Pictures of the Calgary’s oldest standing places, then and now
Calgary is an old city, one that helped pave the way for much of the development in western Alberta. Here are some of it's oldest landmarks that contributed to what Calgary is today.
New photos by Amber McLinden. Old photos courtesy of the Glenbow Museum archives.
Published September 6, 2017.
When the doors of the King Eddy opened after its construction between 1905 and 1910 near the railway tracks, the hotel served as a place to stay for many working class people travelling through the relatively new city. In the early 1980s, it became one of Canada’s first blues bars, hosting artists like B.B. King, John Hammond, Pinetop Perkins, Otis Rush, and even Canadian rocker Bryan Adams.
The hotel eventually shuttered its doors, but it was incorporated into the new National Music Centre that sits over Fourth Street S.E. Restoration of the hotel began in 2010 and construction of the National Music Centre began in 2013. The King Edward Hotel is home to CKUA, a province-wide non-profit radio station, and also hosts live music.
Built in 1891, Lougheed House was originally the home of Senator James Lougheed and his family. His grandson Peter Lougheed, would become Alberta’s premier from 1971-1985 with the Progressive Conservative party. The sandstone home was considered “one of the finest residences in the Canadian northwest.” At that time, the house was called “Beaulieu,” french for “beautiful place.” The Lougheeds were some of the most influential Calgary citizens, but when the Depression hit they were unable to pay property taxes and the city took control of the house after Lady Lougheed passed away in 1936.
Since the Lougheed’s vacated the house, it has been used for a variety of purposes including a blood donor clinic, a training centre, and even a woman’s military barracks. In 1977 the province took over ownership of the property and restoration began after the Lougheed House Conservation Society formed in 1995. Today, you can visit the grounds of Lougheed House for free and tour the house for an admission price.
Left: In 1910, sitting at six storeys high, the Grain Exchange was considered a skyscraper. By today’s standards it’s not very tall, but in the same way that it was a marker for the urban development to come in Calgary, it also had a big influence on Alberta’s economy at the time. Built in 1909, the building was populated only one year later with 21 grain companies that set grain prices for the province and was a pioneer of Alberta’s economic development.
Right: It was built by William Roper Hull, who also built and owned many other Calgary structures, like the city’s first opera house. Unfortunately, many of these buildings were demolished, but the Grain Exchange is still standing.
Between 1880 and 1930, much of Calgary was reconstructed after a fire destroyed a significant part of the downtown area in 1886. Referred to as the Sandstone Era, many of the new buildings were made of sandstone instead of wood to prevent another tragic fire. The Bow Valley had an abundance of the sedimentary rock, making it a better option than brick at the time. Today, the area still has nearly three dozen buildings from the Sandstone Era.
The avenue was named after George Stephen, the First Baron Mount Stephen and the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Stephen Avenue tells the story of Calgary as a city, urban development on the Prairies and how central the retail sector’s role was in urban Canada.