With the completion of the Calgary & Edmonton Railway in 1891, a number of stations were erected along the rail line to accommodate the expanding agricultural population of the region. Next to several of these stations, the C & E subdivided townsites, several of which grew to some size. One of these was Lacombe, which was named after the venerated Oblate priest. In 1896, Lacombe was incorporated as a village, and, in 1902, it became a town with over 500 people, possessing most of the amenities required of a northern farming community.
As years passed, Lacombe remained a farming town, its major industries being the grain elevators and the various stores, garages and equipment dealerships which served the farmers. One of leading merchants during the early 20th century was A.M. (Sandy) Campbell, who, like Gordon Puffer, was perpetually on Town Council and the executive of the Board of Trade. He was also a leading member of the local lodge of Masons. In his memoir, Puffer wrote, “Sandy Campbell was a very popular and successful business man in Lacombe for many years. He was active in civic affairs and he and Mrs. Campbell were social leaders in the community.”
Campbell had run a general store in Lacombe since 1903, and, on 17 March 1920, the Lacombe newspaper, the Western Globe, wrote about the pending erection of a new store on 50th Avenue:
Mr. A.M. Campbell has completed arrangements for the erection of a modern building on the site of his present store…. The plan shows a well designed front, which will add greatly to the appearance of our main street.
The new two-story brick store was almost a miniature department store, as it was anticipated to include hardware, clothing, dry goods and grocery departments, and also a millinery. It was a two-storey, red-brick building which featured a wide front facade accommodating two storefronts, eight large wood-framed windows on the second floor, and a bracketed cornice surmounted by a simple brick parapet prominently situated on two and a half lots.
The Campbell Block still maintains strong integrity and retains most of its original features, in particular, design, location and environment that are sufficient to communicate its significance in a local context and as a contributing resource to the Town of Lacombe’s distinctive historic commercial downtown area. Its historical significance lies in its service as a general store, and hardware and furniture store since 1920. It has served the town and district of Lacombe ever since, concentrating in recent years on hardware and furniture. It ties in well with other main street structures nearby, providing a glimpse of life in large-town Alberta throughout most of the 20th century. In 2009, it was designated a Provincial Historic Resource.
Written by: David Leonard, Historian
Visit the Alberta Register of Historic Places to learn more about the heritage value of the Campbell Block. In order for a site to be designated a Provincial Historic Resource, it must possess province-wide significance. To properly assess the historic importance of a resource, a historian crafts a context document that situates a resource within its time and place and compares it to similar resources in other parts of the province. This allows staff to determine the importance of a resource to a particular theme, time, and place. Above, is some of the historical information used in the evaluation of the Campbell Block.