Re­build­ing old Fort Cal­gary

Makeover re­spects the past, pre­pares for the fu­ture

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD WHITE

ian John Ayre, on the cen­ten­nial of the RCMP’s ar­rival here in 1875, the site was pur­chased by the City for $1.8 mil­lion. The build­ings were re­moved and the con­tam­i­nated site was cleaned up.

Then started the slow process of de­cid­ing what to do with the site. It wasn’t un­til 2000 when Sara-Jane Gruet­zner was hired as the pres­i­dent/ CEO of Fort Cal­gary that a master plan was finalized. Gruet­zner has stayed on get it im­ple­mented.

Though the master plan didn’t call for an ex­act his­tor­i­cal recre­ation of the build­ings on site, it does call for a mix of new build­ings and mon­u­ments that will tell the story of Cal­gary’s birth­place.

Re­cent De­vel­op­ments

Work is be­ing com­pleted on the land on the east side of the El­bow River with the restora­tion of the Deane House, built in1914 for Cap­tain Deane, whose wife wouldn’t live in the fort and de­manded he build her a sep­a­rate house next to the fort.

Also un­der restora­tion is the Hunt House, built some­time be­tween 1876 and 1881. It’s the only orig­i­nal Hud­son Bay post in its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion.

A replica of the orig­i­nal Deane House gar­den is also to be cre­ated, as Deane was good friends with Wil­liam Reader, Cal­gary’s first parks su­per­in­ten­dent, who be­lieved you could gar­den on the prairie. It’s be­lieved the Deane/Reader gar­den is where the Cal­gary Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety was es­tab­lished.

Re­cently com­pleted is the El­bow River Tra­verse ($3 mil­lion), which crosses the El­bow River just be­fore it emp­ties into the Bow. It cre­ates an im­por­tant link in the City’s El­bow and Bow River path­ways, which are only go­ing to get busier with more peo­ple liv­ing in the sur­round­ing area and the new En­max Park just south of 9th Ave. along the El­bow.

Fu­ture work in­cludes a ma­jor glass gallery ad­di­tion to the sec­ond floor of the cur­rent Fort Cal­gary In­ter­pre­tive Cen­tre. The gallery will be de­signed by Cal­gary ar­chi­tect Lorne Roberts, who spe­cial­izes in his­tor­i­cal restora­tions, and DI­A­LOG, a lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural firm work­ing on the new Cen­tral Li­brary. It’ll of­fer a spec­tac­u­lar, 360-de­gree view of down­town, the CP rail yards, Stam­pede Park and the con- flu­ence of the Bow and El­bow rivers.

There are also plans for a carved wood in­ter­pre­tive fea­ture on the site of the old fort by Van­cou­ver artist Jill An­holt.

Ma­jor Event Venue

While most of the year, Fort Cal­gary is per­ceived by many as a sleepy place, it has evolved into a ma­jor con­cert venue. An­nual events in­cluded the two Ro­tar­ian con­certs dur­ing Stam- pede, while Chas­ing Sum­mer and X Fest both at­tract more than 15,000 at­ten­dees.

There are also a num­ber of free events in­clud­ing WinterFest, Fam­ily Day, Her­itage Day, Moun­tie Day (on the May long week­end, cel­e­brat­ing the an­niver­sary of the for­ma­tion of the RCMP in May 23, 1873) and, of course, Canada Day, when 20,000 Cal­gar­i­ans in­vade the fort site for fam­ily fun.

Fort Cal­gary is also where the Cal­gary Stam­pede mar­shals the horses for the Stam­pede Pa­rade. I’m told it’s an amaz­ing spec­ta­cle with 300 horses and floats call­ing Fort Cal­gary home for a night. The pub­lic is in­vited to visit on the Thurs­day night and join in the fun with a free bar­be­cue.

As far as host­ing ma­jor events in our city, Fort Cal­gary is on par with Prince’s Is­land, Olympic Plaza and Shaw Mil­len­nium Park.

Last Word

In the words of CEO/pres­i­dent Gruet­zner: “Fort Cal­gary is an old story with a new be­gin­ning. This is Cal­gary’s hal­lowed ground.”

Richard White/For the Cal­gary Her­ald

To­day, Fort Cal­gary is a popular meet­ing place for cy­clists and walk­ers. Soon, 40,000 peo­ple will live in the area.

Richard White for the Cal­gary Her­ald

The Fort Cal­gary path­way along the Bow River will be­come a busy spot with more peo­ple liv­ing in the area.

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