A then-and-now look at Calgary’s growing skyline

Calgary has come a long way since it was first incorporated as a town way back on November 7th, 1884. At that time, it had a population of only 506 people. Today it’s home to over 1.15 million, and that number is expected to continue to grow by two per cent per year over the next decade.

Residents of the Stampede City have, of course, seen this growth manifested in the city’s ever-evolving skyline, which just last summer welcomed the tallest building in Canada west of Toronto.

Today we’re celebrating the Calgary boom with a pictorial look back at how the city has evolved over the last 100 years or so.

Centre Street Bridge ca. 1943

centre street bridge 1943Photo: Kingsdude/Dave/Flickr


downtown calgary 1949Photo: Calgary Heritage Initiative Society


centre street bridge calgaryPhoto: Calgary Public Library


centre street bridge 2013Photo: davebloggs007/Flickr

Calgary Tower ca. 1968

Calgary tower


Calgary towerPhotos: Calgary Tower


Calgary towerPhoto: imgur


calgary tower 1988Photo: woychukb/Flickr

2012Calgary tower 2012Photo: k.mckeown/Flickr

Saddledome ca. 1981

Saddledome 1981Photo: Canadian Geographic

Late 1980s

calgary saddledomePhoto: Calgary Public Library


saddledome 2012Photo: CplGumby/Flickr

Burns Building ca. 1930s and 1963

Burns Building 1930s 1963Photos: WikimediaCalgary Public Library


burns buildingPhoto: Allied Properties

City Hall ca. 1920s

calgary city hall historicPhoto: City of Calgary/YouTube


calgary city hall 1957Photo: Calgary Public Library


calgary city hall 1990sPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Calgary city hall 2012 historicPhoto: Google Street View

Fairmont Palliser Hotel ca. Unknown

Calgary Palliser Hotel historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Calgary Palliser Hotel historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Palliser Hotel Calgary 2012Photo: Google Street View

Downtown ca. 1970s

Calgary skylinePhoto: Calgary Public Library


Calgary skyline historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Calgary skyline historic 1990Photo: Calgary Public Library


Calgary skyline 2013Photo: waynerd/Flickr

Northwest Calgary ca. 1906

northwest calgary historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Calgary historicPhoto: Kingsdude/Dave/Flickr


Calgary northwestPhoto: CBS Projects/Blue Con Excavating

6th Avenue and 1st SE ca. 1960

calgary historic 8th ave 1st-1Photo: Calgary Public Library


calgary historic 8th ave 1st-2Photo: Calgary Public Library


calgary historic 8th ave 1stPhoto: Google Street View

Centre Street and 3rd Avenue ca. 1965

Calgary chinatown historicPhoto: Mike Martin Wong/Flickr


Calgary chinatown historicPhoto: Google Street View

8th Avenue and 1st Street SW ca. 1950s

Calgary 8th avenue historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


8th avenue calgary historicPhoto: Google Street View

8th Avenue and 4st Street SW ca. 1959

8th avenue 4th street calgary historic-1Photo: Calgary Public Library


8th avenue 4th street calgary historicPhoto: Google Street View

6th Avenue and 4th Street SW ca. 1950s

Knox United Church calgary historicPhoto: Calgary Public Library


Knox United Church calgary historic-1Photo: Google Street View

Downtown ca. 1960

calgary historic photo-1960Photo: SportSuburban/Flickr


Calgary tower view 2010Photo: Dillan K/Flickr

  • Palliser City

    EPIC! Thanks for this!!

  • Debra Anderson

    Fantastic. Reasons to preserve the heritage aspect.

  • Largo_Winch

    The photo titled ” 6th Avenue and 4th Street SW ca. 1950s ” is from the mid 60′s. The convertible in the fore-ground is a very nice 1965 Dodge Monaco. It looks like a ’63 or ’64 Ford behind it. The presence of the air raid siren on top of the fire hall tower circa 1966 is a little disconcerting.

  • Syd Bat

    Just to let you know, Calgary has always had the tallest buildings east of Toronto.

  • Amanda Perigo

    Just so you know, Calgary is West of Toronto. Just sayin.

