As massive backhoes demolish Calgary’s historic Shamrock Hotel in Ramsay, Calgary historian Harry Sanders says the city will forget it was ever there.
“The history of the hotel will vanish from public memory,” he says.
“Once it’s gone the story vanishes from the public imagination. It’s just consigned to local history books. Eventually, something else will be built there, in this case it’s the Green Line LRT and people will forget it was even there.”
Sanders says the hotel opened in 1925 and survived both the prohibition and a re-model in the late forties. This week, demolition crews are gutting the building.
Sanders says when landmark buildings disappear, so too does the community’s collective memory.
“There’s nothing like the hotel still being there to keep the story of the building alive in the public imagination.”
Sanders says preserving old buildings has environmental and economic benefits. The building materials have already been made; the trees, already cut down; the fossil fuels used to make the bricks, already consumed.
He adds that living in a city with historic buildings also enriches our lives.
“In a subconscious way it can put people on a timeline. You have a sense that the city you live in has a history. You recognize that just as others have come before us, others will come in the future. This city is not ours to keep and that can instill a sense of pride and responsibility in citizens.”
As Sanders sifts through the history of the Shamrock, he says wishes he could shift the public attitude towards heritage buildings.
“There isn’t the kind of appreciation for the intangible value that having heritage buildings brings to our lives.”
A representative from the Calgary Green Line LRT system says there are no current plans to commemorate the hotel inside the station; but the sign from the hotel has been preserved and will be given to local community members.
Sanders, however, recommends an on-site plaque to keep some memory of the hotel alive in Calgarians’ minds.
Editor: Anna Junker | firstname.lastname@example.org