****Source, Town and Country Today, Daniel Gonzalez, Published Dec 17, 2022
Amid the growing interest in preserving the western heritage of Cochrane, a local business owner is sharing the story of the 122-year-old building that can be found just off of 1st Street.
The historic building known as the ‘Camden House’ is located on 126 3rd Avenue. It has been in Cochrane since 1900 and has existed as both a residence and as several businesses before becoming the home of Curious Hair Cochrane.
Co-owner of the business, Lawrence Sarmenta, said he purchased the property five years ago with his business partner Michael Rizzuto.
“We just wanted to own a space in town and this was an obvious choice,” Sarmenta said. “We didn’t look any further, we saw this one and we purchased it.”
When they purchased the property, he said the only information they received from the space was from a plaque by the Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society that was installed outside of the house two years ago.
It outlined that although the original owners are unknown, the longest title-holder was an English stone mason named William Camden, who purchased it in 1927 and sold it in 1961.
The following occupants, Lorne and Pat Woods, purchased the house in 1962 and later moved out in 2002. It has since been occupied by several storefronts.
After acquiring the building, Sarmenta learned the interior of the Camden House was well over 100 years old, leaving him needing to replace much of the structural elements that had worn away over time.
“We wanted to honour the house,” he said. “We weren’t given any guidelines from the Town like, ‘Oh you can’t tear it down,’ but we knew the significance of this corner house since everyone knows it to be the [former] bakery on the corner.”
A major factor in the renovation process for Sarmenta and Rizzuto was to breathe new life into the Camden House but also preserve the aspects of its Cochrane-based heritage.
“On the inside, it had never been changed from being a residential space, even though it had three business in here,” Sarmenta said. “So, we felt it was necessary to make it conducive for our business to run.”
In terms of the historical construction of the Camden House, an architect was enlisted to help with construction and provided additional information about the building.
“He said it was very old and you could tell by the floor choices and the way they connected,” he said. “But it’s clear with the cinder blocks [in the basement] …that they brought this over in the 1950s or 1960s, which is not indicative on the plaque.”
Ultimately, the design choice for the space was to have a modern interior, but to still honour the traditional aspect of the building by maintaining the original salt-box style structure that can be seen on the outside, which many patrons have come to appreciate over the years.
“We have patrons of the previous businesses that have been here and have been very supportive of what we have done with the building,” Sarmenta said. “The commentary is really – it’s nice to see one of the old houses in Cochrane being renovated.”
As a business owner in Cochrane and now an owner of a piece of history in town, Sarmenta said he is proud of what he and his team achieved.
“It makes me very proud that I live here and I’m proud of the roots this business has and the fact that we own a piece of real significant history in town is pretty cool,” Sarmenta said.
With a large push to preserve the western heritage in Cochrane, including at the Town council level, Sarmenta said they intended to make sure they preserve as much of the building’s history as possible.
“The first thing we spoke about is to honour what Cochrane is and the history of Cochrane,” he said.
Sarmenta said he continues to learn what he can about the space in the hopes of uncovering the full history of the building. He invites anyone who may have information to come to his business and share what they know.
“Come in and check out the place,” Sarmenta encouraged. “I’m dying to find a photo of the old house [and] what it was before, because I’d like to honour that old house.
“My dream is to have an old photo of it in the salon. Not as a business, but when it was a home. That would be really cool to me.”
He hopes that any information he can recover could be used as a conduit to share the past with future generations.
“I think that’s the romance with buildings like this,” Sarmenta said. “It’s like ‘what is the story? You used to live here, what did it do and how did it live and breathe 20 years ago?’
“I know how it’s breathing with me now, but I don’t know how it was then, and I think that’s the big part of our story when we share this.”