Compiled by Michael Gaschnitz Drumheller Main Street Programme Historical Building Report - August 28, 1989
The first man to discover coal in the Drumheller Valley was Peter Fidler in 1783, sent by the Hudson’s Bay Company to seek furs and explore the plains and mountains. On February 12th he discovered coal at the junction of the Red Deer and Rosebud rivers. In his diary he stated: “This is the only coal I have seen in the earth in this manner in this country. I brought some coal and put it on the tent fire--it burnt very well without any crackling noise and is of a soft nature...” The Indians had a superstition against coal and would only use wood or buffalo chips for fire. The Indian chief walked out of the tent disgusted when he discovered what Fidler had done. Fidler was careful not to burn coal thereafter when any Indians were nereby.
In 1884 Joseph Burr Tyrrell, Canada’s most noted geologist, was sent to explore the area north and east of Calgary. On June 9th, 1884, while inspecting some coal seams in the banks of the Red Deer River, he discovered the first dinosaur bones reported in the valley by a white man. The next day he discovered a complete dinosaur skull that he shipped to Philadelphia. At that period in time, Drumheller was non-existant and there certainly were no paleontological museums in western Canada, so all discoveries were sent to the United States or eastern Canada, a pattern that has sadly not changed today.
The first person to settle in the Drumheller valley was James Russell. He was a first class steam engineer in Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1888, and was hired by Calgary to design and install the first waterworks there. Mr. Russell had $5,000.00 dollars in the bank in 1894, an huge sum of money in those days, and was considered a wealthy man. Mr. Russell came to the valley with 100 cattle and built his homestead on what is now Nacmine. His ranch was known as the “Lyon Cross Ranch” and the herd grew to 2500 head, and the range extended from the Red Deer River to Stettler. Mr. Russell operated the first ferry across the river, which could hold up to five people. In July and again in the fall the cattle were shipped from Strathomore to Chicago. Drumheller came in to existence in 1910 when the post office moved into N.S.L Brownjohn’s building, the oldest in Drumheller, where Mr. Brownjohn operated the first business, the “Drumheller Trading Post” The name for the village was decided upon by a flip of a coin between Samuel Drumheller and Thomas Greentree, who were the first residents of the village. Mr. Drumheller won the toss and the village was named after him.
Drumheller never would have become the industrial city it is if it were not for the coal mines that dotted the valley and attracted thousands of immigrants and businesses to the area. The first coal mine was opened by Jesse Gouge in 1906 and the first shipment of coal was sent to Calgary on the same year. Seven years later the rail road to Drumheller was constructed, making it more economical to transport coal to Winnipeg and Calgary.
Drumheller’s population skyrocketed as over 40 mines were opened in the valley and immigrants from Europe and around the world came to work in them. The neighboring towns of Wayne, Rosedale, Midland and Nacmine were at one time bustling centers of frenzied growth. Drumheller was named Canada’s “Miracle City” exploding from 50 people in 1911 to 3,000 in 1916.
Drumheller earned a rough reputation early on in its coal mining history. At one time there were four houses of ill repute in the area. Gambling and bootlegging were rampant. Bootlegging was so profuse that police did not raid any of the known bootlegging outlets and were on good terms with them.
But the coal mines were closed in the 50’s when oil and gas were developed. Drumheller is now kept alive by a thriving agricultural industry and a growing tourist industry.
Present Name: Pioneer Trail Centre
Original Name: Pollock’s Groceteria
Address: 160 3rd Avenue NW
The foremost part of the existing structure of this brick building was built in 120 by Fred Langford.70 For the first fifty years the building was used as a grocery store. The first store to be located there was known as “Woogman’s Groceteria.” This store remained in business for a short period of time until a new store moved in known as “Pollock’s Groceteria” ran by Fred Pollock. But the most well known and successful store to occupy the building was owned and operated by Jimmie Stocco.
At first Jimmie called the store “Jimmie’s Groceteria” and later renamed it to Jimmie’s Supermarket” when he renovated and expanded the building. His grocery store was popular all around the Drumheller and the other stores around Drumheller had a difficult time fighting for existence. In the early 70’s the city of Drumheller introduced parallel parking that stifled business enormously and a huge supermarket was built, business declined and the legend of “Jimmie’s Supermarket” died.
After Jimmie Stocco, another grocery store fought for existence but it finally died and sold out to the Pioneer Trail Society, who owns it now. Now it is a place where the elderly can find a quite place to group together at rickety tables to talk about the cold, cold winter of ’37.
Present Name: Jurassic Ink, the Cash Store, Badlands Art Gallery
Original Name: Sutherland Block
Address: 50 3rd Avenue
This building was constructed in 1913 and is the first building that was constructed on this block. J. A. Sutherland built it out of wood that was floated down the river, from Red Deer, much as N. S. L. Brownjohn’s building was. The building was constructed in two stages. The first part, along with a hipped roof extension in the back, was built in 1913 and the second floor was added on in 1917, when the rail road was connected to Drumheller and wood was easy to get.
