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The Medical-Dental Building, 1929

The building I'm writing about in this post falls outside the date limits of this site, however, it's still "Modern" and it's a fascinating project. Before I begin, behold the Medical-Dental Building, Calgary's art deco masterpiece that never was:

So what was the Medical-Dental Building, where was it supposed to be, who designed it, and why wasn't it built?

The first mention of the project appeared in the Herald on 9 November 1929 with an accompanying drawing. According to the article, the building was to be constructed on the northwest corner of 6th Avenue and 1st Street SW, diagonal to the Lougheed Building. It was to be 14 storeys with a parking garage at the rear. The architect was John A. Creutzer of Seattle, working with two local firms, D. S. McIlroy of Calgary and Storey and Van Edmond of Regina. Why a Regina firm was involved is a complete mystery.

John Alfred Creutzer, originally Johan, was born in Sweden on 22 September 1873. He came to the United States in 1893 and in 1906 or 1907 settled in Seattle with his wife Hilma. For a more complete biography, see his entry in the Pacific Coast Architecture Database. The important information for this story is that in 1925 Creutzer designed the Medical Dental Building in downtown Seattle, which is now a registered historic place. It was presumably due to this previous work that he was chosen to design Calgary’s new medical building.

The design that appears in the November article shows a square tower with a three-storey base and set-backs above the 11th and 13th floors, with a two-storey mechanical and elevator tower. The building is capped with a crown and a dramatic spotlight. This story gets more complicated in that Creutzer died on 23 August 1929. So did he design this? My guess is that he did, and the project must have been started much earlier in 1929.

The next mention of the project came on in the 23 November issue of the Canada Gazette, when incorporation of the Calgary Medical-Dental Building Limited was announced. The Herald reported that names associated with the company were J. W. Moyer and W. K. Webb (barristers); F. H. Proby, W. R. McArthur, and E. E. Campbell (managers); A. B. Netherby (banker); and Ina Moyer, Janet Proby, and Grace McArthur. Peculiarly, the same story reported that the building was to be eight storeys. On 7 January 1930, the Herald reported that city council had endorsed the project.

On 13 March the Herald reported that the contract to construct the building, worth around $1 million, had been awarded to A. C. McDougall and Son. The article also reported that architects McIlroy, Storey, and Van Egmond had just returned from a trip to the west coast to study similar medical buildings. Accordingly, they had made major alterations to Creutzer’s original design. The next day a picture of the redesigned structure appeared in the paper. While the parking garage at the rear remains, the footprint of the tower has been doubled in width and the base has been reduced from three to two storeys. Finally, the conical cap has been removed. The height of the setbacks remained the same. The new design follows nearly the identical plan of the original Toronto Star Building, which, incidentally, was the inspiration for the Daily Planet Building in the first Superman comics.

Following this article, there was only one further mention of the project in the news. On 10 April A. C. McDougall stated that construction was to begin within two weeks, but that the exact date would be announced by F. H. Proby upon his return from Toronto the next day.

So what happened? Well, I don’t really know. I haven’t found any news articles reporting the cancellation of the project. I have to assume the onset of the depression after the 24 October 1929 stock market crash was the reason. Further, there were several large building projects planned in 1929 that also failed. These included the twelve-storey Prudential Medical-Dental Building on the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and 2nd Street (which I may write about later) and a ten-storey office on the northwest corner of 7th Avenue and 2nd Street built by the Foundation Company of Canada.

In the gallery below I’ve included clippings of all the coverage about the Medical-Dental Building:

The drawings for the building are located at the Saskatchewan Archives as part of the Storey and Van Edmond fonds. You can see the record here. The drawings call for a 14-storey tower, however, they also indicate the removal of two floors. Why these floors were to be removed, I don’t know. I’ve looked for an archival collection of Creutzer’s work but haven’t found anything. I’d love to see drawings of the first iteration of the design.