“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared April 2, 2000.
• 303 8th Avenue S.E.
• Built: 1909
• Demolished: 1974
• Architect: Leo Dowler, who was later named resident architect for Alberta’s Department of Public Works. Leo married Sam Livingston’s daughter Marg, in 1905 and they had nine children. Dowler also designed the Oddfellows building, St. Barnabus Church, Customs building, the Rohl and Blow blocks, the Board of Trade building and a number of residences.
• Original cost: $75,000
• Construction materials: Solid masonry and iron frame construction. Sandstone front. Brick side and back walls.
• Original interior details: Five-storeys. Elevator. Two skylights over the central stairwell. Wood trim, doors and floors. Some indication that Samis ran short of money and skimped on the interior details.
• Architectural style: Architectural style: Narrow five-storey commercial building. According to a government report written in 1973, the Samis Block was “one of the earliest in Calgary to employ the large windows and vertical lines typical of the Chicago school of architecture.”
• Original Owner: Adoniram Judson Samis. Samis was born in Ontario in 1873 but grew up on a farm in Ohio. In 1893 Samis joined his father who had moved to Olds, Alberta the previous year. Adoniram taught at the Stoney Indian Reserve at Morley and worked as a correspondent for the Calgary Herald. In 1900 he married Anna McCann and the couple had two children. Samis established a newspaper called the Olds Oracle, but in a 1903 fire the business was destroyed. The following year Samis moved to Calgary where he went into the real estate business and municipal politics. He was first elected to city council in 1907 and during his civic career served three terms as alderman and a number of years as Commissioner. Samis advocated government by commission and municipal ownership of public utilities. The 1919 City of Calgary Yearbook credited Samis with helping to establish Calgary’s commission government and commented on his interest in taxation. “Samis never tires of explaining the virtues of ‘land values,’ and the vices of exempting special privileged persons and all corporations from taxation. He believes that if all land were publicly owned and leased to the people, the revenues derived would be sufficient to warrant abolishing our present vicious and expensive methods of tax gathering.”
Samis was a “Baptist, a Liberal and a member of the Canadian Club of Calgary.” He promoted the construction of a railway to Lake Chestermere and in 1912 was a director of the Chestermere Lake Street Railway Company. In 1922 he lost his final bid for commissioner. Plagued by illness and financial problems, Samis left Calgary in December 1922 and moved to Los Angeles where he died in 1942. Samis Road in Crescent Heights is named in his honour.
• At the time Samis built his office block at the eastern end of the downtown business area the new sandstone city hall was under construction just around the corner at 7th Avenue and 2nd Street S.E.
• Samis thought the office building was a good investment because it had been rumoured that the Grand Trunk Railway would build a terminal three blocks away on the site of the old Northwest Mounted Police barracks. (Fort Calgary). The terminal was never built.
• The ground floor commercial space initially housed the Calgary Daily News and the Princess Theatre. On March 17, 1914 the Princess re-opened in a purpose built theatre constructed further west on the same block. The Samis Block’s commercial space was subsequently occupied by printing shops, harness and saddle makers and second hand shops. The upper floor offices were rented to lawyers, insurance companies, brokerage and real estate firms. After World War I it was primarily used for apartments.
• In 1912 David McDougall, trader, rancher, real estate broker and the son of Reverend George McDougall, built the David Block next door.
• By 1922 Samis was ill and in considerable financial difficulty. In December of that year he left the city and his debts behind, moving to Los Angeles. He wrote, “ While many businessmen in Calgary have lost their business blocks, I have been making an effort to weather the financial storm with the Samis Block. I have paid over $30,000 as interest and taxes in the last few years and have fallen somewhat behind…During this year I have paid $2,000 in taxes and rates to the city. There is still a small amount owing….
• The Samis Block and other 8th Avenue East properties, including the Princess (Variety) Theatre and the David Block were acquired by the city as part of the 1960s Urban Renewal Scheme and the civic centre project.
• The eastern end of 8th Avenue was permanently closed and in August 1974, the Samis and adjacent buildings were demolished to prepare for the construction of the new municipal building and parkade in 1985-1986.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared March 3, 2004.
Then: Samis Block
• This narrow, five-storey commercial building with sandstone facade was designed by Leo Dowler and built in 1909 at a cost of $75,000. Reportedly, it was one of the earliest to employ large windows and vertical lines typical of the Chicago school of architecture. Real estate investor and owner Adoniram Judson Samis was first elected to city council in 1907 and served three terms as alderman and a number of years as commissioner. Plagued by illness and financial problems, Samis left Calgary in 1922 and moved to Los Angeles. Over the years, the Samis building's commercial space was occupied by printing shops, harness and saddle makers and second- hand shops. The upper-floor offices were rented to lawyers, insurance companies, brokerage and real estate firms. After the First World War, it was primarily used as apartments.
Now: Municipal Building
• The Samis Block and other 8th Avenue East properties, including the Princess (Variety) Theatre and the David Block, were acquired by the city as part of the 1960s urban renewal scheme and the civic centre project. The eastern end of 8th Avenue was permanently closed and, in August 1974, the Samis and adjacent buildings were demolished to prepare for the construction of the Municipal Building and parkade in 1985-86.