December 3rd, 2021

Heritage in the Hat: A ripe old age

By SALLY SEHN on November 23, 2021.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Sally Sehn Historic Milne Block c1920s (Esplanade); the Milne Block today.

A common characteristic of many heritage buildings in Medicine Hat is the use of locally manufactured brick, which was abundant during the early years of the town’s growth. However, one of our oldest commercial structures is an unassuming stuccoed building located at 622-624 Third Street.

This building was constructed in 1899 on what was then called Toronto Street. An east addition, at 626 Third Street was added in 1903. The historical appearance of this heritage building has been transformed by modern alterations. For example, the Victorian arched brick and sandstone trimmed windows were replaced. And the front of the building, once proudly brick, was coated with stucco at a time when brick fell out of favour. But a closer look reveals that the original soft-mud brick, manufactured by the Purmal Brick Company in the late 1800s, is still visible on the west side of the building.

A general store, known as the Medicine Hat Trading Company, opened in this building in July 1899, under the management of David Milne. The store showcased a retail area on the first floor, fronted with plate glass windows to display the wares for sale. A dress-making room, a millinery (ladies’ hat making room), fitting room, storage, board room and office were located on the second floor.

The Medicine Hat Trading Co., Ltd. became the D. Milne Co. Limited in 1908. The department store featured a refrigerated storage warehouse. Not only a successful businessman, David Milne was also the Mayor of Medicine Hat from 1909-1911. As mayor, he led the city through a significant era of high growth. During his term, many new industries located in the city.

In July 1911, Milne sold his business to Le Page Bros., from South Dakota, and retired with his family to Victoria where he lived until his death. On December 18, 1937, Milne’s obituary was printed in the Medicine Hat News. With a good sense of humour, Milne, very much alive and well, wrote back to the editor to report that he was “hale and hearty” and had just “enjoyed a good Christmas dinner.” The News corrected the erroneous obituary on December 31. David Milne’s real death, at the age of eighty-seven, occurred on April 5, 1946.

Milne’s historic Third Street building, still alive and well, is now 122 years old.

Sally Sehn is a past member of the Heritage Resources Committee, City of Medicine Hat

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