The Thomson Brothers Block Then and Now

See how this Provincial Historic Resource stands up after more than a century on Stephen Avenue.


Photo by Andrew Guilbert; Postcard courtesy of Calgary Public Library

The Thomson Brothers Block as seen today and in a postcard from 1911.

Designated as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1981, the three-storey Thomson Brothers Block, located at 112 8th Avenue S.E., traces its origins back to a pair of brothers from Ontario, Melville Patrick and James Arthur Thomson. The sons of a Presbyterian minister, they got their start working as apprentices in a bookshop belonging to a member of their father’s congregation. After their father passed away, the pair decided to make their fortunes out West, opening a bookshop in Portage la Prairie in 1881. Three years later, Melville made his way to Calgary with the goal of opening another bookshop. By 1890, they had opened a third shop in Moose Jaw and in 1893 the Thompson Brothers Block opened its doors as a stationery and periodicals shop. Their time in the prairies drew to a close in 1900 however, as they both established themselves in Vancouver. The Calgary business was subsequently taken over by a local businessman and eventually sold in 1916, the Thomsons’ legacy in the city forever enshrined in the stone parapet bearing their name and the date of construction in relief on the third story facade.

Today, the Thomson Brothers Block stands as a prime specimen of Calgary’s sandstone period, its rough and smooth sandstone features and segmented, arched windows making it a standout structure among the other buildings on Stephen Avenue. Today, the block serves as the home for Thomsons Restaurant.

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