One of James Edward Wize’s most iconic Edmonton buildings languished in pieces in a city storage yard for a decade after it was torn down in the 1980s. The pieces were transferred to interior storage until the exterior was carefully reconstructed further east down Jasper Avenue over 100 years after it was first erected in 1903. This was and is the Alberta Hotel, designed in 1903 and renowned at the time for having the city’s first passenger elevator, showers, and hot and cold running water. It was sufficiently dignified to have Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier lodge there when he visited Edmonton for the inauguration of Alberta as a province in 1905.
Wize was born in 1862 and educated in his birthplace of Standford, Ontario. He moved west in 1882, and studied architecture while working as a contractor and builder in Victoria and Vancouver, then continued to relocate, working in the Kootenays for a time in industry and mining. He married Lucy M. Dixon, with whom he had three children, then moved to Edmonton in 1903. Designed in an Edwardian style, the Alberta Hotel was one of his first local projects. His other projects included commercial blocks, private homes, schools, and churches. Active in the city and as a member of the Alberta Association of Architects (AAA) until 1912, he served as the AAA president in 1908 and was a charter member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada that same year. His name is not found in the Henderson’s Directory of Edmonton after 1911. The Victoria Daily Times recorded his death in that city in an obituary in 1921.
Wize constructed his own commercial block, later naming this building on Jasper Avenue the Corona Hotel. He ran the business personally until his retirement, at which time he handed control over to his son Leonard. The Corona Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1932, caused by a natural gas leak. Historian Alex Mair notes that “one of the recommendations to come out of the investigation [into the fire] was that natural gas be odorized at the city limits to provide ample warnings of future leaks”. The hotel was quickly rebuilt, but ultimately demolished in 1981. Few other local buildings designed by Wize survive.