The City of Calgary celebrates the completion of the Historic City Hall heritage rehabilitation
After undergoing an extensive heritage rehabilitation between 2016-2020, Calgary’s 109-year-old Historic City Hall has been restored to stand for another century.
Today, a ceremony was held to celebrate the successful completion of the restoration and to ceremonially declare the building open for the next 100 years.
Approved by Council in 2015, the $34.1 million project kicked off in 2016 with site stabilization work. By spring 2017, the building was fully under wraps for three years to protect the sandstone and exposed building elements year-round while work was underway.
“The comprehensive scope of work we’ve completed will provide improved safety, prolong the building’s life and preserve its extraordinary heritage value,” indicates Darrel Bell, acting director of Facility Management.
It’s also significant to note that although a pandemic emerged while the project was underway, delays were largely mitigated, and the project team met their target occupancy-ready date of September 2020.
Historic City Hall is a National, Provincial and Municipal Heritage Resource and its restoration has been one of the most substantial heritage projects underway in Canada since 2016.
In addition to preserving the building’s heritage value, the project provided an important boost to Calgary’s construction industry.
“The rehabilitation of Historic City Hall created 233 full-time jobs over the last four years,” Bell indicated. “The work it’s provided for professions such as stonemasons, carpenters, electricians, construction managers and many others has been significant.”
The location on which Historic City Hall stands has been the continued seat of democracy in Calgary since 1885, when the original wooden Town Hall was built on the same spot. At the time the ‘new’ City Hall opened in 1911, it indicated Calgary’s arrival as a significant city in Western Canada. The population at the time was 43,000 and would grow by about 20,000 in the next ten years.
Historic City Hall originally housed police, a court, and a jail – 15 jail cells for men and three for women. While that has changed, the building still functions in more or less the same way it did over a century ago – a fact that is exceedingly rare for a building of this age.
It remains the home of Calgary’s civic government and an important meeting place for public gatherings from demonstrations to protests. Its noteworthy events over the past century have included royal visits including King George VI, the Queen Mother, and (then) Princess Elizabeth; the raising of the Olympic flag in 1984, and a massive peace celebration in 1918 at the end of World War I.
At the time of this 1918 Armistice celebration, Calgary was in the grips of the Spanish Flu pandemic which had entered Calgary a little more than a month before with soldiers returning home from the front. Citizens were under provincial public health orders to wear masks when outside their homes, and photographs of the event at Historic City Hall depict Calgarians wearing masks, just as we do today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Armistice photos show some citizens weren’t wearing their masks; authorities relaxed the typical $1.00 fine for the celebration. They also relaxed the liquor prohibition so people could raise a toast at City Hall.
Historic City Hall took four years to construct (1907 – 1911) and four years (2016 – 2020) to rehabilitate it for a new generation. The City of Calgary is proud to give the building back to the city in an upgraded condition intended to last for another century.
For more information on the rehabilitation process of Historic City Hall visit calgary.ca/ Historic City Hall:
We’re ‘unwrapping’ Historic City Hall
Stonemasons carving out a place in history
Historic City Hall time capsule retrieved today
Historic City Hall Ghost Stories