Old Strathcona building gets historic designation

Richards Block – a three-storey red-brick commercial building in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona area – was designated a historic resource. 

Richards Block, located at 104 Street and 82 Avenue, was built between 1909 and 1910 by A.H. Richards Co, one of the oldest commercial firms in the neighbourhood of Strathcona on 82 (Whyte) Avenue.

“Richards Block is special because it’s a rather grand looking building for the early 1900s, and it was an important player in the growth of the former City of Strathcona,” said Scott Ashe, Heritage Planner.

“Building more substantial Edwardian commercial blocks like this was a sign that business people believed in the future of the area.”

Strathcona is one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods and was a separate town until its amalgamation with Edmonton in 1912.

Richards Block is significant for the important role it played in the early economic, social and cultural development of Strathcona. It was one of a number of brick commercial buildings built on Whyte Avenue during the economic boom prior to the First World War.  

READ MORE: Edmonton home tied to railway gets heritage designation

Richards Block was a commercial and social centre. The main floor was Richards general store and other businesses, while the upper floors accommodated a dance hall and meeting space for fraternal organizations such as the Freemasons and Odd Fellows.

The building scale, design and materials represented a shift away from the modest wood-frame Boomtown Style buildings typical in the west prior to this time.  

The heritage value of Richards Block is also expressed in the building’s architectural features, including its red brick facade with corbelled parapet and central pediment, cornices above the storefront and at the roofline and hand-painted advertising signs (ghost signs) on the sides and rear of the building.

The owners will receive $367,955 from the city’s Heritage Resources Reserve Fund to help with rehabilitation of the building.

The city’s Historic Resource Management Plan outlines the city’s mission to identify, protect and promote the preservation and use of historic resources.

The plan contains 24 policies and 88 action items that direct how Edmonton’s heritage should be preserved and celebrated. Since the plan was initiated in 1985, 157 properties have been designated, with more designations planned in the future.

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