Apr 212017
Sidewalk Date Stamp Calgary

Here’s a crazy notion…let’s go back in time. Nothing out of an HG Wells novel, and there’s no magic machine to send us into yesteryear, instead let’s do this…pick the far end of a major walkable thoroughfare, in this case Centre Street, hike it in its entirety from the newest section of town it touches on, into the heart to downtown, the oldest, where it ends. Photographing what ever we see as interesting along the way, we’ll also record any sidewalk date stamps to show our progression backwards in history.

The far north end of Centre Street (officially Centre Street North – there is a small section of Centre South) ends unceremoniously at a side street just south of busy Beddington Trail. Here, it’s a quiet boulevard for a few blocks, but for most of its length is much more busy. Park at Bergen Crescent in the Beddington Heights Neighbourhood.

Centre Street: Back in Time – an urban trek starting in the 1990s and ending the century before. A Chris and Connie Adventure!

Hit Centre Street and head south, never leaving it until you hit your destination, the Calgary Tower in the core. Navigation is a no-brainer. Date stamps, commonly put on sidewalks here in Cow Town, tell us this first section is from the 1990s. These reflect when the community was built.

Doddle along passing strips malls and endless rows of houses. The street here is two lanes each way and divided. Later it narrows, sometimes the second lane being used for parking. Outside one sweeping S curve fairly early on in the walk, it’s arrow straight and perfectly aligned north/south. Time is a blur and date stamps showing the 1980s and 1970s are seen in quick succession.

Scroll down for photos and to comment

Welcome to Huntington Hill and the 1960s. Houses here, more so in the younger north end, have a very “Brady” feel about them. A corner drug store is passed. Remember those? Their sign tells us it’s a good place to drop off rolls of film for processing. A pay phone out front is another anachronism.

Entering Thorncliffe, the 1950s are reached. Someone has a beef with the city – an old panel van parked nearby and in plain sight of traffic, is a rolling billboard in protest of some land usage issues in the area. What will be made clear shortly. Read on.

Come to the community of Highland Park dating from the late 1940s and early 1950s. There’s a golf course here, disused for the few years (see: Fore! No More). This green space is used as an informal park of sorts by residents and is potentiality slated for redevelopment (meaning housing). Locals are opposed to that. The van seen earlier…it”s theirs. Makes sense now. More 1950s era sidewalk date stamps are seen. Calgary was going through a boom then.

Closed for a few years now, Family Groceteria is passed. There was a time when there were a lot of these mom and pop corner stores. The 7-11s and Macs (and Winks) that replaced them seem sorta soulless in comparison.

We’re now in Tuxedo Park and Balmoral, communities dating from the 1910s and 1920s. We’re flying through time now! From here on no more date stamps are seen, the last was some blocks north and was from 1940-something. As we’ve travel south and back in time, the street becomes more retail oriented and few houses are seen. Truck spotting moment! A sleek International Lonestar. We now return you to the story. Looking down a side street, take in impressive Balmoral School. Many old schools like it in town are made similarly of Sandstone.

Come to 16th Avenue, one of the biggest thoroughfares seen. Do your best Frogger impersonation crossing it. Watch for bad drivers! Don’s Hobby Shop, a long time Calgary Institution, was a regular stopping place for this author when a teenager. It was downtown then. No more date stamps are seen (sidewalks having been replaced over time) but we’re still travelling back in time.

Centre Street is made up of more retail, shops, stores, and businesses. Not many old buildings are seen, most long since torn down and replaced by newer structures. One stand out that is relatively old, is the Tigerstedt Block, from the 1930s. The property is due to be redeveloped (cough, cough, gentrified!). They plan on keeping the old neon sign though! What saints.

Cross and enter Rotary Park (paralleling Centre in the narrow draw here is best avoided). Take in the impressive Calgary Skyline before dropping down to the century old Centre Street Bridge over the Bow River. It’s fine structure, massive, made of concrete and guarded on each end by a pair of lions.

Come to Chinatown. Some of the oldest buildings seen on this trek are passed here, including bits of some dating back to the late ninetieth century. Lots of restaurants here from many Asian Cultures…and we’re getting hungry!

The old clock tower at the James Short Parade is interesting. It was saved when the early 1900s era school once located here (Central School) was demolished. Just to the east is the Bow Building “Head”. It’s a hugely popular subject for photographers. There was one inside, snapping away, as we passed.

Just a few blocks to go. Background left, see the St Regis, or sometimes the “Regis”, one of the last dive hotels in the city, before it closed some years back. The folks…how do we say this…were winos and frequented the “beer parlour” there back in the 1970s. Plans are to do something with it. Eventually. The building is from the 1910s. We’re in old downtown.

