Cornerstones appeared every Sunday in the Living section of the Calgary Herald. The following article appeared January 17, 1999.
Cadogan Block (Royal Hotel)
• 716 2nd Street S.W.
• Built: 1910 - 1911
• Demolished: 1972
• Contractor: Day labour
• Original cost: $75,000
• Original owner: Robert Cadogan Thomas came to Calgary from England in 1884 and settled on a ranch seventeen miles southeast of the city at the mouth of Pine Creek. According to the History of the Province of Alberta published in 1912, Thomas " stayed on his ranch for ten years then came to Calgary and entered the coal business", eventually buying the Edmonton Coal Company. "Doing well in this business, he added the lines of lumber, ice and farm machinery, which he continued until 1911, when he sold out the lumber property, rented the farm machinery property and started in the erection of business blocks in the business district." He built the Thomas Block (1905), the Cadogan (1911), the Royal Hotel (1920) and the Wales Hotel (1930). Thomas served as Alderman in 1904 - 1905 and 1924 – 1927, and was on the executive council of the Calgary Board of Trade for 12 years. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, the Sons of England, the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association, the Municipal Cricket Club and the Calgary Golf and Country Club. In 1887 Thomas married Agnes Egerie Shaw, a daughter of Samuel William Shaw of Midnapore. Together they had four children Robert Cadogan Thomas died in 1950 at the age of 88.
• Construction materials: Red brick and sandstone.
• Architectural style: Four storey commercial block.
• Original interior details: Forty two rooms.
• Originally the site of the Frontier Stables built in 1883 by Fish Creek pioneer John Glenn.
• In 1897 Thomas bought the stables which had been vacant for three years for $1,500. He extended the structure and added roof dormers.
• By February 1910 the automobile had arrived and the economy was booming. Thomas tore down the barns and corral to build a $75,000 four storey commercial block which he named Cadogan after himself. With the boom came the inevitable conflict between past and present. For many Calgarians the passing of the Frontier Stables marked the end of the pioneer era. The Calgary Daily News reported, "the demolishing of the old stable and the erection of a substantial and up-to-date business block in its place will greatly improve the appearance of this part of the main street, and will be regarded as a piece of good news by a great number of citizens who have long considered the stable an eyesore to this part of 8th Avenue."
• When the stables were demolished, workmen uncovered a labyrinth of underground passages. The local paper reported "In the good old days, when prohibition did not prohibit—but apparently was in force for the purpose of sharpening the wits of those who wanted a drink and had the four bits to pay for it – the old stable often had as much liquor concealed around it as some of the wholesale stores do now."
• Construction on the new commercial block began in earnest shortly after Thomas applied for a building permit on September 9, 1910.
• Albert Adrian Dick (real estate investor and Titanic survivor), Gibson Catlett (Montreal artist), Northwest Empire Land Company, the Dominion Government’s Electricity and Gas Inspection Services and an assortment of real estate agents and lawyers were among the Cadogan’s first tenants in 1913. Eleven of the forty – two suites were vacant.
• By 1915, the economic impact of the First Great War, the downturn in the economy and an over-supply of office space took its toll. The Cadogan lost most of its business tenants. The adaptable Thomas converted the block to residential suites, the first of two major transformations for the building.
• Following a second renovation in 1920 which added three storeys, Thomas re-opened the building as the "New Royal Hotel" in January 1921. Every room had hot and cold running water and private bath. Daily rates ranged from $2.00 to $3.00.
• In 1928, Thomas sold the Royal to veteran hotelman Frank Webster and used the proceeds to build the eleven storey Wales Hotel across the street.
• The Websters began a major reconstruction of the Royal in November 1950. An adjacent one storey brick building was demolished to permit " expansion of the lobby, the construction of a new dining room ( Starlight Room) and a nine floor addition." By 1953 the renovated Royal Hotel, designed by local architects, Rule, Wynn and Rule, was completed.
• Calgary’s first "Smorgasbord" made its debut at the Royal Hotel in October 1954 under the direction of chef Victor Fuchs. It became a permanent attraction of the Royal Hotel Room each Wednesday evening from 6 to 10 p.m.
• TheWebster family retained ownership of the hotel until 1961 when it was sold to "unidentified British interests" for an estimated $1,750,000.
• Louis Armstrong, the Russian soccer team, Mantovani’s Orchestra and a young singer named Johnny Cash were among the many guests of the Royal Hotel over its fifty year history.
• According to Bert Mosley, manager of the Royal from 1956 to 1962, the hotel’s tavern had "top sales of beer" in Alberta during the 1950s. .
• In March 1971, Capitol Plaza, owned jointly by the Bank of Nova Scotia and Famous Players Canadian Corporation, bought the Royal Hotel and the adjacent Webster Building to accommodate the construction of the 40 storey Scotia Centre.
• The contents of the Royal Hotel were auctioned off in February 1972 and the building was demolished along with the Capitol Theatre, a Holt Renfrew store and the Webster Block.
• The Scotia Centre opened in 1976.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared March 4, 2003.
Then: Cadogan Block/Royal Hotel , 700 2nd St. S.W.
• In 1911, Robert Cadogan Thomas (in later years a city alderman) tore down the Frontier Stables, originally built by pioneer John Glenn, and erected this four-storey brick and sandstone commercial block. By 1915, it had been converted to residential use. Five years later, Thomas added three storeys and reopened the building as the New Royal Hotel. He sold it to the Webster family in 1928 and used the proceeds to build the Wales Hotel across the street. In a 1950 renovation, the Websters expanded the Royal's lobby, constructed a new dining room and added nine storeys. Calgary's first smorgasbord made its debut at the Royal Hotel in 1954. Over the years, Louis Armstrong, the Russian soccer team and Johnny Cash stayed at the hotel. In 1971, the Royal was sold to Capital Plaza, owned jointly by the Bank of Nova Scotia and Famous Players Canadian Corp. A year later, the hotel's contents were auctioned and the building was demolished.
Now: Scotia Centre
• Construction of Scotia Centre was completed in 1976. The 40- storey office tower and low-rise banking hall, designed by the Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership, rose from the dust of the demolished Royal Hotel, Capitol Theatre and Webster Block. The centre, built as the corporate regional headquarters for the Bank of Nova Scotia, was renovated in 1998.