New Uses for Old Places – Building Additions

New Uses for Old Places is a RETROactive series in which we are looking at examples from around Alberta of historic places that have found interesting new uses for spaces that were originally designed for other purposes. This week we will be looking at two examples of adaptive reuse projects that have involved the construction of additions to the historic fabric.

As previously discussed in this series, the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada offer guidelines for rehabilitating and adaptively reusing historic places. The “S&Gs” include specific provisions for how decisions can be made that will allow for the modification of buildings over time. A tenant may require additional square footage to continue operations or to start a new business in a historic place. When these situations arise and building additions are required, the Standards & Guidelines provide guidance on how to proceed.

Standard Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.
Standard Create any new additions or related new construction so that the essential form and integrity of an historic place will not be impaired if the new work is removed in the future.
Guideline Design an addition that is compatible in terms of materials and massing with the exterior form of the historic building and its setting.
Guideline Design a new addition in a manner that draws a clear distinction between what is historic and what is new.
Guideline Select the location for a new addition that ensures that the heritage value of the place is maintained.

Our first example, the Wetaskiwin Court House, was constructed as a three-storey, red brick building between 1907 and 1909 and served as a legal institution of regional importance for over 70 years. The court house was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1977 and the last court sitting was held in 1983.

A major rehabilitation project was undertaken in 2006 to convert the building to accommodate the offices and Council Chambers of the City of Wetaskiwin. As part of the rehabilitation, two new additions were added to either wing of the building. The project involved integration of older materials with new technologies, such as the tie in of the original cast iron radiators with the new geothermal heating and cooling system.

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Our second example, the Strathcona Public Library in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Edmonton, is a two-storey brick structure that was constructed in 1913 and remains the oldest surviving public library in Edmonton. The Strathcona Public Library was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2004 and a Provincial Historic Resource in 2008.

Strathcona Public Library

Over the years the use had not changed but the needs of the institution grew and additional space and services became a requirement. A major rehabilitation project was undertaken to construct an addition at the rear of the building (the left portion as shown on the image to the right). The rehabilitated library was re-opened in 2007.

Click on the following link to access a copy of a presentation on this project given by Tom Ward, Manager of Heritage Conservation Advisory Services, at the 2013 Municipal Heritage Forum: Strathcona Library PowerPoint – 2013 Forum.

These projects exemplify that heritage need not be frozen in place. There are means by which to respect and care for the original fabric while allowing for the transformation of uses over time.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

New Uses for Old Places – Historic Bank Buildings

In this edition of New Uses for Old Places we are going to look at two Provincial Historic Resources on Calgary’s historic Stephen Avenue that are currently undergoing rehabilitation. The Bank of Nova Scotia  and the Bank of Montreal Building are both slated to reopen with new uses this year.

In the early days of Alberta, banks were designed as statements of wealth, progress and confidence in a growing province. The buildings included lofty banker’s halls, adorned with fancy ornamentation — the ‘suits’ could look down on the tellers from the mezzanine above. The design was intended to impress investors and was conducive to the hushed conversation of financial matters.

But, what do you do with grand halls when the money managers move to a modern building? Historic banks can be difficult spaces to re-purpose due to challenges with acoustics, heating and the unconventional layout of the main floor. Nevertheless, for two former banks on Calgary’s Stephen Avenue, the commitment of the property owners and the selection of suitable tenants has resulted in the revitalisation of two very significant buildings on one of Calgary’s most active streets.

The Bank of Montreal building was constructed on Stephen Avenue in 1930-32 as a three-storey, steel-frame building clad in Tyndall limestone. The building replaced an earlier (1889) version of the building in an effort to modernize its image. The bank operated in this location until 1988. The most recent tenant, A&B Sound, left the building over a decade ago and it has since sat empty. Renovations are now under way to re-purpose the building to accommodate a restaurant/pub on the main floor, with 25,000 square feet of office space on the upper floors. The building was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003.

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Just across the street sits, the Bank of Nova Scotia. It was constructed in 1930 as a one-storey steel frame, brick and sandstone structure and operated as a bank until 1976. Since that time the building has been home to a range of restaurants and clubs and is now being renovated to contain a public house. The renovation will involve re-plastering of the walls and restoration of the marble flooring in the entranceway. The building was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1981.

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Heritage Conservation Advisory Services has been working closely with the owners of both properties to ensure that renovation activities are following the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

New Uses for Old Places – The Warehouse Conversion

This is the first installment of a new series of blog posts on RETROactive entitled New Uses for Old Places. We will be highlighting examples from around Alberta of historic resources that have found interesting, new uses for spaces that were originally designed for different purposes. To start us off we are going to talk about the ubiquitous warehouse conversion.

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One of the best ways to ensure a long and prosperous future for a historic place is to make sure that it is in use. Making certain that people are frequenting a site ensures that a historic resource stays relevant and in the forefront of public consciousness. This can be a challenge given that the purposes for which many of our historic places were originally designed for are now defunct. The conversion of a building to allow for a new use is known as adaptive reuse and it is a process that can require some creative thinking.

The values-based approach to heritage conservation recognizes the importance of activating our historic places and recognizes that alterations may be required to ensure the long-term sustainability of a site. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada consider adaptive reuse to be a rehabilitation conservation treatment. Rehabilitation is understood to be “the sensitive adaptation of an historic place or individual component for a continuing or compatible contemporary use, while protecting its heritage value” (Standards & Guidelines, page 16).

A popular form of adaptive reuse/rehabilitation is that of the warehouse conversion. More common in larger cities that once were home to warehousing and manufacturing sectors, warehouse districts are now often surrounded by non-industrial, higher density development and attract investors who see the potential in the character that the former industrial spaces have to offer. Warehouses make good candidates for adaptive reuse because they have large, relatively open floor plates, generous ceiling heights and numerous large windows. These features allow for the flexibility to subdivide the interior space for a variety of purposes without compromising the unique elements that make warehouses so charming (think freight elevators, bank vaults, exposed beams, etc.).

Edmonton and Calgary were home to the majority of manufacturing and shipping in Alberta. As such the majority of extant warehouse structures are located in these two cities, though there are others scattered in other communities across the province. A number of these structures have received historical designation at the municipal and/or provincial level and have been rehabilitated to accommodate a variety of new uses.

Written by: Rebecca Goodenough, Municipal Heritage Services Officer.

Click on the following links to find the listing on the Alberta Register of Historic Places for warehouse buildings featured in the slideshow:

Camrose Feed Mill (Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1985)

Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2001)

Customs House (MHR) / Customs Examining Warehouse (PHR) (Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1979 and a Municipal Historic Resource in 2009)

H.V. Shaw Building (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2001)

A. MacDonald Building (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2000 and a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003)

Metals Building (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2002)

Phillips Building (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2001)

Simmons Factory Warehouse (Designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2009)