Feb 062013
 
National Hotel Calgary

Calgary’s National Hotel is being reborn. Forgotten and neglected for too many years it rises like a phoenix from the ashes. A former haven for the downtrodden it will find a new life, being converted to condominiums and retail space. Now over 100 years old it’s nice to see that someone still loves “The Nash”.

Opening in 1908 it was nothing elegant, a working man’s hotel where a one could find clean and safe lodging at a reasonable cost, or as a place where one could enjoy a beer with friends and coworkers. It was typical of the era with single rooms and a common shared bathroom at the end of the hall.

Fast forward a half dozen decades or so and the world has changed. But the National has not. Retaining all its former “charm” the building is an anachronism in the modern world. Outside of perhaps some new paint (even that’s debatable), everything inside was much as it was. Expect for the clientele that is.

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No longer for the working class, it was now home the dregs of society, alcoholics, the forgotten, the mentally ill, the ignored. By then rooms were rented by the month, serving much as apartments, as travellers no longer stopped here. The tavern or “beer parlour” was a seedy place, home to winos, rub-a-dubs and the like, all looking for a cheap buzz. Drinks were served in old ALCB glasses, scratched and stained from years of use.

This author has no precise information on when the hotel was closed, but it’s believed the late 1990s or early 2000s. Sitting empty since, over the years various owners announced grandiose plans to renovate the building, but none actually did it. Until now that is. The current owners came on the scene in 2010 and bring with them the expertise and financing necessary to tackle the daunting project. It’s not a simple matter of repainting everything, instead every last brick, every last post, everything will need a complete rebuilding from the ground up. A huge and expensive project.

The results look good!

Back in the late 70s and early 80s my folks were known to frequent “The Nash”, as it was known to those who patronized it. They loved a good dive bar, and in that respect the National did not disappoint.

The structure has a sandstone foundation which was a pretty common feature of buildings in Calgary from that era. There were numerous quarries along the Bow River escapement west of downtown and many construction companies often used this readily available material. It’s wood framed with brick cladding and while a fairly plain looking structure, it still has its own unique charm.

The National is unique in that it still has its original livery stable attached to it. When constructed autos were a rarity and so visitors would need a place to to feed. water and house the horses they came in on. It’s assumed it served in this capacity for some time, perhaps into the 1920s or beyond.

I believe later it was used to house horsepower of a different kind, being used as a car garage for those visiting the hotel. By the 1970s and perhaps earlier, the building was being used by an auction mart. Later still I believe it was used simply for storage – I recall peaking in a window in the early 1990s and saw lots of dusty furniture and stuff stacked inside. On that visit the building was sagging badly but it seems to have been stabilized now.

The structure is used as a base for the TV show Canadian Pickers. Is anyone else tired of awful “reality” shows like this?

In the past a hotel livery stable was not an uncommon feature, however finding one today is a real treat and this author can think of no other old hotels that still have this feature. Interestingly there is another barn nearby, just a few blocks east. It’s quite large, relatively intact and will be the subject of another report. That makes two old barns within sight of downtown Calgary. What other city of this size can say that?

Seen on the grounds is an interesting fire truck. It’s built on a Dodge truck chassis which dates from the period 1939-1947. It marked for the Crescent Beach Swimming Club (Surrey BC) and must have been a show piece for that organization – given how it looks to be drivable and is in otherwise in fine shape and complete and intact, that makes sense. What it’s doing here, what’s its history and what purpose it serves now is not clear, but Connie and I are researching it as we speak. I have an interesting connection to the area around Crescent Beach. My mother and some aunts and uncles grew up at the Stewart Farm nearby. Now a historical site, it is also known as the Elgin Heritage Park.

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The National Hotel is located in the neighbourhood of Inglewood. Home to many historic buildings, the area is being slowly restored to its former glory and is no longer the depressed place it used to be. It’s now quiet, well kept and serene.

If Calgarians reading this blog would like share there National Hotel stories, we’d love to hear from you. Use contact us link below.

Update: February 2013. We quickly heard back from the Crescent Beach Swimming Club, the prior owners of the truck, and they gave us some history on it. It’s a 1942 and prior to being purchased by them it was stationed in the small town of Honeymoon Bay on Vancouver Island. It’s not clear however if the truck was purchased new by that town’s fire department or if they bought it used, the person who responded did not say (or perhaps did not know). The CBSC purchased the truck at auction in 1990 and put it on display, later selling it to the Canadian Pickers, whose base is the old livery barn shown in this report. Thanks to Heather at the CBSC for her help.

To see an equally interesting old hotel in Fort MacLeod Alberta, follow this link…
The notorious American Hotel.

To see the abandoned Farmer Jones used car lot not far away, go here…
Farmer Jones Carz.

