A moment in history: Feb. 1, 1982

A moment in history: Feb. 1, 1982

· The Pulse

On this day in 1982, the city was split on the future of one of Edmonton's most storied downtown buildings.

When Robert Tegler started building his office block in 1911, it was a gamble. Edmonton was growing by thousands each year, and Tegler knew the swelling city would need more office space as more professionals and entrepreneurs made their way out west. But the plan for the seven-storey building on 102 Avenue and 101 Street — at that point two storeys taller than anything else in the city — was an ambitious one.

Tegler was able to secure an agreement with James Ramsey to house a department store on the first floor, which was enough to go forward with the plan. The square, brick-clad building was finished later in the year. It was a sturdy block made out of reinforced concrete, a relatively new innovation at the time, making it the first "fireproof" building in the city.

Tegler's play turned out to be a smart one. The building quickly became one of the hubs of Edmonton's downtown. Within just two years, the Tegler's 110 offices had mostly filled up, and the building's owner was already desperate to expand it.

But there was a snag. The spot beside the office tower was occupied by the Edmonton Journal, which was set to move to its current location on 100 Avenue. But the paper wasn't ready to relocate, and Tegler was impatient. So, he started building his extension on the third floor, on top of the newspaper. Then, when the Journal did eventually move, he just built down. The new eight-storey expansion contained another 700 offices.

The Tegler Building's influence was so great that it is credited with shifting the centre of Edmonton's core westward from 97 Street. And it remained Edmonton's tallest building until the 1950s.

In 1978, the Bank Of Montreal bought the site and announced plans to tear down the Tegler Building to make way for a new Edmonton headquarters. The row over the fate of "Edmonton's first skyscraper" sparked passionate feelings on both sides. Some called it a vital part of the city's history, while others, like our correspondent above, argued its demise was needed to revitalize downtown. A bylaw was put in place to protect the building but was later rescinded by city council.

On Dec. 13, 1982, the Tegler Building's dramatic end drew a crowd of onlookers. But even when the tower was gone, anger at its demolition remained. The furor ignited a wave of interest in historic preservation of Edmonton's architectural past and led to new bylaws to protect heritage buildings.

The BMO building that replaced the Tegler was torn down in 2018. The new tower that was pitched for the site had echoes of the Tegler's legacy. Regency Developments proposed a 50-storey skyscraper, which would have put one of the tallest buildings in Edmonton back on the corner of 102 Avenue and 101 Street. However, five years later, the parcel remains vacant and dotted with rubble.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.

Correction: This piece has been updated to reflect that Regency's proposed skyscraper would have been among Edmonton's tallest buildings, though not the tallest.