Remnants of this district are seen in the uncomplicated brick buildings still standing along 104th Street.

The Hudson’s Bay Company put Edmonton on the map over 200 years ago in 1795 when it built Edmonton House, Edmonton’s first permanent settlement and trading post for the first inhabitants who hunted and fished along the North Saskatchewan River. On October 8th, 1904, Edmonton was incorporated as a city.

The historic western edge of Edmonton’s Downtown was the location of wholesale and warehouse buildings-that were constructed during the pre-WWI boom period-which served as a storage area for the city’s retail businesses. They reflect the optimism and enthusiasm with which investors developed the newly available Hudson’s Bay Reserve land west of 101st Street.

Local railways significantly shaped the core of Edmonton. The Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) connected to the C&E in Strathcona and crossed the Low-Level Bridge for the first time in 1902. The warehouse district on the historic western edge of Downtown grew up along the CNoR and later Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) spur lines that delivered to the storage facilities for the businesses along Jasper Avenue. Remnants of this district are seen in the uncomplicated brick buildings still standing along 104th Street. The commercial style Phillips Building on 104th Street and 101st Avenue was first used by the Western and Cartage Company in 1912 as storage and exemplifies Edmonton’s early warehouses.

Phillips Building (Phillips Lofts)

10169-104th STREET

The present-day Phillips building was constructed for owners N. W. Purcell and J. G. Kelly during the pre-First World War economic boom, using sand lime brick made by the Alsip Brick and Supply Co. of Edmonton. It originally had a 22-foot wide arcade running through its middle, making it a “first of its kind in Edmonton”. This building was intended to be one of the first completely fire-proof structures in Edmonton and used the latest 1912 technology of the time to this end, i.e. the latest fire-proof doors and windows. It was initially leased to the Western and Cartage Company to be used as a storage warehouse.

The building was later purchased in the early 1950′s by James Brody, owner of Brod-Ease Shoe Co. of Edmonton. A complete renovation then took place with its purpose changing from a warehouse to a commercial building. The exterior facade was recladded in 1956 with modern materials. The newly renovated structure was renamed “Phillips” in honour of Mr. Brody’s first grandson. In the 1960s, the Phillips Building was severely altered with a façade of metal cladding, marble and beige stone, masking its original look for nearly 40 years. In the late 1960′s, the Brody family sold it to an overseas buyer. 

Midco Equities Ltd., owned by Bill Comrie of the Brick Warehouse furniture and appliance change, purchased the Phillips building and adjacent parking lot in 1981 for $6M, intending to erect a 25-storey office tower. The crash of the early 1980′s changed those plans. 

In 2000, the building was slated for demolition. However, due to a public outcry, the building was saved from the wreckers ball and was designated as a Municipal Historic Resource in 2001. In 2002, renovations were completed by Chandos Construction to bring our building back to its original character with its front façade restored to its original 1912 appearance. The Phillips Building features generous use of windows and clean, simple lines typical of the commercial style of architecture of its time. 

Other 4th Street Historical Buildings

Birks Building

10113-10123 104th STREET

Birks Jewellery was founded in Montreal in 1879, and it began expanding across Canada around the turn of the twentieth century. In 1929, Henry Birks and Sons opened their store in Edmonton in the building that still bears their name. Architects Percy Erskine Nobbs and George Taylor Hyde of Montreal were commissioned to design a number of the Birks stores across the country. Percy Nobbs was already locally known for his master plan for the University of Alberta, and the design of several of the University’s landmark buildings. Cecil Burgess, an associate of Nobbs and a lecturer at McGill University, had been chosen in 1912 as Professor of Architecture at the University and assisted Nobbs & Hyde as associate architect on a number of their local projects. 

Henry Birks & Sons built this originally designed two-storey building as the local flagship for their expanding jewellery business. After construction began on it the demand for medical-dental space was so great that two extra floors were added. Birks had a policy of building medical and dental facilities above their stores as a public service, and this building contained the most up-to-date medical facilities in Edmonton, including a built-in compressed air system and the owners held long term leases with dentists and doctors. Approximately 5,000 people attended the building’s opening on November 15th, 1929, hosted by Henry G. Birks, grandson of the firm’s founder.

The fourth floor was home to CJCA Radio from 1934 to 1973, and their memorable Flying Tiger sign, with a moving tail and humongous glasses, was a local landmark. The building now has street-level retail space with offices on the upper floors. Its conspicuous location on the corner of Jasper Avenue and 104 Street makes it an anchor for Edmonton’s historic Warehouse District. 

