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Key Number: HS 53226
Site Name: Arts Building
Other Names:
Site Type: 0307 - Educational: College or University


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
52 24 4

Address: 113 Street & 90 Avenue
Street: 113
Avenue: 90
Town: Edmonton
Near Town:


Type Number Date View
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
Digital scan of Negative
NE Corner
NE Corner
E Side
W side and S side of W wing
SW corner


Plan Shape:
Storeys: Storeys: 3
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Stone
Superstructure: Brick
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Flat
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Dome
Balustraded roof-line.
Flat roof, raised parapet with balustrade, central entry with paired columns and triangular pediment, arched entry, urns at roofline, projecting bay windows.
Three-storey, made of brick and sandstone trim; built on a sandstone and granite foundation; balustraded roof line and is embellished with various crests, including a sculpted owl embracing the university crest over the front door.
Interior: Ceramic tiled corridor; terracotta tile walls along with first and second floor hallways; transoms and inner windows. Chamber with wood wainscotting, ornate sculpted moldings, plaster relief sculptures; two-storey oval ceiling with decorative plaster trim.
Environment: Neighbourhood: University of Alberta
Condition: Good
Alterations: Extensive restoration/renovations; re-opened 18 March 1988.


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Construction Ended
Usage: Usage Date:
Office complex.
University Class room

Owner: Owner Date:
University of Alberta

Architect: Nobbs and Hyde (Montreal)
Builder: George Fuller Co. (Winnipeg)
Craftsman: N/A
History: 1986/87 Restoration project (15 months to complete). Two satellite dishes installed to recive TV signals from Europe. Carving: old man with woman with a book delayed prior to building opening in 1915 will be completed - upgrade ventilation heating mechanical electrical systems to fire safety standards.
First used as 'main teaching building', including offices of President, registrar, bursar, the library. Faculty of Arts and Science. Extensive renovations restoration by Bouey, Auld, Raling & Shaw. Completed by PCL - MAXAM during October 1987.
1909 - Sod-turning by Premier A.C. Rutherford.
- Foundation laid for an Arts Building on the present site
- according to first rough University plan.
1910 - Rutherford government fell.
- Funding stopped, construction halted.
- University almost lost to Calgary.
1911 - Athabasca Hall compleed.
1912 - Assiniboia Hall completed.
- Nobbs and Hyde draft formal grand plan for the University.
- Plan for a building on the present site, on existing foundation, but initially the building was NOT to be the Arts Building. It was to be a general teaching building which would later be assigned to science and applied science faculties.
- From this time until after its completion and opening, the building is referred to in documents as 'the main Building', 'the Building', 'the Main Teaching Building', and 'the Arts Building', these terms used interchangeably and sometimes simultaneously.
1914 - Pembina Hall completed.
- Arts Building begun, but existing foundation was found to be too small. It was demolished and a new foundation laid on the site.
- War tightens money market.
- University experiences difficulty floating bonds on the New York market. Construction delayed almost a year.
1915 - Building completed September 10.
- Official opening October 6, celebrated by a special convocation of such length that the last three speeches had to be cancelled including that of President Tory.
- Building designated 'Main Teaching Building'.
- Housed offices of the President, the Registrar, the Bursar, as well as the Library and the Faculty of Arts and Science.
1988 - Building officially re-opened after extensive renovations.
Arts Building
On the 6th of October 1915, the Main Teaching Building was opened by Lieutenant Governor George Bulyea at a special ceremony of such length that the last three speeches had to be cancelled. Designed by the Montreal firm of Nobbs and Hyde in a style referred to by Nobbs as 'elastic free classical', the structure rests on a sandstone and granite foundation above which rise brick walls trimmed with sandstone.
Crests indicating various arts and sciences decorate the building, which for many years served as the university's main classroom space.
Blocks of stone on the facade still await the mason's chisel to complete the decoration. Above the oriel window on the south facade is a sundial inscribed 'I count only the sunny hours'. The convocation Hall wing which abuts the main body of the building is flanked on the north and south by the University's first laboratories designed to harmonize with the Arts Building.
* * *
ARTS BUILDING (1915) Arts Restoration Project
A symbolic stone carving--chiselled from the 1914 construction budget--may finally grace a second-storey pediment on the Arts Building in the near future. The carving of an old man with a scroll and a young woman with a book symbolizes the old and new ways of teaching.
An $11 million restoration project finished in 1987 on the winsome campus edifice, will see the old and the new brought together.
Once a prominent campus landmark, the Arts Building is now hidden behind modern brick and concrete structures of eclectic design and questionable taste. It was just such an architectural jungle that the Arts Building designers--Montreal architect Percy Nobbs and George Hyde--intended to avoid. They prepared extensive plans for the entire university campus and wrote papers on how this university campus could avoid the creation of a disjointed amalgam of conflicting architectural styles.
The university's board of directors agreed, and decreed in 1912 that 'the materials employed should be brick and stone, the proportion of stone to brick being increased in the more important buildings,' and also that 'the building generally be carried out in an elastic free classical style in accordance with modified English traditions.' Referring specifically to the Arts Building, the board said: 'When executed this building should be architecturally one of the most important elements of the scheme.' Had their dream come to pass, it would have provided an architectural Mecca for Edmonton. However, the war and recession which slowed construction of the Arts Building and the flow of architectural fees to Nobbs and Hyde, would also crimp the university's ambitious construction program until after the Second World War.
The three-storey Arts Building made of brick and sandstone trim, was described by its architects as being of the 'elastic free classical' style. Built on a sandstone and granite foundation for $829,000, it features a balustrated roof line and is embellished with various crests, including a sculpted owl embracing the university crest immediately over the front door.
Other highlights include a circular central dome above a ceramic tiled corridor, terracotta tile walls along with first and second floor hallways, numerous skylights and traditional transoms and inner windows.
Highlighting the second floor is the Senate Chamber, with its wood wainscotting, ornate sculpted moldings, plaster relief sculptures and a two-storey oval ceiling with decorative plaster trim.
The renovations were approved in 1985 and supervised by the city architectural firm of Bouey, Auld, Faling and Shaw. The building will continue to house classrooms and language laboratories. Convocation Hall, attached to the west face of the Arts Building will not be affected as it has already been restored.


Status: Status Date:
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Municipal A List

Register: A109
Record Information: Record Information Date:
S. Khanna 1992/11/19


Alberta Register of Historic Places:
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