Feb 28, 2013

Pingle's Drug and Book Store Interior

This downtown Medicine Hat location has been abandoned for years now, and the interior has been altered numerous times over the decades. Obviously there is still a story attached and clues to the building's uses over the years that are rather interesting, but the current interior isn't what I'd call historic. Frankly, the exterior painted wall is the building's best feature.

Two notable businesses that used the building were Pingle's Drug Store in the early half of the 20th century and the Medicine Hat Credit Union throughout the 1960s. These two operations stand out because there are a few details left from their time here.

Pingle's Drug interior ca. 1940s

You can see in the archival image above that there used to be a tin ceiling in Pingle's, however a drop ceiling was later installed by one of the businesses that followed. While exploring the space, I pointed my flashlight through an open hatch in the roof and got a glimpse of a tin tile. The original ceilings may still all be there, which is cool when you combine that with the vintage ad painted outside. You can see that the framework of the entrance is still pretty much the same too, with small doors on each side to access the store front windows.

In the back half of the building you enter an addition that likely came when the Credit Union did. The biggest clue is immediately to the right in the form of an old walk-in safe. After the 2007 fire in the neighbouring building, water leaked in and rusted the safe door closed. I'm not sure how long the door had been locked since then, but to get inside a giant hole had to be drilled through the concrete and the door was opened from the inside. The hole shows just how thick the walls are, and I found the two concrete plugs that were removed stacked in the bathroom.

The inside of the safe wasn't full of any treasures anymore unfortunately.  Instead it was being used as a storage room for old desks and other office furniture. Aside from an old stretcher, the rest of the space was mostly empty. The interior did take me by surprise though, because had I not have been invited to check it out, I would've never thought there was anything worth seeing here. It was actually really neat. 

Feb 27, 2013

Vintage Connaught School Postcard

While I've been keen to collect vintage postcards of my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alberta, one of the things that I've been most enthusiastic about is finding ones that have been used and tell a bit of a story. This postcard of Connaught School was one of those finds, and was mailed off to Vermont (via Montreal) nearly 90 years ago in 1924. 

Like the other used postcards I've found, I love bringing them back to the Hat after decades of being hundreds or sometimes even thousands of miles away. This postcard was sent from a little girl (who likely attended Connaught School) to her Aunt, where she wrote that she'd be leaving soon to come and visit her.

A few things struck me when I saw this postcard. One was that the little girl was named, Edna. It's a name that's now so dated, I found myself joking / dwelling on the fact that people gave their kids senior citizens names - even though they obviously weren't back then. The other thing was that the postcard showed Connaught right after it was completed, with no landscaping, and no other buildings surrounding it. It really makes the details of the structure seem more prominent than they look today hidden behind so many trees.

The third thing that I realized, and it is a bit sad, but even though this postcard was written by a child she's probably no longer alive. If she was she'd easily be pushing 100. Things like this make the history even more captivating to me when I stop and realize that someone else's entire life went by before this small memento found its way to me. And now, unknown to those who originally shared this, I'm sharing it again and it's become a small piece of my story. There's a poetry to it all, and it makes me curious about how someone in the future might react to finding one of my Around the Hat postcards after I'm gone.

Feb 26, 2013

Cypress Club Interior: Lounge & Staircase

Unlike many of the other historic locations I've photographed around Medicine Hat, what makes the Cypress Club so unique is that it's remained a prominent members club since its inception in 1903 right through until today. This building was constructed in 1907, and is still a stunning downtown landmark. If the exterior seems a bit subtle, the interior leaves no question about just how incredible this club is.

I was personally invited inside the club to document the location for my Around the Hat series, and shot so many amazing pictures that I thought I'd divide them up into three posts. Starting with the lounge and staircase, I also went on to photograph the dining area and boardroom, followed by the poker room and snooker table.

I loved exploring this location. The dark wood, stained glass, high back leather chairs, and even the animal heads on the walls, all serve to create an almost stereotypical view of what classical high society was (or still is) meant to look like. It's great that the location is still used for meetings and gatherings, and I'm especially fond of how well the building and interior has been maintained - right down to the vintage shoe polishing machine in the men's washroom. 

The atmosphere in the lounge creates what would seem to be the ideal location for a whiskey or brandy, and the surrounding details, like the buffalo head over the fireplace, only helps to further emphasize the local flavour. Even newer additions, like the bar with the Cypress Club logo, have been seamlessly incorporated into the layout to preserve the classic look. The Cypress Club is brimming with history, and it was an absolute pleasure to get the opportunity to see it up close and share it here. More to come.