When Terry Balgobin was a student at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in the 1980s, his daily commute involved switching buses in downtown Red Deer.
Across the street from his transfer point was the stately Greene Block.
“I remember telling my girlfriend, ‘I’m going to buy that building someday,’” said Balgobin, owner of Artistry In Gold Design Studio.
In 1999, his prediction came true when he acquired the two-storey building that had previously been home to The Good Food Company. Artistry In Gold moved in the following year, after some minor renovations.
At the time, Balgobin’s 10-year plan included a more comprehensive makeover of the 5001 Ross St. building. That work is now underway.
In a project expected to take about eight weeks, the Greene Block will be nudged toward its original appearance.
Paint will be removed from its sandstone exterior, stone will be repaired or replaced where required, a sealant will be applied to protect the finish, and metal trim — possibly gold — will be placed along the top of the building. Extensive interior renovations are also planned.
By the time the dust settles, said Balgobin, the Greene Block will have transformed from its current white colour to the natural grey hue it had when constructed in 1901.
“When we’re finished, the end result should be back to the way it was back in the early 1900s when it was built.”
Stephanie Reid, an associate archivist with the Red Deer Archives, said the man who originally built the two-storey structure was lawyer George Wellington Greene.
He used the second floor for his law office, she added.
“The town council frequently met there since Greene was the town solicitor.”
The first floor, said Reid, was leased out to the Merchants Bank, followed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce and real estate and insurance firm Latimer and Botterill. Among the other tenants to later occupy the building was insurance firm John Malcolm and Company, Harold J. Snell Sight Specialist and Optician, A.B. Mitchell Jewellers, Holmes Drugs and The Good Food Company.
“One of biggest reasons we purchased this building is to preserve some history in town,” said Balgobin, a master goldsmith who opened Artistry In Gold downtown in 1991.
“As far as I know, this is the oldest commercial building in Red Deer.”
It’s also one of only two sandstone buildings that remain in the city, he said, with the other St. Luke Anglican Church.
Balgobin’s plans to restore the Greene Block were delayed for a couple reasons.
“One of the snags we had was we weren’t able to find sandstone,” he said, noting that the quarry on the Red Deer River where the original material came from is long gone.
“The bigger problem was we weren’t able to find expertise — people who knew what they were doing, like old-fashioned stone masons.
A few people performed small patch jobs on the building, but it wasn’t until David Gregory of Lacombe’s Stratford Masonry Inc. demonstrated his skills that Balgobin felt confident enough to proceed.
“David jumped right into it. He finished his patch in no time and did a great piece.”
As for the required sandstone, it’s being sourced from elsewhere in the province.
Balgobin did not want to comment on the cost of the work, other then to describe it as a “significant investment.”
“If you’re going to do something, do it well — or just don’t get out of bed.”
Artistry In Gold will continue to operate during the renovations.