Bell Block

 

1909

1002 Macleod tr SE

 

The Bell Block is an early commercial / residential building that is highly symbolic of development in Calgary's historic Victoria community. Bordering both the warehouse district and the commercial concentration of early buildings along 2nd Street SE, it is a distinctive endpost to a significant historic grouping.

Owned and developed by Ralph A. Bell from 1909 to 1949, the block helped to extend Calgary's commercial core southward, following the street car route to Victoria Park. Bell himself was an established frontier Calgarian at the time he constructed the block. He came West with the North-West Mounted Police serving with the force from 1880 -1886. As a member of the Alberta Field Force, he fought with Sam Steele and General Strange during the 1885 Rebellion. A colorful citizen, he operated one of Calgary's first stables on 9 Avenue and instituted the area's first ferry to serve the Bow River in 1883. A pioneer agricultural implement dealer, Bell was in his late forties when he built the Block. He died in Calgary in 1953 at the age of 92.

 

Typical of Edwardian Commercial design, the Bell Block housed a variety of storefronts and over thirty residential suites. Many residents were employed by the C.P.R. Early businesses included confectionaries, a billiards room, and the International Correspondance School. Alderman Richard A. Brocklebank, the contractor who built Memorial Park Library, the Odd Fellows Temple, the YWCA, and Stanley Jones School, lived upstairs in 1912 - 1913.

The design details of the building are typical of commercial building of this era. The facade is strongly symmetrical with a ground storey of retail storefronts and two upper floors of residential. The facade is organized horizontally with an upper level pressed tin cornice, echoed by the lower level signband which seperates the retail storefronts from the suites above. The symmetry is enhanced by a central pediment, flagpole, columns, and arched entry leading to the upper floor.