Plus 15 to Penny Lane, 5 St & 8 Ave SW
Judith Umbach Photograph Collection
Calgary’s Plus 15 System is synonymous with the downtown core. It is an extensive 16 kilometer public skywalk network of 57 bridges, designed to protect pedestrians from inclement weather and help reduce congestion on the streets. To get a better sense of how large the Plus 15 System really is, if you could rearrange all the skywalks into a straight line the walkway would be longer than 159 football fields placed end-to-end. Harold Hanen, who is “credited with being the father of Calgary’s plus-15 system” [“Striving for an affinity,” Calgary Herald, Sept 23, 1984], designed the network of 15 ft high walkways - hence the name Plus 15 - in the late 1960s.
The first official Plus 15 bridge, which connects the Westin Hotel to Calgary Place across 4th Avenue S.W [PAM FILE 388.41 CAL 1999], was built in 1970. However, this bridge was not the first pedestrian bridge built in Calgary. The first pedestrian bridge in Calgary is thought to be a bridge that connected the New Calgary Market (129 – 7th Avenue SW) to the Arcade on 8th Avenue [“Calgary Stock Exchange,” http://corporate.heritageproperty.ca/OngoingProjects/SeventhAvenue/tabid/81/Default.aspx
If you are interested in learning more about the Plus 15 system, including the project’s architect Harold Hanen, the library has a wealth of resources for you to consult. We have a newspaper clippings file, local history books, pamphlet files, and historical maps of the Plus 15 system, as well as biography clippings file on Harold Hanen. In addition, we have historical photographs of the Plus 15 System in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. I found the map “1987 Calgary - Downtown Business Area” (Calg 34) to be particularly interesting as it shows what businesses were in the buildings connected by the Plus 15 system in 1987, as well as proposed Plus 15 & C-Train routes. For instance, did you know that there was a Plus 15 connecting a Dairy Queen to the Chevron Plaza on 5th Ave and 4th St S.W. in 1987?
(Photograph of the Arcade is from: http://corporate.heritageproperty.ca/OngoingProjects/SeventhAvenue/tabid/81/Default.aspx)