Commentary on the Cecil 1/2 way through the article
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Columnists/ ... 03481.html
King Eddy a surprising survivor
Dump of a blue-collar hotel pales in comparison to historic structures lost to the bulldozer
By MICHAEL PLATT
A Pyrrhic victory indeed--a little like rescuing a dog-eared copy of Green Eggs and Ham from a bonfire of rare first editions.
Still, it's a victory.
This coming Wednesday, aldermen will vote to grant the rare distinction of Municipal Historic Resource upon what might be the least deserving historical landmark in Calgary history -- the cesspit known as the King Edward Hotel.
There'll no doubt be a ceremony and a little plaque proclaiming the 103-year-old flop house a gem among buildings.
Whether they'll dig up the old stripper's pole from the back room and have it bronzed remains to be seen -- hopefully, the red terry-cloth table coverings will be preserved for posterity.
Those who are aware the King Eddy is still standing only because it's in a seedy area of town, where no one else wanted to build, will understand what an irony this "honour" is.
Here is a cockroach-infested, architecturally insignificant dump of a blue-collar hotel, being handed a designation denied to Calgary buildings that were the Taj Mahal in comparison.
We've lost sandstone palaces, gorgeous brick schools and apartments and entire streets of character filled shops (rest in peace Penny Lane, Curtis Block and Mount Royal Block), along with countless hotels.
Gone are other inns far more deserving of the designation: The Arlington, Royal, King George, Imperial and York, all demolished.
On the very spot where aldermen will declare the King Edward an historic resource once stood the Empire and Grand, the latter an especially striking structure, with its sloped front.
The Municipal Building portion of city hall, along with Olympic Plaza, was built over the ruins of entire city blocks brushed aside in the name of progress.
Lost were dozens of buildings more interesting and worthy than the plain-jane Eddy. Still.
It's a victory, and as such, those who value history will take it.
Once facing the wrecking ball itself, the Eddy's new status is part of a plan to transform the hotel into a new home for the Cantos Music Foundation, a group that preserves real historical treasures, in the form of musical instruments.
Some might even express hope the short-sighted, bulldozer-minded mentality that's caused so much damage in the past might at last be part of Calgary's history.
To those people, I say this: Don't hold your breath.
Even the Municipal Historic Resource designation the King Edward will soon enjoy is nothing more than words, with barely any legal strength.
There's no way to stop a building owner from reducing a municipal heritage building to dust, unless the city pays astronomical compensation fees to keep the structure standing.
It's why so few of the hundreds of buildings listed as potential heritage sites actually become heritage sites, because it would cost the city too much to actually protect them.
As far as a change in mentality when it comes to preserving the past, one only has to look a few blocks north to realize developers and aldermen alike won't let history stand in the way of a new development.
The Cecil Hotel, a run-down den of drug deals and despair, is already set to be demolished, even before city hall concludes a deal to buy it.
But underneath the shabby blue exterior is a treasure made of sandstone and brick, dating back to 1911, when the Cecil made the Eddy look like the basic, boring box it was.
Google the Cecil Hotel, and you'll find old photographs showing a handsome building with grand balconies and windows galore -- the kind of structure that would be a visual landmark in a revitalised East Village.
In fact, the Cecil is in better shape than the Eddy, which contains mould and all manner of vermin following years of neglect .
Restored to pristine condition, the Eddy will remain a plain, no-frills hotel built for working men needing a cheap place to stay, much like any highway motel now.
The Eddy was on "Whisky Row," a source of cheap drink for early Calgarians, and near the red light district of the East Village -- it was built in a hurry, and never expected to last into its second decade, never mind century.
The Cecil, on the other hand, was no luxury hotel, but it was stars above the Eddy -- it was clean, quiet, and interesting to look at.
It still is interesting, under all that ugly paint and stucco.
The Eddy is worth keeping as an historic survivor, but if any East Village hotel deserves Municipal Historic Resource designation, it's the Cecil.