There has been twelve fires in the building, but it never burned down, partially because of the plastered walls that resist fire and partially because of a capable and quick fire department. It is said that the last time it had a fired, in the 60’s, the fire was fierce and the fire fighters had difficulty controlling it, but they eventually did with great effort. Feeling proud of a job well done, they went across the street to the corner restaurant, and sat down too coffee. As they were drinking their coffee, relaxing, the owner of the building came into the restaurant in a frenzy and asked them why they didn’t let the building burn down. The fire fighters said they were paid to put out fires. He went away disgruntled and the building has never came as close to burning down as that time.62
At first Mr. Sutherland used this building as an office for his lumberyard that was located where they alley is now. The brick building to the west and the cinderblock building to the North of it did not exist at that time. There was a wood fence enclosing entire lumberyard with a gate through which wagons could pass a load with lumber. Often there were tractor demonstrations in this yard of McGormic-Deering, Massey Harris and Rumley Oil Pull tractors. Mr. Sutherland made a nominal profit by renting this yard out. Later on, after the brick building was built alongside this one, Mr. Sutherland discontinued operation of the lumberyard, and leased both buildings out to store owners.63
The first store in the building was “Sanderson’s Grocery” run by J. H. Sanderson. After the war, two veterans came back to Drumheller, their home town, and started a business in the building, “Vet’s Electric.” They sold refrigerators and other appliances. In the late 50’s Ossie Sheddy, publisher of the local newspaper. “The Drumheller Mail,” purchased the building and leased it to Ed Reid (a lawyer), “Swain’s Agencies,” (operated by Charles Swain), a small barber shop and a sears outlet office. Later, local lawyer Bob Ross bought Ed Reid’s business and built his own building, the yellow brick one on the far west corner, and operated Ross Todd & Company for many years.
Through the years several small stores have passed through the building. The Sears order office was one of the most permanent stores there, and left to a different location in 1985. More recently Days Gone Bye, UMA Engineering, The Phone Booth, and other successful businesses have made this building home.
Present Name: Cooperators Insurance
Original Name: Begins’ Millinery Shop
Address: 242 - 3rd Avenue West
The building was built in 1925 by Ettor Chiuppi and was first used as a grocery store. He was a local miner in the town for 35 years and built it with his own money. During the miners’ strike he rented it out and it became a millinery shop and later a Simpson Sears order office. Later it became a dress making shop, operated by Mrs. Chiuppi
Now it is used as a hot tub rental store and beer and wine supply shop operated by Dale Merkel, called Merkel’s Wine and Beer Supplies and Chemicals
Present Name: Alterio Verda
Original Name: Tom Tarrant’s Tailor Shop
Address: 8 40 3rd Avenue West
This wooden building technically has only three walls. It was built in 1914 and shares a common wall with Mr. Sutherland’s other wood framed building adjacent to it on the west side. Throughout this time the building was split down the middle. This was probably done to save money, as wood was impossible to get in Drumheller and had to be floated down the river, an expensive and time consuming. A tailor shop was located on the east side whereas a barber shop, operated by Sam Havens, was in the east side. It was built with no insulation, but by sharing a wall with the Sutherland wood frame building it probably helped to conserve heat in the winter. Mr. Sutherland built this building as an addition to his lumberyard business and later leased it out to various storekeepers.
Mr. Sutherland leased it out to Frank Webber, who ran a tailor shop. Later, the tailor shop was sold to Tom Tarrant who ran what was known as “Tom Tarrant’s Tailor Shop.” Mr. Sutherland sold the Building to Mario Blasseti in the late 40’s. Mario operated a shoe store here for nearly forty years until he died in 1985. Mario’s son was given ownership of the building, who is leasing it out to Penner’s Shoe Repair and Sales for a while. It then became a bookstore called “Novel T’s” and is now an art gallery ran by a lady from Calgary.
Present Name: Jurassic Lazer Tag
Original Name: Ontkes and Clarkson’s Pool Hall
Address: 368 Centre Street
This building is known as the Ontkes and Clarkson block and was built by them in 1927. It was used as a billiard hall and confectionery operated by Henry Ontkes and George Clarkson. A wholesale store was located in the basement and on the ground floor there was the billiard hall. The billiard hall was open until twelve o’clock at night and the bars were open to ten o’clock. On Saturday nights, the rowdiest night of the week, because the miners got their pay checks on Friday, they often had problems with inebriated miners in the billiard hall. Either they were asked to leave or were thrown out, which often happened.44
Before the East Coulee bridge was built the wholesale department had to use a roundabout way to transport their goods across the river. East Coulee was a boom town like Drumheller and needed supplies of candy and cigarettes to placate the hard working miners. In the summer the goods were transported across the river via ferry that was stationed there. But in the winter the only connection to East Coulee from Drumheller was the train bridge. Someone from the wholesale store would drive their car on to the bridge, and lift a small hand cart onto the railway, load it with the goods, and pump it across the river. On the other side a car would be waiting and it took the goods from the hand car and distributed it to the confectioneries and billiard halls in East Coulee. Then they lifted and turned the hand car around, and pumped it back across and lifted it off the track.
