Calgary City Hall, ca. 1911
Postcards from the Past, PC 1349
Calgary’s Old City Hall turned 100 years old yesterday. It must have been a very exciting time in Calgary and although the newspaper coverage of the opening was somewhat lackluster, it did include the following message from Robert Borden, then leader of the Opposition. He wrote:
“Pray convey to the citizens of Calgary my warmest thanks for the most civil and generous reception which was accorded me today.”
He toured the new city hall and gave a speech that evening at Sherman’s Auditorium Rink. He believed, he said, that the number of people in the auditorium exceeded the entire population of the city at the time of his last visit in 1902. It was estimated that 6000 people attended his speech.
In 1911 Calgary was a city to be reckoned with. The economy was booming. Reports in the paper indicate that the city was going to triple the water supply with the addition of more gravity feed supply pipes. A group of businessmen, eager to have a street car line in their neighbourhood, had offered to build 11 miles of track, running from the Cushing Bridge to the edge of Hubalta and back again, and donate it to the city. Boosters from Spokane were on their way to promote their city in Calgary and to see this wonder of the west. The Calgary Auto Club was in full swing and preparing for their first trip through the Crowsnest Pass into the Kootenay Valley. In order to accomplish this, they would need to ship gasoline ahead to ensure there would be an adequate supply.
As the city grew, so too, did the speculation on land. Numerous ads were place looking for buyers for lots in the new areas, such as Sunalta and Capitol Hill. You could get 4 corner lots in Sunalta for $4800.00. Or, if you wanted to move up to the North Hill, a lot could be had in Capitol Hill for $260.00. However, if you felt flush and wanted to live on the same street as some of Calgary’s more illustrious families, you could by a 9 room house on 13th Avenue for $10,000. It did include a stable in the back and, the ad said, would make a great rooming house. This was not, obviously, the purchase for the everyday man. Wages for a bonded cashier were $100 per month (and you were required to post the $500 cash bond yourself).
While all of this was going on, the police in Edmonton were confronting bands of demonstrating socialists. They had had to quiet 7 demonstrations by these “rabble rousers” in the past month. The socialists went before a judge, claiming they were “less a nuisance than the Salvation Army” who was allowed to hold public meetings on the street with no problems from the police.
Of course, like all Calgary’s booms, this one would not last. We did come out of it, though, with a beautiful new City Hall. Happy birthday, old girl.
If you would like to see a tour of the beautiful old building, you can watch this video, hosted by Heritage Planner Clint Robertson.
And if you are interested in the clock, you can take a tour of the clock tower at this url:
Calgary City Hall, 1958
Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 30-08