Norwood Apartments

1912

1208 15 Avenue SW

This three-storey brick apartment building is one of four contiguous historic structures built for businessman Walter James Brigden (circa 1873-1961) between 1909 and 1912.  It was built at the peak of Calgary’s pre-First World War population and real estate boom.  The City’s population had increased more than tenfold in a decade, rising from 4,398 in 1901 to 43,704 in 1911.  Before the peak of the boom, apartment buildings in Calgary provided high-class accommodation.  Working-class families preferred detached homes, which contrasted the high-density housing they had known before moving here, and appealed to their dreams of upward mobility.  At the height of the boom, housing demand outstripped supply, and rising prices placed home ownership beyond the means of many workers and their families.  New apartment buildings like the Norwood provided affordable working-class housing.

Brigden was a London-born grocer who settled in Calgary in 1906.  He bought Lots 21-24 in Block 99, Plan A1, in 1909.  Brigden built three structures on Lots 21-22: a corner grocery at 1421 - 11 Street S.W., which he initially operated himself (1909); the two-storey frame Brigden Shops at 1415-19 - 11 Street S.W. (1910); and the two-storey brick Bridgen Block (1912).  Brigden owned these three buildings until 1959, when they became property of Republic Investments Ltd.  In 1912, he built the Norwood Apartments, which he quickly sold, on the adjacent Lots 23-24.

A building permit was recorded on September 23, 1912, for "Br[ick] Stores + Rooms" to be built at an estimated cost of $7,500.  The builder was S. G. Tetley.  Tax records indicate that Brigden sold the building around 1913, and that the next owner, from around 1913-1927, was Maria Soulier van Stoutenberg (alternatively expressed in the tax records as Madame Houtenberg), who owned it until around 1927.  She was evidently an absentee owner, and nothing is known about her.  Lou Michael of Gleichen evidently owned and lived in the building from about 1927-1929.

The next longtime owner, from about 1928-1964, was Wallace Chapman Auld.  Little is known of Auld, except that he had been a hardware merchant in Castor, Alberta, and had worked in (and probably managed or operated) the power plant there in the late 1920's before moving to Calgary.  Listing in Henderson’s Directory indicate that the tenants have been largely working-class, although there is one notable example: M. C. Brownlee, the manager of the Great West Saddlery Company, who briefly lived in the Norwood around 1913 and evidently occupied at least two suites.

Fire damaged a second floor suite on August 25, 1976.  The apartment building is executed in Edwardian Classicism, but in a very simplified form.  It is a wood frame structure clad in red brick.  The facade is symmetrically organized, and features a central arched entrance flanked by full height bay windows.  There are open balconies on the upper two floors.  The building is finished with a pressed metal cornice/entablature.  At the side, the building has a narrow window well providing internal lighting.  The rear has full width wood balconies.

 

(From Calgary Heritage Authority, Building Summary 05-116)