Stephen Avenue is a beautifully preserved, “superb illustration” of the bustling commercial streets that were characteristic of the Prairie building boom in the 1880s-1930s. The ubiquity of sandstone as a building material along the avenue helped Calgary earn its nickname of “Sandstone City”. This block was (and still is) seen as the heart of downtown, and features a diversity of architectural styles, each exemplars of their respective eras of architecture. Learn more about the fascinating history of Stephen Avenue in this Heritage Calgary blog post and this Globe and Mail article.
8th Avenue Buildings
CLARENCE BLOCK (1901)
Clarence Block was constructed for and managed by Sir (Senator) James A. Lougheed, a major national political figure and grandfather of Peter Lougheed. It was the home of his law practice until 1927, which he shared with his law partner R. B. Bennett (who later became the Prime Minister of Canada from 1930-1935).
Clarence Block was constructed with local sandstone, helping Calgary earn its reputation as “the Sandstone City”. It is a beautiful illustration of the Italianate architectural style. Like Norman Block, Lougheed named it after one of his sons.
Learn more about Clarence Block on the Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources.
MOLSON’S BANK (1911)
The Molson’s Bank was a part of Calgary’s original banking and financial core. It first housed the Molson’s Bank (1912-1925), before becoming the Alberta headquarters for the Bank of Toronto. It later became the Toronto-Dominion Bank’s primary Calgary branch (1955-1967), but was sold in 1993. It was purchased again in 1997, and the interior was modified for an Irish pub.
The Molson’s Bank is a beautiful illustration of the Beaux-Arts architectural style, featuring four Ionic columns and finely-carved details, such as the lions heads along the cornice. It has provincial historical designation, but this does not protect it from development.
TRIBUNE BLOCK (1892)
The Tribune Block was a key part of Calgary’s journalism history. The site for the Tribune Block was originally purchased by Thomas Braden, a newsman who established the Calgary Herald (1883) and the Calgary Tribune (1885). Once constructed, the Tribune Block housed printing presses and administration for the paper. In 1902, William Davidson became the owner of the paper, renaming it to the Morning Albertan. After 1907, the Tribune Block was instead home to Charles’ Traunsweiser’s popular Hub Cigar and Billiard Hall (1907-1919). During this time, nationally acclaimed photographer Harry Pollard rented space in the building.
The Tribune Block was is an excellent example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style, featuring a distinct ‘checkerwork’ exterior finish for the sandstone rock-face. It was constructed with local materials, such as Paskapoo sandstone from J. G. McCallum’s Elbow River Quarry, and brick from the Calgary Brickyard.
HUDSON’S BLOCK (1891)
The Hudson’s Bay Company Department Store (1891) brought the concept of the department store to Calgary, and was the principal retail hub in the city until 1911. It initially housed the Hudson’s Bay Company (as well as a Woolworth’s store from 1914- 1931). It was also home to the main Calgary branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, a demonstration of Stephen Avenue’s role as a hub of banking and commercial activity in Calgary.
Like other buildings in the block, the Hudson’s Block was built in the Romanesque Revival architectural style: note the distinct distinct ‘checkerwork’ exterior finish for the sandstone rock-face and rounded-arch windows with voussoirs.
Detail on distinctive windows and checkerwork pattern
NORMAN BLOCK (1904)
Norman Block was also constructed for (Senator) James A. Lougheed, a major national political figure and grandfather of Peter Lougheed. Like Clarence Block, Lougheed named it after one of his sons. It was also home to one of Calgary’s earliest theatres, the Lyric Theatre.
Norman Block is representative of the Edwardian Commercial style, featuring a rooftop balustrade, scroll pediments, and festoon-decorated frieze.
Detail on festooned frieze and ornamentation
CALGARY HARDWARE (1891)
Calgary Hardware was home to a branch of James H. Ashdown’s prominent hardware business, Ashdown’s Hardware. Along with many neighbouring businesses, this helped establish Stephen Avenue as a prominent retail district within Calgary.
