Nov 102014
 
National Hotel Calgary

The subject for this then and now report is the National Hotel, aka the “Nash” in Inglewood, first how it was in the early 1980s and again how it appears today. This venerable old building back then was a dive, but today has been fixed up and will soon be home to offices and trendy retail outlets. Particularity interesting is the attached livery barn, an original structure that harkens back to the day’s when horses were a major form of transportation.

The National was built just over a hundred years ago and is located just east of downtown. Always a working man’s venue, it provided reasonably priced rooms, food and libations. As was typical at the time, accommodations were fairly simple with a bed and little else in each room. Biffies and baths were shared with everyone on the floor.

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Interestingly, since the building was never really renovated over the years it retained this old style arrangement into the 1990s (and possibly until it closed). At that time, this author got to deliver some plumbing material to the building, back when I drove truck, and saw this first hand.

By the 1970s, if not even earlier the hotel was no longer the establishment it once was. It was getting old and was neglected, a rough and gritty place. Instead of catering to travellers as it once did, it was a sort of an long term stay facility, almost apartments of sorts, for winos, bums and the disadvantaged.

The “tavern” as old-school bars were often called (beer parlour was also a common term) was a hang out for my folks back when I was school. There is no point glossing it over: they’d go there, get soused along with all the other rub-a-dubs and booze-hounds and either return home all pissed-up drunk and looking for a fight or just crash upstairs in a cheap room only to repeat the whole thing over the following day. The tavern, the low single story section of the building, was an addition put in place in the 1950s. In later years as with many of these old hotels, the alcohol end of the business was often the most profitable and so a great deal of space was devoted to them.

The Nash closed in the late 1990s or early 2000s (sources are somewhat contradictory) and the building sat empty for many years. Recently it’s been renovated, something that has taken a long time, many years it seems, and soon will be rented out to various businesses.

Thea attached barn, until recently, was used as a base for the TV show Canadian Pickers. Funny, this author went past their “store” countless times, during the day, evenings and on weekends, and never once saw the supposed business open, nor anyone around connected to it about, neither the stars, the production crew or potential clients. It was always devoid of life and dark. On the show however the place was ALWAYS packed. Clearly the barn was just a set and not a true store. When the series was cancelled the Pickers quickly moved out.

In past years, the barn was used by an auction house. Interstitially, the structure is within sight of downtown Calgary and is one of two such buildings in the immediate area. The livery would provide food and shelter for your horse while you stayed at the hotel. I understand it became a covered parking lot for cars after horse use declined.

Let’s see what’s changed since 1982 – the end windows, which presumably were bricked over at some unknown point, are now exposed. The nice old National Hotel sign is gone – too bad. The brick used to construct the building has shed decades of paint, returning to how it looked way back when. Also trim and mouldings, probably covered up over the years, are also back in place. The building looks nice.

Inglewood was initially a working class neighbourhood. Later it lost its shine and for years was a sort of sketchy place, populated by drunks and druggies and those down on their luck. Today it’s trendy (read: expensive) and most of the once old and dilapidated buildings in the area have been renovated to reflect this new status.

The original photo is courtesy of and copyright Harry Palmer and is used with permission. Harry is well known and highly respected in the field has been passionately photographing all manner of things for decades now. We appreciate that he allowed us use of his wonderful photo.

If you have an old picture (your copyright or in the public domain) showing a street scene like this and would like us to visit the location to see what things look like now, and then document it all on this website, by all means contact us.

Our “now” pictures are shot free-hand using a grid formula that helps us line up our image with the old one. Results using this method can be anywhere from pretty good, like what’s seen here, to occasionally amazing. We don’t fix miss-alignments in post (save for minor scaling and keystoning, but no cropping) and what we get is what we get, be it good or less so.

To see an article we did on the hotel last year, follow this link…
The Nash aka the National Hotel.

You might like these posts…
The Seymour and New National have served their last drinks.
Old barn, big city. Another barn not far away.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: September, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.

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National Hotel 1982

The National Hotel in 1982. Photo by Harry Palmer.

National Hotel Calgary

Pretty close to the same view in 2014.

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4 Comments on "Calgary then and now – National Hotel"

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Margie Bremer
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Margie Bremer

As kids we used to go to the auction at the barn while my dad went to the hotel.

Dan O
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Dan O

Pity that “National Hotel” signage doesn’t still exist as a ghost sign. I always did like the barn right in the middle of the city.

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