For today’s before and after, I am featuring my favourite underused building in Regina: The Travellers’ Building on Broad Street.
I’ve been intrigued by the Travellers’ Building for years – something about the architecture and quirky asymmetry always caught my eye. But it is also where it is located and what’s around it that has kept me interested in the possibilities. It’s a sizable 1920s commercial building along one of our main streets downtown that has been boarded up since the early 2000s (if not longer). I feel like it is full of secret potential.
Designed by Storey and Van Egmond and built in 1929, the Travellers’ Building has been an important player in Regina’s downtown commercial scene. The main floor originally housed A.B.M. Motors Ltd. (car dealership and repair) as well as a few smaller shops (e.g. Ed’s Lunch), and the upper floor was mainly occupied by short-term display and sales office space for traveling salesmen – where the building gets its name. Other tenants over time have included Group Medical Services, the Bus Depot, and Wartime Housing Ltd. (Canada Housing and Mortgage Corp.). The building was owned by the City for a number of years and was bought in 2005 – I haven’t been able to connect with the current owners to see if anything is planned for the site, but I will keep trying.
But, the real gem of this space is the old Arcadia Ballroom located on the upper floor. It is the last remaining 1920s style horsehair dance floor left in the city. You know the one at Danceland in Watrous that people rave about? We have one on Broad Street!!
It was originally developed for George Broder, a local businessman (Broder’s Annex south east of the General Hospital was built on his farmland), and was one of the last commercial buildings built in the city before the Great Depression. Ross Herrington’s report on Storey and Van Egmond buildings, notes that the Travellers’ is one of Regina’s few remaining examples of 1920s architecture that is reminiscent of Art Deco style – it is not a perfect match but has some similar elements (vertical piers being one of them). Both Ross (an architectural historian) and Frank Korvemaker (a construction historian) have also noted that the brick used on the building looks like T-P Moka from the Claybank brick plant (the same used on the Delta Bessborough in Saskatoon and on many Storey and Van Egmond buildings). You can read the City of Regina’s Heritage Designation write up for more about its significance (it also includes drawings of the building plans).
My journey to learn more about the Travellers’ Building has been interesting, in part because there is a real lack of photographic history! No one that I have contacted, from local historians to the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture, and Sport, has photos of the building before it was boarded up. The first image shown (from the Heritage tours brochure) and the one below are the few drawings that could find. I am sure these photos exist – they just aren’t readily accessible. I am going to keep looking, but if you have photos of this building pre-board up, please let me know! In contrast, photos of it post-board up are abundant.
The whole area along Broad Street where the Travellers’ sits has slowly deteriorated over time. There are a number of parking lots and small disconnected businesses dotting the streets making it less than desirable. Not that there aren’t good things happening or interesting businesses there (in fact, I think Broad Street has a lot of untapped potential), but I see the revitalization of the Travellers’ Building as the missing link for Broad Street to really take its place of significance in the city again. So, tomorrow I am going to present my hypothetical future for the Traveller’s Building.
For now, here is the before and after.
Before (drawing from the 1920s Leader Post ad above):
And here is an additional image from Frank Korvemaker (2005/06), post-board up but pre-spray paint (it also nicely shows the brickwork):