History behind the de Waal Block
The de Waal Block sits at the corner of 4th St. and Meredith Rd northeast in the Riverside/Bridgeland area of the city. John de Waal is the third generation owner of this increasingly rare, historic building. The structure has enjoyed continued commercial success in Calgary’s current, thriving economy and underwent a full restoration in 2000.
Originally, known as the Poffenroth Block, after its builder/owner Henry Poffenroth, the block was built it in 1910 with retail space on the ground floor and residences on the second. It passed to several owners with the Canada Life Assurance Co. being the final one until John’s grandfather, Theodore Leonard (Theo), purchased it around 1927. He had lived in the building with his family and been its manager since 1914.
Theo and his wife Mary emigrated from the Netherlands immediately prior to 1914. They had three children, John, Johanna and Theodore Henry (Ted). Only Ted was born in Canada. Ted and his wife Eva lived in the building in the early years of their marriage and John lived in the block until he was 3 years old.
Of the first generation of the de Waal family to own “the Block”, John de Waal, the uncle and namesake to the current owner, was a division fire chief in the city. His brother, Theodore (Ted – John’s dad) was a drummer and played with dance bands in the 1940’s. Ted also ran the deWaal Block with his sister Johanna until her death in 1997. Ted passed away in 2000 and never witnessed the completed restoration project.
In the depression years of the 1930’s, Theo de Waal altered the upper two-bedroom suites to make single rooms for men working with the CPR. Each room had a small gas stove, and later a hotplate and fridge. The tenants went down the hall and shared the bathroom facilities.
In 2000, John & his wife Mari Jo undertook a privately funded, full restoration of the heritage building leaving only one major job undone. Money had run out to replace the original Paskapoo, sandstone windowsills. Research began and closely matched sandstone was located at a quarry in Ohio. Again, private funding was secured and the sills were completed in August 2009 just in time to celebrate the buildings100th anniversary.
In the 2000 restoration, the single rooms were brought back, as far as possible, to the original 1910 configuration. Each suite now has 2 bedrooms, at least one original skylight, claw foot tub, bead boarding in the baths along with refurbished wood floors. The kitchens were all updated to contemporary standards. These units have character and charm to spare.
The de Waal’s are rightfully proud of their accomplishment and received recognition with the Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award for best restoration of 2010, as well as receiving a Community Heritage Plaque in 2000 from the City of Calgary.
Currently, John, a renowned musician in Calgary, runs the de Waal Music Studio from the lower level of the building. Waalflower Kitchen + Cocktails (Opening Soon), contemporary restaurant anchors the main floor. Joining them on the main floor are Under the Bridge Fashions, Ekko Kitchen Cabinetry, Northweather Corp, and Julianne Young Weddings.
The second level, although configured to be apartments, presently houses the offices of the Calgary Musician’s Union,
Surface Medical, Arcteryx Equipment Inc, Nowlan Design Studio, and Stephanie Charest Interior Design.
Dan MacKinnon, brother to John’s wife, Mari Jo, moved here from Ontario in the early 90’s. He has managed the building since 1995 and has played a significant role in its restoration. It would not have been completed without him.
With its proximity to the downtown core and the developments of "The Bridges" to the east, "East Village" to the south and the "Meredith Block" across the street, it looks like a bright future for this beautifully restored gem.