After Ontkes and Clarkson left and moved to where the Legion is now in 1949, which is across from the Elks Lodge, A SAAN’s store moved into the building. The SAAN’s chain promised the owner of the building that they would renovate the building if they were given three years free rent. The owner consented, but little was done and the SAAN’s store got three years free rent.
The SAAN’s store left the building to one across the street and a car licensing office moved in to one side and the Drumheller Mail on the other side. The Drumheller Mail was in the location for many years up until 2004. The Drumheller Mail is currently Drumheller’s sole paid newspaper and has been publishing for over 100 years and is read in depth by everyone.
Present Name: Elks / Falcon / Hombres
Original Name: Elks Lodge #54
Address: 298 Centre Street
The Drumheller Lodge of Benevolent and Protective order of Elks (B. P. O. Elks #54) was instituted on December 1, 1921.
The Elks held their first meeting in the Napier Theatre basement. (The Napier is kitty corner to the Corner Restaurant, south of the Elk’s lodge). They also held band concerts in the Napier to supply entertainment for the town and raise money to help needy families.
The Elks hall was built in 1928 from money saved by the Elk’s. the basement was dug by Mr. Scown and Jim Parsons. Fred Langford and Bill Holloston laid the brick on the building. Frank Alley was the supervisor of the building. Jim Parsons built the roof and did the interior work. The walls of the building were laid three feet thick, that is unusually strong for buildings constructed at this time. The colors of the front façade have always been the same grey and royal purple that are the theme colors of the Elks club. When the depression hit and the Elks could not pay for the building Jim Norstrant, from the Whitehouse, bought the building and was in an act of charity sold it back for what he purchased it for.
During the time of its construction there was a mysterious disappearance of a box car of cement that was sitting on the rail road, bound for Winnipeg. It was rumored that the builders of the Elks hall stole the cement from the box car. It was difficult to charge anyone for it, though because there was no concrete evidence that they had done it, and because the builders of the hall were well respected in the community. In the end, two rail road workers were fired for leaving the car unlocked.
The upper part of the Elks hall was a dance floor and auditorium. The Elks partitioned off a small section of the basement as their clubroom while the rest was bowling alley which was removed in 1954.
The Elks have been helping the needy in Drumheller for over 90 years. One of their most important contributions to Drumheller is a handi-bus service for the disabled.
There used to be a clock above the Elk head on their insignia on the face of the building, is perpetually set at eleven o’clock at night. It is set here because this is the time that the founder of the Elks in Canada died at this time silently in his rocking chair at home. It is an Elks tradition to renew their pledge to the club at this hour by having a minute of silence to remember their founder and the charitable goals he set out for all the ledges.
Present Name: Jungling Works
Original Name: Drumheller Bakery
Address: 299 1st Street West
This building was built in 1920 by Bill Holloston and Jim Parsons. It was constructed for Annie Wood who owned and operated a bakery known as “Wood’s Bakery” and later renamed to “Drumheller Bakery.” This was the first bakery in Drumheller to serve the general public. Joe Blanchard bought the building in the 40’s and renovated it into and apartment building. His apartment house was name “Blanch Apartments.” It is not known why he chose to change his name in that manner.
The building was unoccupied for many years after Mr. Blanchard left Drumheller until Bevan Wrate and Scott Riddick purchased the building, and put their Salon in the main floor called Bevan Scott’s.
Deb Jungling and Dave Carter then bought the building to put their store, Jungling Works, in the retail area.
Present Name: Former Boot and Jean
Original Name: Rainbow Café/John Deere
Address: 355 Centre Street
This brick building was constructed in 1925 by Bill Holloston for Jessie Gouge, who gave it to Helen Gibson, his daughter. Mr. Gouge could afford it easily, as he was one of the most prosperous mine owners in the Drumheller valley. Mr. Gouge was a man of varied occupations — lawyer, merchant, farmer and coal mine owner. He first moved into the valley operations a farm implement dealership. When he crossed the river on the Greentree ferry (which was located there the bridge is now) he met a man with a load of coal he had dug from the hills near Newcastle. Mr. Gouge was so impressed by the quality of the coal that he hurried to the Land Titles Office in Calgary and secured a lease on what was to be one of the greatest coal fields in Canada.
There was no distinct style in mind when Mr. Holloston laid the brick for the building. The bricks originated from Red Cliff, near Medicine Hat. It was constructed one storey high and is of an economic construction. In the south alley originally there were windows for a café that was located inside in a third of the building in the south third of the building. The alley is askew to the rest of the street and the division in the restaurant, known as the “Rainbow Café,” owned by Joe Bowman, became narrower as it went west until at the very westward point of the triangle there was the washroom.
