Efforts to save, redevelop and rehabilitate Calgary’s historic Enoch Sales House had been ongoing for at least a decade.
The building, raised in 1904 by Enoch Samuel Sales, and one of the city’s last Victorian Queen Anne Revival-style mansions, was destroyed by fire Feb. 2, 2019. In a Victoria Park neighbourhood undergoing rapid gentrification, the home stood as one of the last reminders of the area’s turn-of-the-century residential roots.
It was a stately, albeit decrepit reminder of early 20th Century prosperity in Calgary.
Many will point to years of dithering and neglect as the underlying cause for the historic home’s demise. Economic swoons, desire for heritage preservation, political will and ultimately, feasibility, all played a significant role in the fate of the Enoch Sales House.
Calgary has a notoriously poor track record in heritage building preservation. The Enoch Sales House might be one of the best city examples of how these treasured properties fade into non-existence.
The house stood on a coveted piece of inner-city real estate, and hopes for its preservation were encumbered by a complex mix of external factors and internal private sector and civic decision making.
Our dive into the Enoch Sales House fire, its history – and ultimately its doom – will give you a unique, multi-perspective view, piecing together how decisions made over the past 40 years may have sealed the home’s fate.
The Enoch Sales House fire
Photos and videos of flames engulfing the building cascaded on Twitter feeds and Facebook newsfeeds across the city when word of the fire broke just after 7 a.m. Feb. 2, 2019, in the 300 block of 12 Avenue SE.
In frigid temperatures, it took several hours for Calgary firefighters to douse the fire, which caused irreparable damage. The building remains were torn down by that Sunday afternoon.
In the following Monday’s council meeting (Feb. 4), Coun. Evan Woolley spoke in question period about the fire.
“I bundled up, drove down and watched, with real sadness and incredible frustration, that we lost this really important community asset,” Woolley said at the time.
Woolley said he’d spent five years advocating for the protection of the property. He talked about the city’s investment in revitalizing the Simmons Mattress building – to the tune of $4 million – and the impact it had on improving East Village.
“One of the first acts of community building in East Village, which I attribute to a lot of its success, was the saving of the Simmons Mattress Factory,” he said.
“What frustrates me, and I had had many conversations around this building (Enoch) being something like this.”
Woolley questioned why the building wasn’t secured, and why the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) – the building’s owner – hadn’t followed through on a proposed $3 million plan to renovate the Enoch Sales House.
In a later interview, Woolley said he foretold the property’s doom with continued delays to save the property.
“I had literally said, this building’s gonna burn to the ground if you don’t do something about it,” Woolley told LiveWire Calgary.
CMLC provides answers
In that same Feb. 4 council meeting, CMLC President and CEO Michael Brown said they had worked with the prior landowner in 2015 to see if the area’s Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) could be used to upgrade the building. They examined other potential arrangements.
“They were unable to come to a framework that would allow for the project to be financially viable,” he told councillors.
In 2017, CMLC had purchased the entire parcel of land for $14.6 million.
Brown said their intention was to relocate it on to the adjacent Enoch Park. He confirmed the costs Woolley had mentioned – $3 million – but also noted they could spend just $1.9 million to build a replica of the Enoch Sales House.
It was discussed at CMLC board meetings, where there was support to bring that proposal to council as a part of the organization’s business plan.
“Following that, we started getting a sense from elements of our shareholder that that number was very high,” Brown said.
The sole shareholder of the CMLC is the City of Calgary.
“There was a desire for us to look at, is there other ways to bring that in line,” Brown said.
The project was then put on hold, looking for opportunities to bring the cost down.
The fire rendered that exercise unnecessary.
Enoch Sales House – Cause of the fire
At the time, Brown was quoted in several media sources outlining his understanding of the potential cause of the Sales house fire.
“Someone had climbed into the building to get out of the cold and actually lit a fire, my assumption is, to stay warm,” Brown was quoted in an article by the CBC.
“My assumption is that fire got away from them, and the good news is that individual got out of the building, and that, unfortunately, a significant aspect of Victoria Park was lost.”
