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Key Number: HS 27234
Site Name: Thomson Brothers Block
Other Names:
Site Type: 0400 - Mercantile/Commercial: General and Mixed Use Commercial


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
23 1 5

Address: 112 - 8 Avenue SE
Number: 12
Street: 1 SE
Avenue: 8 SE
Town: Calgary
Near Town:


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 3
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Low Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes: Plain Boxed Cornice
Roof Trim - Eaves: Plain Fascia
Roof Trim - Eaves: Plain Soffit
Roof Trim - Eaves: Decorated Frieze
Window - Structural Opening Shape: Semi-Circular
Window - Trim Outside Structural Opening - Head: Voussoirs
Window - Sill Type: Plain Slip Sill
Exterior: Dimensions: 50' x 85' x 50' Radiating voussoirs over windows, sills under windows, decorative sandstone blocks on third level, semicircular windows with circular and semi-circular windows inside them on third level, cornice, boxed decorative frieze at roof level.
Remodeled business entrances at front, arch radiating voussoirs over windows, lintel under windows, checkerboard style decorative sandstone blocks on 3rd level, semi-circular windows with circular and semi-circular windows inside them on 3rd level, cornice boxed decorative frieze over facade on roof level.
Interior: No elevator.
Environment: Faces south on 8th Avenue mall. Located on Calgary's 8th Avenue Mall along with other sandstone buildings on the north side. Lot size: 50.85' x 130'.
Condition: Structure: Good. Repair: Good. 18 OCT 1979. Structure: Good. Repair: Good. 23 JAN 1980. Structure: Good. Repair: unknown 21 MAR 1982
Alterations: Remodeled business entrance at front. Aluminum windows added at the back. Possibly a two storey addition was made at the back.


Construction: Construction Date:
Usage: Usage Date:
Calgary Shoe Hospital/Garment King

Owner: Owner Date:
James Arthur Thomson & Melville Patrick Thomson.
Bertram C. Binnings
Bank of Hamilton
Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: The Thomson Block was built in 1893 for James Arthur Thomson and Melville Patrick Thomson, two Calgary stationers. They bought the land for the building from Peter Turner Bone, the prominent Calgary civil engineer. The Thomson Bros. included booksellers, stationers, printers and lithographers, and published 'The Alberta Souvenir Album', in 1897. In 1900, the Thomson brothers vacated the store and it was occupied by Bertram C. Binnings, ladies wear. The Bank of Hamilton owned the building between 1916 and 1927. It has changed hands many times since then. The original cost for the building was $15,000.
* * *

Thomson Brothers Block ... The 1885 guide to Calgary by Burns and Elliott states that: 'This firm deals in books, stationery, periodicals and fashionable bric-a-brac. Their store is a branch of the Portage la Prairie one, conducted by the same firm. Their head office was opened there in 1881. The Calgary branch was opened in April 1884, in their present premises, next to the post-office, Stephen Avenue. It is conducted by Mr. M.P. Thomson, who is an expert in this line of business. This firm have also a branch store in Moose Jaw. They keep on hand a large and varied assortment in their line, and since they opened their branch here have done a good trade, and business is rapidly increasing.' ...

The first Thompson Brothers Book store was a 2-storey building with a large sign located on Stephen Avenue next door, but one to Bannrman's Flour Feed Shop. The original purchaser of the two lots on which the store was located was Peter Turner Bone, the CPR surveyor and Calgary pioneer, who bought them for $300 per lot through a friend who was an assistant superintendant construction of the CPR. In 1891 he sold them to Melville Patrick Thomson and James Arthur Thomson. The first party wall agreement to appear was one with George Hammond Goldfinch in 1893. Wesley Orr in 1893 reported that the Thomson brothers 'have let contract for a 3-storey stone block 50' x 90' that will cost $15,000. They are getting a loan from Canada Permanent to build with. (They have other property too).'

The Thomson Brothers building was sold in 1916. It was owned by the Bank of Hamilton from 1916 to 1927, on and off via various companies by Hugh Walsh, a broker and oil operator from 1929 to 1946, and by the Calgary Home Furniture Company Ltd. from 1950.
In 1902 one of the occupants of the block was the Book Store of J.S.

Mackie who went on to become one of the largest real estate dealers in the city. ... From about 1902 to 1910 the suites were both business offices and residences, with the residential aspect becoming more predominant with the construction of larger building blocks in the center of Calgary around 1912. Occupants in 1902 included Dr. G.A.

Ings (one of the fist doctors in the city) two ministers, several ranchers, an inspector of mines, clerks, a bookkeeper, a dressmaker etc.
* * *

The Thomson Brothers (James Arthur and Melville Patrick) began their careers as stationers and book sellers in Portage La Prairie in 1881. They moved west and are listed in Henderson's Directory of 1884 in both Calgary and Portage La Prairie. In 1884, their location in Calgary was on Stephen Avenue, in a small frame building adjacent to the Post Office. They opened another store in Moose Jaw in the late 1880s. By 1893, their Calgary business has expanded sufficiently to warrant the construction of their own sandstone building. The Block was built in 1893 for a cost of $15,000. Although the Thomson brothers vacated the building in 1900, it has continued to serve as a retail outlet to the present day.


The Thomson Building is one of the best surviving examples of the decorative extreme to which vernacular architecture was carried in Calgary. Still working in a manner primarily determined by local social and weather conditions, and not caught up in importing historical styles from other centres, the builders of this structure juxtaposed a profusion of rough decorative elements to create a busy, disordered effect. Few unifying lines can be traced in the facade to create a coherent whole, and standard architectural conventions are ignored. It is this disregard for rules of architecture which gives the building its air of spontaneity and charm. The Thomson Building was one of the last major Calgary buildings to which the label vernacular architecture could be applied, for it was followed by structures built according to historical precedent and architectural convention.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List
Municipal A List
Municipal A List
Provincial Historic Resource

Register: 01-184
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1989/06/01


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0556
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