  • http://capi7.ca/ Syd Bat


  • DizzieBetty

    This is awesome to see! The photos of the Firehall should be notated 6 Avenue and 1 Street SE, not SW. 6 Avenue and 1 Street SW is where the Lougheed Building is located. Another piece of Calgary’s architectural history.

  • Jt Beams

    Those Air Raid sirens were all over town back then. Until I was in about Grade 7, there was a tower with a siren in the field at Wildwood public school and at least twice a year, up to about grade 4, we went through drills of what to do when the siren went off.

  • calgarian101

    Do you ever remember them going off? I remember them once when I was young, but I can’t remember what for. I think it was a bad storm or something coming. I was scared sh*tless!

  • Andreas Zimmermann

    The 3rd picture down, 2013 of Centre Street Bridge…..you may want to check the authenticity of this photo, as there appears to be a farm and new settlement resting on top of where the river should be….looks like an interesting PhotoShop job to me.

  • http://www.buzzbuzzhome.com BuzzBuzzHome

    Good catch! We’ll look into that.

  • Patrick Buick

    It merely looks strange due to the perspective. The photographer appears to be closer to the bridge than the other two shots and appears to be using a longer telephoto lens, compressing the foreground and keeping more in focus. If you look, there is development and what appears to be a farm on the other side in the one picture and what was or became the “bus barns” in the other.

  • Patrick Buick

    I only remember the tests of them when they would turn them on. That isn’t to mean they didn’t go off at other times :)

  • Patrick Buick

    I remember driving by the Robin Hood silos on 9′th avenue… but for the life of me, I can’t remember when they were torn down. They were approximately where Palliser Square is now.

  • Jt Beams

    I do remember them going off. When I was quite young, grade 2 or 3, we would hear the siren and we were supposed to hide under our desks. Like that would have helped. It was a once or twice a year drill that we had to do, that along with the regular fire drills was a great way to maintain fear in children’s lives.
    I remember walking across the field one day and I have a recollection of either one or more planes flying over just as the siren went and I’m pretty sure that I died a little from the fear. It was in my grade 5 or 6 year that they started pulling those down.

  • Canem

    Robin Hood Mills is now Gulf Canada Square

  • Lois Francis-Munro

    Wow that is so so cool to see our city as grew and still grows!!!

  • Auswop

    It was stupid Mayor Sykes that wanted to modernize Calgary so he had a lot of old buildings torn down to make way for the future. A lot of heritage was lost because of him.

  • Jen

    No photoshop there …. the camera was clearly turned more to the left while photographer stood closer to the bridge in a comparison to the first photo. On the right side are the houses just past the bridge but they appear as the “settlement” …. your eyes are playing a trick.

  • Jen

    There is no trick – read above.

  • ihgfedcba

    In the early 70′s we would have bomb drills. Like a fire drill, only we headed single file down to a bunker style room that was used as an indoor recess when the temperatures hit -20°F. I remember a really loud siren like sound. All the sandstone schools must have had the sirens as they were used as military schools. I remember some kids would be crying from fear walking down the stairs.

  • ihgfedcba

    Interesting in what was done to the building on 8th Avenue and 4th Street SW ca1959 with the union jacks.
    I have mixed feelings about the redo. Changed the whole look of the building. Looks good though. The best part is the building has been preserved. That is what is important.

  • westerncanuck

    No the original CPR train station was replaced by Paliser Square. Gulf Canada/ Conoco Phillips is where the Robinhood Floor Mill was.


    Fantastic pic. of Calgary especially Calgary’s first hospital built 1894 pic. is about 3/4 WAY DOWN THE PAGE

  • TheOfficialShane

    Great collection of then vs now! Thanks!

  • Captain

    There was also one in the playground of Dr.Oakley school. I remember the same thing, drills once or twice a year and those things were LOUD!

  • Teco

    I’m an Edmontonian originally (be nice y’all!) And I have to say that Calgary is very pretty! This was awesome to look through all of these pictures! History can certainly tell a story :)

  • Kelly

    No Robin Hood Flour was further west. It was on the site of the current vacant lot on the south side 9th Avenue west of 5th Street.

