Mar 272015
Coach Bluff Villas

The unique chalet style A-frame condos seen here are clearly a product of the the late 1970s, they scream it, and were interesting enough to be included in an article published in National Geographic magazine, many years ago; not as the main subject matter mind you, but still seen none the less. We’ve taken that image from that article, which was titled “Calgary: Canada’s Not-So-Wild West” and dates from March 1984, to use in one of our well known then and now reports. We return to the spot where it was all captured back then to see what things look like today.

The location of this series is the southwest community of Coach Hill. The condos are known as Coach Bluff Villas and were built in 1978 at the height of the Alberta oil boom. Calgary, and the rest of the province, was flying high at that time. Those were heady days indeed!

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By the time the magazine article was seen some half dozen years later, the industry was in the doldrums, a state it would not emerge from for many years. The National Geographic story touches on that little “problem” and at the same time seems to lament the loss of Calgary’s backwater cowtown image of old, which by then was being transitioned into something more modern, cosmopolitan and dynamic. The subjects seen in the magazine photo, old fashioned cowboys and modern homes (seen as such even if they’re were from the ’70s), speak of that change, each in stark contrast when compared to the other. (Some might argue Calgary is still a bit too redneck, good-ole-boy or hillbilly-ish in nature, but that’s another story).

When that 1980s photo was shot, that part of Calgary was in the sticks, as they say. It was the very edge of the town and if one were to spin left back then, all that would be seen is open fields stretching off to the mountains. Today, the city’s borders have extended a kilometre or so west. Most housing in Coach Hill dates from 1978-1982.

Besides all the trees which have grown up since the original photo was shot not much has changed from then to now. The buildings themselves seem to be exactly as they were, almost like they are stuck in time. The road sign, the bus shelter, the storm drains, are all pretty much the same too.

Speaking of trees, I’ve notice that Calgary soil seems to agree with them and they’ll grow at incredible rates. I can say that from personal experience, based upon the spruce tree that resides in our own front yard, which has near doubled in height over the last decade.

While Coach Bluff Villas (even the name says the ’70s) might look a little out of style or dated today, they still have a special kind of charm I can’t quite explain. No matter what, they do represent that decade perfectly with their simple geometric designs and dark woo. In the days of polyester, platform shoes and disco (and maybe a few swinger’s parties thrown in for good measure), these would be a desirable address.

There are a total of nineteen condos units withing in this complex, comprised of three groups of five and one of four, each four levels high. From the top floor, which must be quite small given one is very near the apex of the “A” at that point, the views to the mountains in the west, are I understand, good. At least for some units, even with all those new houses having been built up in that direction since.

One Realtor’s website has this to say of the condos: “Stand among these A-shaped homes and evergreen trees to feel immediately that you’re in Canmore or Banff; ‘nice!” I’m sold! It seems they come on the market often based upon all the ads we’ve seen for them. One for sale sign could even be seen when we visited. I guess not everyone likes living in the ’70s. Or maybe the province’s crashing economy could be part of it. Hey, it’s 1984 all over.

This then and now was challenge. We do not have a true fish eye lens as was used in the old photo and so because of this difference in focal length, things could never completely line up as well as we’d like. We got close though.

To the best of our knowledge, the then image is no longer under copyright. Not all the people seen in the old photo are identified. Two are however, Helene and Camile Savard, If they are still out there, we would love to hear from you.

If you have an old photo, one that belongs to you or your family, or is in the public domain that shows an interesting street scene such as this, send it our way and we’ll revisit the spot seen to document how it looks today and then post the results on this website.

Some fun then and now posts…
Fort McLeod then and now – Fort Museum.
Calgary then and now – waiting for the Queen.
Calgary then and now – the Saddledome.

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

Date: March, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article sources: City of Calgary property records.
The places seen in this report are publicly accessible.

National Geographic

Some Calgary condos seen in a 1980s issue of National Geographic magazine.

Coach Bluff Villas

Coach Bluff Villas, aka those ’70s condos, today.


Coach Bluff Villas Calgary

A closer look at these unique structures.


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4 Comments on "Calgary then and now – those 70s condos"

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Paul O'Neil
Paul O'Neil

I still have that edition!

Krista Forbes Embertson
Krista Forbes Embertson

I lived in the Olympic Media complex when I first moved to Calgary. Used to ride our bikes all over up there.