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Heritage rehabilitation of Historic City Hall

Rehabilitated for the next century Historic City Hall

"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." - Winston Churchill

   

Between 2016-2020, Calgary’s 109-year old Historic City Hall underwent an extensive exterior heritage rehabilitation.

Built between 1907 and 1911, Historic City Hall has been Calgary’s seat of civic government for more than a century. At the time of its construction, more than a dozen Paskapoo sandstone quarries operated in and around Calgary’s current city limits and this sandstone was our preferred building material for public, commercial and residential buildings. Calgary became known across Canada as the “Sandstone City.”

Historic City Hall is a beautiful example of Calgary’s late Sandstone City era, and is a National, Provincial, and Municipal Heritage Resource. It is the only surviving city hall from its time in Western Canada, and it has been restored to a condition intended to serve Calgary for another 100 years.

Historic City Hall

Historic City Hall was surrounded by a heavy duty protective enclosure for three years to shield the crew, equipment and sandstone. This time lapse video shows the removal of the wrap over May and June, 2020.

Historic City Hall under construction in December 1909. Courtesy University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections

Calgary's original wooden Town Hall - built in 1885 - is dwarfed by the new City Hall being constructed right behind it in 1910. Courtesy University of Calgary Archives and Special Collections

Renewed and repaired from its foundation to its roof


Over the course of four years Historic City Hall was rehabilitated to last for the next 100 years.  Highlights of this work include:

  • Painstaking repairs to 97% of the building’s 15,522 pieces of sandstone. About 1,350 tonnes of newly quarried sandstone were used to rehabilitate deteriorated sandstone. (That’s about the weight of 11 three-car CTrains).
  • 1,500 metres of old mortar have been removed and redone. (That’s equivalent to the length of about eight Calgary Towers end to end).
  • The roof was stripped, structurally fortified, and replaced. The original roof foundation of Douglas fir milled in Banff/Kananaskis in the early 1900s was saved whenever possible and some rotted areas were removed and replaced with new lumber and metal supports.
  • About 400 red tiles from the roof are original to 1911. We ordered our replacement tiles from the same manufacturer that supplied the originals more than a century ago.
  • The 100-foot clock tower was originally built with sandstone and bricks but no steel, and the tower had begun shifting slightly away from the building. We’ve corrected this with new internal steel bracing from the third floor up.
  • Verandas, balconies, and cupola have all been structurally reinforced.
  • 189 out of 191 original wooden window frames were restored and preserved.
  • The building’s foundation and concrete have been repaired and a new site drainage system installed.
  • The building has new exterior lighting.

Approved by Council in 2015, the $34.1 million project kicked off in 2016 and was completed in August 2020. It has been one of the most substantial heritage projects underway in Canada since 2016.