Share this page Print

 

Historic stories and images

Royal visits and VIPs

Royal visits have been among the most momentous civic events at Calgary’s historic City Hall. The first of three royal visits took place in 1912 when the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited Calgary to take part in the city’s inaugural Stampede event. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth also paid an official visit to City Hall during their 1939 royal tour of Canada. Their daughter, then Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II), was welcomed to City Hall in October 1951. On each of these occasions City Hall was decorated with lights, flags, and masses of flowers, while thousands of citizens lined the streets nearby. Other VIPs have also paid official visits to City Hall and signed the distinguished visitors’ register.


The great fire of 1886 and its effect on future building

In 1886, just two years after Calgary became an official town, disaster struck. A fire broke out on the main commercial strip, Atlantic Avenue, destroying some eighteen buildings. At this time, the dominant building material was wood, but the abundance of local sandstone had already led to the establishment of stone quarries and a nascent sandstone construction industry. The fire contributed to expanded use of fire-resistant sandstone in building construction, a trend that ultimately informed the design and construction of City Hall.

Read more


Sandstone quarries

After the great fire of 1886, locally-quarried Paskapoo sandstone largely replaced timber-frame construction in Calgary’s business district. Well over a dozen quarries operated in and around the present city limits between the mid-1880s and 1915. The sense of confidence and dignity expressed in the stone transformed Calgary and earned it recognition across Canada as the “Sandstone City.” Further, the widespread use of sandstone in Calgary’s public, commercial and residential buildings had helped to attract first class architects, contractors, and stone workers, from which City Hall later benefited.


Typical wages when Historic City Hall was built

Calgary’s construction boom between 1906 and 1913 provided a wealth of employment opportunities for craftsmen, including the construction of City Hall from 1907 to 1911. Although work was seasonal, wages were decent for stone workers and carpenters, who were also protected by labour agreements. Unskilled workers earned less and had little employment security.

Read more


Where did they find craftsmen?

The widespread use of sandstone in Calgary between 1886 and 1914, and a major construction boom before the First World War, helped attract a pool of skilled craftsmen to the city. Many carpenters, stone workers, and other craftsmen found work on Calgary’s new City Hall, completed in 1911.

 

The City Hall clock tower- a landmark in downtown Calgary

One of City Hall’s most defining features is its five-story sandstone clock tower. The Seth Thomas clock has kept a steady time since it was installed in January 1911, with few repairs beyond regular maintenance and a weekly winding. The tower clock today remains a beloved public timepiece and a symbol of Calgary’s municipal administration.

 

Read more


The making of Historic City Hall

Constructed from locally sourced Paskapoo sandstone, the four-storey structure was built for $300,000. While this price is nominal today, it was approximately double its original budget and cost the architect his job. The building originally housed jail holding cells, the police department and the court room.

 

 


Where should we build City Hall?

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Calgary was a promising young city which many officials and residents believed was destined for greatness. Although citizens widely agreed that Calgary needed a worthy city hall, a heated public argument raged over its ideal location. This debate was carried out in council chambers and newspapers, and numerous proposals were voted down by public plebiscite. Finally, in 1907 the matter was settled: City Hall would be built on the same site donated for the purpose in 1885.

Read more


The character defining elements of Historic City Hall

What features define Historic City Hall as a heritage landmark? Its materials, forms, location, and cultural associations are just a few of the character defining elements that contribute to its heritage value.

Read more


Annie Gale, the first female alderman in Calgary and Canada

A "very conservative woman, not particularly interested in women’s suffrage," Annie Gale was an unlikely politician. The conditions that she found on moving to boomtown Calgary with her family in 1912 spurred her to action, and she went on to become the first female alderman in Calgary and in Canada.

Read her story


Historic City Hall is foremost a public building

From architect William M. Dodd’s earliest plans, Historic City Hall was built first and foremost as a public building—a place for the people. The extent to which City Hall has functioned as a public space up until today has changed, but what does remain is the fact that it has always been the home of Calgary’s municipal government. As such, every citizen of Calgary has a connection to the building. The site itself has witnessed a variety of public celebrations and protests, and has become one of the primary spaces for public engagement of all kinds.

Read more

We will refresh this page on an ongoing basis with new stories and fascinating photos of our history! Please visit this page back often to see what’s new.