Royal visits and VIPs
Royal visits have been among the most momentous civic events at Calgary’s historic City Hall. In September 1912, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, along with their popular daughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886–1974), stopped in Calgary to take part in the city’s first ever Stampede. The duke (Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, 1850–1942) was a son of Queen Victoria (1819–1901), and he was at that time Canada’s governor general. City officials mounted a "Welcome to Calgary" sign on the clock tower and strung some 20,000 electric lights along the outlines of City Hall, illuminating the building in a beautiful show of civic pride. A welcome arch made with greenery was placed on the lawn, while some 210 potted palms grown in city greenhouses were also brought in to decorate the council chamber and offices. The weather was particularly gloomy when the royal party arrived on September 5, with steady rain and a cold north wind. Nonetheless, a crowd of about 30,000 people lined the streets between the Canadian Pacific Railway station and City Hall, where Mayor John W. Mitchell (1872–1952) and City Clerk John M. (Jack) Miller (1887–1967) presented a welcome address for the royal party. Between Stampede events the following afternoon, the duke returned to City Hall to present diplomas to successful candidates of the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.
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In May 1939, special arrangements were made to welcome King George VI (1895–1952) and Queen Elizabeth (1900–2002) during their stop in Calgary as part of the Royal Tour. The City borrowed a roll of red carpet from St. Augustine’s Church, cutting and sewing it together so it would reach the curb from City Hall steps. Gardeners also plunged thousands of potted flowers into the flowerbeds at the last minute to avoid the risk of a late spring frost, and used masses of flowering plants, ferns and cut flowers to decorate the council chamber where the King and Queen stopped in to sign the guest register.
The council chamber were again infused with potted plants and flowers to welcome Princess Elizabeth (born 1926) and the Duke of Edinburgh (born 1921) on October 18, 1951. Thousands of people gathered outside on the bitterly cold day to catch a glimpse of the party as they were welcomed into City Hall for a brief civic reception. The royal couple signed the guest book, using the same pen the King and Queen had used only twelve years before, and they received a bouquet from Valerie Mackay, the 11 year old daughter of Mayor Donald H. Mackay (1914–1979). Calgarians would again honour the Princess—by now Queen Elizabeth II—by decorating City Hall on her coronation day in June 1953. There have been a number of other royal visits to Calgary, including the Duke and Duchess of Kent in 1968; Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1973; Charles, Prince of Wales (born 1948) and Prince Andrew (born 1960) in 1977; Queen Elizabeth in 2005; and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. However, these visits coincided with Stampede events and do not appear to have included visits to City Hall.
In addition to royalty, there have been a host of other distinguished visitors to City Hall through the years. Winston Churchill (1874–1965), William Lyon MacKenzie King (1874–1950), Vere Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough (1880–1956), and Robert Baden-Powell, Baron Baden-Powell (1857–1941) are just a few who signed the city’s guest book during the 1920s and 1930s. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent (1882–1973) visited on July 10, 1950, and Governor General Vincent Massey (1887–1967) signed the guest register on May 18, 1953. Massey’s successors, Governors General Georges Vanier (1888–1967) and Jules Léger (1913–1980) also offered their official greetings at City Hall during visits in 1965 and 1975 respectively.
Mary Macleod with Mounted Police at an event at City Hall (undated). Mary’s husband, Colonel James F. Macleod, was Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police and a Supreme Court judge known for his fairness, common sense, and respectful relationships with various First Nations groups. He is the namesake for both Fort Macleod and Macleod Trail. Courtesy Glenbow Archives