Though the red brick commercial podium of the Union Square development at 1st Street and 13th Avenue SW attempts to harmonize its neighbour's architectural characteristics, it's clear that the three-storey classical building, adorned with entryway pilasters and a rooftop balustrade, is a vestige of a bygone style. While it now looks somewhat out of place next to the gaping hole in the streetscape that is the vacant lot to the south, the stone and brick building was once part of a much larger string of buildings.

The Underwood Block along 1st Avenue in 1928, image via Glenbow Archives

An influential member of Calgary's business and political classes, Thomas Underwood emigrated from England to Winnipeg at the age of 20. Later joining the Canadian Pacific Railway, he moved to Calgary after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. After a brief stint at a lumber company, Underwood became a self-employed builder and contractor, who was responsible for some of the city's most prominent early buildings. The first Bank of Montreal building and the Burns Manor, the Calgary residence of Senator Pat Burns, are among his most significant works. He then went on to become the 13th Mayor of Calgary in 1902. 

Underwood Block in 2002, image by Flickr user Leigh Anthony DEHANEY via Creative Commons

Underwood first lent his name to a two-storey commercial building at 1st Street and 10th Avenue SW, which was later renamed 'Western Block' following the completion of the new complex at 1st and 13th Avenue. Built in 1911, Underwood Block included a five-storey apartment tower to the north of the aforementioned classical building that still remains on the site. But a devastating fire in 1989 destroyed this building, leaving only the adjacent structure standing. The surviving building saw a number of tenants over the years, most notably Mescalero restaurant, whose southern wall sign lingers as a historical fixture of the neighbourhood. 

The one remaining building of the original Underwood Block stands next to Union Square, image retrieved from Google Street View

A 25-storey tower, the first phase of the Union Square development, now occupies the site of the former apartment complex. An adjacent five-storey tower, unaffected by the fire, was demolished to make way for the new project. But the three-storey neighbouring building was preserved, and is set to be sandwiched between the existing tower and a future tower to the south, where a row of storefronts had previously stood. 

A rendering of the Union Square development, with the Underwood Block incorporated, image via Apex and Western Securities

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Related Companies:  ITC Construction Group, Western Securities, Zeidler BKDI Architects