Like Tribune Block and Hudson’s Block (1891), Calgary Hardware is excellent illustration of the Romanesque Revival architectural style, with its ‘checkerwork’ sandstone and rounded-arch windows with voussoirs. It was constructed with local materials, such as Paskapoo sandstone from J. G. McCallum’s Elbow River Quarry.
7th Avenue Buildings
7th Avenue features a rare grouping of low-scale, early Twentieth Century buildings in the core of downtown. Other than the Stephen Avenue buildings, this is only streetscape of its kind remaining in downtown, and one of the few in the city. It was an important hub of retail activity, but unlike the adjacent higher-profile shops on Stephen Avenue, it served as a destination for what people needed in everyday life.
CALGARY STOCK EXCHANGE (1915)
The Calgary Stock Exchange, first born when oil was discovered near Turner Valley, played a crucial role in Calgary’s oil trade, providing a centre for brokers, oil company representatives, and investors to conduct business. It endeavoured to protect the public when purchasing shares, who often were the victim of a volatile market and greedy companies. However, the Turner Valley oil boom that the Calgary Stock Exchange arose out of was fleeting, and the building later housed the New Calgary Market, a produce and meat market.
Learn more about the Calgary Stock Exchange on the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources
DELAMERE BLOCK (1912)
Delamere Block was built for prominent local physician, businessman, and politician James Delamere Lafferty. Lafferty helped establish the Calgary General Hospital (1890), served as the government-appointed physician to Indigenous reservations near Calgary, established a branch of a private bank in Calgary before any federal financial institution did, and served one term as mayor (1890-1891). Delamere Block is notable for its symmetrical design, which was designed to support two different storefronts.
Learn more about Delamere Block on the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources
SELF-SERVING GROCERY (1921)
The Self-Serving Grocery, along with the other buildings on 7th Avenue, was part of what was originally a vibrant commercial centre in Calgary’s downtown. This streetscape, while vacant, is still remarkably intact.
After housing the Self-Serving Grocery, the building was occupied by the Pacific Fish & Meat Market, the Deal Fish Company, and Low Jong fruits (1920’s-1930’s), Teddy’s Pork Pies and Pioneer Empire Shoe Rebuilders (1940’s), the Sherwin -Williams paint company (1950’s), P. Lawson Travel (1960’s), the Isis Camera & Hi-Fi Shop (1970’s), and Central Shoe Repair (1980’s-1990’s), and the Alberta Second Hand Store.
Learn more about the Self Serving Grocery on the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources
CALGARY PLUMBING & HEATING/TYNDALE MEMORIAL BIBLE HOUSE (1926)
The Tyndale Memorial Bible House was home to a number of businesses, including the Calgary Plumbing and Heating Company (1908-1912), Styles Produce (1913-1915), Star Sign Works (1915-1920), and the Western Produce Co. (c. 1922-1925). The lot for the building was originally purchased by the Canadian Bible Society in 1920, who named the building after William Tyndale, original translator of the New Testament into English. The cornerstone for the building was laid by former Calgary mayor Thomas Underwood.
The building is notable for its Gothic Revival architectural style, with a large Gothic arch, stone carvings, and central pediment.
Learn more on the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources
ARMY AND NAVY STORE (THE PALOMINO) (1928)
With its two storefronts, this building originally housed the Army and Navy Store, an army surplus store, and the Bee Hive Store, which sold knitting supplies. Before the store was built, the lot, along with many others on 7th Avenue, were owned by the Roman Catholic missionary order Oblates of Mary Immaculate. A number of churches were built on 7th Avenue, causing the Calgary Daily Herald to remark in 1912 that the stretch could easily be called Church Avenue. However, the Oblates chose not to build a church on the 7th Ave lots, which resulted in William H. Wilson later purchasing the lot to build the Army and Navy Store. The streamlined design of the building reflects the shift away from the ornamentation associated with the Edwardian era.
Learn more on the City of Calgary Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources