Devenish Apartments

Status of new or continuing risks to heritage sites

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Devenish Apartments

Postby newsposter » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:25 am

The Devenish Apartments on 17th Avenue, already a provincial historic resource, received municipal heritage designation from City Council in the spring (confirm). This was in advance of renovations which are currently underway. As of the end of August the large wooden balconies on the 16th Avenue side, which had become unsound, have been removed and will be restored in keeping with the "Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada". (They would make great little patios for restaurants)

Below is posted a a link to the bylaw that has quite a bit of information about the building, photos etc., a photo, and the text of the statement of significance from the bylaw. ... n=Download

A photo from crossarthur76 on Flickr:

The Devenish Apartments, built in 1911, is a three-storey red brick structure located on 17th Avenue S.W., a commercial street. The Queen Anne Revival style building is distinguished by its numerous balconies and porches and its irregular and asymmetrical facades. The building faces Tomkin’s Square, a public park and occupies one-half of a block within the boundaries of the Beltline neighbourhood.

Heritage Value
The Devenish Apartments is architecturally and historically significant as one of the largest, most elaborate and well-known apartment buildings to be built in Calgary prior to the First World War. When built in 1911, the Devenish Apartments featured the most striking architectural design of any apartment building in the city and was touted as the largest and most up-to-date apartment building, not only in Calgary, but in all of Western Canada. Originally, the building’s roofline boasted distinctively curved Jacobean-style gables and castellated towers, exemplifying the Queen Anne Revival style - a style popular for significant apartment house designs in Western Canada. While these rooftop elements have subsequently been removed, the building is distinguished by its lengthy red-brick exterior, sandstone detailing, numerous porches, and its enormous balconies, supported by massive brackets. Local architect Alexander Pirie was in charge of the building’s design with McDougall and Forster, Ltd. of Calgary serving as the contactor and builder. Pirie was also responsible the design of Calgary’s Grunwald (St. Regis) Hotel (1911-13) and several apartment buildings in the city in the late 1920s.

When built, the Devenish was unique in Calgary for the amenities and features that its design offered to its residents. The most unique feature of the 57-suite apartment building, were the built-in beds within each one or two-room suite. These built-in beds had the effect of transforming living rooms (and dining rooms in larger suites) into bedrooms at night, thereby maximizing space and eliminating the need for separate bedrooms. All suites boasted maple floors, private baths, and service call bells. The larger suites also boasted a reception hall, dressing room, six-foot long dressing mirrors, and kitchens with enameled kitchen appliances and cabinets, depending on their size. Other unique features of the building included sunrooms off the corridors for common use; laundry facilities with a room-sized dryer; basement lockers for trades-people to leave deliveries; and garbage chambers on each floor where waste was deposited for transfer to a basement incinerator. The building was designed to be reasonably ‘soundproof’ with interior walls constructed using hollow clay tiles.

The Devenish Apartments serve to recall the tremendous development and population boom to occur in Calgary between 1910 and 1913. In 1911 when the Devenish was constructed, the city’s population increased by 33 per-cent and Calgary had the second highest rate of growth of any city in North America, after Chicago. To help alleviate the acute housing shortage in Calgary resulting from the city’s explosive growth the Devenish was the largest of thirteen large apartment houses to be constructed in 1911.

The Devenish Apartments are also historically significant for their association with the initial developer and owner of the property Oscar Grant Devenish (1867-1951), one of Calgary’s most prominent citizens in the early 20th century. Prior to the First World War, Mr. Devenish operated one of Calgary’s most successful real estate and financial services company, O.G. Devenish and Company Ltd. Mr. Devenish is also remembered as one of the early oilmen of Calgary, organizing United Oils Ltd at the time of the Turner Valley oil boom in 1914, and was later the principal of Devenish Petroleum, which had wells at the Conrad oil field south-east of Lethbridge.
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