Heritage Buildings/Simmons Building

Simmons Building

Reawakening the historic Simmons Building

Formerly a factory warehouse for a national bedding manufacturer, the Simmons Building had been snoozing on the banks of Bow River for decades before CMLC initiated restoration efforts in 2008. The specific elements of the Simmons Building which are considered to have heritage value, and are thus, regulated by municipal bylaw, are described below. In its’ restoration approach of the Simmons Building CMLC, consulted with heritage officers of the City of Calgary to determine an ideal redevelopment scheme which maintains the building’s heritage while modernizing it for the growing needs of the community.

After repairing windows and mechanical systems, removing years of contaminated paint and materials, refinishing flooring and installing new fire protection systems and doors, CMLC set up shop in the Simmons Building until 2012, when we relocated to make way for the three retail tenants that won the day after our national call for Expressions of Interest in 2011.

Together, those three tenants – Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and the chefs who created CHARCUT Roast House, Connie DeSousa and John Jackson – will transform the Simmons Building into a culinary destination at the heart of downtown Calgary, in the burgeoning community of East Village, along the newly redeveloped RiverWalk.

Following the selection of our tenants, CMLC got busy on the Simmons Building once again, bringing it up to 21st-century spec while preserving and restoring many of the building’s historical elements. These included 36 solid fir pillars, 22 metal radiators, some of the building’s brickwork and its metal barn doors. CMLC also improved the building’s basement, replaced 18 window frames with equally expressive modern counterparts, cut out part of the second floor to open up the space, and added stairwells and an elevator. Further, to activate the building as a key dimension of our RiverWalk master plan, we opened up the north side of the Simmons to provide spectacular views and establish an intimate relationship with the river.

The tenants will now take over, designing their interiors and readying their kitchens, roasterie and ovens. By summer 2015, the doors of the rejuvenated Simmons Building will open – just in time to welcome the first new residents of East Village.

The occupancy of the Simmons Building by three local food and beverage champions puts in place an important piece of CMLC’s retail strategy for East Village, which calls for approximately 100,000 sq ft of Village Format retail – a ‘boutique’ style of retail that tends to be more intimate and service-oriented than Urban Format retail (which in East Village will add up to about 300,000 sq. ft.) which will take care of the big grocery categories like: grocery, home improvement and general merchandizing.

Simmons Building - Description of the Historic Place

Built in 1912, The Simmons Factory Warehouse is an excellent and rare representative example of the pre- World War I manufacturing and industrial buildings which were once situated east of downtown. Considered modern for its time, it was constructed by Carter-Hall-Aldinger Co. Ltd. for an estimated cost of $20,000 and had a concrete foundation with brick cladding, steam heating, an electric elevator, a sprinkler system, a full basement with board floor and an adjoining boiler house. Its standard post and beam construction with brick exterior walls exemplifies industrial and warehouse construction in Calgary. The twelve-inch fir square posts, short-span beams, and mill floors provided maximum floor loading capability to support the heavy machinery and the stacks of mattresses and other bedding materials produced by the Simmons Company.

The Simmons Factory Warehouse is significant due to its historic usage as a mattress and bedding factory and warehouse and serves to recall the variety of light industry once situated in downtown Calgary. Although the Simmons Factory Warehouse was built in 1912, at the peak of Calgary’s development boom by the Montreal based Alaska Bedding Company (ABC), it is best known for its long-term association with Simmons Canada, a nationwide bedding manufacturing company, which emerged in 1919 when Alaska Bedding Company and its subsidiaries amalgamated. ABC/Simmons used the Simmons Building in Calgary for the assembly and warehousing of specialty sleep equipment such as adjustable hospital beds and nursery racks. The well-known Beauty Rest line of mattresses, as well as pillows, regular mattresses and chesterfield beds were also assembled here. During World War II, it was used exclusively to provide bedding for the military. Simmons occupied the building until 1966 when, due to the low elevation of the site in relation to the Bow River, flooding in the basement necessitated moving to a new location.

Character-Defining Elements (summarized) of the Simmons Building

The exterior character-defining elements:

  • two-storey, regular, rectangular form with flat roof, and a one-storey, east façade boiler room addition;
  • solid-brick and heavy-timber construction with an exposed, board-formed, concrete foundation and lintels;
  • red-brick façade brickwork laid in common bond articulated with a corbelled cornice, belt course and parapet;
  • fenestration with single- and two-part, wooden-sash, nine-pane windows with triple-pane hopper transom lights;
  • historic hand-painted ghost signage for the Simmons company on all facades
  • double-width entrance doorways containing wooden panelled doors and transom lights and loading doorways with steel-clad double doors;

The interior character-defining elements:

  • open-character floor space;
  • exposed structural elements including brick walls, and heavy-timber beams, supports and mill floors;
  • enclosed wooden staircase with an exposed, raw finish with simple, squared balusters and newels;
  • freight elevator with wood-slat car;
  • ceiling chutes from attic;
  • first floor vault with steel door.