A brief recent history of 822 Cranbrook Street North

Cranbrook Townsman front office is moving downtown; Going to miss this place

Pictured above: The front office of what is now the Cranbrook Townsman on 822 Cranbrook Street North, under construction in December, 1984. The spot where Barry Coulter has sat for almost 21 years is at the on the left edge of picture, right over the plank across the floor in the middle ground. Cranbrook Daily Townsman/1985. Courtesy Dave Humphrey, Cranbrook History Centre and Archives.

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Every few decades, nomad-fashion, a newspaper operation succumbs to wanderlust. It throws its press over its back, pulls up stakes, and heads out into the broad world, looking for adventure and fresh air.

Wait, I’m thinking of nomads …

No, it’s true. This weekend, the Cranbrook Townsman front office will move downtown. To 12th Avenue South, to be precise. To 42-12 Avenue South, to be more precise.

Thus, Cranbrook’s venerable newspaper repeats its peripatetic history, with Administration, Advertising, Circulation and Editorial moving into the Townsman’s fifth location (at least) since its inception in the 1940s, and after almost 35 years out here on Cranbrook Street North (822 Cranbrook Street North, to be precise).

This time, however, we are leaving our press and its pressmen to hold down our highway fortress. And our mailroom and warehousing operations will be joining them. The dark red cinderblock building (Louisiana Hot Pepper is the name of the color) between Mr. Tire and the Motel 6 will remain a strong base of industrial manufactory operations — massive press a-roaring away, tended by its hardworking blue-clad grooms; towering rolls of newsprint like hoodoos; machines out of science-fiction whirring away, stuffing newspapers with flyers; Drivers a-coming and a-going at speed; moving those papers out onto the street and into the community.

Take a look through the windows as you’re driving or walking by. You’ll see all the amazing delights of the blue collar world of newspaper production. It’ll blow your mind.

Meanwhile, the white collar world of the Cranbrook Townsman newspaper production, to coin a phrase, is joining the great business community of downtown Cranbrook and setting up shop and we are excited to be doing so.

I personally am a little nervous — I’ve been out here at 822 for almost 21 years. Several major renovations, changes to the property, sidewalk and street, technological changes beyond counting, a new press, more than 100 staff over the years (including the mailroom, which moved in 2012), and a veritable forest of plants, which we inherited from Kathy’s Kitchen — I feel like I’m part of the drywall.

How much does the fabric of a building become part of one’s soul? I suppose I’m about to find out.

The historical map of Cranbrook business is a real palimpsest — it seems every office space or building holds the ghostly images of former businesses that occupied that building over the decades.

In early January, 1985, the Cranbrook Daily Townsman moved out of its premises at 31-7th Avenue South and into new premises at 822 Cranbrook Street North. It had moved to 7th Avenue in 1976 from 9th Avenue, and to 9th Avenue in 1973 from 11th Avenue, and to 11th Avenue in 1965 from … and so on, back into the Neolithic Age.

With its 7th Avenue lease up for renewal, the Townsman’s then parent company, Sterling Newspapers, bought the building on Cranbrook Street from East Kootenay Auto Supply, which formerly housed Cloverdale Paint and Paper and Bumper to Bumper.

Cloverdale continued to operate next door (in the same building), at 820. Bumper to Bumper moved across Cranbrook Street, to the former school district administration building (which moved to Industrial Road 1). Bumper to Bumper later moved to 824 Kootenay Street, which is now the address of Mission Thrift Store, which will soon be also moving downtown, to the building formerly occupied by SuperValu).

The extensive renovations to 822 to allow the Townsman to move in were done by General Contractor Phil Sopow, who gave out most of the sub-contracts to local firms and tradesmen, like Schepers Carpentry, K.Y. Electric, Pacific Truss, Crossroads Enterprises Terrain Construction, Hofmeister Painting, and Rainbow Carpets.

A few days after the Townsman resumed operations at 822, a fire broke out at 820. Cloverdale Paint and Paper was heavily damaged, the Townsman less so.

Cloverdale Paint now operates at 1525 Cranbrook Street North.

In the late 1990s, Townsman ownership was assumed by Hollinger (LP). The front parking lot was paved. The press room on the east side of the building across the parking lot from the Nomad Motel (now Motel 6), was expanded. The mailroom was moved from the back of the building to the room formerly occupied by Cloverdale, and 820 and 822 became the same address.

The whole building was painted in 2005 (Louisiana Hot Pepper). Kootenay Marine on Kootenay Street, acquired all the property behind the Townsman, so that we became a Cranbrook Street access-only business.

Under the ownership of Don Kendall in 2010, the entire interior was renovated, with flooring done by Home Hardware.

In 2012, under the ownership of Black Press, the mailroom was moved to the warehouse on 4th Street North. New Dawn Development extensively renovated the room formerly known as 820 Cranbrook Street North, and Black Press installed a new press. The old pressroom on the east side of the building became a large warehouse space, where I often walk around to take in a moment of silence until the air compressor goes off.

In 2015, we inherited a great number of plants large and small from Kathy’s Kitchen downtown, which was closing. These plants added so much to the ambience here.

As of next week, this architectural and business history will continue, with the most extensive renovations of all to 822. The front office where you used to come in to renew subscriptions or remonstrate with me will now be the mailroom (moved back from 4th Street), more active than ever as our production takes an uptick. The upstairs mezzanine in the back where the archives used to be will become offices. It will be a busy place.

And 42-12 Avenue South will also be a busy place. The building built by Gary Knight, formerly occupied by Dr. Julian Sernik, Orthopedic Surgeon, will now be occupied by the Cranbrook Townsman front office staff, and we will resume operations Monday, July 15. We look forward to seeing you there.

I’m going to miss coming in our big cinderblock fortress on 822 Cranbrook Street North every day. But I will still be coming by to watch the press in action. I’m allowed.

Thanks to David Humphrey/Cranbrook Archives for historical information

Pictured below: The Townsman presses were installed at 822 Cranbrook Street North on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 3 and 4, 1985, and were running by Saturday.


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