2119-2121 – 15 St. SW
– 1912 –
The Bowen Apartments are currently a four-suite co-owned building. We are a colourful and interesting group of individuals, and we love our funky old home! We have lived here since the 1990’s.
The land was purchased in 1910, presumably from the original Nimmons ranch. The first owners after the Nimmons were Thomas Begg and HCB Forsythe.
When it was built, the building had 4 gravity furnaces in the basement, as well as a gas-powered stove that heated the 4 garages behind the building. The plumbing is still the original shared stacks – an old method of arranging plumbing, no longer used. The floors are birch. There are 4 old claw-footed tubs in the bathrooms. There are still interesting original features in the suites – two still have the old plate boards in the dining area.
By 1912, we have the original renters listed in the building. They were all workers – in the north suites (2119), resided Samuel Biggs, a teamster and John Bootle, a clerk; the Alfred G. McKerman, an inspector, lived in the main-floor suite on the south side, with Thomas Baird, another clerk, residing in the upper south suite. The Bowen Apartments were one of two apartment buildings built on 15th Street SW during that era.
There then follows a large gap in the history of the building – we are unsure who owned or lived here until sometime possibly in the 1970’s.
In the meantime, Bankview had grown up around the Bowen Apartments.
At some time during the ensuing years, the upper two suites were sub-divided – each suite having its own kitchen and living area, with a shared bathroom. We are unsure if the same thing was done with the lower two suites. The building likely spent part of these years as a rooming-house.
In 1950, the renters were 1. William Mackenzie, a salesman at Barber Ellis, (envelope manufacturers, wholesale papers and stationary) and his wife Rose, 2. Ray Van Helden, a broker at Ranaghan and Gould, and his wife Helen, 3. Catherine McIvor, widow, and Graham C. McIvor (her son or brother, perhaps?), an accountant at Home Oil, and 4. Jerry Bogart, a yardman with the CPR, and his wife Lillian.
By approximately the 1970’s, a former tenant who happened by told us that the building was owned by two unmarried sisters. When they died, they left three Calgary properties – two in Bankview, on 15th Street SW, and another magnificent view lot in South Calgary, with a rather run-down subdivided bungalow on it. The properties were left to their nephew, who ended up living in Vancouver, and hired Calgary residents to manage the building for him.
The original tenants of the building no doubt worked on developing the original City of Calgary. By the 1980’s we got to know who was renting the building. A visual artist lived for a period in suite #1 (main floor, south side). Above him – a couple who were founding members of One Yellow Rabbit Theatre, lived in suite #3 (upper floor, south side). After they left, that suite was occupied by a reclamation worker in the oil and gas industry – and later also his family. After the artist downstairs moved out, the lower suite was occupied by a landman, and his wife. It was then briefly rented to their niece. Upstairs, in 2119, lived an architectural student (and later an architect), and later also his wife, a social worker. Below, in the main floor of 2119, a landman rented for a while, followed by his brother – a musician and landscaper. After they vacated, the suite was rented by the owner of a specialty British car repair shop, and his wife, who at the time worked in the film industry. Then a sound and lighting man and his partner and their two children moved in.
The old gravity furnaces were replaced by four more modern forced air furnaces. Old stoves were gradually disposed of and replaced with more modern gas ones. New refrigerators were bought. Also during this time, during a storm, a tree branch crashed through the front windows of the building, taking the old Bowen Apartments glass name-plate with it. We hope to replace it eventually.
Then big changes came to the Bowen Apartments. In the early 1990’s Bre-X, a Calgary gold exploration company with interests in the Far East, fell, among accusations of stock-market fraud. Many investors lost money when Bre-X collapsed. One week after the collapse of Bre-X stocks, all three of the owner’s Calgary properties, coincidentally, were put up for sale, at extremely reasonable prices for the times, with a quick closing for cash being the deal-breaker.
The current owners, four friends, two of whom already lived in and assisted with managing the building, purchased the property.
Three months later, an article was published in Western Living Magazine, naming Bankview as an area for real-estate investors to consider purchasing in. The gentrification of Bankview began in earnest, as home prices became less affordable. Two of the four suites have now been extensively up-dated and renovated. The other two have each had some changes made, although not as many renovations were done. The backyard has been cobbled, and landscaped. Last summer, the two enormous poplars that once grew in the front yard, were taken down by the City, due to concerns with their roots. They have been replaced by a mountain ash, and we are hoping to add a fruit tree. The garages boast a new tin roof.