The first businesses in the building were the “Rainbow Café” and the post office. The café was known in town as the “Bucket of Bleah” or the “Greasy Spoon,” and it had a poor reputation for brawls between hungry miners. The post office soon moved to another part of Drumheller. Thomas Greentree, one of the pioneer settlers in the valley, owned a machine shop agency, John Deere, next and later Canadian Utilities, Alberta Power (ATCO), had their offices located here. “Jenkin’s Groceteria,” a now defunct chain store, also had a store here for a shore time before they moved into the Wade’s Jewellery building.
When the café went out of business, Steadman’s, a five and dime store, took over the entire building until the 80’s when they became defunct and Boot and Jean, operated by Ken Cedor, took over. Boot and Jean was operated for approximately 20 years, and since Ken Cedor closed down his store, the building has remained vacant.
Present Name: Cut Loose Hair
Original Name: Alaska Rooms
Address: 372 Centre Street
The original building on this site was a wood frame structure that burned down along with the Whitehouse Hotel, which was located on the same plot of land as where the Econolodge Is now. The original tenant of this building was Fred Woolford who operated a barber shop there. On the second floor of the building there were living quarters known as the “Alaska Rooms.”35 The Alaska rooms were notorious for bootlegging and many miners went there to pick up their whisky for the nighAfter this building burned down along with the Whitehouse Hotel, a brick one was constructed by Jim Parsons in 1960. This was the last building Mr. Parsons constructed in Drumheller. He was a general building construction contractor and built many of the buildings seen in the downtown area. Roland Langford was hired to do the masonry. It was built in the standard fashion of the time with no special architectural features. All that was desired by the owners (two doctors, Dr. Reid and Dr. Walker) was a roof to keep the rain out and for walls to keep the wind out.
The doctor’s office remained there for several years until all of the doctors in Drumheller became consolidated into the Drumheller Associated Physicians. Ed Weiner took it over and operated a small clothing store and specialized in making measured suits. Sandy Cunningham purchased the building and “Calico Lane” then occupied one side. In the 2000’s, Cut Loose Hair took over the space, and has remained there ever since.
Present Name: S&S News
Original Name: W. R. Cumming’s Hardware
Address: 308 Centre Street
This brick building was built in 1915 by Fred Langford and Bill Holloston.39 The construction of the building was funded by W. R Cumming with money he obtained from a ranch he had owned in Ontario.40 Mr. Cumming ran a hardware store and sold out after operating for only a few years and left Drumheller just as the mines were gaining momentum. A. P. Hanley purchased the building and ran a store known as “Hanley’s Hardware.” Later, the store became affiliated with Marshall-Wells.
There was a serious fire in the building and the interior was gutted but Mr. Hanley repaired it. Mr. Hanley retired and sold the business in 1970 to Mrs. Alice Wilson. She ran a beauty parlor in the building and after she retired her son owned a western store known as “Horseman’s World Track and Tog.” This business sold out to a confectionary known as “Cam’s News”, then “Mom’s News”, and now “S&S News”.
Present Name: Gus’ Corner Restaurant
Original Name: The Corner Grill
Address: 15 3rd Ave. West
The buildings that were originally on this site were built by N. S. L. Brownjohn as an investment. He operated his own business just down the street at the wood frame building that he also built. In the original buildings there were a variety of businesses including the post office. “Tom Tarrant’s Tailor Shop.” “Jim Elliot’s Meat Market,” “Jack Campbell’s Palace of Sweets” and the “Regent Theatre.” In 1927 these buildings burned to the ground and it was rebuilt by Mr. Brownjohn. In 1929 it was sold to McKinnon and DeWar and it became what has since been known as the “Corner Restaurant.”
The Corner, as it is called locally, has been an important community meeting place for ninety years. Several well known people are said to have dined here, such as Peter Lougheed, Bruno Gerussi, Lorne Greene and Steven Spielburg.
The building was split up into 4 bays in the early 1990’s and now houses a Barber, an Oilfield company, and a Stock Broker.
Present Name: Piatsa Restaurant
Original Nam: Leach Block
Address: 75 3rd Avenue West
Roland Langford and Bill Uloston built this building, originally the Leitch block, for Tom Leitch in 1920. Mr. Leitch originally operated a confectionery in the building and lived in the upper floors. Mr. Leitch sold the building in 1930 to Jack Webb, who moved across the street from the Newcastle building, and operated a grocery store, called the “Red and White Grocery Store.”
Albert Enis Toshach purchased the building and changed its name to the “Albert Block,” named after himself. Mr. Toshach operated an appliance shop there for several years and later sold the building to Alexander Brown. There is currently a pizza restaurant is in it.
