FORT CALGARY ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE
North Side, 700 Block, 9 Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2G, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Fort Calgary Archaeological Site is located on roughly 12 hectares of land in Calgary's Downtown East Village community, near the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Presently situated upon the site is a reconstruction of the original Fort Calgary.
The heritage value of Fort Calgary Archaeological Site lies in its association with the establishment of the North-West Mounted Police in Alberta and the foundation of the City of Calgary.
In 1874, the North-West Mounted Police made their epic trek westward from Fort Dufferin, Manitoba to Fort Whoop-Up, a hotbed of whisky trading in what is now southern Alberta. They established Fort Macleod shortly after their arrival to disrupt the liquor traffic in the area. Cunning whisky traders were, however, able to elude the Mounties and continue to operate in the region, prompting the force in 1875 to establish another post further north, at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. Fort Calgary, as the post came to be known, became the nucleus of a small settlement during the late 1870s. The Canadian Pacific Railway's decision to reroute their transcontinental line through southern Alberta in the early 1880s led to dramatic growth in the community and the expansion of the police post into a Divisional Headquarters. Throughout this period of early settlement in southern Alberta, the North-West Mounted Police played an essential role in policing the territory, maintaining peaceful relations between Natives and Euro-Canadians, and ensuring a stable environment for the construction of the railway line and the expansion of settlement.
The original Fort Calgary was erected by the I. G. Baker Company of Fort Benton, Montana, one of the few outfits operating in the wilds of the North-West Territories with the capacity and experience to undertake such a task. Spruce and pine logs were cut upstream on the Elbow River and floated down to the site. A trench was dug into which upright poles were placed to form the palisade, which served as the outer wall for several structures, including stables, barracks, a guard room, and storage facilities. To accommodate the larger contingent required for the post after its elevation to Divisional Headquarters in 1882, the palisade was taken down and several of the buildings razed to make way for new constructions. Over the succeeding two decades, many changes were made to the site as new buildings were erected and others torn down to address contemporary needs. None of the buildings or structures from the original, 1875 Fort Calgary remain, though several later additions - including the circa 1876 Hunt House and the 1906 Deane House - are still extant offsite. Several excavations at Fort Calgary Archaeological Site have uncovered the sub-surface remains of the various occupations at the site. Discoveries made at the site include: trenches containing the ruins of upright posts, hearth stains and pits, and a large quantity of artifacts that offer insights into daily life at the fort.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 560)
The character-defining elements of Fort Calgary Archaeological Site include such features as:
- location on a flat at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers;
- sequence and composition of site strata;
- excavated artifacts and sub-surface artifacts associated with the site.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Governing Canada
- Security and Law
Function - Category and Type
- Police Station
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 560)
Cross-Reference to Collection