The Haddad House in Cranbrook

The Nixon and Browning World

Cranbrook architectural firm left a significant legacy in landmark buildings throughout the region

Barry Coulter

A man who left formidable architectural footprints all across the region has passed away.

Jerry Browning, long with his partner Kent Nixon, of Nixon and Browning, Architects and Community Planners, was responsible for more than 250 completed architectural projects in the Kootenays East and West and in Southern Alberta. These include some of the significant landmark buildings in the region — certainly in Cranbrook.

Browning was 77.

In Nixon and Browning, Jerry Browning was in charge of design, business and public relations and site supervision. Kent Nixon was in charge of the drafting room and all working drawings. In what was a long and equitable partnership, Nixon’s careful control of the working drawings turned Jerry’s vision into reality. The structures they created reflect and enhance the character of Kootenay cities and towns. A high percentage of residents pass through the doors of these buildings daily.

Pictured: Jerry Browning (left), Secretary Clara Mae Wicker and Kent Nixon of Nixon and Browning, Architects and Community Planners (photo courtesy Sioux Browning)

Arguably the foremost project among this architectural legacy is the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. Finished in the 1980s, the campus is a striking building overlooking Cranbrook at the edge of the Community Forest. Browning also designed the former Alberta Natural Gas Building in Gold Creek, a beautiful building which is now the College’s South Campus.

The first building Nixon and Browning worked on together was the Cranbrook Hospital, dedicated in 1967, and now the East Kootenay Regional Hospital. Though many additions and renovations have taken place, the original design is still very much in evidence.

Other significant buildings in Cranbrook are the Regional District of East Kootenay offices, Mountain View Senior’s Village, the East Kootenay Health Unit (now the Cranbrook Public Library), the Ambulance Service building by the library, the former WCB building (now houses Koocanusa Publications), and the former Bell Building at the corner of 8th Avenue and 1st Street.

Their work on personal residences was rare, but these include a beautiful house by Gyro Park in the Mid-Century Modern style, built in 1966 for George and Betty Haddad. Nixon and Browning built the BC Hydro buildings in Cranbrook, Kimberley and Revelstoke, and seniors’ complexes and drop-in centres around the region.

The firm not only designed the buildings but also frequently acted as general contractors. A lot of their work was for the local School Districts. In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a big demand for schools, and Nixon and Browning built new schools in Windermere, Golden, Invermere, Fernie, the Elk Valley, Canal Flats, Revelstoke and Castlegar. They build additions to or did significant renovations on schools in those cities as well as Radium, Nakusp and Elkford — 44 public schools all told, sometimes building them and then doing additions or renovations years later.

Browning’s architectural icon was Frank Lloyd Wright, and you can see the influence in his work through strong, clean lines, the use of large fascia, careful use of windows as a design element, and pattern repetition.

Browning loved brickwork exteriors, and his use of interior colour was bold and joyous.

Browning was born in Covington, Kentucky, but grew up in Washington State, where his father worked on the Hanford Nuclear Reactor. Attended Washington State University in Pullman, where he met Nixon, and from where he graduated with a rare double degree in Architecture and Structural Engineering.

Jerry Browning loved his craft, and he and Kent both loved the business. That love is still in the architectural legacy they left behind for us.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dan Herrick, the head coach for the Rocky Mountain Rams, supervises drills during a practice at Mount Baker Secondary School. Trevor Crawley photo.
Rocky Mountain Rams program thriving as fall season wraps up

The Rocky Mountain Rams Football Club is set to wrap up another… Continue reading

Kootenay East voters out in droves already

A third of Kootenay East voters have either already voted or requested mail-in ballots

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Lake Koocanusa weir; Cranbrook RCMP report; Cranbrook Community Theatre; Can Greens and NDP get along?

The people known to be in this photo are (front row, left to right) Lily Watts with young Lily Watts, who was born in Cranbrook, on her knee; Agnes Watts (holding rifle); unknown lady with child; Ernest Charles Watts with William Watts on knee. The names of the four gentlemen in the back row are unknown.
Who are these Cranbrook homesteaders?

Can you help identity the people in this 1914 photograph?

Bats are pictured snuggled in a bat box. (J. Saremba file)
Next week is International Bat Week

Monitoring for white-nose syndrome in B.C. will continue this winter

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Most Read