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CALGARY’S POCKET HISTORY

Author: Megan Kopp

Fascinated by Alberta's natural side, Megan loves to wander mountain passes and river coulees. Park interpreter turned freelance writer, she has penned hundreds of articles based on self-propelled adventures around the province with her husband, daughter, and canine companion.

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As we parked on the quiet side street in Calgary’s Beltline District, my sister and niece both looked at the Victorian-style sandstone building in amazement. They never realized the city had this kind of historical charm. Calgary’s National Historic Sites may be small and scattered, but they play an important role filling in the back story of the city’s history.

Beaulieu is a Beautiful Place

We walked up the front staircase of Lougheed House – originally named Beaulieu –  and into a bygone era. We admired Italian marble accents, gazed at hand-painted stained glass windows with images of Alberta’s flora and fauna, noted the rich Spanish mahogany accents, studied the ornate plaster ceiling with decorative cherubs in the drawing room and snapped photos of the doors etched with Lougheed’s initials.

The two-and-a-half storey building, which includes two towers, was a symbol of Senator James Lougheed’s prestige and influence. It was one of the most impressive residences in the Canadian northwest when it was built in 1891 and the social epicentre of the young city. Feeling as privileged as the storied royalty who visited Beaulieu, we gazed at the home’s rare modern conveniences from electric lighting to central heating to electric bells for calling servants. Although we didn’t have lunch reservations, we did poke our head into the dining room before posing for photos with historic hats in the tiny but packed gift shop.

Small Pockets Big on History

There are so many more pockets of history around the city. Add these to your must-see list.

  • The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) campus is home to many examples of beautiful architecture – including Heritage Hall. It’s a three-storey red brick and sandstone building built in 1922. It once stood alone atop Calgary’s North Hill.
  • Mewata Armoury and Drill Hall is a monumental Tudor Revival style red brick and sandstone building situated on the edge of downtown. Built in 1917-18, this prairie fortress is home to the King’s Own Calgary Regiment and the Calgary Highlanders – both of which were established in 1910.
  • The Palace Theatre was a downtown movie house located on Stephen Avenue Mall. Built in 1921, the still elegant neoclassical-inspired building is only one of four original movie palaces left standing – although the days of spinning reels are long over with.
  • Fort Calgary National Historic Site is the birthplace of Calgary. The bright white and red beacon on the banks of the Elbow River sits on the original site of 1875 North West Mounted Police barracks. Colonel James Macleod named the fort after his ancestral home in Scotland. A bronze statue honouring Colonel Macleod sits outside the barracks.
  • A four-storey sandstone beauty accented with red granite, the 1911 Calgary City Hall – situated across from Olympic Plaza – epitomizes the great hopes of a burgeoning city. Built in a Romanesque Revival style, the central clock tower, semi-circular arched entrance and stone-gabled dormers makes this yet another historical site worthy of discovery.

Don’t miss hopping across the street to Olympic Plaza after you’re done. It’s a landmark in its own right and a meaningful, if newer, part of the city’s history. Built in 1988 for the Olympic Winter Games award ceremonies, the park hosts numerous special events throughout the year and is home to the Famous Five sculpture honouring women’s rights activists from the early 1900s.

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