The Story of Uptown 7th
Meet the space known for bubble performances, chalkboard musings and window music.
The Delamere block's two buildings were repurposed into an art warehouse of sorts (on the left) and a soon-to-be-open art gallery (on the right).
Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Sunstrom.
Those who’ve spent any time waiting at the First Street C-Train station can’t help but notice the strange, purple building across the street. Its chalkboard panel facade is scrawled with chalk musings, music sometimes wafts from its windows and everything from soap bubbles to balloons has been seen popping out from the space.
The building located at 125 7th Avenue S.W. along with its adjacent twin at 127 7th Avenue S.W. make up the Delamere Block. Built in 1912 for James Delamere Lafferty and originally home to both Wilson Stationary and Consolidated Oil and Stock Exchange, the block's facade was meant to give the impression of two distinct businesses with separate entrances. It’s last iteration before going purple was a small diner known as the Express Café, which closed in January 2012.
The space remained empty until October of that year, when Jonathan Sunstrum, a self-described Man of Mischief, moved in into the Delamere block. Since then, he’s used this unique location to brighten people’s days and make them consider their surroundings. Soon after he took up residence there, the exterior panels were turned into chalkboards, and the first in a long stream of quotes and “verbal vitamins” made their appearance, much to the joy of Calgary’s commuters. “I started getting e-mails from people a few months later saying ‘My husband and I started taking the train there, we don’t have a clue what you’re doing and we love it. By the way, here’s some quotes for you,’” says Sunstrom. “That’s when you start realizing you’re engaging people.”
photograph by andrew guilbert
Some of the many musings Sunstrom has written on the building's chalkboard panels.
The chalk panels are only a part of what Sunstrum has done with his very visible space. He’s known for putting on bubble performances from its windows, playing music at the front door and having TVs running for the people waiting at the opposing platform. There’s even the occasional live performance.
“Some girls from Banff World Media Festival came by and dressed up like doctors and did psychological observations of the rush hour crowd,” says Sunstrum. “That was interesting, because it was a little disconcerting for [those commuters] to be studied like mice.”
Going forward, Sunstrum says he wants to plan more long term, since what was originally a six month lease has morphed into a now two and a half year stay, one that may extend even further, given the right circumstances. “Instead of a couple of pages in a chapter, it’s now become a chapter in my life,” says Sunstrum.
Now, Sunstrum has plans to open an art gallery in the adjacent building in the next week or so, turning what was once a pawnshop into a unique showcase.
“People ask why I’m so passionate about this; it’s because I live here,” says Sunstrum. “To me that’s a fundamental thing. ”
For more information about what's going on in the Delamere block, visit uptown7th.com.