During the 2021 Historic Calgary Week, CHI takes you on a virtual tour that unmasks hidden history, architecture, and forgotten stories.

Click on the map to access the list of places in Google maps.

This year’s Historic Calgary Week theme is “Unmasking History”

We thought we would have fun with that and present some of the less known heritage sites around the city of Calgary. These are a mix of buildings you pass by every day but decades of paint, siding, and other modifications have masked the true historical nature from being easily understood.  We’ve also included heritage where you wouldn’t expect it, homes, farms, and mansions from a century ago hidden away in Calgary’s far flung suburban communities. And lastly some buildings that are clearly from Calgary’s past, but their normal residential nature masks the stories of how they contributed to the development of early Calgary.

Click on each site below to learn more!

  • Name  : Western (Underwood) Block
  • Address  : 1001 1st St SW
  • Year of construction  : 1905
  • Community  : Beltline

This commercial building was built by Thomas Underwood in 1905 and was originally known as the Underwood block. Later on a new Underwood block was built further south on 1st St SW and this building was renamed the Western Block. Although it may not be obvious immediately, a uniform coat of grey/beige paint hides decorative woodwork, sandstone, metal cornices and brick. The artistic rendition attempts to unmask and imagine what might be possible with the paint removed.

Western (Underwood) Block (today)

Artistic impression of what might be under the paint

Western (Underwood) Block - circa 1907 - Glenbow collection, University of Calgary 

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  • Name: Sunalta Block
  • Address: 1504 12 Ave SW
  • Year of construction: 1910
  • Community: Sunalta

Thousands of people pass the Sunalta Block everyday on their commute to work, not giving it a second glance. And although recently it has been filled with office equipment and hubcaps, it was once a bustling social centre, filled with neighbours chatting at the meat counter, political speculations over a beard trim, and children gleefully clutching bags of penny candy. Today it bears little resemblance to the structure it once was.

Sunalta Block today - Source : Google Maps

Sunalta Block potential

Built in 1910, on the corner of 14th St. S.W. and 12th Ave. S.W. (comprised of the addresses 1502, 1504, 1504a and 1506), this impressive building was right on the streetcar line. Sunalta was a brand new subdivision and commercial businesses were moving. The second floor of the building always was, and still is apartments. The street level has been occupied by a variety of businesses, typically grocers, meat markets and beauty salons. Many of the businesses owners lived nearby.

Sunalta block - circa 1912 - Source : Glenbow collection, University of Calgary

In 1914 Bernard J. Callaghan was a grocer at 1502 (the corner unit of the building), while living at 1631 – 14th Ave. S.W. Ernest Rubie, living at 1529 – 10th Ave. S.W., and Clarence A. Richardson, living at 1533 – 10th Ave. S.W. operated Richardson and Rubie Groceries in the Block at 1506. During the 1910’s, a Jewish grocer named Hyman Cohen operated his grocery store at 1502 while living at 1510. While the Block saw a high turnover of businesses in its early years, two businesses and two proprietors established themselves and remained for several decades.

During the late 1910’s, Ernest Samuel Tinney had a career as a manager at P. Burns and Co. (Burns Meats). By the early twenties he started his own meat market in the Sunalta Block. His wife Stella Rose was a tailoress, and they made their home at 1221 - 12th Ave. By the early thirties, Shoprite, a retail grocery chain had taken over 1502 and 1504. The Shoprite in the Sunalta Block was one of seven in town and contained a meat counter, which was managed by Mr. Tinney. Shoprite remained at this location until the seventies, although Mr. Tinney retired in the late fifties. He is still remembered by many of Sunalta’s long time residents.

Sunalta Block, 1974 - Source : Alison Jackson Collection, Calgary Public Library

Another business that established itself was the Sunalta Barber and Beauty Shop at 1506. It opened in the early thirties and remained well into the sixties. One of its long term proprietors was E. Alex Smyth, who trimmed and shaved many Sunalta men from the early forties until the early sixties. He made his home nearby at 1322 – 16th Ave. SW.

(Source : Sunalta Community Association)

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  • Name: Singsby Block
  • Address: 102 4 St NE
  • Year of construction: 1911
  • Community: Bridgeland/Riverside

Slingsby department store, soon became the Alberta Furniture store in 1919 staying in business for over 60 years, closing in the 1980s. Since then the facade has been covered or replaced, this rendering shows how it might look if the facade was restored.

Today - Source : Google Maps

Potential

Newspaper Ad  - circa 1912 - Source : Alan Zakrison

CPL's "Postcards from the Past" collection - circa 1918? - Source : Alan Zakrison

 

  • Name: Reliance (Armour) Block
  • Address: 15 4 St NE
  • Year of construction: 1910
  • Community: Crescent Heights

The Armour/Reliance blocks have been a landmark at the bottom of Edmonton trail since 1910 but the decades have not necessarily been kind to them. That said a building that still stands is a building that can be restored. In fact this is a good news story as the City of Calgary has plans to do just that. In the meantime, based on original blueprints the renderings below imagine what might be possible if returned to match the original designs.

