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4910 to 4912 - 50 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta, T4L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2001/11/15

The M and J Hardware Building Provincial Historic Resource, Lacombe (July 2003); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2003
Front view
The M and J Hardware Building Provincial Historic Resource, Lacombe (1906); Glenbow Archives, ND-2-56
Front view
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Other Name(s)

Morrison and Johnston Hardware Building
M. and J. Hardware Limited
M and J Hardware Limited

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/02/08

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The M and J Hardware Building is a two-storey building situated on portions of two lots in the Town of Lacombe's downtown core. The brick structure embodies an eclectic architectural design strongly influenced by Classical Revival ideas and features a dominant upper cornice, prominent pediment sign, decorative urns and gently sloping window arches with keystones.

Heritage Value

The primary heritage value of the M and J Hardware Building lies in its eclectic architectural style, typical of small-town Alberta's "main street" commercial buildings of the first quarter of the twentieth century. Secondary heritage value lies in its association with the early commercial development of the Town of Lacombe.

Built in 1906, the M and J Hardware Building is a fine example of the architecturally eclectic commercial buildings erected throughout small communities in Alberta in the early twentieth century. Marrying utilitarian considerations with Edwardian Classical Revival stylistic elements, these structures typically featured readily available materials simply massed in an elegant, though not ostentatious, classical composition. Much of the exterior of the M and J Hardware Building is composed of locally-made brick and sandstone. These materials are artfully arranged in a series of decorative classical features, including pilasters and segmental-arch windows with keystones. These elements are complemented by dominant cornices, a prominent pediment, and ornamental urns crowning the pilasters. The union of strong materials, solid massing, and elegant detailing projects an air of permanence, simplicity, and balance - qualities deemed vital for commercial endeavours in early Alberta. The M and J Hardware Building has undergone extensive conservation work and is now an integral part of Lacombe's historic downtown streetscape.

The M and J Hardware Building recalls the early commercial development of Lacombe and the significant contributions of the enterprise's founders to business and social life in the community. Like many central Alberta communities, Lacombe's origins can be traced to the completion of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway in 1891. The new line stimulated the creation of numerous stations and a host of new settlements. In 1902, the community known as Barnett was incorporated as the Town of Lacombe. One year prior, local entrepreneurs Norman Morrison and James Johnston had purchased the community's first general store. They operated their hardware business out of this site until 1905, by which time they had outgrown the store and required new accommodations. They constructed the stately M and J Hardware Building in 1906. Both Morrison and Johnston were prominent local citizens; their elegant residences still exist as testimony to their social status. Morrison was especially important to the nascent community of Lacombe. Not only was he one of the wealthiest citizens in the district (and the owner of the first automobile in town), but he also served as alderman and mayor. M and J Hardware remained in operation from 1901 until 1975, making it Lacombe's longest running family business.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1944)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the M and J Hardware Building include such features as:
- flat roof surrounded by parapets on all sides;
- asymmetrical composition, with front facade divided into two storefronts of unequal size;
- brick facades and pilasters;
- simple entablature dividing first and second floors and ornamented with small pediment-capped brackets at each of the three pilasters;
- cornices, including main cornice along the parapet supported by large ornate brackets;
- parapet with decorative urns framing a pediment bearing the name and date of the building (M and J HARDWARE 1906);
- sandstone sills, keystones, and pilaster bases;
- fenestration pattern and style;
- second floor segmental-arch windows;
- "MORRISON AND JOHNSTON HARDWARE AND TIN SHOP" painted sign on the side of the building;
- exposed brick wall on second floor;
- fancy tin ceiling with curved cornice work in main floor washroom;
- tongue-and-groove wood panelling and exposed brick walls on second floor;
- hand-operated freight elevator.




Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment

Architect / Designer



George Mobley

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1944)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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