102-year-old Klug home demolished
The 102-year-old Klug house was bulldozed on June 17, it had been vacant for a number of years. Supplied
Heinrick and Helena Klug paid $1,000 for their first home in Camrose.
So go the stories told by their daughter, Molly. The former rental property was sold to them along with two adjacent lots by a minister named Sam. Built in 1916, the house was young but in need of some tune-ups upon their 1919 move-in. They burned sulphur to chase off bed bugs, added a bedroom on the main floor and gave the place a paint job. Sam was supposedly so impressed by the improvements that he asked to buy it back. Of course, the family did not agree.
The 48th Street property stayed with the Klugs for nearly a century before changing hands in early June.
The lot on which the 1916 home stood sold for $72,000 in a package deal with two neighbouring Klug-owned properties, which went for $145,000. The former will make way for a private parking lot, while plans for the other two are yet undetermined.
To be sure, the house did not stay pretty. By the hour of its demolition on the morning of June 17, sun streamed through gaps in the roof where beams had given in, reflecting off orange tarps strung from skeletons of walls dissected during remediation.
But the floorplan remained vaguely familiar to Adam Klug, whose earliest memory of the place flashes back to his four or five-year-old self just fooling around at his grandma’s house in the late 30’s. In his office at Klug’s Sheet Metal, the business founded by the sheet metal mechanic’s father in 1939, he sketches a blueprint, and indicates an entryway, an open living room facing south toward the kitchen window, the room where his grandma slept and two bedrooms on the upper floor.
He remembers knocking around marbles and playing games on a big kitchen table, which became especially busy on Christmas Eve. Grandma Klug’s was the gathering place for lunch after Midnight Mass.
Although he didn’t spend huge amounts of time hanging around, he fit in visits with his grandma.
“Grandma always wanted us to come over there, and then dad liked to go over there once in a while too, so they always took us kids over,” he said.
He does not, however, recognize the staircase in the pre-demolition photos he looks through with his son, Ray Klug. Possibly it has been moved since he was last in the home. He thinks his last visit was in 1957, around the time grandma Klug died.
Heinrick and Helena Klug settled in the Bawlf region in 1912 with 12 other families from Russia. Some years later, Heinrick and Adam Klug, Sr. walked along Canadian Pacific Railway to see about moving to Camrose. The city had a population of about 250 at the time and you could still find railing on which to tie a horse. They were just putting in sewer and water.
Heinrick was a well-spoken man who taught in Russia prior to coming to Canada, after which he found employment digging ditches. He had a helping hand in designing the Rosehaven gardens as well as during the 1920’s flu outbreak.
He died soon after he and Helena moved into their home from a rental house across the street to accommodate their family of 10.
As for grandma Klug, “She was very short, but she was powerful,” said Adam’s sister Helen Lane. “She ran the house pretty well, she ran the children. She certainly let her views be known and she was involved.”
Helena Klug was proud of her German heritage and insisted "In diesem haus wird deutsch gesprochen," she would tell her grandchildren, which means in this house we speak German."
The property was taken on by an aunt and uncle, then to a cousin, Joe, of Adam and Helen’s after grandma Klug’s death. The 1916 home was rented out until the 60’s or 70’s, at which time it became a canvas for the wind and the rain. The home fell into disrepair in its shrub-concealed nook of 48th Street and put on the market when Joe Klug’s health took a turn for the worst early-on this year.
The area of Camrose between 47th, 48th and 49th Street is recognized by the City of Camrose as a special historic district, as many of the homes in the area have cultural and historical significance. In the late 90’s a task force was set up to encourage homeowners and business owners to look after and restore their properties and zoning regulations were put in place requiring new developments to be sympathetic to adjacent design. This zoning is still in place today, but it does not require anything of owners.
The City does have a program that allows owners to apply for a municipal historic resource bylaw, which would be passed by council to protect the property and allow the owner to access provincial funds up to $75,000 per year to go to the restoration of that home. Prescriptive bylaws, however, could entail high expenses for property owners. If, for example, they wanted to change their windows, they would have to go with a historic style, which can be quite costly.
“The municipality can’t just say unilaterally, ‘We want to protect your house,’ if somebody doesn’t want their house protected,” said City of Camrose director of planning and development Aaron Leckie. “I think that would be a bit of an overreach.”
In downtown Camrose, certain features of City Hall — aspects of the lines, the flow, the height and the corner ends — were designed to have a modern interpretation of a grain elevator. A few blocks away, Main Street 1908 café stands as a provincially recognized heritage site. Meanwhile, a few minutes’ walk brings you past the new Town Square development across from the Wild Rose Co-Op, an entirely modern design.
This interplay between the modern and the archaic in City architecture embodies what Leckie refers to as a never-ending argument in architecture: should new buildings try to emulate historic buildings or should they be built using the materials and design practices of today because a hundred years from now they will themselves be historic? Space for development contributes to overall architectural richness.
“It makes us thrive and require developers to build a higher design whether it looks historical or not,” said Leckie. “Buildings should be thought-provoking whether they’re modern or historic.”
A study completed this year on parking downtown Camrose identified that there is ample parking space, including in the area of 48th Street but it is not unheard of for a business to want space for staff to park off the street and out of customers’ spots.
Even so, demolition is often the more feasible route for buildings as dilapidated as the old Klug house.
“When I look at the condition of the house, it was not taken care of for many years, and I’m not blaming anybody, … but because it was in such hard condition, I was totally in favour of a demolition,” said Lane.
But ultimately, “it was just an old house,” as Adam Klug puts it.
“Nothing stood out here,” he said. “We had a lot of good times in there. Like I say, grandma wanted us over there so we went over there. There wasn’t anything special about the house.
Hell, I was … six years old before they got water and sewer in there.”