The four-storey, flat-roofed Birks Building presents a beautifully detailed facade with large storefront windows. Detailed with white and beige facing bricks, green and white marble and cast bronze ornamentation and panels, tile and metal elements are tightly wrapped around a unique and dramatic curved front corner and cantilevered roof. 

Although the form of the building is contemporary and points the way towards the later Streamline Modern style, the detailing is conservative and classically-inspired. With its curved front facade and location on a busy Downtown corner, the Birks Building is a prominent example of early Modern classicism. It is The design was similar to other Birks buildings built across Canada, although Edmonton’s is one of only two to survive.

Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company Warehouse (Cobogo Lofts)

10249 – 104th STREET

In 1912 David R. Ker of the Brackman-Ker Milling Company built a warehouse on this site, designed by Roland W. Lines, which on January 16th, 1913, the temperature plunged well below ‑20°C. With inadequate water pressure to run their equipment, firefighters watch hopelessly as the inferno engulfs two buildings on this location and kills three people. This is one of the worst fires the city has seen, and it sparks rapid improvements in local fire safety practices. William Allen, head of a Winnipeg investment consortium, acquired the charred site and built a replacement warehouse on the foundations of the Ker Building for the previous tenant, the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company, in only two months, opening for business on December 27th of 1913. 

The Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company was headquartered in Montreal and opened a branch in Edmonton in 1911 to serve as a distribution point for its products which were manufactured in Ontario and Quebec. This warehouse served northern Alberta and supplied rubber belting, packing, hoses, waterproof clothing, felt footwear, automobile and carriage tires, and druggists’ rubber sundries. 

The designer and builder, the Canadian Stewart Company of Toronto, had just finished constructing the Macdonald Hotel when it installed the latest in fire safety technology in the new warehouse. Concrete encases the boiler room; metal sheaths the new fire doors; and the interior stairs feature steel risers, treads, and stringers. The windows on the east façade, where minimal setback was provided at the lane, offer increased fire and security protection owing to their metal sash construction and pivoting, wired glass infill panels. The west-facing windows remain wooden and of double-hung sash construction.

The building’s design creates a more vertical emphasis than its neighbours, with its two-storey entrance with brick piers and a concrete entablature and expressed on the front facade through the use of central staggered windows, but the overall Commercial-style façade characterizes the warehouse district. The brick corbelled cornice featured at roof level, detailed front door surround, and the still visible advertisements painted by various tenants on the exposed portions of the east, north, and south walls. Redbrick walls clad a heavy timber structure, with precast concrete used for decorative accents on the window sills, lintels, copings and date stone. 

This building served the rubber company until 1935 and is one of the longest-standing warehouses in the downtown core. Few significant exterior changes have been made by subsequent owners which have included the Kaufman Rubber Company, Cobogo Holdings Ltd., and the Army and Navy Department Store Holdings Ltd.

McKenney Building

10187 -104th STREET

Designed by the prominent local firm Magoon & MacDonald, the McKenney Building was built in 1912 at a cost of $40,000. Utilitarian in form, this three-storey brick-faced building features a Classically-inspired pedimented stone entrance. Built with a minimum of ornamentation, the structure was designed to allow the construction of a fourth-floor if extra space was required for future expansion. Sited at the corner of 104 Street and 102 Avenue the building relates well to the nearby Metals Limited Building, the Revillon Building and The Boardwalk, functioning as a unifying visual link for the surrounding warehouse buildings and contributing to the heritage character of the area. The original owner, Henry William McKenney, arrived in St. Albert in 1883 from Amherst, Ontario; he became a prominent businessman and resident of St. Albert, and was elected to the first Legislative Assembly as the representative for Clearwater.

Armstrong Block

10125-10127 104th STREET

The Armstrong Block is the only remaining heritage building specifically constructed for mixed-use in Edmonton’s downtown. Unlike the other early buildings in the area, the Armstrong Block was unique in having offices and apartments on its upper floors rather than warehouse space.

Architect Davie Hardie planned a unique structure in the Armstrong Block. He was working for Reginald Wilfred Ross Armstrong and his brother L. Herbert Armstrong, for whom the block was named. The building stands on 104th Street in the heart of the warehouse district in downtown Edmonton. A railway spur line ran down what is now the alley behind the building, connecting warehouses along the street to the Canadian National Railway mainline on 104th Avenue. Edmonton had been expanding rapidly by 1912 and there was a high demand for residential, commercial, and warehouse space. This building was designed to encompass all three uses. The basement and first floor were used by wholesale businesses like the Brown Fruit Company, Ltd. and later General Motors Products of Canada Ltd. Some of the first and second floors were also office space for the likes of brokerage companies, investors, and even the French Consul. The remainder of the building were apartments. Robert Tegler, the inspiration for the Tegler Building, had an apartment on the second floor for a time. The building was also distinctive in that it was the only one in the warehouse district to be constructed with brick and steel throughout.

