Meeting “Millionaire’s Row.”
When the Lougheeds completed construction in 1891 on their lavish new sandstone estate, the property could be generously described as “in the middle of nowhere.” The 2.6 acres of grounds adjoined 10 empty lots, on the east side of what is now 6th Street SW. Our savvy Senator Lougheed had purchased these adjoining lots with his law partner Peter McCarthy, speculating that their value would increase once the land was annexed by the city. Two years later, they were proven very right, very lucratively. Peter McCarthy constructed his own lavish home across from the Lougheed estate, on the site now occupied by the Ranchman’s Club. Spurred by the presence of two of Calgary’s wealthiest up-and-comers, 13th Ave. soon began to amass a reputation as home to the rich and famous of Calgary’s new-money society, as more and more of Alberta’s aristocrats flocked to the conveniently located neighbourhood that historians would later refer to as “Millionaire’s Row” (in spite of the fact that in the 1890s the entire property of the Lougheeds amounted to roughly $70,000 – which was an extraordinary sum).
The era of Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth, of the Rockefellers and the Robber-Barons had finally come to Calgary; the only thing more ostentatious than the wealth of these first-families of the New West was their homes. So let’s meet the neighbours
Patrick Burns, The Meat Magnate
In 1901 Patrick Burns completed work on one of Millionaire Row’s most opulent estates: a $32,000 mansion located on the site of the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre. The enormous 18-room sandstone building was built to celebrate Burns’ recent marriage to the daughter of a wealthy BC meat-packing family, which neatly complemented his business interests. Not satisfied with size alone, Burns also hired one of Canada’s leading architects, Francis Rattenbury, a British émigré who had recently completed work on Victoria’s (famously expensive) BC Parliament Buildings, which had gone scandalously over budget by $400,000 to achieve Rattenbury’s ornate Neo-Baroque aesthetic. Characteristic of Burns’ hunger for prestige, even the contractor, Thomas Underwood, was a City Council member, and from 1902-4 went on to become Mayor. Such patronage among business and political allies was common at the time; as late as the early 20s, near the end of his life, James Lougheed himself was quoted defending political kick-backs: “What reason is there why a good party man should not get a good public office provided he is equal to the duties of the task?”
Burns had launched his career by creating a unique mobile slaughtering facility used to provision railway labourers working on a line between Quebec and Maine. Using the substantial capital raised from this bizarre contract, Burns moved to Calgary to establish his first (non-mobile) slaughterhouse in the early 1890s. The lucrative facility financed several others across Western Canada. By the time “Burns Manor” was constructed in 1901, P. Burns & Co. (later Burns Foods) dominated the market for meat packing in Western Canada, buying out local competitors, including those of another notable Calgarian business magnate, William Roper Hull. By the end of his life, Burns’ land holdings in Alberta were so extensive that he could travel from Calgary to the southern border without setting foot on land he didn’t own.
The Bates House
Located directly across from the Lougheed’s beloved Bealieu was a home that didn’t quite fit the Millionaire’s Row mould; small (by that neighbourhood’s standards) but exquisitely constructed; modest brick, rather than monumental sandstone; and built in the Arts-and-Crafts tradition which was sweeping the homes of the fashionable down south. William Stanley Bates, Calgary’s foremost architect, was both the designer and the occupant of this exquisite early modernist structure. Bates had made a tidy living designing much of what today constitutes historic downtown Calgary: The Grain Exchange (1909), the Burns Building (1912), the Beveridge Block (1912) among many others. But it was the interior of the home which was truly remarkable. The poet P.K. Page once described the elegant home from memory:
“It was the living room of the house that I remember especially… The furniture – dark oak – was intricately carved, in many cases by the Bateses themselves, and innumerable objet d’art – fashioned of silver or ivory… There, under the hanging Tiffany lamp, we supported unwieldy copies of Chums… inset on either side of the fireplace were bookcases with leaded glass art nouveau doors, containing the latest issues of The Studio…”