. roberts block
605 11 Avenue SW
This three-storey brick warehouse is typical of the many that were constructed in this district in the years 1911-12 to service Calgary's growing wholesale and distribution trade. This was originally occupied by three diverse firms: A. McKillop & Co. Ltd., wholesale boots and shoes, a firm which grew rapidly under the able direction of Ontario-born Archie McKillop; the Calgary Furniture Co. Ltd., whose second warehouse this was, and who a year later built a six-storey retail store at 7 Avenue and 1 Street SW; and the Alberta Empress Co. Ltd., wholesale grocers, who were later absorbed into the Safeway chain. The tenants have changed over the years, continuing to reflect the dominant business interests in the area. Consistent with the recent transformation of the warehouse area into an entertainment and office centre, the building is occupied at present by a restaurant and by a number of offices. The building displays a rather austere facade, with its segmented-headed windows arranged to suit the needs of the interior plan; and the composition is crowned by a continuous cornice. (1982)
(Calgary Heritage Authority, Building Summary 02-132)
Louis Melville Roberts (1879-1958), an Iowa-born lawyer and businessman, built this eponymous three-story brick warehouse in 1911 and doubled its size the following year. Its original occupants included A. McKillop and Company Ltd. (a wholesale boot and show business), Alberta Empress Company Ltd. (a wholesale food business later taken over by Safeway), and the Calgary Furniture Company Ltd. During Alberta’s eight dry years of Prohibition (1916-24), the only legitimate source of alcohol was the Alberta Government Liquor Vendor, which moved into this building in 1919. It was likely the most popular place in Calgary for tipplers who wished to avoid the city’s bootleggers.
Roberts was a member of the prestigious Lougheed and Bennett law firm, and represented High River as a Liberal in Alberta’s second legislature (1909-13). He left the city in the 1920s. During the Great Depression, Roberts faced a high vacancy rate in this building, diminished revenue, and foreclosure proceedings, but evidently managed to hang onto the building.
Fire tore through the Roberts Block in 1937, 1954, and 1958, and it was repaired each time. The Vancouver-based Keg’N Cleaver restaurant chain (later renamed The Keg) opened its first Calgary outlet here in 1974.
(Historic Walks of Calgary, Harry Sanders, 2005, Red Deer: Red Deer Press, pp.275-276)