Curtis Block

built . 1909

demolished . 2009

1203 Macleod Trail SE


The Curtis Block is in fact three separate buildings, all of which were developed by Rancher J.H. Curtis in 1909. It was constructed when strip development began to intensify along 2 Street SE following the development of the street car route to Victoria Park. The Blocks are a strong point of reference in the community of Victoria Park.

The southern most of the three adjacent structures (1215) is identified as the Curtis Block on it's entabulature. Originally, it was the only one of the three blocks to be identified as such: but in 1914, the entire grouping was commonly listed as the Curtis Block. A combined commercial / residential block, storefront access on the main level capitalized on pedestrian traffic, and the growing importance of the street as a commercial distirict. A variety of enterprises operated from the block for several decades. Among them were William Beal's Imperial Meat Market, the Victoria Barber Shop, the Commercial Cafe, and a Jenkins Grocery.

Residential suites varied in each block, ranging from five to eleven units. Tenants represented the labouring and working class. The most significant residential tenant was William J. Oliver )1887-1954), a well- known photographer whose studio work and news photographs for both the Albertan and the Calgary Herald now form an impressive visual document at the Glenbow Archives. Oliver was a butcher's apprentice in his native Kent, England, when he won a camera in an advertising promotion after correctly guessing the weight of a lump of coal. He became an accomplished amateur photographer by 1910, when he left England on the Lusitania. Oliver came to Calgary intending to work for P. Burns & Co. in the meat business, but quickly launched his professional photographic career. He lived briefly in the Curtis Block around 1911.

Typical of Edwardian Commercial design, and perhaps modeled on plans from pattern books, each building has slight variations, most noticable in the window treatment. In the 1201 block, second floor windows are large and flat-headed: in the 1203 block, windows are segmented; and in the 1215 portion, smaller windows are used. The latter are the most highly detailed with rusticated sandstone lintels and sills. The three buildings demonstrate, in a concentrated fashion, the variety of popular form within a consistent architectural style of the period. The Curtis Block is a fine example of Calgary Pre-War Edwardian Commercial Architecture.



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