Present: The Sports Room
Original Name: Drumheller Trading Post
Address: 65 3rd Avenue West
N. S. L. Brownjohn, an immigrant from Bath, Somerset, England, secured property for business purposes in Drumheller, although he had no previous experience in the business world. In 1908 he journeyed to Red Deer where he bought lumber and floated it down in the form of a raft to Drumheller. The river was in flood when Mr. Brownjohn reached the Bleriot Ferry which was named after the brother of the first man to fly across the English Channel. Mr. Bleriot operated the ferry there for several years. He decided to tie up for the night there. On top of his of lumber he had supplies, such as food and hardware. In the morning Mr. Brownjohn looked at the swift moving water, almost like rapids, and decided to unload all the supplies from the raft and transport them to Drumheller in a wagon. A local man agreed to haul his supplies for five dollars. Mr. Brownjohn thought this was exorbitant but he finally paid it.
The building was constructed by Mr. Brownjohn himself in 1909 and it is a wood of building with a balloon frame structure. Balloon framing is when he walls for both floors are of the same wall. The second floor is attached to the wall. The concrete foundation of the structure was made with gravel from the Red Door River and is of a low quality. The foundation cracked and sunk and Mr. Brownjohn had to hire some of the local miners to dig underneath the building and install some metal mine props to keep the building from sagging. These mine props are still underneath the building today, keeping it in place. As can be seen, it is in reasonably good condition even today. This building is the oldest building in downtown Drumheller.
Mr. Brownjohn started business in 1909 as the Drumheller Trading Company, the first business in Drumheller. It offered everything from mouse traps to mining supplies. Until 1911, when N. B. Vickers opened his doors, this was the only place of business. In 1915 W. R. Fulton, who came from a farm in Ontario, bought the building from Mr. Brownjohn. He opened a men’s wear store on the east half of the building and a ladies wear store on the west half under the name of “Fulton’s Ltd.” In 1941, he sold the men’s wear business to “Brown Brothers,” and in 1946, the ladies wear business to Mrs. Mary Thomson, who retained the name of “Fulton’s Ltd.” In 1964 Mr. Fulton sold the building to “Brown Brothers” and Mrs. Thomson retired in 1971. The Brown brothers operated both stores for several years and now there is a sports shop and a ladies wear store located in the building.
For a number of years the building was occupied by a business called Jennifer's fashions and in 1984 Dwight Klimek and Margo Robertson opened a sporting good store. The buildling has also been home to "The Other Side" a lady's war store, and a mens wear store called "Christopher's Men's Wear". In 2004 Dave & Lori Powell purchased the business / building... and operates it under the brand name Sports Room Source for Sports to this day.
Present Name: Alexandra Hotel
Original Name: Hotel Alexandra
Address: 30 Railway Ave. W
Charlie Gutterson and Alexander Van Swelm funded the construction of the building in 1937. It was constructed by a group of Drumheller’s bricklayers who laid the brick in sections. There were there bricklayers: Bill Holoston, Jim Parsons and Fred Langford. The three of them each constructed a third of the building. Fred Langford got the idea of constructing the three diamonds that can still be seen below the window. In those days the brick layers were also the architects and it was assumed that they knew what would be appropriate to the building from past experience. Each of them agreed to make one of the diamonds simply for entertainment. When they completed It they decided that the best diamond was the one Mr. Holoston made; the one in the middle.
The tavern part of the building was also constructed in 1937 after the original wood frame building, nick named the “Log Cabin,” burned down in a fire. The tavern constructed from tile brick, which is not intended for construction but for cosmetic purposes. This brick name, like most of the other bricks used in Drumheller, from Medicine Hat, and the tile brick was used because it was much cheaper.13 The bricklayers feared that it would not withstand that weight of the corner sign, which has been restored to its original design.
One time a policeman received a call from the Alexandra that there was trouble in the bar, as there often was. He came there expecting a typical first fight, but instead he saw a huge six-foot-five-three-hundred-pound woman holding the bar tender up by his shirt collar. Her nickname was, rightly, “Big Annie” and she ran a house of ill repute in Drumheller.
“Put him down,” the policeman said. “You might hurt him.”
Big Annie set the bartender down and lifted the policeman up by his shirt collar.
“You’re cute little sucker,” she said.
After that, the policeman had no trouble with her again, and when he accosted someone on the street to check what they were doing she walked to him and said: “Are these guys giv’n y’any tr’uble?”
When the Log Cabin burned down in 1934 “Dad” Faulkner, the resident manager, lost his life in the fire. Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Nichol, another boarder, were sleeping in adjoining rooms. When the alarm of the fire was sounded in the building the halls were already full of smoke. They started out of their rooms but Mr. Faulkner returned for some possessions in a panic. By this time the smoke in the hall was far too dense to get down the hallway. Mr. Nichol tried to get Mr. Faulkner through the window. This was a difficult task as Mr. Faulkner weighed over three hundred pounds. Eventually Mr. Nichol gave up and was pulled to safety through the window onto the roof. The firemen tied a rope to Mr. Faulkner’s arm and attempted to pull him through the window, but he was too big. Eventually the rope tore the skin on his arm and they had to try something else. The firemen broke a hole through the side of the building, but by this time Mr. Faulkner had quietly expired from smoke inhalation.
