Breathing New Life Into Old Buildings

Calgary’s National Hotel and East End Livery restored for commercial use

An old hotel and livery barn are getting a new lease on life in the Calgary community of Inglewood.

The National Hotel was constructed in 1907 and began operations a year later. In 1908, the East End Livery Barn was constructed to house the horses of the hotel’s patrons. The building was purchased by Ansonia Property Management Inc. in March of 2010.

“It was originally slated to be condos, so we had to do the appropriate zoning so we could use an office and retail usefor it,” said Jane Kerr, vice president of Ansonia, who owns the two buildings along with her parents John and Oreal Kerr. “Old buildings take a lot of time — nothings easy. It’s not like a new build (with) everything straight forward and you have a plan, that’s what happens; it’s like you have a plan and run into a snag and its back to the drawing board.”

The Kerrs aren’t strangers to breathing new life into historical buildings in Calgary. Among other things the family is also responsible for the restoration of Inglewood’s Garry Theatre, Burn Block and Fraser Block; whose reincarnations allowed for the Ironwood Stage & Grill and several shops and eateries in the trendy community.

The process of restoring the hotel to its former glory has required extensive work such as leveling floors, putting in new footings, and removing brick, turning it around and replacing it for a fresher look.

“An addition was built between the barn and the hotel in the ‘50s and it was a sort of notoriously rough beer parlour up until the ‘90s,” said Jane.

That notorious beer parlour’s (located on the first floor of the hotel) exterior has been refaced using paint colours John found from an early 1900s colour fan deck, just another painstaking attention to detail in the buildings restoration.

Jane explained the main floor has been repurposed for commercial purposes and while Ansonia hasn’t done any marketing or accepted any offers yet, several restaurants have expressed interest in the space. The second and third floors of the building have already been leased by Gunnar, an engineering firm and will include a modular system for the walls, meaning they can be rearranged if necessary.

As for the livery barn, when vehicles came onto the scene and horseback faded as the ideal mode of transportation, it went through several transformations.

“Initially it was a feed barn, then it was an auction barn then it was sold to Calgary Brewing and Malting company, then the family who had it originally as an auction barn bought it back — the MacLean family — and it was an auction mart as far as the ‘90s,” said Jane.

The barn fell into disrepair, a haven for local pigeons, until the Kerrs came along. Its restoration has been included in a yet-to-be-named reality show with the first episode featuring it set to run in January 2013. Commercially, Jane has hopes of the barn becoming a restaurant or event centre while John imagines something along the lines of an antique store. The National Hotel and East End Livery project is slated for completion by late this year.

Restorations like that of the National Hotel are examples of the kind of work showcased by the City of Calgary’s biennial Lion Awards. The awards recognize citizens and groups who have undertaken initiatives of any scale in support of heritage conservation in Calgary. While The National won’t be done in time for this year’s awards it’s exactly the kind of project touted by the awards said Clint Robertson, heritage planner, land use planning and policy with The City.

“A project like this is definitely on the upper end of the spectrum,” he said.

The 2012 Lion Awards take place Aug. 1 at the new Calgary Board of Education headquarters. For more information contact Pia Novello at 403-268-4461.

4 thoughts on “Breathing New Life Into Old Buildings

  1. The reality show that was mentioned in the article is Canadian Pickers on History TV. Apparently it is going to be used as their antiques warehouse. The first episode of the latest season which aired last week showed them touring the barn. The second episode which aired this week showed them interviewing potential employees to work there at the Kane’s motorcycle diner on the same block.

  2. Love watching Canadian Pickers. I don’t even go to garage sales but love Scott and Sheldon. Want to buy something from them as a souvenier of their show.

  3. I remember going to auctions there with my dad then he would go to the national for a beer and crown surplus would baby sit me

  4. I used to sell my bunny rabbits out in front of the little red auction barn. Two dollars each back then! Early 1970’s.

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