Dec 202013
Calgary AB Cenotaph

For this “then and now” post, a two-parter, we visit Central Memorial Park to look at Calgary’s Cenotaph, the Boer War Statue and Memorial Park Library in behind. The originals that we’ll try to duplicate are from a couple old postcards provided to us by a reader of this blog (thanks Frank) and we do our best to duplicate the shots seen. Since little has changed in the decades that have passed, our job was actually quite easy.

Located just south of downtown across the tracks, the park dates from the the late 1880s (it was known as Central Park then). Originally a tree farm, according to old records anyway, it was slowly developed in the coming decades. By the 1910s, it was laid out with pathways and flower beds, with a large band stand at one end. The library dates from 1912, the Boer Memorial from two years later, and finally the Cenotaph is from the late 1920s.

The first shot, undated but likely taken not long after the its construction, we see the cenotaph along with a pair benches that flank its north and south sides. For our “now” shot we do our best to duplicate the angle, but a tree crowds us out a bit. None the less, the results are pretty good and the monument lines up well, both stone benches are seen and even the light pole in back is included in both. Not bad.

Don’t forget to LIKE or SHARE this post.

Funded by donations, the memorial was dedicated on Remembrance Day, November 11th, 1928. This was exactly ten years to the day after World War One ended. The monument covers all successive wars and conflicts as well in which Calgarian’s fought: World War Two, Korea, UN Peacekeeping missions, and finally most recently, Afghanistan. It got a facelift of sorts a few years back was rededicated at that time.

Originally known as Central Park, the name was changed to Memorial Park (sometimes called Central Memorial Park) at the same time the cenotaph was dedicated. The band stand mentioned earlier, by the way, was torn down to make way for this monument.

The unveiling of the memorial was a great occasion, attended by thousands of Calgarians. Each year, on that same date November 11th, that event in repeated with crowds of people coming to pay their respects to those who died in service of their country.

In the second then and now, we see an earlier memorial, dedicated to those who served in the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. This statue of a mounted soldier was dedicated in 1914 in remembrance of those who served in that conflict. It faces the Memorial Park Library, which was constructed a
couple years earlier.

In our shot, we’re able to line things up well. Amazingly little has changed in the years since the “then” picture was shot (date unknown but likely the 1920s) and this made our job quite easy. The only major difference is the background which is now home to apartment towers and the like, including one under construction. That building made for a horrible background, almost swallowing up the memorial in front. The grey gloomy day didn’t help matters either. Everything is so colourless and dull.

The picturesque library seen here dates from 1912 and at times (1960s and 70s) also housed materials belonging to the Glenbow Museum. This building is constructed of sandstone, a common material used in Calgary the 1900-1915 era. This was the first public library in Alberta and was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and it was and is sometimes referred to as the “Carnegie Library” as a result. Not only providing the money to build this example, he did the same for well over a hundred such libraries in Canada, plus thousands more in the US, the UK and elsewhere.

Both the postcards seen are hand tinted, which is a black and white image that is “painted” to appear as though shot in colour. This was common in the era before colour printing became practical. This author has seen a second version of the cenotaph postcard, but lacking the hand tinting. Sometimes they made two versions – one in cheaper b&w and the other more costly colour.

The park and the buildings located there are of great historical interest and I hope to return when things are, well, less gloomy. I want to capture more of what was seen in this report, but in greater detail and from other angles. They beg to be explored further.

If you like these then and now shots, why not check out these posts as well…
Calgary then and now – Louise Block and Bell Block.
Superman 1978 cemetery scenes – then and now.
Then and now overlooking Wayne Alberta.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

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

Calgary Cenotaph

The Calgary Cenotaph as seen in postcard from the late 1920s.

Calgary AB Cenotaph

The same view today.


Memorial Park Library

The Boer War Monument and Memorial Park Library.

Calgary Memorial Park Library

The park itself has changed little since the original picture was taken.


Join the discussion...

2 Comments on "Calgary then and now – Cenotaph and Memorial Park Library"

newest oldest
Subscribe only

How much has changed! How much is the same!