Reliance (Armour) Block today - Source : Google Maps

Reliance (Armour) Block potential

Reliance (Armour) Block  - Source : City of Calgary Heritage Planning department

Reliance (Armour) Block original blueprint - Source : City of Calgary Heritage Planning department


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  • Name: Calgary Brewering & Malting Co
  • Address: 1535 9 Avenue SE
  • Year of construction: 1875 and later
  • Community: Inglewood
The expansive former site of the Calgary Brewering & Malting Co has been an Inglewood fixture since the late 1800s. Over the decades some of the oldest buildings have been lost but many have just been obscured, either due to newer buildings being built in front of them, or through century old sandstone walls being covered in grey paint. Below are artistic examples of how a restored Malt house and Wash house could look in the present day.  

Malt House (1892-1900) 

Calgary Brewing & Malting Co., circa 1907 - Source Glenbow collection, University of Calgary Current Windows un-filled Potential

Wash House (1905)

Colour postcard view of the Calgary Brewery. Published by Royal Curio and News Company, Calgary, circa 1910. (Wash house far right) - Source  : Glenbow Collection, University of Calgary Current Potential More information

  • Name: A. B. Cushing Lumber Company
  • Address: 1301 10 AV SW
  • Year of construction: 1912
  • Community: Beltline

Although an obvious century old commercial building by sight, less obvious is that this was the office of a large industrial site, the A. B. Cushing Lumber Co. which stretched the entire block from 12 St SW to 13 St SW.

Today - Source : Calgary Inventory of historic resources

Office of A. B. Cushing Lumber Co., circa 1920 - Source  : Glenbow Collection, University of Calgary

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  • Name: Nurses Home, General Hospital
  • Address: 845 McPherson Rd NE
  • Year of construction: 1911
  • Community: Bridgeland/Riverside

Although at first glance this appears to be a good sized century home, what’s less obvious is this was a Nurses Home for the 3rd Calgary General Hospital which opened in Bridgeland-Riverside in 1910.

Nurses Home, General Hospital, circa 1911 - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

Nurses of General Hospital, Calgary, Alberta. 1912 - Source : Glenbow Collection, University of Calgary

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  • Name: Junior Red Cross Children’s Hospital
  • Address: 522 18 Ave SW
  • Year of construction: 1913
  • Community: Cliff Bungalow/Mission

Another example of a large Foursquare home, built in 1913, it’s interesting past includes being used as the Junior Red Cross Children’s Hospital. In 1920 the Alberta division of the American Red Cross Society decided that their existing facility that was both an orphan’s home and surgery recovery for children needed to be separated into two facilities. From 1922 until 1929, this home provided for the latter and included a classroom, an operating room, and space for 35-40 patients. This was the first "Junior Red Cross" facility in Canada, the first hospital just for children west of Winnipeg, and the founding institution for the current Alberta Children's Hospital, which opened its present 750,000-square-foot facility in 2006.

After 1929 the house became apartments, which it remains today as a small condominium.

Red Cross Children's Hospital - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

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  • Name: AGT Elbow Park (Peter Rule)
  • Address: 3604 7A St SW
  • Year of construction: 1928
  • Community: Cliff Bungalow/Mission

If you were to walk by this 1928 home in Elbow Park you would be forgiven for thinking it was just another nice home in the community. However behind the scenes is it’s former use, that of the Elbow Park telephone exchange for 42 years until 1970 (being replaced with the VERY obvious new exchange across the street. Once it was no longer needed as an exchange, it reverted to being the home that it looked like all along.

A.G.T. Elbow Park (Peter Rule) - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

Source : Google Maps

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  • Name: Alfred McKay Home, and others
  • Address: 35 Point Drive NW; 214, 210, 140, 134 37 St NW
  • Year of construction: 1905, 1911, 1912
  • Community: Point McKay, Parkdale

Although Calgary’s built form only reached 3-4 kilometers from downtown by the 1920s came about, there were a few exceptions, most notably Ogden, but also some smaller clusters of homes. One example is the McKay “Settlement” which included 6 homes near the northern banks of the Bow river at the bottom of 37th St NW. Alfred McKay built the 1905 sandstone house himself, and eventually 5 other homes were built across the street in 1911 and 1912. It would be about another 40 years before Calgary reached the cluster of homes. Today 5 of the 6 homes remain, the smallest one demolished in 2013 or 2014. The original Alfred McKay home has been restored and is used by the Point McKay condominium community.

Alfred McKay Home, circa 1940s - Source : Glenbow Collection, University of Calgary

Alfred McKay Home, circa 1972 - Source : Glenbow Collection, University of Calgary

Alfred McKay Home, today - Source : Calgary Inventory of historic resources

Others houses of the settlement, today - Source : Google Maps

Others houses of the settlement, today - Source : Google Maps

Aerial view, circa 1924-1926 - Source : Calgary Imagery

Aerial view, circa 1957 - Source : Calgary Imagery

Aerial view, today - Source : Calgary Imagery

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  • Name: Christy Ranch House
  • Address: 13616 30 St NW
  • Year of construction: 1898
  • Community: Sage Hill

Another example of a heritage home where you might not expect it is the Christy Ranch House, built 14 kms north of Calgary in 1898. The house was built for James Christie, who died while the house was still under construction. Shortly after it was built it was purchased by rancher Colin Beaton and it remained with the family until 1968.

