It’s time for another trademark BIGDoer “then and now” report (we hope we aren’t overdoing them) and for this one we look at the First Baptist Church on the corner of 4th St and 13th Ave SW in Calgary. The first image is from 1914, early in the building’s history and we return to the very spot the original photo was taken from to see what it looks like today.
Located in the Beltline District of Calgary this impressive church was constructed over several years and was dedicated in the spring of 1912. The original owner of the land was none rote than future Prime Minister of Canada, RB Bennett (in office from 1930-35).
This church was the third built by this congregation. The first two were located elsewhere in the downtown area and were soon outgrown as the membership increased.
There have been some additions to the building over the years and for the most part they complement the original church design, even if they are fairly simple in comparison to it. These include a youth wing, recreation hall and a large education building.
In the main chapel there is seating for some 1300-1500 people (depending on the report) and as I understand it, that makes it one of the largest Baptist Churches in Canada in terms of capacity.
The church is constructed of brick and locally sourced sandstone. It was common to see these two building materials used in Calgary construction in the 1910s. The two, IMO, work well together and make for a very handsome building. The contrast between the grey and red is quite pleasing.
Not seen in our picture is a Manse (Parish or Clergy House), a home for the resident pastor located right beside the church and somewhat set back from the road. This building is now offices. There is a large parking lot in behind the complex as well.
The First Baptist Church of Calgary was constructed in a Neo-Gothic (or Gothic Revival) style, a design philosophy characterized by often very elaborate decorations and accents, pointed or rounded arch windows and doorways and castellated towers or spires. Buildings of this type were rarely spartan or plain although the level of overall complexity could range from simple to incredibly ornate and complicated, to everything in between. This type of design was fairly common in the era, especially so with churches. There are several other houses of worship in Calgary, across many denominations, built in this Neo-Gothic style.
Looking at both images, one can see the building has changed very little since it was photographed a century ago. It’s as impressive today as it was then.
The postcard has a cancelled stamp from 1914 still affixed to it and it was sent from Bassano Alberta to a recipient in the small town of Blencoe Iowa. The card was produced by Valentine & Sons and was printed in Great Britain (now the UK).
There are a number of things of interest in the old postcard. The horse and buggy seen remind us that when that photo was captured this form of transportation was still quite common. At the time one could expect to see as many horse drawn vehicles as they did autos. However, it was not long before the car took over and within only a few years, it would be rare to see a horse on the streets of Calgary.
The house seen on the left in the old picture is simply amazing in my opinion, impressive in both style and presence. Clearly, someone of means lived there. No information could be uncovered on who they might have been, nor could anything be found in respects to when the building was constructed or subsequently torn down. In other words I came up empty researching it. I’m still digging though and updates to this report are possible. Today, a nondescript office and retail building is located on the same spot. This ugly edifice was built in 1972 but it’s not known if the house seen lasted until that time.
Other old pictures from the 1910s show a good number of impressive homes in the area. It was high-class neighbourhood. Today, there are a few houses left in the area but most residents live in apartment buildings or condos. There are many offices and retail spaces and restaurants in the immediate area, especially on 4th St, seen in front of the church.
The postcard is hand tinted, a process where a black and white image is coloured using stencils and a thin wash of paint. At the time it was published, full colour photography was neither practical nor inexpensive for this industry and so many postcards ended up being “colourized” using this process. Tinting was used from the early part of the twentieth century into the 1930s and 1940s and perhaps in limited use even beyond that.
The original image used in this report was sent to us by a reader of this blog (thanks Carol from the Calgary Library). If you have an old postcard or photo showing a street scene and would like us to visit that spot to see what things look like today, by all means send it to us. Photos must yours or be in the public domain, and can either be scans or paper originals (which can be returned). There is contact information below.
Kitty-corner to the church is a park of historic interest, which we did a report on…
Calgary then and now – Cenotaph and Memorial Park Library.
To see more Calgary then and now reports, go here…
Calgary then and now – the Saddledome.
Calgary then and now – trolley buses and Devenish Apartments.
Superman 3 then and now – bar scenes (filmed in Calgary).
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.