April is an important month for religious observance with the occurrence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan.

Calgary’s historic communities of the pre–World War 1 building boom were built around modest wood frame and grand sandstone or brick churches of various Christian denominations (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox). The first Jewish synagogue was established in 1911. Suburbia exploded with Alberta’s mid-century oil boom and places of faith continued to figure prominently in urban design. In 1960, an old Anglican Church in Forest Lawn was converted to Calgary’s first Masjid (mosque). These structures serve the spiritual, cultural and social needs of the community.

Many faith-based organizations are experiencing dwindling attendance and on-line worship may continue post-covid. The National Trust for Canada estimates that of some 27,000 places of faith in Canada, 30% will disappear within 10 years. What will this mean for the loss of Calgary’s heritage buildings, community character and sense of place? How can these buildings be repurposed and sustained to continue to fulfill vital community needs?

Fewer than 60 religious structures have been documented on Heritage Calgary’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources. Of these, only 10 are protected (designated) by the City and/or the Province and some have already been demolished. Designation offers grants to help with building conservation.

Here are some examples of how Calgary’s places of faith are being preserved and repurposed:

Knox United Church (1912, Gothic Revival) a Provincial and Municipal Designated Historic Resource -506 4 ST SW

Knox Presbyterian ca. 1914 (Glenbow)

Knox United Church (CHI Feb 2022)

Retail and proposed childcare at Hillhurst Baptist Church (1907) – 1110 Gladstone Rd NW

Hillhurst Baptist Church, ca 1930s (Glenbow)

Hillhurst Baptist Church CHI Feb 2022

House of Israel Jewish Synagogue (1930, Art Moderne) converted to residential condominiums in the 1990s – 102 18 AV SE

Located at 102 – 18th Avenue SE in the Mission district. Postcard view.

House of Israel Condos (CHI Feb 2022)

Calgary Opera Centre at Wesley United Church (1911, Renaissance Revival) – 1315 7 ST SW

Wesley Methodist Church ca. 1913 (Glenbow)

Calgary Opera Centre (CHI Jan 2020)

Alberta Ballet at St. Mary’s Parish Hall (1905, Edwardian Classical) – 141 18 AV SW

St Mary’s Parish Hall Alberta Ballet (Olivia B. CHI 2019)

Temple B’nai Tikvah in the former Riverview United Church (1957, Modern) – 900 47 AV SW

Former Riverview United, undated

Temple B’nai Tikvah interior (undated)