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St. Mary's Parish Hall


Other Names:
C. N. R. Station
C.N.R. Station
Calgary C. N. R. Station
Calgary Southwest C. N. R. Station
Calgary Southwest C.N.R. Station
Calgary Southwest CNR Station
Calgary Southwest Railway Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CN Station
CNR Station
St. Mary's Hall

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
St. Mary's Parish Hall is composed of a three-storey sandstone building with a one-storey rear extension situated on six lots in Calgary's Mission district. The main building is a robust construction with a rough-faced sandstone exterior and a classically-detailed front facade. The gambrel roof with hipped dormers and many of the details on the front facade - including the cornice, dentils, principal and secondary entablatures, and the pediment - were reconstructed following a fire. The north half of the rear extension to this structure features a red-brick exterior while the south half is faced in cedar-shingles. Wide, overhanging eaves supported by brackets extends along the whole of the building's east elevation and wraps around its south elevation.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of St. Mary's Parish Hall lies in its association with the early history of the Roman Catholic Church in southern Alberta, its adaptive reuse as a station by the Canadian Northern Railway, and its impressive sandstone architecture with classical detailing.

The foundations of Roman Catholic life in southern Alberta were laid in 1873, when Father Constantine Scollen of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate established Our Lady of Peace mission near present-day Calgary. A modestly populated, French Catholic community developed around the mission site. With the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway's transcontinental railway to Calgary in 1883, concerns arose among members of the Oblate order about the settlement's French Catholic community being submerged in a sea of Anglo-Protestants. In an attempt to preserve Calgary's French Catholic character, famed missionary Albert Lacombe travelled to Ottawa and secured two quarter sections of land in 1884 in the "Mission" district. Incorporated in 1889 as Rouleauville, this area became the heart of French Catholic culture in the Calgary area. The streets of Rouleauville were named after Oblate missionaries and lined with the magisterial St. Mary's Cathedral, the convent of the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus, and several schools. In 1905, the Catholic community built St. Mary's Parish Hall to accommodate recitals, concerts, and theatrical performances. The hall became a centre of French Catholic cultural life and also accommodated the religious services of Calgary's Ukrainian Catholic community and the functions of several societies and organizations.

Lacombe's dream of a French Catholic enclave in Calgary was never realized. In 1907, Rouleauville was annexed to the City of Calgary; four years later, the Church sold St. Mary's Parish Hall to the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR). After initial use as office space by the company, the building was adapted in 1913 for service as a station with the laying of track bed and the construction of a platform. The CNoR intended to build a replacement station, but the exigencies of the war made this infeasible. The company chose rather to adapt and enlarge their operational station, adding a red-brick rear extension and a trackside wooden canopy in 1916. The railway station was permanently closed in 1971.

The current architecture of St. Mary's Parish Hall expresses the building's dual historical use as both church hall and train station. Designed by prominent local architect James J. O'Gara, St. Mary's Parish Hall is a simple rectangular building constructed of rough-faced sandstone. The simplicity of the form was well-suited to the building's original purpose as a hall, providing large open spaces that could accommodate audiences of up to 500 people. The front facade of St. Mary's Parish Hall is a rare construction, a sandstone rendition of the boomtown false fronts common among early wooden commercial buildings in western Canada. Unlike the typically simple boomtown false front, however, the front facade of St. Mary's Parish Hall contains an impressive array of neoclassical features including pilasters, a prominent cornice, and a pediment of pressed galvanized tin. Behind the false front is a gambrel roof featuring a row of dormers on its east and west elevations, a design feature likely influenced by French-Canadian architectural traditions. The red brick rear extension, extended trackside eave supported by brackets, and double-wide door opening on the east elevation embody the building's adaptation for use as a railway structure. In 1985, a fire gutted much of the interior. The building was sensitively restored in 1987.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 225)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of St. Mary's Parish Hall include such features as:
- form of the gambrel roof with hip dormers;
- exterior sandstone elements, including rough-faced stringcourse, lintels, sills, and voussoirs and smooth pilasters;
- fenestration pattern;
- double-wide door opening in east elevation;
- red-brick rear extension;
- canopy supported by rounded brackets along red-brick extension.


Street Address: 141 - 18 Avenue SW
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Lot 1, Block 11, Plan 8611375
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

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

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.036581 -114.065248 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1981/01/08

Historical Information

Built: 1905 to 1905
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Building Social and Community Life : Religious Institutions
Developing Economies : Communications and Transportation
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s):
Architect: James O'Gara
Builder: Hodgson and Bates
Context: The building was originally constructed in 1905 as a hall for the Parish of St. Mary's. James O'Gara was the architect and Hodgson and Bates the contractors. The Hall is essentially a rectangular three-storey sandstone box with one decorated facade and a small brick addition at the rear. The decorated facade is distinguished from the rest of the building by its classically inspired details.

In 1911, the structure was acquired by the Canadian Northern Railway who used it as an office until 1915. It was then converted into the '17th Avenue Station' because wartime austerity did not allow the construction of a new facility. The large overhanging eave and a waiting room were added to support the new function. Historically, the structure is a model of the ease with which buildings can be adapted and re-used.

St. Mary's Parish Hall is a pleasing example of an early Calgary sandstone building and is significant because of its association with the Roman Catholic Church and the Canadian National Railway, two institutions that helped to shape the west.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0541
Designation File: DES 0225
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 64268
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. 225)
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