This bar part of the building had soon become nick named “The Zoo” because of its rowdy nature.
In the late 1980’s, the owner of the tavern had taken advantage of this name and has turned it into a theme bar, using the nick name as its real one. The bar then became the Octane in the early 2000’s and in 2010, the Pappas Family renovated the building into the “Vintage Bar and Grill”.
Present Name: Bill Cross Men’s Shop
Original Name: Tony’s Ladies’ Wear
Address: 338 Centre Street
This brick building was constructed in 1925 by Dave Oliver.
The 20’s were Drumheller’s booming years and most of the downtown buildings here were constructed at that time. Buildings for rent were in high demand at this time because of the mines that were popping up all over the valley and the influx of miners to operate them. Along with the miners came clothing shops and hardware stores to supply them. With this in mind, Mr. Oliver built the building from his own funds as an investment.
The first store to occupy the building was operated by Tony Cherko, “Tony’s Ladies Wear.7 This store was something original in Drumheller because it was the first ladies’ wear store in the town. In the early mining days women were as scarce but later on, after the first war, the Drumheller valley was considered to be civilized enough for women. This was the first store to cater specifically to women and was a landmark in Drumheller’s rough mining history as a point where the Wild West ended and civilization took hold.
When Mr. Cherko left in 1936, E. A Toshach moved into the store and operate a women’s hair style shop, known as “Toshach’s style shop.”18 Mr. Toshach also operated a clothing and shoe store directly across the street. Mr. Toshach was a charitable man and he did several things for the needy in the community. Every Christmas he gave every widow in the city a turkey. Also, he once gave all the churches in town a metal bell. Many of these bells are still in use in the catholic churches in Drumheller. Since Mr. Toshach’s slogan in many of his advertisements was “you ought to be in Toshach’s shoes” it was said that when the bells were rung they sang: “To-sha-ch’s Sho-es, To-sha-ch’s Sho-es.”19
Mr. Toshach upon moving into Drumheller, changed the spelling of his name from the original “Toshack” to “Toshach” to be sure that no one mistook his name for being Ukrainian or otherwise, because he was Scottish. There were a lot of hostility towards immigrants at this time in Drumheller, partly because of the second war, and because of the mine strikes the immigrants had when the rest of the men were at war.
Francis Porter rented the basement from Mr. Oliver and operated a well respected sign painting shop.21 When Mr. Toshach was moving out of the building there was a fire in the main floor.
Some of Mr. Toshach’s draperies, which he stored in the back of the shop, took fire spontaneously. Unfortunately it happened on June 1 and most of the fireman were at various parties and some for them were intoxicated when they arrived at the scene. One of them even sprayed the downstairs in a drunken stupor and flooded Mr. Porter’s sign shop. The hose was directed to the fire when some other more sober men arrived and the fire was put out easily. It turned out that 90% of the damage was done by the water that flooded the building and not by the small fire.
In the 50’s Mr. Toshach moved out of the building and a Robinson’s store moved in and rented it from Mr. Oliver. Mel Musselman bought it from Mr. Oliver after the Robinson’s store moved across the street to where the Salvation Army is now.
Mr. Musselman rented the building out to Dave Snideman, who later bought the building. Mr. Snideman operated a respected men’s fashion store, “Bill Cross Men’s Shop” for many years and more recently sold it to Mel Craig.
Present Name: Sea Cadets / Navy League Building
Original Name: ABC Bread
Address: 325 3rd Street West
This building was built after the first war as a memorial hall of the men that died in the war. Lodges had meetings there, dances were held there, and a public library was there at one time. During the second war it became a centre for recruiting.
Originally, bake shop operated by Ed Stevens was on the ground floor. Mr. Stevens sold McGavin’s bread and later moved across the river to where Oasis car wash is into a new building where he could back his trucks into the building. It was so cold in winter that by the time he hauled the bread from the ABC Bread building into the truck, it was already cold. The sea cadets have just recently purchased the building.
Present Name: The Anderson Building (Occupied by Bits and Pieces)
Original Name: Q. Q. Q. Switzer Drug Store
Address: 332 Centre Street
This building was built in 120 from white bricks that were shipped in by the rail from Calgary. They were limestone product and were chosen because they were cheaper that the commonly used red brick. White bricks are made from sand and lime but are not burned. Most bricklayers believed them to be of an inferior quality, although, as can be seen in this building, they are equally durable in comparison to red brick. This is the only building in downtown Drumheller that is constructed from white brick. It was constructed by a variety of bricklayers in Drumheller including Bill Holoston and Roland Langford’s father.
