BANFF – After a winter of transformative renovations, a Banff Avenue legend is set to open its doors this spring just in time for its 110th anniversary.
Since 1909, the Harmons Building has been locally owned and operated, serving as a beacon for Banff culture, said fourth-generation owner and building manager, Sebastian Hutchings.
“It [the renovation] has been a total transformation,” Hutchings said. “It was nice getting to refresh and really deal with what needed to be done.”
The renovations were a matter of transforming the front of the space and upgrading all systems in the building.
The upgrades coincidently fell on the 110th anniversary of the construction of the building, he said, explaining they are planning on celebrating the milestone in June when the renovations are complete and the dust has settled.
“We want to throw a party and invite the community in,” Hutchings said.
Constructed in 1909, the Harmons Building, affectionately known as Harmony Lane, soon became an icon of the community.
Disaster struck in 1917 when a fire consumed the original building, coincidently on the same day Hutchings' grandfather Don Harmon was born.
“My great grandfather [Byron Harmon] was at the hospital with my great grandmother [Maud Harmon] and they could see the smoke from her hospital bed,” Hutchings said.
The family persevered and rebuilt the building by 1920, launching the Harmony Tea Room, which will be celebrating 100 years in June.
The Harmons Building built and maintained an important and special place in Banff, Hutchings said, bearing witness to changes, people and culture that has moved through the town.
Hutchings added he has countless special memories in the building, highlighting the business Altitude Publishing his parents ran on the second floor of the building in the 1980s.
“I really did grow up in this building,” Hutchings said.
“It’s the family legacy – this building, it’s really meaningful for all of us to have that family story and to try and offer something different [to visitors].”
Hutchings said that he feels an incredible responsibility and privilege in being the fourth-generation to care for the Harmons Building.
“My great grandfather [Byron Harmon] started this business … he built it to not only house his businesses but his artistic practices,” Hutchings said.
Hutchings’s great grandfather was a photographer and developed all of his photos in the building and sold them.
“He mixed being an artist with being an entrepreneur through this building. That sort of idea has been passed down from generation to generation.”
Hutchings added that he takes pride in the second floor that for the most part are health businesses run by locals – an idea launched by his grandmother.
“It comes from my family caring not just about the building being a successful business, but the building being something that was part of the community and part of the town,” Hutchings said.
“That’s why it has had the trajectory it has had.”
Hutchings is carrying on that tradition with the launch of The Radiant, a boutique lounge set to open in the spring.
“The idea has always been to tie the aesthetic back to the era that this building was built,” he said, explaining that he and his wife Brittany Watson have designed the lounge to bring in art-deco influence and art-nouveau paired with the early 1920s Canada.
“It’s bringing those nods, but making a space that feels contemporary, comfortable and welcoming to all.”
The Radiant will feature share plates with an eclectic mix of flavours to create rich comfort foods for guests paired with a stage for music and spoken word performances.
Hutchings is always looking forward and said that he hopes to see the business thrive and find wild success once the renovations are completed.
Hutchings said he continues to appreciate how Banff is unique in Western Canada because it has brought together adventurers, scientists and artists for more than 100 years. It has been a privilege to be part of a community that celebrates intellectuals, climbers and creatives who built-up places like the Banff Centre, Whyte Museum and Alpine Club.
“I hope that Harmony Lane will continue to be a link to that past,” Hutchings said. “This building grew out of that same melting pot.”
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