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Glenmore Water Treatment Plant

Calgary

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant is located on the Elbow River in south-west Calgary on the north side of the Glenmore Reservoir. The brick and stone Art Deco structure, built 1930-33, comprises a three-storey office building with a long, rectangular, one- and two-storey filtration gallery attached to the rear. The building features distinctive 'porthole' windows and sleek marble-clad, terrazzo and tiled interiors. The property was declared an American Waterworks Association landmark in 1992 and protected as a Municipal Historic Resource in 1992.

Heritage Value
The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant has been an integral component in Calgary's water system since it became operational in 1933. The inauguration of the Glenmore Water Works System, which includes the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, supplied Calgary, for the first time with filtered water. Since 1933 it has continuously supplied the City of Calgary with treated water. Until 1972 the Glenmore Water Treatment plant was the sole distributor of Calgary's treated water, but has since shared this function with the Bearspaw system.
The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant was developed as one of the four main components of the massive Glenmore Water Works System, that comprised a storage reservoir and dam; a pumping station; a purification plant (the Water Treatment Plant); and a pipe line system. Built 1930-33, at a cost of over $4,000,000 the Glenmore Water Works System was one of the most significant engineering projects completed in western Canada up to that time and has since been a landmark feature of the city. When complete, the system boasted one of the heaviest dams to have ever been constructed anywhere (considering its height), with a base thickness of 70', and a reservoir that was estimated to hold 16.37 billion litres of water. The project was also conceived to be an important flood control instrument, with the dam protecting low lying areas parts of the city from flood damage.

The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant was designed as a multi-stage purification system that included coagulation, sedimentation, sand filtration, and chlorination. The plant initially produced 105,991,530 litres of purified water each day, sufficient for a city of 200,000 residents, well in excess of Calgary's then population of 85,000. The plant was designed so that it could be expanded, with minimal disruption, to triple its purification capacity and produce an ultimate capacity of 317,974,590 litres of water per day. When completed the plant featured eight filters and three sedimentation tanks. Subsequent and extremely architecturally compatible expansions in 1954 and 1965 fulfilled the plants ultimate capacity with 24 filters.
The Glenmore Water Treatment Plant constitutes one of Calgary's most sophisticated and well preserved examples of Art Deco architecture. Due to the building's original close proximity to the city, its situation amidst much natural beauty, and its administrative offices, special attention was paid to ensure an attractive design befitting that of an important public building. As a result, the exterior was finished with high-quality pressed red brick and detailed with Tyndall stone. Classical references such as pilasters and its symmetrically ordered façade lend the building a formal classical character while its round, 'porthole' windows are characteristic Art Deco features and suggestive of the building's aquatic association. The interior public spaces of the building are similarly elaborated with sleek and elegant materials such as travertine floors and marble walls, while the filter gallery corridors exhibit terrazzo floors, tiled walls, and bronze and nickel-clad instrument cases and controls. Thomas Pomphrey, the staff architect at Gore, Nasmith and Storrie, the consulting engineers who were responsible for the entire project, was responsible for the design. Pomphry gained further prominence with his 1929 design of the monumental R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto.
While the Glenmore system was designed and approved in 1929, prior to the Great Depression, construction of the system became Calgary's largest relief project of the era. With the onset of the Depression, construction of the facility was changed to a make-work project. At the insistence of elected civic officials, and to the greatest extent possible, local firms, locally produced materials, and thousands of Calgarians were contracted and employed for the project, greatly benefiting the local economy.

Source: City of Calgary Heritage Planning File: 09-100


Character-Defining Elements
The exterior character-defining elements of the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant include such features as its:
- rectangular, three-storey, hipped-roof form (administration structure) with a one-storey, flat-roofed vestibule and two similar side extensions for vehicle storage, and a rear, long, rectangular, flat-roofed two-storey filtration gallery;
- reinforced concrete construction with pressed, red-brick cladding laid in common bond; Tyndall limestone cladding and detailing that includes the foundation, pilasters, quoins, belt courses, spandrels, window casings, cornice mouldings, and carved logo (CWW) atop the main entrance;
- regular, symmetrical fenestration comprising rectangular and round 'porthole' windows with multi-pane metal sashes; rectangular metal sash windows incorporating hopper openings (with interior guide tracks);
- bronze and glass doorway assembly with double glazed doors, transom lights, sigelights and bronze grills and spandrels;
- large, bronze, lantern-type entrance sconces;
- standing seam copper roofing (hipped roof).