J. L. Switzer funded the construction of the building and operated a drug store there called the “Q. Q. Q. Switzer Drug Store.” The three Qs in the name stood for Quick service, Quality, and Quantity.6 In 1947 Mr. Switzer retired and C. J. Anderson purchased the building. Mr. Anderson previously operated a drug store across the street that was named the “Gilt Edge Pharmacy.” When he crossed the street into this new building he changed the Name to “Anderson Drug.” He was quite happy he moved out of the building across the street because it later burned to the ground in a fierce fire that also claimed one fire fighter’s life.
When Mr. Anderson retired he sold the business to Bruce McDonnel who retained its original name. In 2005/6, Anderson Drugs was purchased by the Lovsin family and incorporated into the IGA Freson Supermarket. Today the building is occupied by Bits and Pieces Quilting shop.
Present Name: Salvation Army Building
Original Name: N. B. Vicker’s Hardware
Address 349 Centre Street
Previously on this site the “Largest Hardware store between Saskatoon and Calgary” was owned and operated by N. B. Vickers.
The original wooden building was built and opened in 1911 by Mr. Vickers. later, when the mining industry expanded, business soared, as the miners needed work clothes, gloves, and boots.
The store became a meeting place for neighbors, and when the first radio came, there was standing room only when a championship fight was broadcasted. Customers huddled around the pot bellied stove on a cold day, and the cookie jar on any day.
In 1937 and 1941 fire destroyed his business but each time he rebuilt. The south wall was saved in the 1937 fire by Roland Langford, the brick layer of the new building. Mr. Vickers winter by pumping water through metal pipes up the chimney and along the eavestroughing. Also, near the roof in the northwest corner of the building a Wild Rose bush can be seen growing out from in between the masonry. Probably, when the cement was mixed with water from the Red Deer River, there was seed in the water, that germinated and slowly grew out, drawing water from the leakage of the eavestroughing. In 1961 the business was sold to J. H. Ashdown who ran a hardware store known as “Star Mine Store.”55 The original sign for the store can still be seen painted on the south side of the building.
Later it become a Robinson’s store, but when the chain folded, the manager, Ray Laval, opened a new store of his own at first as a variety store and now as a fashionable women’s clothing store, called Laval’s Fashions.
When Ray Laval wanted to retire in the mid 2000’s, the store was taken over by Leo Rondeau, who ran a large 6000 sq. ft. dollar store in the building. After a number of years, the Salvation Army took over the space and that is where they reside today.
Present Name: Sound Studio
Original Name: DeForest Music Shop
Address: 30 3rd Avenue West
This wood frame building was constructed in 1921 for N.D Deforest, who operated a music shop in it for several years.56 The music shop, called “DeForest Music Shop,” was the only music store to exist in Drumheller at any time in its history. The DeForests also operated an apartment house two blocks east of this building. When Mr. DeForest died, Mrs. DeForest closed the music business and leased it out. She continued leasing out the apartment, which came to be known commonly as the “Heart Break Hotel” because divorcees often stayed there. Mrs. DeForest was a determined and resilient woman. At one time she wanted to put a neon sign onto the apartment building, but there was a tree in front that obstructed its view. She went to the city to ask them to cut it down, but they refused to do it, and said that they had planted it and it was against the law if she should cut it down. She asked them how much the fine was if she did so and they said it was twenty-five dollars, a fair sum in those days. She hired a local miner to cut the tree down and haul it away, and she later played the fine with a smile. She said that it was the best twenty-five dollars she ever spent.
This building was constructed with a boomtown façade (a boomtown façade is when the front wall extends higher up that the rest of the building, to make it look larger than it really is.) Roland Langford, the builder of many of the brick buildings in town, stuccoed the façade. The wood for this building came from J. A. Sutherlands lumberyard, the only one in town at that time, that purchased its wood from Calgary. The building has no insulation, not even sawdust insulation, as there were no trees, and therefore no wood mills in there to supply sawdust.
Present Name: Drumheller Denture Clinic
Original Name: Dunavan’s Drug
Address: 195 3rd Avenue Wes
Dr. Dunavan funded the construction of the building in 1928. Fred Langford and Bill Holoston each layed half of the brick for the building which originated from J. H. Crandler’s brickyward in Calgary.
Dr. Dunavan used the building as a drug store on the bottom floor and a doctor’s office on the top floor. During this time prohibition was on and the only way alcohol could be obtained was for medical purposes. Dr. Dunavan was well known in town as a bootlegger who gave a prescription for alcohol to anyone who needed it. He had a very convenient operation as he could prescribe the alcohol and the customer could pick it up immediately and pay the money. It was said that Dr. Dunavan made his fortune through bootlegging.
After the doctors in Drumheller became consolidated into one organization, the Drumheller Associated Physician, Dr. Dunavan moved to where the clinic is located now, near the river.
