A Connection to the Past
de Waal Block
Between the exciting East Village and the hip First Ave shops of Bridgeland in Calgary, Alberta, lies the de Waal Block. Built in 1910, it was fully restored in 2001 and has been meticulously maintained since. The refurbished red brick building has recaptured much of its original Edwardian charm in addition to all the contemporary updates of plumbing, electrical and heating. The heritage structure is on the Calgary Evaluated Historic Resources list and was honored by receiving the prestigious City of Calgary Heritage Authority “Lion Award” for outstanding restoration. Anchor tenants include Jin Bar, recently opened, and the kitchen/bath cabinet company - EKKO. The second floor sees several designer offices and Calgary Musicians Union office among others. The ½ acre lot has over 35 parking spaces designated for tenants and customer parking. Beautiful Meredith Rd. with its stately Elm trees and green boulevard has on street parking as well. A renaissance is underway in the building's neighborhood - Bridgeland/Riverside. As proof, the recently built Meredith Block across the street offers retail that includes the organic supermarket - Blush Lane, a specialty cake place, gym - and 6 floors of office space with Benevity as anchor. Down the street a high-rise condo with main floor retail has just broken ground, Bridgeland Distillery has opened around the corner with more to come. Come visit and enjoy the "Riverside Village" renaissance!
History of the Building
The de Waal Block sits at the corner of 4th St. and Meredith Rd northeast in the Riverside/Bridgeland area of the city. John de Waal is the third generation owner of this increasingly rare, historic building. The structure has enjoyed continued commercial success in Calgary’s current economy and underwent a full restoration in 2000.
Originally, known as the Poffenroth Block, after its builder/owner Henry Poffenroth, the block was built in 1910 with retail space on the ground floor and residences on the second. It passed to several owners with the Canada Life Assurance Co. being the final one until John’s grandfather, Theodore Leonard (Theo), purchased it around 1927. He had lived in the building with his family and been its manager since 1914.
Theo and his wife Mary emigrated from the Netherlands in 1912. They had three children, John - born in The Netherlands and Johanna and Theodore Henry (Ted) both born in Calgary. The family was well known to have sponsored and housed many immigrants from Holland and elsewhere through the years. In the depression era of the 1930’s, Theo de Waal altered the upper two-bedroom suites to make single rooms for men working mostly as labourers. Each room had a small gas stove, and later a hotplate and fridge. The tenants shared the bathroom facilities located down hallways. The men were from many parts of the province, country and Europe trying to find work and often sending money home to help their families.
Of the next generation of the de Waal family to own “the Block”, John de Waal, the uncle and namesake to the current owner, was a division fire chief in the city. His brother, Theodore (Ted – John junior's dad) was a drummer and played with dance bands in the 1940s and 50s. Ted also managed the de Waal Block with his sister Johanna. Johanna passed away in 1997. Ted and his wife Eva had lived in the building in the early years of their marriage, 1949, and John (the current owner) lived in the block until he was 3 years old. Ted passed away in 2000 and never witnessed the completed restoration project.
In 2000, John & his wife Mari Jo undertook a privately funded, full restoration of the heritage building leaving only one major job undone. Money had run out to replace the original Paskapoo, sandstone windowsills. Research began and closely matched sandstone was located at a quarry in Ohio. Again, private funding was secured and the sills were completed in August 2009 just in time to celebrate the buildings100th anniversary.
In the 2000 restoration, the single rooms on the second floor were brought back, as far as possible, to the original 1910 configuration. Each suite now has 2 bedrooms, at least one original skylight, claw foot tub, bead boarding in the baths and kitchens, original decorative radiators along with refurbished wood floors. Kitchens were updated to contemporary standards. These units have character and charm to spare!
The de Waal’s are rightfully proud of their accomplishment and received recognition with the Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award for best restoration of 2010, as well as receiving a Community Heritage Plaque in 2000 from the City of Calgary.
John, a renowned jazz musician in Calgary, has recently retired from his teaching business, the de Waal Music Studio, in the lower level to take a more active part in the day to day running of the building.
Dan MacKinnon, brother to John’s wife, Mari Jo, moved here from Ontario in the early 90’s. He has managed the building since 1995 and has played a significant role in its restoration. It would not have been completed without him.
With its proximity to the downtown core and the developments of "The Bridges" to the east, "East Village" to the south and the "Meredith Block" across the street, it looks like a bright future for this beautifully restored gem.