Next up is the “Mechanical Horse” made from all manner of scrap metal. It fits with the town’s cowboy vibe. Look waaaay up, it’s the Calgary Tower behind it. This 1960s built structure was once one of the tallest buildings in town but today gets lost in the clutter. Most skyscrapers in the core are higher than it. Still, it’s the city’s most iconic building. Stand at the base and take it in.

You’re now about smack dab in the oldest section of Calgary, even if the buildings around don’t reflect that. Here, say in the 1880s, was a few buildings, the CPR tracks and little else. Just over ten clicks from the starting point, you’ve gone from the 1990s to the 1880s. All by simply put feet to pavement.

We’d love it if you SHARED this post.

A walk back to the starting point would make for a particularly long strenuous day. Fortunately a bus follows Centre Street from end to end making things easy – we saw a lot of these pass as we walked.

Later the same day….

Withing sight of downtown, we find an old transit bus that’s been stripped down. This GMC “Fishbowl” (made from the 1960s-1980s) appears to be ex-Calgary Transit. We don’t know anything about it and soon it’d be gone. We like old buses, and rarely miss the chance to capture one and it makes a nice byline to this adventure (and it’s our website to do with as we please…so there). Maybe you rode this bus in the old days. Certain I did.

More inner-city walks…
Interesting Inglewood.
Urban Trek – Ogden Shops Loop.
Calgary Pathways – Bow River and Nose Creek Loop.

If you wish more information about this trail, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: November, 2016.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Distance: 10.5km one way.
Height gain maximum: 10m plus an 80m-ish (loss)
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.
Technical bits and notes: It’s a city hike – all the usual concerns.

Centre Street Calgary

Starting out, this sticker-covered scooter. Poop.

Old Bike Calgary

Bikes on fences, always a great photo subject.

Sidewalk Date Stamp

In almost no time, we’re in 1980.

Calgary Sidewalk Date Stamp

And now, the 1970s…

Kodak Colorwatch

After we drop off a couple rolls for processing, we’ll phone home.

Sidewalk Date Stamp Calgary

Already it’s 1962.

Pedal Powered Car

How could one NOT look cool in this pedal powered car?

Confederation Creek Calgary

Someone’s got a bone to pick with the city.

Centre and Centre Calgary

Centre and Centre.

Highland Golf Course

The disused Highland Golf Course.

Highland Golf Calgary

The place has been closed for a number of years now.

Forty First Street Calgary

Arriving at Forty First Avenue in 1954.

Clothesline Pole

Our house has a clothesline pole too.

Winks Store Calgary

Winks is a chain of semi-independent corner stores.

Calgary Construction Sign

Road construction, a constant in this here city.

Funeral Home Centre Street

Bonesy says hi!

Family Grocery Calgary

Family Groceteria is no more.

Date Stamp in Sidewalk

Welcome to 1953.

International Lonestar

An International “Lonestar”.

Centre Street North

The date stamps said we’re in the 1940s now.

Blamoral School

Down a side street, Balmoral School.

Don's Hobby Shop

Don’s Hobby Shop, a long time Calgary Institution.

Tigerstedt Block Calgary

At the Tigerstedt Block.

Walking Centre St Calgary

The final stretch into downtown…

Rotary Park Calgary

Into Rotary Park.

Calgary Skyline

Calgary’s impressive core skyline.

Centre Street Bridge

One of the lions on the Centre Street Bridge.

Downtown Calgary Bow River

The mighty Bow.

Calgary Chinatown

Passing through Chinatown.

Central School Cupola

On display at the James Short Parkade.

Bow Building Head

The Bow Building “Head”.

St Regis Hotel Calgary

The “Regis”, one of the last dive hotels in the city before it closed.

Calgary Tower

The end of our journey -Calgary Tower and the Mechanical Horse.

And later this same day…

GMC Fishbowl Bus

A gutted “fishblowl” transit bus.

GMC Fishblowl Transit Bus

We returned in a few weeks and it was gone.


Join the discussion...

10 Comments on "Centre Street: Back in Time"

newest oldest
Subscribe only
Alan Zakrison
Alan Zakrison

Great idea for a hike, Chris and Connie! Although the first concrete sidewalk in Calgary was poured in 1902, the oldest ones spotted so far are in the Beltline and are dated 1907. The contractor’s name for this stamp was Batchelor, Marshall and Skarin. Bob Marshall later became Calgary mayor, and later MLA, before moving to Edmonton with Crown Paving.

Connie Biggart
Connie Biggart

I love our little walks where we can stretch our legs and see the sights.

Frank McCracken
Frank McCracken

(via Facebook)
We lived off Centre in Tuxedo park for some years. I liked it a lot, lots of history and walking distance to everywhere.


Love it, so many familiar places. I hope the awesome Orange Crush sign off the Family Groceteria went to a good home!! The Tigerstedt sign is a fave of mine too.

BW Bandy
BW Bandy

Neat post!