Links and documents
1912/03/03 to 1913/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Burns Building is an early twentieth century, six-storey building situated on two lots in the central business district of downtown Calgary. Constructed between 1912 and 1913, the Burns Building embodies the Chicago style of architecture in its reinforced concrete framing, grid-like fenestration pattern, terra cotta decorative elements, and prominent upper level cornice.
The heritage value of the Burns Building lies in its association with Patrick Burns,
Calgary cattle mogul and Canadian Senator, and its representation of the Chicago style of architecture.
Born into a humble Irish background in Ontario, Patrick Burns travelled to western Canada in the late 1870s to seek his fortune. He initially worked as a homesteader and freighter before discovering his natural niche in the cattle trade. Burns capitalized on the boom in railway activity in the 1880s by supplying cattle and fresh meat for railway workers in the Canadian West. In 1890, he arrived in Calgary, a settlement that was rapidly emerging as the heart of the vast ranching territory of southern Alberta. Initially, Burns provided meat to the railway, mining and lumber camps, and the Blood Indian reserves; as Calgary grew, he responded to increasing demand from retail stores. Over his decades in Calgary, Burns diversified and expanded his business, vertically integrating the ranching, packaging and retailing arms of his operation, introducing sheep and hogs to his stock inventory, and adding fruit stores and creameries to his small empire of ranches and meat shops. Burns became Calgary's first millionaire and a significant civic figure; he was one of the "Big Four" who provided the financing for the first Calgary Stampede. His prominence did not go unnoticed outside of his provincial environment: the New York Herald christened him the "Cattle King of the British North-West", the Pope knighted him, and Prime Minister R. B. Bennett appointed him to the Senate in 1931.
The Burns Building expresses architecturally the entrepreneurial spirit and civic prominence of its namesake. Erected between 1912 and 1913 during the pre-World War One construction boom in Calgary, the building is one of several built by distinguished and well-financed citizens as both investments and symbols of their economic and social clout. One of Burns' retail meat markets was located on the ground floor. Influential local architect William Stanley Bates designed the Burns Building, and his vision incorporates many of the innovative construction techniques and aesthetic features of the Chicago style of architecture. The skeletal structure of the building was constructed according to the "Kahn system," a pioneering construction method associated with the Chicago style that features steel reinforced concrete framing. Other features of this style evident in the Burns Building include the grid-like fenestration pattern, flat roof, terra-cotta sculpted elements, and the division of elevations into three distinct sections - a ground floor level with store windows, a collection of central storeys, and a top level containing a prominent cornice. Some of the severity of the Chicago style has been tempered by the entablature above the second storey and the impressive wrought iron canopy at ground level. At the time of its construction, the Burns Building also boasted a luxurious interior with marble finishings and stairways. Office space in the building was leased to some of the most eminent professionals in the city.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 865)
The character-defining elements of the Burns Building include such features as:
- mass, form, and style;
- flat roof with dentiled terra-cotta entablature forming top floor parapet;
- dentiled terra-cotta entablature above second storey;
- terra-cotta sheathing and sculpted decorative elements, including "BURNS BUILDING" set in relief;
- wrought iron canopy at ground level;
- fenestration pattern;
- entrance lobby containing original interior marble finishings, tile flooring, and stair railings;
- tile flooring in main floor.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
- Developing Economies
- Extraction and Production
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
William Stanley Bates
Norton - Griffiths Steel Construction Company of Vancouver
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. 865)
Cross-Reference to Collection