The Pavilion project proposed for the corner of Sackville and South Park has just advanced in the approval process, and demolition of the old CBC building (on the site now) may start in February. On Friday I had a little time to kill while Sheila got a haircut and before a free lunch, so I went to take a farewell look at the old building.
That streamlined corner has felt perfect for the site and despite being over 80 years old still feels contemporary. Really looking at the building I realized I have never appreciated the beautiful detailing of the entrance bay. . .
or the changing rhythm of the windows.
The building opened in 1933 and was the headquarters of the United Service Corp that owned gas stations and car dealerships and bus companies in the region. Prominent local architect Sydney Dumaresq designed the building, which housed a service station, car dealership (with parking for 40 cars on the roof), as well as offices. In the 60s the Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership was still there with big shiny cars in the Sackville Street showroom.
The legacy of the United Service Corp lives on in the philanthropy of the Fountain families who have supported so many local projects. Fred and David Fountain are grandsons of Fred Manning, the founder of United Service.
The only older photo of the building I could locate was this moody 1940s shot from the Archives collection. The neon signs create a noir-ish feel (the CBC rented space beginning in 1944 and eventually purchased the building).
I took a dreary snapshot along Sackville Street in 1966. It is looking west from the Irving gas station that was at the corner of Dresden Row. In the distance you can just make out the CBC and Chevrolet signs that were in the previous photo. There were lots of car dealerships and car services in the area before they moved out to Robie Street and along Kempt Road.
Another little detail you should look for is this door and window in the corner drive-through (where gas pumps were originally located). The steps lead to a blocked entrance to the car showroom.
The new building design pays curvy corner homage to the older building, a reason you should take a moment to stare before the demolition so you will have clear memories to tell your bored grand children in the future. Also, with the CBC logos and banners stripped away the old building has never looked better.
- Having looked at the present and the future buildings we might as well acknowledge what came before. Here is an Archives photo of the corner in the 1880s (I guess). Livestock grazing on Citadel Hill and some lovely houses and gardens on the site. My Twitter buddy Andrew enjoys that the narrow alley to the east of the CBC building is actually a city street called Briar Lane (in the centre of this photo). Now you can see there was a time when it would have merited that name.
- The Dumaresq family has famously produced four generations of architects and there is lots of their work around. One of the sad things about losing the United Service Building designed by Sydney Perry Dumaresq is that on the opposite corner is the exquisitely restored Public Gardens Superintendent’s House designed by his father James Charles Dumaresq in 1903. What a change in styles in the 30 years from 1903 to 1933.
- And finally, while you are trying to commit the undecorated United Service Building to memory, just rest your eyes and glance at the Maritime Tel & Tel building to the east. It has this special little entablature.