The interior character-defining elements of the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant include such features as its:
- plan and arrangement of offices around a central staircase with the primary rooms of the building elevated to the second-storey;
- double-return staircase between the foyer and the second-storey with iron balustrades displaying understated aquatic motifs, iron newels and bronze railings;
- foyer and stair hall of the building with three-quarter height, book-matched Notre Dame marble wall cladding, travertine flooring (with inlaid tile borders at first storey), and the original plaster ceilings with multiple cornice mouldings;
- metal-clad and panelled doors with original hardware;
- terrazzo flooring in the secondary areas of the administrative portion of the building;
- original washrooms with terrazzo floors, marble-clad walls, and original fixtures;
- long filtration gallery with its double-height corridor and clerestory lighting flanked by 24 filter beds;
- original wall finishes of the filtration gallery corridor that included exposed brick and painted board-formed concrete, mottled green and brown tiles, and the segmental arched, board-formed concrete finish of the ceiling;
- green and pink terrazzo flooring of the filtration gallery corridor;
- marble and tile-clad instrument tables of three different periods lining the filtration gallery with their marble tops and bronze and nickel controls and instrument cases;
- polygonal wall openings between the filter gallery corridor and the filter beds;
- glazed doorway assembly between the administrative offices and the filtration gallery with its double doors, transoms and sidelights.


Location



Street Address: 1668 - 56 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: The principal facades together with the entrance hall and filter gallery of the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, together with lands described as: portion of the southwest quarter and east half of Section 32, Township 23, Range 1, W5M.
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
23
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
32
1 (ptn.)
10 (ptn.)
15 (ptn.)
16 (ptn.)
2 (ptn.)
3 (ptn.)
4 (ptn.)
5 (ptn.)
6 (ptn.)
7 (ptn.)
8 (ptn)
9 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.003088 -114.100550 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
5655169.60151 282104.344304 Digital Maps NAD83

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1992/07/27

Historical Information

Built: 1933 To 1933
Significant Date(s) 1933 To 1972
Theme(s) Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Industry : Water or Sewage Facility
Current Function(s): Industry : Water or Sewage Facility
Architect: Gore, Naismith and Storrie
Builder: Bennett and White
J. McDiarmid Company Limited
Context: The Glenmore Dam and Water Treatment Plan fully supplied Calgary's water needs from 1933-1972. By 1929, Calgary's water supply had seriously deteriorated and was inadequate to meet further population growth. This acute problem was addressed by city administrators after much public scrutiny. From the 1880s, the City was hard pressed to keep up with the demands for water. Prior to the turn of the century, water was dipped from the Elbow River or pumped from private wells. In 1907, a gravity bed water system was adopted using the resources of the unpredictable Elbow River. This insufficiently supplied the City's water needs until 1928, when city commissioners hired outside consultants to deal with the water crisis; the respected Toronto engineering firm of Gore, Naismith and Storrie. In 1929, a city by-law was passed to allow financial borrowing for a new infiltration system and dam. This project, a fully municipal undertaking, was the largest public works project implemented in the 1930s in Calgary, at a cost of four mission dollars, over 900 acres of farmland in the lush Elbow Valley was submerged. The public works scheme employed upwards of 1,000 labourers, significantly contributing to Calgary's depressed economy. The natural valley was a highly calculated site, securing a water storage capacity of 21.8 billion litres. The dam structure, notably one of the strongest of its kind in North America during the 1930s, stands 900 feet long and 60 feet wide. When the dam was completed in 1933, the filtration capacity was great enough to supply purified water for 200,000 people (three times the population of the City in 1933). Further expansions took place in 1956 (doubling capacity levels) and in 1965 (tripling the original capacity). The construction of the dam project resulted in considerable controversy over land acquisitions, allegations of breach of trust and mismanagement, time delays and civic debt. A provincial court judicial inquiry ensued and found no evidence of wrongdoing, despite a cost overrun of $280,000. Much of this overrun was attributed to the strict measures City Council insisted on, such as the rotation of labour, "fair wage measures", and sub-contracting to local firms regardless of lower bids from other places. In January of 1933, three years after the City signed Bennett and White Ltd., a purely Calgary firm, to the construction contract, citizens began to receive reservoir water. The new dam and filtration plant significantly reduced the flooding capacity of the Elbow River and eliminated public health concerns over water quality. The construction of the facility resulted in financial worries for the City, but employed thousands of labourers and members of a dozen trades. The Glenmore Dam and Filtration system was an encompassing civic project involving the labour movement, all levels of civic government and many Calgarians. Somewhat typical in design, it exemplified innovation in water works technology of its time (due to the expertise of William Gore and his colleagues). A major boost to Calgary's early depression economy, its political controversies made the project a significant event in the 1930s. Since its completion, the intent of the system is evident today with only minimal technological improvements made to the original structures and waterworks. The resulting reservoir is a key Calgary landmark which now serves a number of functions not originally envisioned. (1991)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0008
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: City of Calgary, Planning Development and Assessment, PO Box 2100, Station M, 8117, Calgary, AB, T2P 2M5 (Heritage Inventory File: 09-100)
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