“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared September 21, 1997.
Alberta Hotel Building
• 804 1st Street S.W.
• Built: 1888 - 1889
• Architect: J. Llewellyn Wilson (also architect for Bow Valley Ranch House, 1896 and A.E.Cross House, 1891)
• Contractor: T.S.C. Lee and Alfred Brealey
• Original cost:
$36,000 plus $9,000 for furnishings
• Original owner: T.S.C. Lee and Alfred Brealey, originally from England. They established themselves as building contractors in Calgary.
• Construction materials: Calgary sandstone
• Architectural style: Romanesque Revival with heavily rusticated facade
• Original interior details: Northwestern Journal of Progress for 1903 described the 75 room Alberta Hotel as "lighted with electricity, heated by steam, call bells in every room, with bell boy system in attendance, and the service in all departments sans raproche, while the cuisine is excellent." Basement - barbershop managed by Charlie Traunweiser, billiard room and bathrooms. First floor - offices and reading rooms, telegraph office, bar room and dining room with a seating capacity of 72. Second floor - ladies parlour and reception rooms. Baths on each floor. Rooms were $2.50 - $3.00 daily in 1903.
• Lee and Brealey purchased lots from D.W.March, a former mayor of Calgary, for $5,000.
• one of the first sandstone buildings to be constructed following the fire of 1886 which destroyed many downtown buildings.
• Calgary Herald, December 7, 1889 reported "furniture and fittings for the Alberta Hotel have arrived. Hotel will be ready in 10 days."
• first Manager of the hotel was H.A.Perley, pioneer hotelman who came to Calgary in 1889
• bar hours were from 7:00 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
• a meeting place for local ranchers and businessmen who conducted business in the dining room and at the bar.
• the Long Bar, 125 feet of polished wood and glass, was reputed to be the longest bar in Western Canada.
• hotel regulars included lawyer Paddy Nolan, ranchers Pat Burns, William Roper Hull, A.E.Cross, newspaperman, Bob Edwards and R.B. Bennett (reportedly a teetotaler) had his own table in the bar and at one time lived in the hotel. Mayor Wesley Orr's 1893 diary describes a lazy winter evening, " I sat up at the Alberta with Major Jarvis, James Reilly, W.C.Wells, Fred Stimson and others and saw his Honor Gov. McIntosh son and daughter start for Regina about 4 a.m. The friends and acquaintances who held court seated in the lobby and sometimes out in front of the hotel, became known as the "arm chair brigade."
• in 1902 a large addition (smooth faced sandstone and brick) was built to the east of the original structure on 8th Avenue.
• 1904 hotel was sold to Norman D. Jackson for $75,000 who ran the bar for three years. then leased it to Charles D. Taprell (1907 - 1916). Jackson sold it to G.S. Kilburn of Owen Sound, Ontario in 1910.
• Friday June 2, 1905 menu featured Croquettes of fowl with parsley sauce, baked macaroni and cheese Espagnole, rib of prime beef with Yorkshire pudding, baked salmon and tipsy trifle cake and fresh rhubarb pie.
• 1916 the Long Bar and the hotel closed as a result of Prohibition. A last supper was served in the dining room at the end of May 1916 and was attended by many of the old-timers including Mark Drum who had also been present at the first meal served at the Alberta in January 1890. In mourning for the closure, veteran barman Tom Pierce "dispensed enough liquor to fill every horse trough in Alberta."
• following the 1916 closure of the bar and hotel, Calgary architect George Fordyce was hired and the building was remodelled to accommodate retail space at street level and offices on the other floors. The building became known as the Alberta Corner.
• in 1929 United Cigar Store Ltd. bought the property from the Kilburn estate for $575,000.
• between 1916 and 1972 the Alberta Hotel building was home to many Calgary businesses. In 1923 the building housed dentists, doctors, lawyers, opticians, the Bungalow Construction Company, Kelly's Sporting Goods, Vogue Millinery.
• October 1972, property was purchased for $1 million from United Cigar Stores by Stewart Green Properties Ltd. Extensive multi million dollar renovation of interior and exterior. False fronts, neon signs removed. Nothing of the original interior remains but facade is relatively intact.
• cement copies of eight gargoyles from the demolished (Greyhound Building) formerly the Herald building were used to decorate the renovated facade. Originals decorate the interior.
• building re-opened in 1973 as office and retail space.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared December 3, 2002.
804 1st St. S.W.
• The 50-room Alberta Hotel was built in 1889 on Calgary's busiest corner. The local watering hole became famous for having the longest bar in Western Canada and a colourful clientele that included lawyer Paddy Nolan, ranchers Pat Burns and A.E. Cross and Eye Opener newspaper editor Bob Edwards.
Prohibition permanently closed the hotel in May 1916. At the celebratory last supper, barman Tom Pierce dispensed "enough liquor to fill every horse trough in Alberta." The building was quickly converted to retail and office use and from 1929 to 1972 was home to the United Cigar Store. Stewart Green Properties bought the property for $1 million in 1973 and carried out extensive renovations, gutting the building and mounting copies of gargoyles on the 8th Avenue exterior.
Now: Alberta Hotel Building
• After numerous additions and countless renovations starting as early as 1891, this structure is still fondly called the Alberta Hotel Building. Since the Neill family's real estate development company Encorp Inc. bought it in 1997, the rugged beauty of this local landmark has been restored to accommodate retail and restaurant use.