Our stroll down the main drag of Carberry in our hunt for heritage goodness arrives at the Waters Block.
This unpretentious workaday building came into view on Carberry’s streetscape in 1901. The Waters Block is a two-storey commercial property that has housed more than two dozen businesses over the decades. Its rectangular form, enclosed in brick walls and with a flat roof, is wide and deep, substantial and practical.
The simple facade has corner pilasters that frame the face. The lower level divides into two separate storefronts, each with large welcoming display windows and its own indented entrance. Between them is the second floor entrance. Three symmetrical windows open from the second floor. I couldn’t locate any earlier pictures of this building so one is left to wonder what brick delights are hidden beneath the metal cladding on the second floor.
On this side view you can see the original two bay design of the side walls with small windows which are repeated on both sides. The visible wall, on the south side, has been altered so as to obscure the pilasters. You can see the building steps down into a one-storey at the rear. The place’s simple and humble design features are appropriate and make their own quiet contributions to the designated heritage district.
It was built by James Wellington McCrae to house his implement dealership which he’d opened in Carberry in 1882. A native of Ontario, McCrae had homesteaded nearby before changing occupations. He served on Carberry Town Council and was reeve of the R. M. of North Cypress. Though the place no longer bears his name, it stands as one of James McCrae’s more durable contributions to the growth of Carberry.
In its century plus of housing local business, the interior of the Waters Block has been frequently modified to accommodate numerous uses. Among its residents have been car dealers, hardware merchants, clubs, residential tenants, farm implement dealers and numerous shops and services.
In 1961, a chap named McRorie opened a Macleod’s Hardware Store in the building, which it remained for several decades. In 1963 William Waters bought the hardware business and ran it for 17 years, thus the building acquired it current moniker.
Pa Tuckett does not have fond memories of the block, he tells me as a tear rolls away from his right eye. He remembers back to 1918 and the Spanish flu epidemic. People were warned to stay indoors and avoid contact with others. The first flu wave in late summer hadn’t been as dangerous as expected in the Carberry area. Sure, people died but not like was predicted. The second wave in the fall posed even less danger. Pa celebrates again the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. “Armistice Day! Everybody was real happy the war was over and won. People just wanted to celebrate despite the warnings to stay at home. The town had a big party and most everyone showed up, thinking the worst of the epidemic had passed. Well, most of it had passed,” says Pa. “But for one couple who’d come from away. They infected half the folk at that party including my beautiful Amelia. She died three days later.” At the time, Bloomingfield’s Mortuary was located in the Waters Block. Pa’s last mental picture of Amelia is of her laying in her coffin, her ashen face against a shiny blue pillow. “We hadn’t even been married one year.” Another tear.
What’s this Carberry series all about?