“Officially, due to lack of evidence, the cause is being put down as undetermined,” Henke wrote in an email response.
To date, nothing has been publicly stated about the cause of the fire. According to Calgary Fire Department spokeswoman, Carol Henke, only the CFD is authorized to provide the official origin and cause of a fire.
“Officially, due to lack of evidence, the cause is being put down as undetermined,” Henke wrote in an email response.
Early history of the Enoch Sales House
Enoch Samuel Sales acquired title on the Victoria Park (East Ward) property in August 1903 after coming to Calgary from Ontario in 1902. He and his wife built a home there in 1904. At the time, it was an area of a bustling city where influential Calgarians built their homes.
Sales lived in the home with his wife Janet. As mentioned, it was a two-storey ‘Free Classic’ Queen Anne Revival-style home (City of Calgary Heritage Planning). At the time of the fire, it was one of the last homes of its type in the city.
Sales operated the Sales Clothing Company (est. 1905) until his death in 1930 at the age of 70.
Upon Enoch Samuel Sales’ death, the title for the property was transferred to Enoch Marshall Sales.
The property was then sold in 1938, out of the Sales family for the first time since the house was built. It changed hands six times in the next 40 years before it landed in the hands of Calgary carpenter Steve Raduloff.
The Raduloff years – 1977 to 2005
Bulgarian-born Steve Raduloff had an eye for properties, according to his daughter-in-law, Sharon Raduloff.
“That’s how he made money,” Sharon said.
He had several of them in Victoria Park and in the downtown area and many were turned into rental properties, she said. One of those properties was the Enoch Sales House.
Back when Raduloff first purchased the property in 1977, it would have been viable to save, Sharon said. However, the interior wasn’t original anymore.
“It had been chopped up into little rooms,” she said, believing it had at one time been used as a quarantine location for patients with cholera or the Spanish flu.
“The only thing that would have been original in that house, right up until when we sold it, was the grand staircase. The staircase was original, with the railing. And there were stained glass transom windows that were original.”
Over the years, Sharon said the neighbourhood deteriorated, as did the quality of tenants that occupied the rooms.
“As dad got older the tenants got worse,” she said.
“So, it turned into a drug house, a whorehouse – to put it bluntly. It was a dangerous place to be.”
Her husband, who’s now deceased, helped his dad Steve in his later years, as the elder Raduloff’s health had taken a turn for the worse. She recalls one instance where her husband had been assaulted by one of the tenants.
“There was a pretty rough crowd down there,” Sharon said.
Perhaps it could have been saved as late as the mid-1990s, she said. Sharon said they always knew it was on the city’s historic properties inventory, but they’d had no inclination at the time to save it. By that time, it wasn’t worth it.
“I don’t think that made any difference as far as dad wanting to do anything,” she said.
“I don’t think he ever wanted to do anything to the house. He just wanted to get as much money out of it as he could. That was his sole purpose in buying it, I think.”
The fact Raduloff had a hunch the Calgary Stampede may eventually come knocking also impacted his decision to wait on the property.
Surprised it hadn’t burned down sooner
Given the vulnerable population that had migrated into the area, Sharon said she wasn’t surprised when it burned down. In fact, she’s shocked it lasted as long as it did.
“That isn’t the first time there’s been transients in the house, trying to keep warm,” she said.
She called it an eyesore in the neighbourhood. Had they attempted to restore it, she figured it would have cost well over the $3 million the CMLC had projected.
There was little in terms of interior heritage to save, she said. The exterior had elements, but the foundation was a real problem. It was so bad she didn’t think the house could be moved.
“The flood in 2013, that was the final clincher,” she said.
“Once that hit, you couldn’t move it.”
She would have loved for the home to have been restored to its former glory. But hearing of its demise didn’t stir much emotion.
“If it had happened in the 90s, I would have been sad,” Sharon said.
“But no, because I know what it was like inside and what had been done to it, particularly from the middle 1990s.”
Steven Raduloff had returned to the “home country” of Bulgaria in 2005 where he later died.
The property was sold in 2005 to the TRL Real Estate Syndicate (O5) Ltd.
