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Historic Calgary building dismantled and rebuilt

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by Russell Hixson

Construction crews used modern technology to take a historic Calgary building apart and put it back together.
Historic Calgary building dismantled and rebuilt
Photo: George Webber Photography

The project is part of the National Music Centre (NMC) scheduled to open to the public in July.

Jason North, project director at CANA, explained that when the Music Centre purchased the historic King Edward hotel, it faced a host of problems.

The brick structure was erected in the 1900s as one of the city's first buildings and soon became the go-to venue for blues musicians, including the legendary B.B. King.

"(NMC) calls the King Eddy the largest piece in their collection," North said.

But, after numerous expansions and sitting vacant for 15 years, it simply could not be salvaged.

Rather than demolish it, a plan was developed to take the building apart brick by brick during the centre's construction and then rebuild it fully restored.

"Ultimately, the building was in such poor structural shape, that we came to the conclusion that we had to rebuild it," North said.

But, that was no easy task. First crews had to conduct a complete three-dimension scan of the entire hotel.

Firms specializing in heritage masonry took apart the bricks and organized them by section.

For some intricate sections near windows each brick had to be numbered and re-built in the same order.

This maintained the wear and color of the original building. Decades of old paint jobs were gently removed with chemicals, exposing the brick, and faded historic murals were re-touched to their original glory. Crews were able to salvage portions of the metal cornice and will reinstall it.

Old windows that could not be saved were rebuilt according to scans.

When complete, the old hotel will again be used as a concert venue.

As for the modern portions of the new centre, structure work is complete and exterior board is done.

Workers are now starting on cladding. Once more of the roof is complete, the interior will begin to take shape.

The 22,000 square foot centre on Ninth Avenue southeast is now known as Studio Bell, due to a 12-year, $10 million partnership with Bell Canada.

The centre aims to be an epicenter for music innovation.

It will feature recording studios, a 300-seat theatre, and a collection of more than 2,000 musical artifacts of Canadian and international music history. It is on schedule to open to the public in July next year.

Allied Works Architecture did the design and CANA is leading the construction of the project.

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