The Ernest Brown Block opened for business in 1912, the elegant Edwardian headquarters of Edmonton’s leading photographer, Ernest Brown. For years, the three-storey red brick and limestone building, later known as the Brighton Block, was one of the most iconic commercial buildings on Jasper Avenue, a symbol of Edmonton’s first great building boom.
But the block fell on hard times. It became a rooming house. Then it became a run-down rooming house.
In 2003, the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta bought the Brighton Block, along with the Lodge Hotel next door, with plans to turn them into a new museum. For three years, the museum board tried to maintain the Brighton Block as a rooming house — until health authorities deemed the place unfit for human habitation.
And then, the museum boosters fell on hard times. Without enough funds to get their museum built, they focused on the Lodge Hotel site. For more than a decade, the once-handsome heritage building sat empty and derelict until its roof rotted away and the building filled up with rainwater and pigeons.
It was ironic. The city’s heritage laws protected the building from demolition. But nothing seemed to protect it from being destroyed by the elements.