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Calgary City Hall

Calgary

Other Names:
Old City Hall

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
Calgary City Hall is an early twentieth-century, four-storey sandstone building with a central clock tower. It is located within Calgary's downtown civic complex alongside other municipal buildings. It is constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and features a rough sandstone exterior, rows of recessed windows, arches and a red, pressed metal tile roof.


Heritage Value
The heritage value of the old Calgary City Hall lies in its association with Calgary's historic status as the urban and economic centre in southern Alberta, and its architectural significance as a monumental civic building.

Calgary City Hall is of historical significance largely due to Calgary's pre-eminent position in southern Alberta. As the leading urban centre in this region, Calgary both benefited from and demonstrated the economic, political and social development of that area of the province. The civic booster movement was popular in many western North American towns and cities during the early years of the twentieth century and the construction of such a solid and imposing a building as City Hall served as a dramatic statement about the dynamic future of Calgary and Alberta. Built in order to keep pace with growing municipal services, the building originally housed the mayor and aldermen, city government offices, the police department, law courts and the municipal telephone system. However, by 1913, the building was already too small to house these civic services. City Hall also represents the continuous presence of local government since 1885. Prior to the construction of the current building, a wood-frame civic building occupied the same location. Officially opened by federal leader of the opposition, and future Prime Minister of Canada, Robert L. Borden, Calgary City Hall is the oldest extant city hall in Alberta.

Calgary City Hall is architecturally significant for many reasons. Constructed from 1907 to 1911, its solidity and monumental appearance were meant to reflect the belief that Calgary was to be the dominant urban centre in the region. Designed by architect William M. Dodd, the building embodies the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which was favoured in North America for large public buildings. Aspects of the building that reflect the architectural style are the single massive clock tower, heavy exterior walls faced with rough-hewn stones, bands of recessed windows, heavy stone verandas and balconies, a deeply recessed front entry, and semi-circular arches with large stone voussoirs with keystones over many windows and entries. The building has a steel structural frame, which supports exterior walls of brick and locally-quarried sandstone. Calgary was often referred to as the "Sandstone City" due to the prevalent use of sandstone in many of its early public and commercial buildings. Calgary City Hall is one of the few remaining sandstone buildings of this scale in Alberta, and the last monumentally-scaled early civic building in western Canada. While the interior of the building has undergone significant design changes, the integrity of the exterior of the building has been well maintained.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 242)


Character-Defining Elements
Key elements that define the site's heritage value include its:
- heavy exterior walls faced with rough-hewn square stones,
- single, massive clock tower with pyramidal roof centrally located on the front façade, flanked by twin two-storey stone verandas;
- steeply-pitched roof of red-coloured pressed metal tiles with a centrally located glass dome and lantern and four small cupolas oriented towards each corner of the building;
- highly ornamented gable dormers with double windows and sculptural elements such as mini-turrets and floral carvings;
- fenestration pattern of bands of recessed arched windows with voussiors and keystones and simple rectangular windows;
- deeply recessed front entrance flanked by double ionic columns of polished red granite accessed by stone stairs with heavy stone railings and twin wrought iron lampposts;
- red granite date stone bearing inscriptions of "1907" and the names of civic officials of that period;
- keystone of front entry arch carved with 1907, the word CALGARY and the city's coat of arms;
- cornice with dentils encircling the building;
- two-storey south-facing veranda with double ionic columns and upper stone railing bearing the inscription "CITY HALL";
- single-storey north-facing veranda;
- heavy use of locally-quarried sandstone, a reflection of the prevalence of sandstone construction in Calgary's early public and commercial buildings.
- central location in Calgary and site of the continuous presence of civic government since 1885.


Location



Street Address: 716 Macleod Trail SE
Community: Calgary
Boundaries: Plan A, Block 53, Lots 3 to 7 and a portion of Lot 8
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
5
1
24
10
9 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
A
A
A
A
A
A
53
53
53
53
53
53
8
7
6
5
4
3







Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
51.046063 -114.057386 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1978/10/18

Historical Information

Built: 1907 to 1911
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Governing Canada : Politics and Political Processes
Historic Function(s): Government : Town or City Hall
Current Function(s):
Architect: William M. Dodd
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE


The Calgary City Hall, which opened in 1911, was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style that originated in the late 19th century. Architect William Dodd’s design has been described as reflecting 'a city coming of age with a very distinctive personality…[a city] on the verge of a commercial, industrial, natural resource, and population boom.' The Calgary City Hall building was designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978, a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984, and Calgary's first Municipal Historic Resource in 1991.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0547
Designation File: DES 0242
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 23695
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. 242)
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