Click the link below see that other barn mentioned, located a few blocks away…
Old barn, big city.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date: January, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.

National Hotel Calgary

The renovated National Hotel (the Nash), long an Inglewood landmark.

National Hotel barn

The hotel’s old livery barn is now used by the TV show “Canadian Pickers”.

National Hotel livery stable

When built it was common for a hotel to have an attached stable.

Dodge fire truck

The old Dodge fire truck is sitting behind the hotel.

Dodge truck chassis

This model dates from 1939-1947.

Calgary National Hotel

The back side – fire engine, livery stable and hotel.

Crescent Beach Swimming Club

This truck formerly belonged to the Crescent Beach Swimming Club of Surrey BC.

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21 Comments on "The Nash aka The National Hotel"

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Calgary Heritage
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Calgary Heritage
Without sugar coating it my great uncle Hank was a wino. He used to drink at all the usual haunts a person of his affliction would hang out at. The King Eddy, The Queens, The Rock (ed. Shamrock), and of course The Nash. The latter seemed to be his favourite and he spent many a night upstairs in one of the dump rooms sleeping off a drunk. Other times he slept in the tank downtown, he really could care less. Rarely did he sleep at home, much to the chagrin of my poor tortured aunt. She used to send my dad and I on missions to track him down and bring him home, something we were rarely successful at. Sadly he died as a result of his excess drinking and seeing places like The National Hotel is a somewhat a bitter sweet experience for me. It’s nice that it’s being… Read more »
Calgary Heritage
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Calgary Heritage

In the 1980s as I recall, there were a series of murders here or more so suspicious deaths.

Jo the Pooh
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Jo the Pooh

If you like old hotels you should take a trip to Winnipeg. The old part of downtown near the rail yards is chock full of them.

ericfromcowtown
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ericfromcowtown

Although not strictly “in sight of downtown, another old barn within the city limits that has been retained is in Shawnessy, just south of Fish Creek.

I was never in the Nash, but I was in some of those other dives in the late 90s, when I first came to town, like the St. Regis. Sad places.

Clara Hg3
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Clara Hg3

There are many old school hotels like this in Lethbridge. You should pay it a visit some time and I am sure you’d find it fascinating.

Jolly Jack
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Jolly Jack
I am a real antique and collectable dealer and have been for decades and that TV show Canadian Pickers is nothing but a joke. It’s an insult to us in the profession. They are idiots who have zero idea what they are doing and they consistently overvalue things by several hundred percent. In the show their “store” is often so busy with customers there is no room to move, yet any time I have been there, the place has been like a ghost town with not a customer in sight. Supposedly valuable and in-demand antiques have been sitting collecting dust for years. They move very little from what I can see. Even on their Ebay auction site they have moved only twenty items in the last two years. Hardly a windfall they make it out be in the show. Without the production company paying the bills they would have been… Read more »
Born and Raised in Cowtown
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Born and Raised in Cowtown
Mainly I just wanted to say thank you for the info about the National Hotel. I recently learned that Chef Michael Noble is opening his newest restaurant there next fall, and I was looking for more information about the building through a Google search (because I, sadly, no longer live in Calgary). Just in case you don’t already know, the restaurant will be named The Nash, and there will also be a bar called Offcut I believe. How neat that the livery is still there! On my next visit to Calgary I must go take a closer look at it, as well as the others that were mentioned. Funny how age and distance make the heart grow even fonder of the hometown I love 🙂 I used to drive past the Crown Surplus store on 11th Street on my way home from work (downtown at another historic Calgary business- Riley… Read more »
Mike High
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Mike High
Hello Was listening to some blues and for the heck of it googled the National Hotel and found your site. When I lived in Calgary I used to enjoy the weekly jams they held there on Saturdays and Wed. nights hosted by Kelly J formerly of the Crowbars, and had the awesome experience of playing with him and Amos Garret..(Also played at the King Eddy too) Yes it was not a 5 star joint and the other side was a kind of dive western music bar, but it was great times for a while. I’d shoot down there after work, and had my regular spot at the bar and when I walked in, Donnie the bartender had a cold mug of beer at my usual seat ready and a game console for the trivia game on satellite that was once popular in bars..(if there were at least 5 players the… Read more »
Henry Nelson
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Henry Nelson

Canadian Pickers has been cancelled and their store at the Nash has a for lease sign on it.

Dugg
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Dugg

Being in my 20s in the 80s, the Nash was the place to be to see up & coming and established non-mainstream bands. I was lucky to see 54-40, BB Gabor, The Dickies, Melvins, Grapes of Wrath and the like… Each time accompanied by a frisson of “what on earth is going to happen this time?”

Nick
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Nick

Another great post. One of my favourite spots in the city.

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