When Ontario-based brothers Melville Patrick and James Arthur Thomson relocated to Western Canada, their entrepreneurial spirit stimulated a fledging bookstore empire. Their first shop in Portage la Prairie was established in 1881. The duo then brought their business to Moose Jaw in 1890, and with a strong track record of success, set their sights on the Calgary region. Three years later, they would install a three-storey stationary and periodicals shop bearing their name at 112 8 Avenue SE, before finally settling in Vancouver.
Its construction represented an ongoing shift in architectural conventions and building technology, which up until then, had mostly produced the modest wood-frame structures popular during Calgary's frontier period. An example of vernacular architecture, the dressed and rock-faced sandstone exterior of the building came to reflect the predominant trend at the time, which sparked Calgary's "Sandstone City" nickname.
Despite some rather dramatic changes to the abutting properties, the Thomson Brothers Block remains a charming presence on the Stephen Avenue streetscape, and retains its rounded parapet, segmental arches, and the "THOMSON BROS BLOCK" inscribed in relief.
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