  • Kelly

    No Robin Hood Flour was west of 5th Street over to 8th Street. There is nothing there now but there are plans on the books for a 4 tower development. Think it was torn down in the late 70s or so.

  • cdn2112

    Love the photos, and got got a good chuckle about the comments about the old air raid sirens; great memories. Brentwood Elementary School represent LOL. From a native Calgarian living here in San Jose CA.

  • Kizmetgirl

    I’m a third generation Calgarian and I remember so much of this and watching our history being torn down and replaced with characterless glass towers. It’s really rather sad but exciting too to see the growth.

  • Jade Lawrence

    That was my Calgary, how I miss it. We need to start a face book site, “I Remember Calgary When”, they have one for Surrey and is a great success. I used to love walking down 8th Ave as a kid and cruising up and down 9th Ave in my friends 56 Chevy on a Friday night, good times.

  • Oggie

    Much of the concrete, etc. from the demolished Robinhood Flour mill was dumped in Lowery Gardens. How times have changed.

  • Sirmaxx

    Canem.. You are right. The photo titled the 1940′s clearly shows the Mills between 3rd st and 4 St SW. The Wales Hotel was on 2 St SW between 8 Av and 7 Ave.

  • Speedwobble

    No it was on 9th ave between 3rd and 4th street. Here is a link to what I mean..

  • My name is not Yuri

    Nope. You’re wrong. It was formally at the Gulf building.

  • MichaelDorosh

    The “growth” was a weird race to get to 1 million population so Mayor Bronconnier could squeeze people for more property tax. We were just fine at about 750,000 people. It was a perfect size. We hit a million, and all the other problems seemed to hit about them – gang violence, drugs, infrastructure. These problems all existed before, but they seemed much smaller. Now we race to 2 million – for what? The city probably peaked in many ways at the time of the 1988 Olympics, certainly in terms of reputation and as far as optimum size.

  • http://www.buzzbuzzhome.com BuzzBuzzHome

    In a previous comment we erroneously attributed the photo being discussed to The City of Calgary Archives. It is, in fact, from the Calgary Public Library and is correctly attributed in the credit within the article.

    Apologies for the error!

  • Bill Thederahn

    Jan 2014 How the city has changed in 67 years and what great photos of the memories I have of the city. High school, sports, great friends
    It seemed like a big place when we moved to the city in 1947, and now as i visit, it has become huge.We are regular visitors to this great city and enjoy still visiting old school chums and family Thank you for shraing the memories

  • Frank Shreenan

    Frank Shreenan
    Robin Hood Flour Mills was on the south side of 9th Ave and east of 4th St. S.W – the current site of Gulf Canada Square.
    I know because I worked on it. It was demolished in 1973 by the Demolition Division of Johnston Terminals (Vancouver)
    The demolition was held up for a few days in order for the Department of National Defense to take down the Air Raid sirens from the top of the building. These sirens were to warn of a nuclear attack and there was a substantial and well equipped Fallout Shelter in the lower part of the building to which people were directed from the sidewalk in the event of an attack. This was stocked with furniture, blankets and supplies.
    Because of all the concrete and rebar this was probably one of the most secure buildings in the city. It not only had to protect against the bombing but also the nuclear fallout of the deadly alpha, beta and gamma rays.

  • kal

    Thanks to everyone, for the contributions of the history. I always feel sad though, to see the changes. Too much congestion and traffic now, for me. Keep the comments, and pictures coming. Where can more be posted?

  • Bloggins

    Yeah….the photographer of the third picture was standing slightly west of where the others were taken and he used a wide angle lens. Much wider field of view for the third picture and the only way to get a wide picture from the same distance is to use a wide angle lens. That one was quite wide.

  • Bloggins

    This is a great idea. Have you heard of one being set up? The photos that people have hidden away could be jewels to other people. I’d sure like to see pictures of the Bridgeland area.

