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How the Bay Building Was Built to Last


53.53° N, 113.52° W | 10230 Jasper Ave.

The “Bay” building, as it’s affectionately known, tells a story just by looking at it. It’s the finest example of moderne architecture in Edmonton, with architectural “clues” that define the period as well as the prominence and power that the Hudson’s Bay Company had in 1939. The streamlined details—curved corner details and horizontal lines—evoke the speed of the Machine Age and reflect austere economic times.

Look at the materials: The base is polished black granite, also known as Cambrian Granite, one of the few Canadian granites quarried, mostly in Ontario, for decades. Tyndall stone, from Manitoba stands above it. Trims around windows and door frames, all original, are of fine stainless steel. Main floor windows were designed for elaborate store displays, attracting pedestrians who animated the street and enjoyed the intriguing merchandise.

The engraved images above each entrance tells the story of how the First Nations people on the Prairies came into contact with the company’s exclusive fur traders, and ultimately transformed the economy into an agrarian focus. The words “Pro, Pelle, Cutem” mean “a skin for a skin.” Edmonton was recovering from the depression when it was constructed.

Few buildings were completed between 1914 and 1950. By contrast, the Winnipeg architectural firm Moody and Moore’s design was extraordinarily refined, and therefore optimistic about the city.

This entry was posted in 2015 Spring, Columns, Issues, You are Here.