. northern electric company warehouse

1913

102 11 Avenue SE

This four-storey structure was constructed for the Northern Electric & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in 1912-13. It was built by Fyshe, McNeill, Martin, Trainer, Engineers & Contractors, a firm which was responsible for many other larger Calgary buildings of the time, including the Canada Life Assurance building. The design is more classically inspired than most other buildings in the warehouse district, treated with a two-storey stone base characterized by rusticated concrete piers, and a two-storey brick portion above with concrete pilasters between each pair of windows. A rich cornice originally capped the building; its loss makes it somewhat difficult to appreciate the original design. Other alterations include the reduction in size of the original large ground-floor display windows, but nevertheless the quality of the carved stone and subtle ornament can be appreciated in the entrance in 11 Avenue SE. The building was occupied by Northern Electric Co. and by other firms in the communications industry until 1943, when it was taken over by the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, probably as a wartime necessity. The government briefly abandoned the building after the War, but returned in 1950 when the Federal government used it to house the Department of Veterans Affairs, the laboratories of the Department of Agriculture, and other federal departments. It remains occupied by the federal government, and is so identified by a sign above the second storey. (1982)

In 1993, the building was occupied by the Mustard Seed Mission. (1993)

Exterior work was done to the building in 1996-97, including the application of acrylic stucco to the concrete pilasters in order to prevent further deterioration of the original concrete. (1998)

 

(Calgary Heritage Authority, Building Summary 02-136)

 

The rise and decline of Nortel Networks lay in the distant future when the Northern Electric Company – precursor to Northern Telecom, later renamed Nortel – built this warehouse. City directories characterize Northern Electric’s business as “radio, sound systems, electrical

 

 

northern electric historic warehouse

supplies, wires and cables” – just a hint of the high-technology siren that briefly transformed Nortel into an international dynamo before its spectacular fall when the tech bubble burst in the late 1990s.

The Dominion government bought the building in 1942, and it housed the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps until the end of World War II. For nearly half a century after the war, it housed federal government offices and laboratories, including the departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterans’ Affairs. The Mustard Seed Street Ministry, a Christian humanitarian organization with roots in the First Baptist Church, bought the building in 1992. The Mustard Seed provides meals, clothing, and shelter to the homeless, as well as education, skills training, and worship services.

 

(Historic Walks of Calgary, Harry Sanders, 2005, Red Deer: Red Deer Press, pp.289-290)