“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared October 3, 1999.
North–West Travellers Building
• 515 1st. St. S.E.
• Built: 1912 - 1914
• Contractor: P. Lyall and Sons
• Original cost: $140,000
• Construction materials: Reinforced concrete construction. Red brick.
• Original interior details: This description appeared in local newspapers at the time of the grand opening in January 1914. "The basement is fitted up for shower baths and a barber shop. On the first floor are travellers’ sample rooms. The second and third floors are divided into offices and the fourth floor has been handsomely fitted up as the home of the Commercial club. The block is steam heated and has an up-to-date two-shaft elevator system…The club has 12 rooms, all of which will be used for club purposes. There is a buffet and dining room, a reading room, lounging room and other meeting and recreation rooms, all of which have been beautifully finished and splendidly furnished. The club has a membership of 300."
• The building, originally known as the Commercial Travellers’ building, was constructed by the Calgary branch (established in 1905) of the Northwest Commercial Travellers Association of Canada. (NWCTA). Based in Winnipeg the NWCTA was founded in 1882 " to secure travelling and personal benefits for commercial travellers, manufacturers’ agents, sales executives and proprietors of wholesaling and distribution companies." Although the NWCTA created advisory boards in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1911, a group of Albertans formed a rival organization called the Alberta Commercial Travellers’ Association.
• Keen to avoid a split along provincial lines, the NWCTA appointed the executive of the rival Alberta association as provincial directors of the Canadian association and promised to construct a building in Calgary.
• In January 1912, the Calgary News Telegram ran a column announcing "Commercial Travelers Will Erect a $100,000 Building in this City." It was reported that "for some time past the need of a home for the commercial men making Calgary their headquarters has been keenly felt." The new building was to accommodate the association’s offices, meeting and clubrooms for commercial travellers, and rental space for commercial tenants and manufacturers’ agents.
• Part of the land for the new building had originally been the site of dentist R.B.O’Sullivan’s residence. By 1911 the property belonged to local businessmen, O.S.Chapin (treasurer of the Alberta Travelers Association), G.P Ovans and W.J.Ovans. In 1912, the NWCTA bought the south 65 feet for their new building.
• Excavation of the site was completed in December 1912 and a building permit for "stores office" was issued on April 6, 1913.
• The completed building opened in January 1914. Initially it housed the NWCTA offices, sample rooms, Commerical Club and a variety of residential and commercial tenants including a the Attorney General’s Liquor License Branch and Detective Department (1914 – 1916), the Seed Branch of the Dominion Department of Agriculture (1916 – 1920) the Alberta Government Vendors Store (1918), and the Provincial Police Department (1920 – 1921).
• As a result of poor attendance, the outbreak of World War I and prohibition, the Commercial club closed in 1916 and the fourth floor was converted to offices.
• When the Calgary School Board rented the building for the Commercial High School from 1926 to 1933, the NWCTA offices moved to the IOOF Building on Centre Street. The School Board sub - let space to tenants like the Calgary Public Museum (1928 – 1935).
• Toole, Peet and Co. took over management of the building when the High School moved out in 1933 and many commercial tenants returned, including the NWCTA and the United Commercial Travellers.
• The building never generated the expected revenue and in 1938 the NWCTA considered converting it into a 44 - suite apartment block.
• In 1943, the YWCA Blue Triangle Service Women’s Leave Centre moved in, renovating the second and third floors into dormitories, lounge rooms and a canteen.
• Around 1945 the building was sold and converted into a 20 room residential hotel called the Hotel Bliss.
• The Salvation Army renovated the building after they bought it around 1948 (for a reported $67,000) and in April 1949 opened a Men’s Hostel. The renovations included the addition of a small chapel, reading room, separate quarters for alcoholics, recreation facilities, a new entrance, redecorating and general refurbishment. In 1952, those who could pay were charged 40 cents a night for dormitory bed and $4.50 a week for a private room.
• In 1954 a two – storey, addition designed by Stevenson and Dewar was constructed on the north side, consisting of workshops and a central salvage depot.
• Currently owned by the Salvation Army, the building accommodates emergency and transitional housing, a thrift shop, addictions rehabilitation services and community meal programmes.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared April 8, 2003.
Then: Northwest Travellers Building, 515 1st. St. S.E.
• The building, originally known as the Commercial Traveller's building, was constructed by the Calgary branch (established in 1905) of the Northwest Commercial Travellers Association of Canada. Based in Winnipeg, the NWCTA was founded in 1882 to "secure travelling and personal benefits for commercial travelers, manufacturers' agents, sales executives and proprietors of wholesaling and distribution companies." The $140,000 Calgary building opened in 1914 and provided offices for the NWCTA and a variety of residential and commercial tenants. Tenants over the years included the Attorney General's liquor licence branch and
detective department (1914-1916), the seed branch of the Dominion Department of Agriculture (1916-1920), the Alberta government vendors store (1918), the Provincial Police Department (1920-1921), Commercial High School (1926-1933), and Calgary Public Museum (1928- 1935). It was converted to a 44-suite apartment block in 1944 and one year later sold and converted into a 20-room residential hotel called the Hotel Bliss. In 1948, the Salvation Army bought and renovated the building to accommodate a men's hostel. Alterations included building a small chapel, reading room, recreation facilities and a new entrance. In 1952, those who could pay were charged 40 cents a night for a dormitory bed and $4.50 a week for a private room.
Now: Northwest Travellers Building
• Neil Richardson's Heritage Properties Corp., owners of the Lorraine Block and the Lougheed Grand building, bought the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Centre in 2001 for $1.25 million. The company invested a further $3 million in renovations, restoring the exterior facade and retaining the historic interior fabric when possible. At present, Shane Global Village, an English as a second language school, occupies the top three
floors while the street level remains available for rent. In January, the building was designated a provincial historic resource by the province.