“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared August 22, 1999.
• 237 8th Avenue S.E.
• Built: 1911 – 1912
• Architect: Hodgson, Bates and Beattie
• Contractor: Norton – Griffiths Steel Construction Company of Vancouver
• Original cost: $350,000
• Original owner: Patrick Burns. Burns was born in Ontario in 1855 and homesteaded in Manitoba in 1878 where he began purchasing cattle and supplying beef to railway construction crews. After moving to Calgary in 1890, he became a successful rancher and owner of the Burns Meat Packing Company. He was one of the original "Big Four" who financed the first Calgary Stampede and in 1931 was appointed to the Senate. Between 1890 and 1928 Burns built one of the largest packing and provisioning businesses in the world. Burns died in February 1937.
• Construction materials: Steel reinforced concrete frame with reinforced concrete floor and roof slabs. Exterior walls constructed of brick masonry. The north, south and east wall facades were clad in cream terra cotta (fired but unglazed clay). A glass and metal canopy extended around the building’s east and north sides above the sidewalk.
• Architectural style: Edwardian Classical. Lions’ heads and other ornamental mouldings sculptured in the surface of the terra cotta.
• Original interior details: "Six stories in addition to a roomy basement and quarters for the janitor above the sixth storey." White and green Italian marble was used to finish the main stairways and corridors. The building included modern conveniences like steam heating and ventilation. In addition to electricity, each office was equipped with natural gas lighting.
• Burns bought the property around 1909 but excavation did not begin until the fall of 1911. Construction commenced in April 1912.
• The Calgary Herald of February 1, 1913 announced that "Calgary’s Finest Business Block" the Burns Building was scheduled for completion in March.
• 1913 was a big year for building in Calgary. The Palliser Hotel, Lancaster Block, Canada Life Building and the Hudson’s Bay store were built. The Herald Building (demolished in 1972 and now the site of the Len Werry Building) was also under construction.
• The ground level provided retail space for Burns’ retail meat market. The 130-foot long market hall featured twelve 25-foot high Doric marble columns. Burns leased out the remaining 35,000 square feet of office space to a wide variety of tenants. Historian Hugh Dempsey wrote, "the list of businesses which occupied the Patrick Burns Building…reads like a corporate Who’s Who." Calgary Power, Alberta Investment and Insurance Brokers, Rocky Mountain Cement and a variety of dentists, doctors, lawyers, realtors, insurance agents and accountants were among the first tenants.
• Around 1980 the demolition of the Burns building became a possibility when it was proposed that the property it sat on was needed for the construction of the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts. In a June 1980 report the situation was clearly outlined. " Our [the city’s] urban planning consultants (Hanen and Moriyama) have recommended that two heritage buildings in this block be preserved, namely the Calgary Public Building and the Burns Building. At the time of the recommendation it was thought possible to fit the necessary concert halls and theatres in and around the two old buildings. A more detailed study by the architects for the performing arts group [Stevenson Raines] and their theatre consultants has indicated that while this can be done, a better result can be achieved if the land under the Burns Building were to be available for performing arts purposes."
• Ultimately the demolition proposal was defeated by one City Council vote. The Burns Building, like the Public Building was saved and incorporated into the design of Performing Arts Centre.
• Between 1981 and 1984 the building underwent extensive renovations designed by architects A.J. Diamond and Partners with Carruthers and McCullum.
• Designated a Provincial Heritage Resource in 1987.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared April 29, 2003.
237 8th Ave. S.E.
Then: Burns Building, 237 8th Ave. S.E.
• When meat-packing king and rancher Patrick Burns built this business block in 1912, it cost $350,000 and consisted of six storeys in addition to a roomy basement and quarters for the janitor above the top floor. White and green Italian marble was used to finish the main stairways and corridors. The building included modern conveniences such as steam heating and ventilation. In addition to electricity, each office was equipped with natural gas lighting. The ground level provided retail space for Burns' retail meat market. The 130-foot long market hall featured a dozen 25-foot high Doric marble columns. Burns leased out the remaining 35,000 square feet of office space to a wide variety of tenants. Historian Hugh Dempsey wrote, "the list of businesses which occupied the Patrick Burns Building . . . read like a corporate Who's Who." Calgary Power, Alberta Investment and Insurance Brokers, Rocky Mountain Cement and a variety of dentists, doctors, lawyers, realtors, insurance agents and accountants were among the first tenants.
• Around 1980, the city proposed demolition of the Burns building because it sat on property needed for construction of the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts. After considerable public input, the demolition proposal was defeated by one city council vote. Between 1981 and 1984, the building underwent extensive renovations and was incorporated into the new arts facility. The Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts, now known as the Epcor Centre, was officially opened Sept. 14, 1985, by former premier Peter Lougheed. In 1987, the Burns Building was designated a provincial historic resource.