  • Robb Lucy

    After reading “11 Steps to Survival”, probably ’62… we’d time ourselves RUNNING home from Holy Angels school. If we weren’t home in SEVEN minutes… it meant we would probably be incinerated by Khrushchev and his holy band of bad commies. IF we go home in time, it was straight to the basement where we’d be safe in an all-out nuclear war. And, sadly, there were adults who believed this BS. What were we kids to do…? Robb Lucy, Vancouver.

  • Maureen Boncey

    When we arrived in Calgary in 1954 there were 167,000 people living there!!

  • Maureen Boncey

    I have a postcard of dowtown Calgary taken from Scotchmans hill dated around 1955! It was a wonderful place then.

  • lorna

    Robin Hood Mill was torn down in about 1971-72 We got lumber from there to build a garage

  • Celia

    We moved to Calgary from Ontario in 1968. The population then was just over 350,000. It’s interesting to look at these pictures. It saddens me though to see so many buildings taken down. 3 in particular that were part of my life; the implosion of the Calgary General Hospital (1st nursing job), the leveling of the Westgate Hotel (wedding reception) and the recent demolition of Ernest Manning High School (my school) to make way for the west leg of the LRT. I guess they call that progress? Thank goodness for our memories. I enjoyed reading the stories about the air raid sirens. I remember those in Ontario but not in Calgary.

  • Jim Anderson

    The building nearest the camera in the cdm280 link was also part of the mill but it was west of 4th st. It used to have a conveyor over 4th st. one interesting part of thr 1940 photo of downtown looking north is Edmonton trail winding out past an, as of the time unbuilt Continental Can Company plant on its way to the airport and McCall Field going to Hwy 2 north

  • JimAnderson

    And who could forget Stampede week on 7th and 8th avenues, especially the Sunday night before the Monday parade. A bunch of us put 2 girls in a VW beetle on top of a phone booth outside the Wales Hotel. The police were not impressed.

  • Jim Anderson

    Most firehalls had air raid sirens. You have to remember—- The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. Hell they still might be.

  • Jim Anderson

    Sorry Kelly, you are mistaken. The silos were east of 4th st. Theose of you who will remember, there was a devastating fire in a steak house (not Hys’) in the shadow of the silos on 3rd st between 8th and 9th west side of the st. Kelly, look at the TE Eatons store which occupied the whole block fron 7-8 and 2-4 just 2 blocks from Robin Hood

  • Jim Anderson

    If we are looking at the same photo, the one with the “farm” was titled unknown and was probably a late 40s early 50s photo. No Calgary Tower and if memory serves me, the smoke stack where the Tower should be was from a line supply company boiler on 10th ave.

  • Jim Anderson

    Fantastic job, BuzzBuzz. Really interesting to see some of the old pics as they are part of the history of my “home” town. I now live in Victoria as I left the Big C in 1968 but with the exception of the Flames, it is still home. Cheers

  • http://www.buzzbuzzhome.com BuzzBuzzHome

    Thanks for the kind words. We’re hoping to put together more Calgary retrospectives soon.

  • Dancing Gal

    Mayor Sykes had the foresight, if it wasn’t him it would have been the next mayor1

  • Joe

    The restaurant was called the Beachcomber!

    These shots are sensational. My next door neighbour’s father was the one who used to stand outside around The Bay building and snap a photo. If you wanted it you would come back a week later and pick up the print! He just died a couple of years ago.

  • Ron Wood

    Love seeing these old photos. When I was at CKXL I started the Save the Burns Building Campaign and the response was fantastic, mostly from native born Calgarians but a lot of people who weren’t who agreed that we were losing way too much of our history to development. The response was so strong city council and the mayor at the time had to take notice and in the following election Ralph Klein was elected mayor and it was believed at the time it was support from Calgarians who were born here and/or who’d lived here for long enough to consider themselves Calgarians.

  • Larz

    Surely there is a way to progress without destruction. But on another note…does anybody else miss the coloured lights on top of the Calgary Tower?

  • Judith Dutton

    Robin Hood sat on 9th Avenue on the corner of 4th Street and was demolished so Gulf Canada Square could be built on the site..

  • davebloggs007

    Love looking at the old photos very nice collection.

  • jreif

    My Calgary,how I miss you, remembering my days growing with you, an amazing city