“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared May 17, 1998.
Grand Theatre (Lougheed Building)
• 608 1st Street S.W.
• Built: 1911 - 1912
• Architect: L.R. Wardrop.
• Contractor: McNeill and Trainer of Calgary
• Original cost: $600,000 - $700,000
• Original owner: Senator James Lougheed. Lougheed was one of Calgary's early lawyers, a land agent for the Canadian Pacific Railway and Hudson's Bay Company, real estate developer, director of the Canada Life Assurance Company, founding member of the Ranchmen's Club and the Law Society of Alberta. In 1911 Lougheed established a financial brokerage company, Lougheed and Taylor. The firm owned the Lougheed Building, Empire Block, Clarence Block, Norman Block, Turner Block, Alexander Corner and the Glanville Block. As a senator for 36 years and a federal cabinet minister, he played a key role in the history of Calgary and Alberta. He was knighted in 1917 by King George V.
• Construction materials: Medicine Hat brick, sandstone and concrete facade.
• Architectural style: Classical commercial. Six storeys. Giant pilasters at every second bay and a decorative tin cornice.
• Original interior details: Theatre had a seating capacity of 1,500 and one of the largest stages in the country. Elaborate interior design; brass rails, velvet curtains, two tiers of private balcony boxes and ornate plaster work.
• The Lougheed Block was built as a multi - purpose commercial building, accommodating retail stores, offices, living quarters and on the ground floor, the Sherman Grand Theatre. The second and third floors were arranged as commercial sample rooms for wholesalers and jobbers. The upper storeys were divided into 2 and 3 room residential suites.
• The Sherman Grand, built as a legitimate vaudeville theatre, was operated by owner Senator James Lougheed as part of the Orpheum circuit until his death in 1925.
• "The Show Place of Alberta" was first managed by William B. Sherman, one of Calgary's most colourful theatre personalities. During his career, Sherman managed Hull's Opera House and the Lyric Theatre. He jointly managed several theatre companies and the Sherman Roller Rink.
• Other managers following Sherman included George Dumond, Jeffrey Lydiatt, Maynard Joiner and John Hazza.
• Opening night at the Sherman Grand Opera House featured Forbes Robertson in Jerome K. Jerome's Passing of the Third Floor Back. Ticket prices ranged from $1 to $5. Female ushers in smart black and white uniforms, seated the more than 1500 people who attended the inaugural performance. The Lougheed box was decorated with " a bower of yellow daffodils."
• The first season included Cecil B. De Mille's extravagant production of the play Stampede.
• On August 15, 1926 Famous Players Canadian Corporation leased the theatre.
• During the Twenties and Thirties the United Farmers of Alberta, United Grain Growers and Board of Trade had offices in the Lougheed Building. Accountant George Touche, Judge Walsh and A.W. Dingman were also tenants.
• In 1936 the Grand was sold to the Grand Theatre Syndicate and subsequently leased to J.B.Barron's Trans - Canada Theatre Company. It became primarily a motion picture house but continued to offer vaudeville, stage, road shows and concert series. Frank Holroyd, an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects was appointed art director. Interior renovations included an overhaul of scenery, props and stage equipment, installation of modern stage lighting and removal of seats and walls for the construction of a new projection room.
• Renovations costing $50,000 were completed in 1947. The modernization, designed by Calgary architect J.M.Cawston, included relocation of the box office, addition of new marquee and entrance, new seating and the installation of the first electronic doors in North America. Two years later Cawston worked on the Barron Building and Uptown Theatre.
• During a 1965 interior renovation with a $500,000 price tag, the stage and much of the original ornate decor was encased or removed.
• In 1969, Barron Enterprises sold the Grand, along with three other Calgary movie theatres, to the Odeon organization.
• In 1972 the Grand was converted into a side by side twin cinema, horizontally dividing the original theatre hall.
• Theatre acquired in 1983 by the Cineplex Odeon Corporation.
• Renovated and re-named the Showcase Grand, it re - opened December 1985 with A Chorus Line and Out of Africa. Alterations included two redesigned auditoriums with a combined seating capacity of 1,200. The new facilities were equipped with 70 mm wide screen projection and Dolby stereo sound. Lobby and concession counters were enlarged.
• In 1991 the decorative tin cornice was removed from the Lougheed building.
• Over the years the Grand featured a wide variety of entertainment; plays, musical comedies, Calgary little theatre productions, operas, symphony concerts, public lectures, minstrel shows and political rallies.
• Many renowned actors and theatre companies performed on the Grand's stage, which was one of the four largest in Canada. Sarah Bernhardt played in "Champ d'Honneur and portions of Dumas' "Lucretia Borgia". Lawrence Irving appeared with his wife in "Typhoon" only weeks before his death on the Titanic. The Dumbells, Sophie Tucker, Ethel Barrymore, Marx Brothers, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fred and Adele Astaire all appeared at the Grand.
• The Grand, Calgary oldest operating theatre, was built ten years before the Palace. It is the oldest theatre of its kind west of Winnipeg and one of the few remaining examples of a legitimate Canadian vaudeville house built before World War I.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared April 1, 2003.
608 1st St. S.W.
Then: Lougheed/Grand Theatre, 608 1st St. S.W.
•The six-storey Lougheed was built in 1912 by Senator James Alexander Lougheed as a multi-purpose commercial building, accommodating retail stores, offices, living quarters and, on the ground floor, the Sherman Grand Theatre. Over the years, the headquarters of United Farmers of Alberta and the United Grain Growers were located in the building while the Grand Theatre featured a wide variety of entertainment; vaudeville, Calgary little theatre productions, operas, symphony concerts, public lectures, minstrel shows and political rallies. In 1936, the theatre was sold to the Grand Theatre Syndicate and subsequently leased to J.B. Barron's Trans-Canada Theatre Company. It became primarily a motion picture house but continued to offer vaudeville, stage, road shows and concert series. Many renowned actors and theatre companies performed on the stage including Sarah Bernhardt, the Dumbells, Sophie Tucker, Ethel Barrymore, George Burns and Gracie Allen. During an interior renovation in 1965, the stage and much of the original ornate decor was encased or removed. The 1972 construction of twin cinemas horizontally divided the original theatre.
Now: Lougheed Building
•Following the sale of the building around 1980 to the Hanover Group, the theatre was closed (November 1999) and replaced with a golf centre. A group of concerned Calgarians lobbied tirelessly to save the building from being torn down and replaced by an office tower. In spite of a 1998 petition signed by 4,000 Calgarians, the province chose not to designate the Lougheed/Grand as a historical resource. Two months ago, Neil Richardson of Heritage Property Corp. purchased the Lougheed with plans to restore the facade and preserve what remains of the historic interior. Based on the company's previous successes with the Lorraine Block and the Northwest Travellers Building, the future for the Lougheed Building looks bright.