Christy Ranch House, today - Source : Calgary Inventory of historic resources

Christy Ranch House, circa 1924-1926 - Source : Calgary Imagery

Christy Ranch House, 2020 - Source : Calgary Imagery

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  • Name: Jackson Ranch house
  • Address: 1431 28 St SW
  • Year of construction: 1906
  • Community: Shaganappi

Another example of a historical ranch house that has remained once an expanding Calgary reached its door is the Jackson Ranch house. This 1906 Queen Anne revival home was built when brother’s Charles and Thomas Jackson expanded their ranch to 17th Avenue SW. Although apparently built in 1906, a steel beam in the basement is dated 1894, perhaps another mystery to unmask!

Jackson Ranch house, today - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

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  • Name: McPherson House
  • Address: 7011 Sierra Morena Blvd SW
  • Year of construction: 1910
  • Community: Signal Hill

Another ranch house far from historical Calgary. This handsome brick home was the property of rancher Joseph McPherson in 1910 and remained outside of the city until the land was annexed in 1956. Although technically within the city boundaries, housing developments did not actually reach it until around 1995.

McPherson House, today - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

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  • Name: Mahood farm house
  • Address: 11 Springborough Blvd SW
  • Year of construction: 1929
  • Community: Springbank Hill

The Mahood farm house was predated by the Poplar Grove Ranch house which was built in 1896 and a long barn which was built 1927 both of which have since been demolished. The house however remains in the community of Springbank hill. The farm was purchased by the Mahood family in 1919 and as late as 1999 was still being operated as a farm.

Mahood farm house, today - Source : Calgary inventory of historic resources

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  • Name: Blum Residence
  • Address: 128 Shannon Rd SW
  • Year of construction: 1963
  • Community: Shawnessy

Perhaps more similar to a lair from a 1960s James Bond film than what might be traditionally thought of as heritage, this very interestingly designed Expressionist style home was built  far from the bustling city of Calgary. It was designed by the owner, Gerhard Blum who was an architect born in Germany and trained at the University of Manitoba. Built in 1963, the city caught up decades later and the property was subdivided into lots and surrounded by new homes in the early 2000s. This amazing home survived and has been hidden in the suburbs since then, until being identified and evaluated in the past few years, and generously designated and protected by the family in 2018.

Blum Residence, 2017 - Source Calgary inventory of historic resources

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  • Name: Western Hospital
  • Address: 302 14 Ave SW
  • Year of construction: 1906
  • Community: Beltline

This Queen Anne Revival style, featuring CHI’s president’s favorite architectural element, a turret! Seems not much more than a fancy home from a long ago era. Although true it hides another former use, that of the second Western Hospital. The home was built in 1906 for a Mrs P Hale, and then owned 1907-1922 by the Henry P Norton family, but in 1923 it became the private Western Hospital. It was owned by two nurses and maintained its hospital function for 29 years. Interestingly the first Western Hospital was just down the street and that home also had a turret. Coincidence?

Western Hospital, 2019

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  • Name: Heimbecker house
  • Address: 277 Fortress Manor SW
  • Year of construction: 1903 / early 1980s
  • Community: Springbank Hill

This large mansion is a wonderful example of turn of the century architecture in the Calgary area. Except it is not, it was actually built in 1903 on Winnipeg's Wellington Crescent. In 1979 Mrs. Heimbecker wasn’t able to find a buyer in Winnipeg a Calgarian answered the call and $2-3 million 1979 dollars later it was on the move to a new home in Springbank. The home was disassembled, moved and reconstructed over a 5 year period.

 

Heimbecker house

A photograph of Heimbecker house being dismantled in the process of moving it to Calgary. House belonged to Philip and Gayadelle Heimbecker. Photograph taken by Jon Thordarson, dated 4 July 1974., Winnipeg Tribune fonds, University of Manitoba Digital Collections

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  • Address: 1404 104 Ave SW
  • Year of construction: 1910
  • Community: Southwood

Another survivor that was once kilometers from the young City of Calgary and then survived the development boom of the 1960s, not much is yet known about this house other than it was built in 1910, and 50 years later it still remains, looking it’s age hidden in the 1960s community of Southwood.

Source : Calgary Public Library - Century Homes Calgary 2012

More than 6km south of Calgary when built

Circa 1924-1926 - Source : Calgary Imagery

Circa 1924-1926 - Zoomed-in - Source : Calgary Imagery

2020 - Source : Calgary Imagery

  • Name: Ashelwood Private Hospital
  • Address: 1710 & 1712 13 Avenue SW
  • Year of construction: 1953
  • Community: Sunalta

The second private hospital on our list, this pair of homes were built in 1911 in the community of Sunalta, but about 40 years later in 1952 1712 13 Avenue SW was repurposed as the Ashelwood Private Hospital with 1710 joining it the next year. For the next 11 years the hospital appears to have been run as a care home for seniors. By 1964 the hospital closed and the homes reverted back to single family homes once again, as they remain to this day.

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