The Armstrong Block is an excellent example of Edwardian-commercial style architecture as can be seen at first from its form, scale, massing, and fenestration. The building features an elevated front parapet with a cast stone “A” insignia, pressed metal cornices, projecting brick pilasters, cast stone detailing, and arched lintels. The pilasters feature upper and lower full-width pressed-metal cornices and pressed-metal garland pilaster capitals and are rusticated on the main floor level. There are three rows of wood frame, double-hung windows on the three floors above two large main floor display windows capped by prism glass transoms on the front façade. The other three sides have similar fenestration throughout. The rear elevation has protective roof structures above the lower level entrances. The east wall features hand-painted signage.

Horne & Pitfield Building

10301 – 104th STREET

This landmark corner warehouse structure was built for Foley Brothers, Larson & Company at a cost of $50,000. Having moved their wholesale grocery business west from Winnipeg in 1905, this new warehouse was seen as a ‘visible example of the faith they have in Edmonton, the gateway City and distributing centre of the last great west.’ Ownership passed in 1913 to Campbell, Wilson & Horne, and in 1943 the firm was reorganized as Horne & Pitfield.

Using elements of the Chicago School, but with fewer decorative details, Hopkins’ design was remarkably clean and modern for the time. Hopkins was the son of well known Montreal architect John W. Hopkins; he trained with his father, and they later went into partnership together. By 1905, however, Edward was in Calgary as Chief Provincial Architect and moved to Edmonton the following year. Hopkins submitted a plan for the new Legislature Building, which was rejected, and after a second attempt, he resigned his post and went into private practice.

The original five-bay structure was expanded in 1923 to the designs of a Winnipeg architect, which included five new bays to the north, just two storeys high. It was enlarged again in 1947 when two more storeys were added to the addition, completing the ten bay four-storey structure. In each addition, the existing massing and detailing were replicated, resulting in the consistent composition that we see today. The corner sitting, height, materials and fenestration make this an important visual link to the rest of the historic structures in the area.

Revillon Building & Annex

10201-10247 104th STREET

Revillon Frères, the international furriers of Paris, built it when members of the extended family came to Edmonton in 1906 to establish a warehouse for their fur-buying business. They arrived in spectacular fashion, bringing their merchandise by rail on a train hauling 24 cars, each one bearing a word or two of a sentence in huge capital letters, “THIS ENTIRE …TRAIN FOR… REVILLON… BROS.LTD … EDMONTON…” with “REVILLON BROS” banners on the last 18 cars. Their department store carried all manner of hardware from flooring to dishes, with a specialization in outfits for hunters, trappers, and prospectors. They also sold wholesale goods to small merchants across the province. This French company originated in 1723, but it was during the late 19th century that the company innovated by marketing ready-made fur coats to department stores, a move that was highly successful. By 1901, Revillon Frères decided to go after raw furs themselves rather than pass through middlemen and for this they established headquarters and stores in New York and Chicago and decided to purchase furs in the Canadian North. They established trading posts across Canada. It was a very exciting time when the pelt of a silver fox could bring $300 for a trapper, a lot of money at the time.

Young Jean Revillon was dispatched to Edmonton to establish the business and his presence along with some of his associates certainly brought excitement to staid Edmonton with articles in the local papers about Parisian lifestyle and culture. A local family who rented a house to the young men was quite upset upon their departure, especially about the disastrous state of their house with empty Champagne bottles lying about and the piano practically ruined. In spite of the high times of the “party boys,” the business was very serious indeed and Revillon Frères gave the Hudson’s Bay Company some steep competition, besieged as it was on all sides by competitors such as Hislop and Nagle and the Edmonton based, J. L. Lessard. 

In 1912, Revillon Frères built the six-floor building, which is still standing today, for their headquarters, next to their earlier two-story annex of 1908.  The Great War and the ensuing depressions that followed put an end to Revillon Frères’ Canadian enterprise, and by 1926 the HBC controlled the majority of shares and owned it outright by 1936. The company still exists and is one of the largest privately-owned companies in France.

At the time of its construction, the Revillon Building was described as the ‘latest and most modern exclusively wholesale warehouse’ and the ‘word in reinforced-concrete construction.’ Built in 1912, the Revillon Building was for many years, with its elevators, electric hoists, lighting, pneumatic tubes and telephones, the most modern building in Edmonton. Designed by Winnipeg architect James McDiarmid, and built by his brother John McDiarmid, this was the largest warehouse structure in Western Canada. McDiarmid also designed the Annex in 1920 in such a way that several more stories could be added at a later date. The Revillon Building marked a significant point in the evolution of Edmonton’s warehouse district. 

