Each and every day it’s within view of tens of thousands of passing motorists but I bet a lot of them pay it no mind. There, along side road set back a bit from the #1A, but easily seen from it, and a mere stone’s thrown from Calgary’s City Limits stands a flat-roofed almost house looking structure. That mint-chocolate paint job! It never was a dwelling but instead operated as a restaurant, stopping house, night club and banquet facility.
This is a the little known Nagway Inn (alternately Nag-Way or Nagway Drive Inn) along the old Calgary to Cochrane Highway. In business long ago and sitting empty for decades, it’s on land that’s for sale and no doubt on closing will have a date with the wrecking ball. The structure is in bad shape and as we’re told is not salvageable in any way.
The Nagway Inn was established around 1950 and for a few years back then operated under a different name (what that was, though, is not said). At that time the road here, the old Morley Trail, was the main highway. If wanted to head west or came in from that direction, you passed right by the place. It was the only eating stop between the big city of Calgary and its now bedroom community of Cochrane and so had a sort of monopoly. For almost all its history, the building and land have been owned by the same family.
Looking at old ads and such, the place seemed to do a good business. The Sunday buffet was quite popular. On slower days you could rent the facility for wedding parties or company events. It also once hosted a local fraternal organization and was their “clubhouse”. Come evening you could let your hair down. It was a fun and exciting place on a Saturday Night, something more than a few former patron have told us.
In the 1960s the current Trans-Canada Highway was built some distance to the south, a much faster four lane route. This of course siphoned off traffic which hurt business. Still the Nagway continued on for some time and it was not till the mid-1980s before it closed. We understand it’s been empty ever since. The building is suffering from some structural problems – look at how in places it’s settled – that wavy roof.
The property it sits on, and several neighbouring plots, collectively the “Nagway Lands”, are for sale. And they have been for several years. There’s several houses included in the deal along with the old Nagway Inn. Once thing is for certain – one day they’ll find a buyer – it’s sure to happen – and the land here is guaranteed to be “redeveloped”. Meaning all current buildings go bye-bye. That will be the final chapter in the Nagway story, yet to be written but most surely coming. The current land owners have an emotional attachment to the building, understandable, but accept that it’s beyond saving.
The land here is mixed-zoned and can be used for either or both commercial or residential use, so is highly desirable. It’s been suggested by some realtors spoken with that price is the only reason it’s not been snapped up yet. Maybe it’s too high.
The interior of the building was said to be quite rustic in nature, bearskins and animal heads and outdoorsy type things adorning its walls. There’s was a larger fireplace in one corner. Cozy is a word used a lot. Might seem a bit dated today, but back then, this type of motif rocked.
In the early days the Nagway Inn was some distance from Calgary, which back then was much smaller. It’s sure grown a lot since and today it’s just a short hop, skip and jump away. The city is going through a growth spurt and is consonantly extending its borders, so who knows, they may already be knocking at the door. Calgary is a burgeoning metropolis more than anything needs land. Urban sprawl baby!
Most Calgarians are too young or new to the city to have remembered the Nagway and as such it’s not well known. Even you author was in the dark about till recently. Still, ex-patrons that we tracked down seemed to speak of it fondly and lamented the loss of what was a favourite hang-out. We heard many happy stories.
The highway past here may have lost its through status once the Trans-Canada was built. With the growth of Cochrane, however, and the general area, it’s busier today than it’s ever been. It’s four lanes now but was two for much of its history.
We’ll be watching this property. One day, the sale will happen and soon after, we suspect the old Nagway will be gone, destined to be another connection to the past swept away. By all accounts that’s what will happen. And nothing can be done to stop it. So let’s take it in, say a toast, and know the next time we drive past, it might be gone.
If you’re one of the people out there with a Nagway Inn memory to share, please do so below the photos. There must be some of you who remember, yeah?
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2017.
Location: Calgary, AB (well almost).
Article references (and thanks): Calgary Herald archives, Nagway.com, Old Calgary Phone Books, former patrons Chris H, Joseph R and Millie A.
The Nagway Inn is on private property. BIGDoer.com shot from the public road.