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Calgary Court House No. 2


Other Names:
Calgary Courthouse
Calgary Courthouse No. 2
Courthouse #2
Courthouse (Old)
Glenbow Museum
Government House South
Old Courthouse

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
Calgary Courthouse No. 2 is a large, rectangular two-storey building with an extensive basement. It has a steel frame superstructure and a sandstone facade. Built from 1912 to 1914, the building embodies the Neoclassical Revival style and features an ornate central entrance with an entablature flanked by relatively simple wings. Its main entry doors, with their elaborate fittings and bronze inlays have been reconstructed and its central flagpole has been replaced. Courthouse No. 2 is located in downtown Calgary at 530 - Seventh Avenue, SW.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of Calgary Courthouse No. 2 lies in its association with the development of Alberta's judicial system. It is the largest surviving courthouse from the first decade of Alberta's existence as a province and was used as the Calgary seat of the Supreme Court of Alberta and later as an appellate court. Calgary Courthouse No. 2 is also architecturally significant as one of the last major early buildings constructed by the Government of Alberta on a monumental scale.

Calgary has been a seat of the Supreme Court of Alberta since the late 1880s. The court was initially housed in temporary facilities; a permanent courthouse was built in 1888. The Calgary seat of the Supreme Court of Alberta has been located in this same city block since that time. After 1905, the provincial government assumed control of the building and purchased the site from the federal government. By 1910, a larger courthouse was needed and a new courthouse was commissioned. The new courthouse was designed by Provincial Architect Allan M. Jeffers and was intended to rival in size its previously built counterpart in Edmonton. Due to budgetary concerns, it was designed on a simpler plan and was considerably less elaborate. Upon completion of the plans, Jeffers resigned his position and his successor, Richard P. Blakey, revised the plans by changing the interior layout, the central staircase and most of the exterior facade while maintaining its generally austere appearance. Despite efforts to curtail expenses, rising costs resulted in the courthouse becoming one of the most expensive construction projects undertaken by the Alberta government, which resulted in a moratorium on the construction of new public buildings. Upon completion in 1914, the Supreme Court of Alberta moved into the new building. It would remain here until 1962 when it moved into a third, more spacious courthouse built on the site of the 1888 building. Courthouse No. 2 was again used as a courthouse, this time as an appellate court, from 1986 to 2001.

Calgary Courthouse No. 2 is an outstanding example of courthouse design in Alberta and represents one of the last monumental buildings built by the province in its early years of development. Designed in the Neoclassical Revival style during a period of budgetary restraint, Courthouse No. 2 has an elegant yet restrained appearance. Features of the style include the symmetrical facades, cornice with dentils and corbels, and embellished central portico. It has a steel frame superstructure supporting exterior walls of smooth-faced sandstone on a plinth of rough-hewn granite blocks. The sandstone used was mainly from local quarries supplemented with stone imported from Ohio. The courthouse was the last major building in Calgary to use local sandstone. The building's symmetrical front facade features two austere wings flanking an ornamented front portico. Above the front doorway is the provincial crest carved in sandstone. The interior of the courthouse is designed in a cross-axial pattern. Despite renovations, it retains some original elements, such as the front foyer, the central marble staircase, most interior doors and portions of the terrazzo floor.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 98)

Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define Calgary Courthouse No. 2's heritage value include its:

- location on the city block housing the continuous presence of judicial facilities since 1888;
- rectangular plan, low elevations, and symmetrical facades;
- horizontal lines accentuated by bands of regularly spaced window openings;
- steel frame supporting structure;
- use of smooth sandstone blocks on most of the exterior facade;
- plinth of rough-hewn granite blocks;
- austere appearance;
- moderately decorated centrally located portico accessed by wide stone staircase;
- cornice with dentils and corbels;
- continuous arch over front doorway;
- provincial crest in stone over the front doorway;
- twin Tuscan order columns;
- uncarved nameplate;
- parapet along entire roofline;
- wrought iron lampposts and door lamps.

- axial pattern layout;
- location and size of front foyer;
- original wooden interior doors;
- central marble grand staircase;
- portions of the original terrazzo floor.


Street Address: 530 - 7 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Block 31, Plan A1
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
9 (ptn.)

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.047159 -114.073205 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1977/03/15

Historical Information

Built: 1912 to 1914
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Governing Canada : Security and Law
Historic Function(s): Government : Courthouse and/or Registry Office
Current Function(s):

Constructed between 1912 to 1914 to replace Calgary's first courthouse which had been built in 1888. (The first courthouse was demolished in 1958.) It served as Calgary's Court House for 48 years. The basement was used temporarily to house the Calgary Natural History Museum. A new courthouse was opened in 1962, and this building was occupied by the Glenbow Museum, which opened to the public in 1964.

Its smooth sandstone construction reflects a trend to a more massive and heavy appearance than evident in Calgary prior to the turn of the century. The style is typical of government structures of that era, being somewhat similar to the old Edmonton Courthouse (demolished in 1972.)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0429
Designation File: DES 0098
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 29084
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 98)
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