In this report we look at a vintage postcard that shows 1st St SW in Calgary (undated – probably 1910s), and we return to that spot to see how it looks today. Of those buildings seen in the original image only one remains intact, although a second, the church at the end of the street, exists in spirit at least, the original structure being replaced with the newer one we see in our image. All others are long gone.
Located at the west end of the Victoria Park neighbourhood, this street was originally home to mix of retail businesses and apartments buildings. Today, it’s home to trendy businesses and condo towers, plus one vintage apartment building, the one seen on the left in both images.
The first picture is from a postcard supplied by one of our readers (who wishes to remain anonymous) showing the street at some unknown date. Based upon the style of clothing being worn by the people on the left and the model of car seen, placing it in the mid 1910s would be a good guess. We know it’s post 1909 as one building seen plus the trolley line both date from that year.
The postcard has been hand tinted, a process where a black and white image was coloured to make it stand out. This technique was used form the early years of the twentieth century until at least the 1940s. By 1950 (or so) printing technology had advanced enough that it made the production of full colour printed postcards economical and with that, the old hand tinting process died off.
Of the buildings seen in the postcard only one remains in its original form, the one on the extreme left. This is the Findlay Apartments, the last such building from that era on this street that is still used for housing – there are lots of new condo towers nearby but no other old apartment buildings. It was built in 1909, during one of Calgary’s earlier boom periods (of which there have been many).
The building was named for it’s original owner James Findlay. Recently sold, it’s due to be converted to social housing for women fleeing violent relationships. It’s made of brick with a sandstone foundation, a fairly typical construction technique of the time.
This author has seen a photo showing it in the 1970s and it looks much as it does today – in fact it has change little over the century its been around and the only major difference is the front balconies, which at some point were enclosed. Sure the windows differ too but they’re the same size and shape as the originals. The building has recently been declared a heritage structure.
You’ll notice in the postcard that while the trolley tracks are visible, the power wire above is not. These were “shopped” out to help lessen the clutter. Ugly power lines, today as then, could kill a photo. The trolley line was pulled out up in 1950.
None of the other buildings seen in the “then” image remain – save for one (sort of), which we’ll get to in a moment. The building directly up from the Findlay Block is quite a stunning, as is the one behind it. Alas, we know nothing of them – when were they built, when were they torn down, what they housed – nothing! Research, as always, continues, and we always welcome input from our readers.
The place of worship seen in back – St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church (now St Mary’s Cathedral or “The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary”) – is seen in both photos, however the earlier building was replaced. To bad, since it was an gorgeous looking structure built in the late 1880s. The new building was constructed in the mid 1950s on the exact spot as the earlier one.
Lining up the photo was hard – in spite of the small centre island, dodging traffic made it a challenge and I am not completely happy with the results. You win some I guess and lose others…
If I were to turn around and look north up 1st St SW, I’d see lots and lots of classic World War One era buildings and these may be the subject of additional reports in the future. They are home to many trendy shops and pubs.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: December, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.