In February 1914, only three years after the spectacular Valentine's Day opening, Edmund McKay sent Bessie Lobban of Chatham, New Brunswick, a picture postcard of Calgary's Pryce Jones store. He wrote, "[T]his is a view of what used to be the largest store in Calgary but last August the Hudson Bay Company opened a much larger one. It is a splendid building - equal to the large stores in Boston."

McKay's card was prophetic. Challenged by the Bay and reeling from the economic fallout of the First World War, in the absence of managing director, Colonel A. W. Pryce Jones, who went overseas in the fall of 1916 as Commander of the 113th battalion of the Lethbridge Highlanders, Pryce Jones of Calgary closed its doors forever in 1916.

Unlike the company, the building survived and, around 1924, Lougheed (Senator James) and Taylor Limited renovated the old department store that had become known as First Street's "eyesore." As the Traders' Building, it housed commercial and retail tenants. After serving as the headquarters of Military District #13 during the Second World War, it was renovated again in the late 1940s to accommodate federal government offices including local branches of the National Employment Service and the Income Tax Department. More recently, the former Pryce Jones department store building was reincarnated as luxury condominium lofts called The Manhattan.

Like the building that will not succumb, the Hudson's Bay Company continues to reinvent itself and is the only surviving department store of the pre-1900 era still operating in Calgary.
by Jennifer Cook Bobrovitz
Reprinted from Calgary Real Estate News, February 11, 2000, with the permission of the author

© Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans