3 Calgary buildings up for historic designation

Some places around the world have histories that date back thousands of years but Calgary only became a city in 1894.

Even though it's relatively young, there's not much left from that era, and Heritage Calgary is working hard to preserve what buildings it can.

Three structures are set to be designated as municipal heritage resources by city council.

They include the Dominion Bank — now Teatro Ristorante — which was built in 1911; a home built in Scarboro in 1914, which is still owned by the Moodie family; and the 1913 bungalow-style North Mount Pleasant School.

Josh Traptow is the executive director of Heritage Calgary and says the designation is important for the long-term protection of the structures.

"That means that the property is designated in perpetuity," said Traptow. "It can't be demolished, it can't be significantly altered so for some owners that's a significant thing."

Traptow says the school is city property but the bank and Scarboro home are privately owned and the owners have expressly agreed to the designation as a Municipal Historic Resource.

"It's great to see all of these sites come forward," said Traptow. "Hopefully it will serve as encouragement to other Calgarians to consider designating as municipal heritage resources."

The properties listed in the report to city council were built in the early 1900s, during Calgary's pre-First World War boom period.

In 1906, Calgary's population was almost 12,000, but by 1911 it had ballooned to 43,704.

According to Heritage Caglary's report to council, "The (North Mount Pleasant) school represents an architectural response to Calgary’s most prolific period of growth when school enrollment tripled. The Calgary School Board instigated an ambitious program to build large sandstone schools to accommodate the population growth, but construction of the elaborate structures could not keep pace with the growth.

"Beginning in 1910, the Calgary School Board adopted a policy to erect economical, two-room, wood-frame schools, or ‘cottage’ schools, which could be converted to residential use when their educational use became redundant."

Traptow's research on the the Dominion Bank found it's highly valued as an intact and rare example in Calgary of an Edwardian-era temple bank built in the exuberantly ornate, Beaux Arts style.

"It's just a magnificent example of other banks on Stephen Avenue," said Traptow. "It's not often you use terra cotta tile on a building, so the craftsmanship that they would have used to build that building was magnificent and knowing that all those tiles were placed by hand."

The Scarboro home was built by J. Frank Moodie, an entrepreneur and self-taught geologist who helped develop the Drumheller coal field and Turner Valley oil field.

Traptow says it's the first house to be designated in the community.

"The Scarboro United Church is also designated," said Traptow. "But this is the first residential home so we're hoping that this will encourage other property (owners) in Scarboro to come forward with municipal heritage designation to help protect the look of the neighbourhood."

It is expected city council will make the final decision on the historic designations July 26.