Torode, the vision and the economic doom
Attempts were made during the research of this story to contact the Torode Group, through Torode Realty Advisors. At one point our correspondence was returned and someone with knowledge of the property was to get back to us. That didn’t materialize.
Still, the group, via Torode Commercial, did have a development plan on file in March 2009 that was to have a 12-storey, 157-unit hotel, a second 12-storey building with 90 condos, a restaurant and retail on the site. It was dubbed: 300 block Hotel and Condominiums.
The plan acknowledges Enoch Sales House situated at the southwest corner of that site. It also acknowledges the Sales House as identified as a Category ‘A’ site on the City’s inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources. It also makes clear that no formal municipal or provincial heritage designation of the property has been contemplated for the Sales House.
Then, the 2008/2009 recession hit. The group faced immense financial pressure.
The project ultimately fell through because of eventual bankruptcy at Torode. Much of this is documented in a 2010 piece by then-Calgary Herald journalist Jason Markusoff.
Dan van Leeuwen, president of Torode Commercial prior to the financial downfall, ended up picking up the Enoch Sales parcel through bankruptcy, while acting as the development manager for a different group of investors.
In that 2010 piece, van Leeuwen talks about purchasing the property from Torode.
“You never dance in someone’s grave because you might end up in it, but again where there’s this sort of turmoil, there’s opportunities,” he said at the time.
‘It was a very expensive endeavour.’
van Leeuwen said their group had looked at everything from incorporating the Enoch Sales House into their project – which was somewhat similar in nature to the prior Torode plan – to relocating it to Heritage Park or even finding another home for it.
“It turns out it was a very big and very, very heavy house, so to move it through the city was going to be impractical,” van Leeuwen told LiveWire Calgary.
He said their proposal to the city was to then move the house – they would cover that cost – on to the adjacent Enoch Park site, renovate the house and perhaps turn it into a restaurant or retail or office space.
“It was a very expensive endeavour; the house was going to be quite a bit to move, but renovating it given the condition it was in, was, we’re talking in the just sub $2 million,” van Leeuwen said.
“Which for the size of the house and the type of use you could get out of it, it wasn’t going to be a very economic proposition.”
Cost of renovating, cost of securing
Both van Leeuwen and the CMLC’s vice president of marketing and communications, Clare LePan, spoke about the measures taken to secure the Enoch building over the past decade. While the tab for fixing the place up was steep, van Leeuwen said securing it just kept the bill climbing.
Even then, he said they weren’t immune to break-ins or the threat of fire.
“We also had a couple of close calls with fires. It was just, unfortunately, one of those buildings that a lot of people tried to get into because it was vacant,” he said.
“So we had a really hard time and spent a lot of money – I’m sure the CMLC can speak to this as well – trying to keep it locked up.”
Security guards, fencing, boarding – all were measures taken to secure the location. One small fire van Leeuwen recalled under the front doorstep nearly got out of control.
“Fortunately the fire department got there on time,” he said.
LePan couldn’t provide an exact figure, but she said CMLC spent a fair amount of time and money making sure the building didn’t deteriorate any further “and that it wasn’t at risk.”
Structural assessments were done annually; the CMLC also did work to shore up the home’s foundation. LePan said they were also aware of some of the social disorder in the area, though it wasn’t a problem, and they tried to walk the line between having it under tight watch and ensuring it was accessible in the event of an emergency. Doors were secured with steel plates and windows were screwed shut.
“It’s been the balance that we’ve tried to strike between, you know, do you have a fence around it that perhaps makes it harder for people to get in, but if they do get in, then it’s harder for an emergency crew or, in the event of something like the fire, to get access to the house,” she said.
Developer plans for restoration continued
Despite mounting costs to own the property, van Leeuwen said they put the proposal forward to the city. He said he was told their project would have to be put out for Request For Proposal (RFP) to other developers.
“We found that difficult to understand, the house was on our property,” he said.
“We weren’t really keen on a proposition where we would have to compete with other people or something else. It just didn’t make logical sense.”
