Downtown Commercial Core (1875 -)
Stephen Avenue, Calgary’s heart, stretches from historic City Hall (1911) along 8th Avenue SW and past the Barron Building (1951), Calgary’s first skyscraper that earned the city’s status as the Oil Capital. Now a National Historic Site, the avenue was named after George Stephen, the president of the CPR. Typical of prairie towns, Calgary’s commercial streets developed close to rivers and railways, with the downtown flanked by Bow River to the north and the CPR to the south. When a 1886 fire wiped out the early wooden structures, the City passed a law that all public buildings be made of brick or locally quarried sandstone. Over 100 historic buildings still exist in the core. In 1913, the Hudson’s Bay store opened, establishing Stephen Avenue as the city’s shopping mecca. The Calgary Tower (1968), completion of the pedestrian mall (1972), municipal building (1985), and Olympic Plaza (1988) ushered in a new era of public use.
To learn more:
- City of Calgary. Historical Downtown Walking Tour app. Online Resource.
- Alberta Masonry Council. Stephen Ave. Architecture Tour. Online Resource.
- On This Spot Life in Early Calgary app. Online Resource.
- Government of Alberta and Stephen Avenue Heritage Area Society. 1995. Stephen Avenue and Area Historical Walking Tour. Online Resource.
- City of Calgary. The future of Stephen Avenue: Fresh ideas for Calgary’s most iconic street. Online Resource.
- Parks Canada Directory of Federal Heritage Destinations. Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada. Online Resource.
- Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta. Building Community: An Online Tour of Historic Jewish Calgary. Online Resource.