The first Treasury Branch in Drumheller moved into the building and later a SAAN’s store occupied it. Later, the SAAN’s store moved to where the Drumheller Mail, Drumheller’s sole newspaper publishers, are located now.83
During this time the living quarters upstairs were rented out to various people. During the second war there was a murder there and Vick Peterson was charged for murdering his wife. In the trial, just before the jury was to leave the courtroom to make a decision on whether Mr. Peterson was guilty of murder or not, the judge attempted to explain to them that the murder may have been temporary insanity, due to the circumstances of the murder, and admonished them to consider this carefully. The jury returned with a conclusion of “guilty” and Mr. Peterson was sentenced to be hanged.
The people of Drumheller, believing the jury judgement to be wrong, sent a petition to the government requesting an appel. Mr. Peterson’s wife was dying of cancer and since she was bed-ridden he had to suppor her, making her meals and cleaning the apartment. Mr. Peterson worked hard in the mines and the extra work was wearing him down. It was the exhaustion, the court later concluded, that led him to murder his wife in a temporary moment of insanity, simply to release himself and his wife from misery. He hit over the head with a wine bottle, the nearest object he could fine.
Mr. Peterson went to jail for ten years and was released on parole, and was accepted back into the community.84
When the SAAN’s store left George Wizenowski opened a western store in the building and later the “Travel Place” occupied it. When the travel place closed down in the 2000's, Drumheller Denture Clinic bought the building and renovated it to the condition it is in today.
Present Name: Wade’s Jewellery
Original Name: Home Crawford’s Photography Shop
Address: 130 3rd Avenue West
The building was built in 1925 for Home Crawford. It was constructed by Fred Langford and Bill Holloston. Mr. Langford built the back half and Mr. Holloston built the front façade and part of the back.
Mr. Crawford was an immigrant from Scotland and was well educated there. He was involved in the community with several boys’ clubs including the “Wolfs Club.” He was a positive influence on many of the boys who were in his club. He operated a photograph shop in the building until he moved back to Scotland with his maazing collection of photograps of Drumheller. In his latter years in Drumheller he was often kidded about his absent-mindedness. One old timer recalled as a youth going to Mr. Crawford’s office and when Mr. Crawford asked what they wanted they said he had invited them over for dinner. Mr. Crawford assented dubiously and the boy stayed the evening, eating Mr. Crawford’s delivious sausage and cheese.
Mr. Crawford covered the walls of his cottage in Scotland, named the “Drumheller,” with photograps of Drumheller and its people. Unfortunately, this collection that would have claimed a place in any museum was partially destroyed in a fire.
When Mr. Crawford left in 1940 a back addition was built by Roland Langford for the Drumheller Associated Physicians who moved their offices into the upper floor of the building.87 “Jenkin’s Groceteria” run by Eric Plumb, was in the lower floor.88 The stairs to the doctors offices were so steep and high that it was said that if you didn’t die climbing them you weren’t ready to die yet. For a free of thirty-five dollars a year the doctors would cure all of a families’s ailments and deliver all the children. The doctor’s offices was important in the mining days of Drumheller as mining was an extremely hazardous job and injuries were common.
When the Drumheller Associated Physicians moved to their present location by the river, Bill Wade purchased the building and operated a Jewellery Store.
Present Name: Sunrise Motors
Original Name: Westergard Motors
Address: 389 1st Street East
“J. B. Andrew’s Lumberyard” was located here before the Westergard building was constructed. Just to the south of Mr. Andrew’s lumberyard there was a huge slough that occupied part of the east half of centre street.90 The slough was full in spring time after the snow run-off and dried away in the heat of the summer. The children came and built wooden rafts from wood scraps from the junk pile of the lumberyard and floated on the slough in spring. But in the early 20’s the slough was filled so that building construction could take place. Now all of the water run-off goes down to the river through the storm sewers and the children have no wood to build rafts and nowhere to float them so they pay their fifty cents to swim in the antiseptic waters of the aquaplex.
Andy Westergard built this building in 1947 and started a Ford dealership here. The brick layers for the building were Bill Holloston and Roland Langford. The bricks were shipped in by train from a brickyard in Red Cliff in southern Alberta. Mr. Holloston build the southern portion of the building, occupied by offices, and Mr. Langford built the northern portion, which is used as the service garage. The major feature about its construction is the rounded appearance of the entire structure, especially on the portion Mr. Holloston built. There were no design plans and the rounded corners were not specified by Mr. Westergard. I was a audacious move on Mr. Holloston’s part, because it was the first time he had ever constructed a rounded corner. When the building was finished Mr. Holloston’s idea gave the building a modern appearance and Mr. Westergard was pleased.
Andy Westergard sold the building to Art O’Dwyer who retained the name of “Westergard Motors.” When Mr. O’Dwyer retired his son, Joy O’Dwyer, who operates the business now, took over. Westergard Motors moved up onto the highway and Sunrise Motors has occupied the building since.