retailers operating in LeMarchand Mansion say older Edmontonians will often visit with stories of how they would see this doctor or that dentist, in a certain suite in the mansion not so long ago.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active
Occasional Use
1976/12/01
1993/09/22
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

1977/07/13
Register: A76
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/06/07

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0513
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