Seen for the first time were such modern devices as an automatic telephone exchange, pneumatic tubes, and spiral shipping chutes. In 1902, Revillon Frères, who represented a Paris based fur-trading establishment, selected Edmonton as the distribution centre for what was to become an empire of wholesale and fur trade stores. 

By 1912, expanding trade requirements resulted in the construction of the present building. This is a good example of the straightforward, clean and functional styling of utilitarian buildings of the pre-World War I era. Redbrick walls rise above a stone base, with a unique twinned corner entrance. Ornamentation is confined to the corbelled brick parapet, while visual relief is provided by emphasizing the vertical brick piers and the use of recessed inset spandrel panels. The Revillon Building dominates the intersection of 104th Street and 102nd Avenue and is a landmark in the warehouse district.

Great West Saddlery Building

10137 – 104th STREET

In 1889, E.F.Hutchings of  Winnipeg took over a harness business started by H.A. Finch in 1886, forming the Edmonton Saddlery Company. In 1900, after various changes in management, it was amalgamated with Carson & Shore to form the Great West Saddlery Company, which constructed this building to house its wholesale and retail activities. 

The company was growing quickly with the settlement of the west. In response to that growth, Great West Saddlery built this 45,000 square foot wholesale warehouse in 1911.  It was designed by local architect Edward C. Hopkins and constructed at a cost of $100,000.

From this location, the Great West Saddlery Company employed 30 people.  It supplied customers throughout central and northern Alberta with its “Horse Shoe Brand” of leather products including baggage, belts, oiled clothing, saddles, gloves and mackinaw jackets.  By 1918 it was the largest saddlery company in the world.

Surprisingly, despite the advent of automobile traffic, the company was able to stay in business and retained ownership of this building until 1958. 

This five-bay structure remains essentially intact and has been adapted for use as artists’ workspace and gallery exhibition areas. It is one of a number of landmark warehouse structures that front onto 104th Street. This building stands as a classic reminder of Edmonton’s rapid commercial development before the First World War.

Metals Limited Building

10184 – 10190 104th STREET

Metals Limited was organized in 1910, with headquarters in Calgary, to handle wholesale plumbing and heating supplies. Ownership changed in 1948 when the company was sold to the Empire Brothers Manufacturing Company Limited. The building was later sold, and converted for use as retail and offICE space in 1975. Prominently sited at a corner location, the Metals Building is designed in a utilitarian style, but the deft hand of the architects is revealed in their handling of the angled corner entry, and the decorative name plaque of precast concrete.

Mercer Warehouse

10363 – 104th STREET

In 1911, a four-storey block was built on the southeast corner of 104th Avenue and 104th Street opposite the Canadian National Railway yards. It was an uncomplicated building designed by architect Alfred Merigon Calderon for use as a warehouse: it was rectangular in plan and the elevations were unadorned, with the simple intent to store local importer John B. Mercer’s goods, its new life is as a start-up hub. The loading bays were located at the rear on the east side of the building, conveniently facing towards the railway spur running down the alley. John B. Mercer, in the wholesale business in Edmonton since the 1890s, sold liquors, cigars and wines from a store located on Jasper Avenue before building this functional warehouse to store his stock. Many changes and alterations to the original design of the Mercer Warehouse can be detected. Among the most obvious is the loss of the fourth storey (possibly through fire), the addition of the loading bays which have been punched through the north wall, and the three-storey matching annex built on the south side of the warehouse.

The Edmonton Bulletin touted as “one of the most modern and complete cold storage plants that are used for this purpose in any part of Alberta.” The Calgary Brewing Company, for whom Mercer was the local representative, also used the building. The four-storey warehouse had loading bays located on the east side for easy access to the railway spur in the alley. Situated as it was near the railway and close to Downtown businesses like Mercer’s wholesale storefront on Jasper Avenue, this building became part of Edmonton’s early warehouse district. The arched main floor windows, simple stringcourse, corbelling, vertical brick lintels, and pilasters flanking the main door add understated details to the otherwise unadorned structure.

A fire destroyed the top two floors in 1922. Mercer again hired Calderon to redesign the building, and it was reconstructed, this time with only three storeys, but with loading bays added to the north wall. By the 1930s a matching three-storey annex was added to the south side. After almost eighty years, the building fell into disuse, but an entrepreneurial spirit started to bring 104 Street to life in about 2010. As part of this rejuvenation, the Mercer Warehouse has been rehabilitated, and now provides office space for up and coming Edmonton businesses.

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