According to the city, DP2012-4855 was submitted in November 2012 and approved in May 2013. It was a mixed-use development with a hotel, restaurant/retail and a fitness centre.
The city said the development permit lapsed due to the applicant not satisfying the conditions of approval – which included the submission of a Heritage Preservation and Relocation Plan.
That’s when the economy changed again. The 2014 economic crisis hit.
Still, the parties worked on a potential solution. But, in 2017 the Enoch Sales property was acquired by the CMLC for $14.6 million in what Michael Brown told city council was a “distressed sale.”
CMLC takes the Enoch Sales House over
LePan said they’d done work prior to owning Enoch Sales House to determine the cost of moving, renovating or building a replica of the historic home.
“We wanted to understand, and this is before we owned the house, what the cost would be to restore it and what some of those implications were that go into a restoration like that,” she said.
That’s where the $3 million cost came in. LePan said everything from asbestos abatement, to safely moving such a building – even 20 metres to Enoch Park – and then what she said was Calgary’s lack of skilled trades in heritage restoration, all contributed to the high cost.
Moving the building would have required precision care to ensure damage wasn’t done as the home teetered on a crumbling foundation. Heavy cranes would have been brought in and a new foundation poured.
Ultimately, according to LePan, the prevailing reason the project wasn’t moved ahead was the ability to create value with the one property, given the cost, and how it was all incorporated into the Rivers District Master Plan.
“It ended up that we ran out of time,” LePan said.
“And so, our approach was, let’s look at the total district and not one house in isolation and figure out how we want to approach development holistically in the area.”
Did Enoch fit the Rivers District Master Plan vision?
“The Rivers District Master Plan has been designed to be flexible enough to imagine and integrate modernized amenities like a new event centre, an expansion of the BMO Centre, and the delivery of a Stampede Trail retail destination,” reads the CMLC’s website for the Rivers District.
When asked if the restoration and integration of the Enoch Sales House fit into the overall vision for the area, LePan said they had hoped it would.
She said when charting the course for the redevelopment of these areas, like East Village, they try to have a unique and diverse “urban fabric.”
“You need sort of that diversity and architectural style and building types and mapping and those nuances to the district that doesn’t make it feel like it all was built and grew up at the same time,” LePan said.
She said the area had a lot of unique pieces, some older properties, some developing properties and other “blank slate” properties that would have seen new development.
“So, our hope was to sort of find the right mix between all of those things to make it an interesting part of the city,” LePan said.
“We think it still will be that, but Enoch House would have been an element of that story.”
Enoch Sales House property, post fire
The already brittle house, badly damaged by fire, was demolished immediately.
The entire area adjacent to Enoch Park, where the Enoch Sales House once stood, is now a surface parking lot.
On April 25, 2019, a Special Function – Class 2 development permit was sought, with temporary approval for two parts: Cowboys music festival, July 4 to 14, and as a community event venue for the CMLC from Aug. 1 to Sept 15.
It was approved one month later, on May 27, 2019.
“Typically, given their temporary nature, these applications move quickly to decision – often 10-12 weeks – if all required information is provided at the time of application,” an email response from the City read, when asked a specifically about the expediency of the Cowboys tent development permit.
Later in the summer, the Enoch Sales House lands, along with the Victoria Park bus barns, were included as bargaining chips in an Event Centre deal with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC). CSEC has first right of refusal option on the Sales lands, expiring at the point a new arena opens.
The Event Centre is a part of the overarching Rivers District Master Plan
The inclusion of the Enoch Sales House lands was a new development in the ongoing negotiations with CSEC and were not a part of a scuttled 2017 arena deal.
Calgary’s designated heritage property list is thin
There are 862 locations on the historic resource inventory in Calgary. According to Josh Traptow, executive director of the Calgary Heritage Authority (CHA), 95 city properties have official heritage designation. That’s 11 per cent of potential heritage locations that are protected.
Designation means it cannot be demolished, but it doesn’t affect an owner’s ability to sell the property or make changes, provided it doesn’t affect the elements of the home that are designated as historic.
It just so happens, it’s cheap to get heritage designation for a location.
