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506 - 4 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1999/05/17

Knox United Church (2005)
; The City of Calgary, 2005
Front (north) elevation
Knox United Church (2007)
; The City of Calgary, 2008
View towards the rear of the sanctuary
Knox United Church (2007)
; The City of Calgary, 2007
View from the south-west

Other Name(s)

Knox Presbyterian Church
Knox Presbyterian (United) Church

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1912/01/01 to 1913/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/03/28

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Knox United Church, built 1912-13, is a prominent Gothic Revival style church located in the centre of downtown Calgary. The church features a cruciform plan with seating for 1200, a side tower and an administrative wing. Distinctively finished sandstone cladding characterizes the exterior of the church. The church also comprises a Modernist style rear extension that was built 1959-60. The property was protected as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1980 and as a Municipal Historic Resource in 1999.

Heritage Value

Knox United Church, built 1912-13 is the fourth home of the oldest Protestant congregation in Calgary. The congregation first met June 17, 1883 and was officially organized as Knox Presbyterian Church on November 21, 1883. The establishment of Knox also represented the second field mission to be occupied by the Presbyterian Church in the District of Alberta.

Knox United Church is closely associated with many of Calgary's prominent and well-known pioneers as their place of worship. Contributing significantly to the founding and development of Knox Church was member Col. James Walker, an original Northwest Mounted Police officer, and later one of the city's most significant businessmen and civic leaders. Chosen in 1975 as Calgary's "Citizen of the Century," Walker funded the construction of the original church in 1883 and remained an active member of the church until his death in 1936. Other well-known early members of the church included I. K. Kerr, president of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Co.; Dr. Andrew Henderson, Calgary's first civilian physician; T. J. S. Skinner a real estate developer; and R. J. Hutchings, of the major Calgary business, Great West Saddlery.

Knox United Church is also significant for its architecture, being one of Calgary's largest historic churches and the city's most impressive example of Gothic Revival style design. Inspired by the Perpendicular Gothic architecture of Britain in the 14th-16th centuries, Knox features a cruciform plan with side tower and is characterized by the building's straight lines and the vertical emphasis of its massing and detailing. Exterior elements contributing to its Perpendicular-inspired character include its long wall buttresses and its large pointed-arch windows that contain panel tracery of carved stone. Its lofty tower placed it among the tallest structures in the city for many years. The church exterior is clad with local sandstone obtained from the Bane and Leblanc Quarry that operated in the Shaganappi area of the city. A particularly unique feature of the church is the finish of the exterior, which comprises irregularly coursed stone with hammer-dressed pitting.

The interior of Knox United Church contains seating for 1200 worshipers, which combined with the architectural merit of the structure, earned Knox the title, 'Cathedral of the West.' Notable features of the interior include its steel truss roof cased in wood to resemble heavy-timber construction, its oak paneling and detailing, and the Arts and Crafts style clay tile floor of the narthex. Knox also houses a 5018-pipe, 92-stop, Casavant-Freres organ, which was installed in 1913. The organ was the largest and most versatile organ west of Toronto, despite being somewhat smaller originally. Today, it is second in size only to that of the one in Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall. Thirty-four stained glass windows installed 1921- 60, including the large WWI memorial window, dedicated in 1921, contribute to the magnificence of the structure. The window was manufactured at the Pittsburgh Glass Co. of Minneapolis, which was renowned for its ecclesiastical work. The window comprises 9,982 individual pieces of European, antique-type glass.

The church was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Allen and Collens, which was one of the preeminent American firms working in the Gothic Revival style during the 1910s and 1920s. It was the favoured firm of John D. Rockefeller who retained them to design several famous New York structures under his patronage, including the Park Avenue Baptist Church (1920), the monumental Riverside Church (1926-30) and The Cloisters (1934-38). The firm had earlier designed New York's landmark Union Theological Seminary (1906-10), Harvard's Andover Hall (1910-11), as well as many buildings at Vassar College. The Calgary architectural firm of Lawson and Fordyce was the supervising firm of the project.

Source: City of Calgary, Heritage Planning File 01-168

Character-Defining Elements

The exterior character-defining elements of the Knox United Church include such features as its:
- straight-line, vertical massing and cruciform plan with side tower, narthex (foyer), and two-storey, side-elevation extension;
- sandstone finish comprising irregularly coursed and sized stone units, smoothly dressed and tooled with pitting;
- Gothic Revival features such as wall buttresses; parapeted gables; lancet windows and pointed arch openings and windows with stone mullions and panel tracery; label mouldings; panel tracery; carved doorway spandrels;
- battened oak doors with wrought-iron strap hinges and hardware and leaded glazing;
- wooden-sash, leaded windows on the side elevation extension.




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (AB)

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1959/01/01 to 0001/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer

Allen and Collens


Fyshe, McNeill, Martin, Trainer

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 01-168

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places

South and west elevations


Knox United Church is a large sandstone, Late Gothic Revival style church building located on five city lots in the heart of downtown Calgary. The church is surrounded by urban…


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