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Southern Alberta Pioneers' Memorial Building


Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Southern Alberta Pioneers’ Memorial Building property consists of a Rustic-style, log bungalow structure, built 1954-55, and landscaped grounds in the Rideau Park area of Calgary. The Memorial Building occupies a prominent, elevated location on the crest of an escarpment overlooking the Elbow River with views to the Rocky Mountains.

Heritage Value
The Southern Alberta Pioneers’ Memorial Building property is of heritage value as the headquarters, since 1955, of the society known as the ‘Southern Alberta Pioneers and Their Descendants’. This society was formally established in 1922 to collect, preserve and promote information about the early pioneer history of the southern portion of the province. Over the years, the society has amassed a large collection of information and items and has shared this information with the public and other organizations to foster a better understanding of Alberta’s early pioneer history. The efforts of the society have thereby made it an important institution in Calgary and the region.

The property is of further importance for its close association with some of the most significant people associated with the earliest history and development of Calgary and southern Alberta. Members of the society comprised those who resided in Alberta, south of Township 40, prior to 1891 and their descendents. Membership has comprised a “Who’s Who” of Alberta’s pioneer history and has included thousands of members over the years. These members have included famous Calgary figures such as Colonel James Walker, Calgary’s first unofficial mayor and head of Calgary’s incorporation committee; George Clift King, O.B.E., the first Mountie to set foot on the site of Calgary in 1875; Alfred McKay, rancher and original C.P.R. surveyor; and Lady Lougheed, the wife of the important Calgary attorney and senator. These members were originally organized in separate Men’s and Women’s Associations but were joined to form a single association in 1964.

The property is significant for the architecture of the Memorial Building, both stylistically and in terms of construction. The building is an excellent example of Rustic style architecture and comprises hand-hewn, round logs with saddle-notch joints, typical of vernacular mountain architecture in the West. The interior features exposed, clear-span trusses, a massive fieldstone fireplace and handcrafted doors and finishes. The log structure was first erected in about 1952 by Hobart A. Dowler, a leading craftsman and builder of log structures in Alberta. Between 1932 and 1958 Dowler and his son Bill were commissioned for some 100 log buildings, such as the mountain shelters for Canadian Alpine Club and the Luxton Museum in Banff. As with Dowler’s other log buildings, this one was first built on his Pigeon Lake property and later dismantled and re-assembled on its permanent site in 1954.

The property is a community landmark due its unique architecture, broad lawns, and prominent situation atop an escarpment overlooking the Elbow River. The building’s placement amidst the significant open character of the site distinguishes the property from the surrounding, built up, residential character of the neighbourhood. Contributing to the prominence of the property is a large entrance gate, built in 1967 as a Centennial project, with stone piers, bronze memorial tablets and an ornamental iron arch depicting pioneer scenes.

The property is of heritage value also for its symbolic significance, being a tangible connection and monument to Calgary’s pioneer past. The building was associated with the city and regions most notable personalities, many of whom fundraised or made donations for its purchase. Its regionally-inspired architecture further serves to strengthen this symbolic association.

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Southern Alberta Pioneers’ Memorial Building property include, but are not limited to the features of the Memorial Building, such as its:
- Exposed, hand-hewn, round log construction with saddle notch joints and a stained and varnished finish (exterior and interior);
- one-storey, long rectangular form (original portion) with side-gable roof;
- roof materials including wooden shingles; open eaves; exposed round timber rafters, purlins and ridgepole (exterior and interior); exposed, interior round timber, king-post truss roof system (interior);
- hanging interior light fixtures fashioned from wagon wheels with copper shades;
- existing fenestration (window openings);
- randomly coursed fieldstone fireplace and hearth with external chimney;
- handcrafted, interior wood finishings such as doors and casings (windows and doors) with a stained and varnished finish;
- hardwood dance floor (main level);

The character-defining elements of the Southern Alberta Pioneers’ Memorial Building property include, but are not limited to its contextual features such as its:
- Open character of the grounds adjacent to the Memorial Building;
- elevated situation atop the crest of an escarpment with clear views to/over the Elbow River and Rocky Mountains;
- broad front and surrounding lawns adjacent to the Memorial Building;
- row of spruce trees adjacent to the north-west corner of the Memorial Building;
- fieldstone cairn with flagpole and bronze plaques;
- entrance gate with fieldstone piers, brass and bronze plaques and a decorative iron arch.


Street Address: 3625 - 4 Street SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Portion of NE 4-24-1-W5
Contributing Resources: Building: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.02227100640 -114.07168782000 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2009/06/22

Historical Information

Built: 1955/01/01
Period of Significance: N/A
Theme(s): Peopling the Land : Settlement
Historic Function(s): Community : Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Current Function(s): Community : Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Builder: Hobart A. Dowler

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0272
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: City of Calgary, Heritage Planning, File No. 08-235
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