NORTH-WEST TRAVELLERS BUILDING
Northwest Travellers Building
North-west Travellers' Building
North West Travellers Building
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The North-West Travellers Building is a four-storey red brick building in the Edwardian Classical Style, from the pre-World War One period, located on one city block at First Street and Fifth Avenue SW in downtown Calgary. A two-storey brick addition was built immediately to the north in 1954 but is not included in the designation.
The North-West Travellers Building is significant as a structural representation of Calgary's role as a district metropolis in the early twentieth century, and of its civic and cultural landscape through the interwar period. It is also important for its association with the North West Travellers Association of Canada.
The North-West Travellers Building reflects the evolving commercial relationships between the booming city of Calgary and its rural hinterland, and between Alberta and the rest of Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. Due to its proximity to the transcontinental rail line after 1883, Calgary became the primary regional centre for the distribution of manufactured goods. Agents based in Calgary, acting for businesses in central Canada, would travel through south-central Alberta to display samples and take orders from retailers. The Northwest Commercial Travellers Association of Canada (N.W.C.TA.) was a Winnipeg-based organization of these "commercial men," which built the North-West Travellers Building to house - and placate - the N.W.C.T.A.'s Alberta branch (founded 1905, the same year as the province). It included "sample rooms" for display and space for socializing, notably the short-lived (1914-16) Commercial Club on the fourth floor.
Afterwards, the building housed several institutions that contributed to the civic, commercial, cultural and political life of the city. These included the Calgary School Board / Commercial High School (1926-33); the Calgary Public Museum (1928-1935), by 1932 one of only five municipally funded museums in Canada; and government offices (1914-21), including the Dominion Department of Agriculture. During World War Two the Young Women's Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) renovated the second and third floors into dormitory space for women on leave; this facilitated its use by the Salvation Army as a hostel after 1948.
The North-West Travellers Building possesses heritage value for its architectural features as well. Its construction of reinforced cast-in-place concrete is unique for a four-storey building of this type and time frame, while its facade and interior contain some excellent illustrations of later Edwardian Classicism. It constitutes an important visual landmark as part of a historic streetscape that includes the neighbouring No. 1 Firehall and the nearby Odd Fellows Temple.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2113)
The character defining elements of the North-West Travellers Building include:
- reinforced cast-in-place concrete structure;
- symmetrical facade of red brick with detailed ornamentation of terra cotta and pressed metal, concentrated on the side (east and west) elevations;
- east and south elevations with parapet, pedimented entrance, pilasters, entablature (with prominent "North-West Travellers Building" lettering), shields and decorative bracketed cornice;
- arched storefront openings in wrap around design (continue from east to south elevation) ;
- original light well containing wired glass and steel sash along the north elevation;
- original double-hung wood windows on second, third and fourth storeys.
Original internal elements of the North-West Travellers Building, such as:
- aspects of original staircases (e.g. railings, sections of slate treads) ;
- a second floor vault;
- working open cage elevator.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Office or Office Building
Architect / Designer
Burroughs and Richards
P. Lyall and Sons
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. 2113)
Cross-Reference to Collection