“There are no costs to an owner when they want to designate their property,” Traptow said. Most of the application costs are covered by the CHA.
While designation is the only tool to prevent demolition, Calgary’s proven the designation isn’t invincible.
The rescinding of a municipal designation happened for the Eau Claire smokestack so it could be moved to make way for development.
“It’s the only designated site that was rescinded in order for the site to be developed,” Traptow said.
However, designation is the only tool to protect, in perpetuity, a heritage site.
“The vast numbers could be demolished or altered at any time,” Traptow said.
Traptow said heritage designation opens the doors to grants and other potential financial help for the owner. In the future, he hopes that includes city tax relief for these properties.
Still, Traptow is aware of the ongoing desire to gentrify Calgary’s established communities. Especially when Calgary’s firing on all economic cylinders.
“In the boom cycle, we always see inner city communities facing the brunt of development and density and at some point, there’s not going to be much of any heritage left unless it’s been designated,” he said.
‘Uncredible moves’ on Enoch Sales House
Moving Enoch Sales House to Heritage Park as van Leeuwen had suggested or building a replica model of the home, as had been proposed by others, were “uncredible moves” said Coun. Evan Woolley.
“Those are like the two uncredible moves that people who don’t care about heritage say when they want to throw a bone to heritage,” said Woolley.
In the same breath, Woolley said there were opportunities with van Leeuwen and the CMLC to ensure the survival of the Enoch Sales House.
“Calgary’s done a terrible job of heritage preservation.”Councillor Evan Woolley
But, even van Leeuwen said the value proposition wasn’t there. Woolley said there needs to be government support. He said the city’s finance team and previous city councils haven’t supported the idea of tax relief for historic properties.
“And so, what happens historically is we’ve had to come in last minute, and frankly, pay a ton of money on the back end to save the last few as they’ve popped up,” Woolley said.
“Calgary’s done a terrible job of heritage preservation.”
At the end of September 2019, two more historic properties faced the wrecking ball. This year, five properties have been demolished.
Still, other Calgary historic properties have been renovated. High profile places like the Simmons Mattress Factory have been restored, though the CMLC’s Michael Brown told council after the Enoch fire that the cost to upgrade that location was $320 per square foot.
For comparison, the Enoch renovation was expected to cost $870 per square foot.
Brown said the condition of the building warranted the near tripling of the Simmons renovation cost.
It was a cost the city didn’t appear prepared to swallow.
Enoch Sales House falls through the development cracks
Though they knew it was a historic property, the Raduloffs didn’t apply for historic designation. They owned the property for 28 years.
Torode owned the property for nearly five years and the historic designation wasn’t sought. van Leeuwen’s group didn’t seek historic designation in the eight years they owned the property.
Despite the fact it cost nothing, the city-owned CMLC didn’t seek historic designation for the Enoch Sales House property. They owned the property for the better part of 18 months.
All knew the property was on the city’s inventory of historic locations – and its historic significance.
Both van Leeuwen and LePan said the failure to preserve the Enoch Sales House was quite complex. After 110 years, time wasn’t on their side.
“The bigger they are, the more difficult they are and that site was fairly expensive,” van Leeuwen said.
“So the scale of the development that needed to be done there was pretty significant. That just takes time.”
Confluence of events led to Enoch demise
The economy, the logistics and the feasibility of its preservation seemed to present continual roadblocks to its long-term survival.
Further, van Leeuwen said those who do come forward with private proposals shouldn’t be bogged down in development red-tape and constant delays. Woolley said private developers in this situation need the city’s help.
“We need a tax abatement program so that the private sector sees the value of saving the privately-owned heritage properties so it’s just as good as the government coming in on the back end,” he said.
“The viability of these of these old buildings need significant government support.”
“If we want to maintain our heritage, then maybe we need to make it easier for people,” he said, also saying that quicker development approvals would also aid in preservation.
In the end, the Enoch Sales House may have fallen casualty to desire.
Either the desire for development to progress past the downtrodden remains of a historic Calgary century home that stood out as an iconic reminder of the past.
Or the simpler desire – or lack thereof – to have it designated as a municipal or provincial historic resource.