Description of Historic Place
Calgary's City Hall, built between 1907 and 1911, is a four-storey, sandstone-clad building designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. A centrally placed clock tower dominates the structure. The building, located on the eastern edge of downtown, stands adjacent to the modern Municipal Building and comprises part of a complex of municipal administration offices and the seat of government. The property was protected as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978, designated a National Historic Site in 1984, and protected as a Municipal Historic Resource in 1990.
This building, Calgary's second city hall, marks the site of Calgary's original town hall, and has been the seat of municipal government since that time. The original town hall, built in 1885, was demolished in 1911 when this structure was completed. While many offices were transferred to the adjacent Municipal Building upon its completion in 1985, this building has always contained the offices for the mayor and aldermen and continues to house the City Clerk's office. In addition to its location as local government offices, City Hall also served as the headquarters of the city's police department until 1914 with 15 jail cells occupying a portion of the ground floor. Additionally, the building contained the city's court room which was conveniently located on the ground floor adjacent to the police department. Calgary City Hall is an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and is the preeminent example of this style in the province. Faced with sandstone obtained from the Bone and Oliver Quarry, the exterior presents a distinctive rock-faced finish, characteristic of the style. The building is further distinguished by a clock tower forming the frontispiece of the building and symmetrically placed porticos that highlight the three main facades. Ornamental rooftop lanterns are a stylistically unique feature creating an eclectic roofline. Notable interior elements include a highly ornamental cast-iron staircase and sky-lit rotundas. Completed at more than double the originally estimated cost of $142,000, City Hall was built to be fireproof with a steel framework and reinforced concrete forming its internal structure, making it the earliest known example of steel-frame construction in Calgary. The significant cost overrun not only created immense controversy but also stalled construction resulting in the building's unusually lengthy development period of four years.
City Hall was designed by the prominent Calgary architect, William Dodd. Dodd was responsible for the ornate Central School (1905-1969) as well as numerous extant buildings including the Clarence Block (1901), Norman Block (1902), and Alexandra School (1904). Dodd was also responsible for significant commissions in Regina where his work included City Hall (1906), a project which captured the attention of Calgary's civic officials.
Source: City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 01-180
The exterior character-defining elements of City Hall includes such features as its:
- four-storey, symmetrical form with an elevated main floor;
- centrally placed tower forming the frontispiece on the main facade with a four-faced clock (Seth Thomas Clock Co., Thomaston, Connecticut);
- rock-faced, sandstone-clad facades;
- decorative stone elements pertaining to the Richardsonian Romanesque style such as its (window) voussoirs; the semicircular entrance arch that contains a keystone carved with the City's coat-of-arms and containing an erroneous date of city establishment; the associated red, polished granite columns; the corbel table under the cornice; the ornamental carving of the tympanums;
- hipped roof with metal, faux-tile cladding; numerous ornamental lanterns; a central skylight dome; parapeted dormers; a galvanized metal cornice;
- straight-flight of steps at the main entrance with solid sides, and iron light standards with glass globes atop the base of the steps;
- open porticos with open foundations on the north, south and west (front) facades and their extant balconies comprising classical balustrades; the 'CITY HALL' inscription on the south elevation balustrade;
- rectangular and round-headed windows with one-over-one, wooden-sashes and transom lites;
- doorway assemblies of oak construction with bevelled glazing comprising oak, double-doors (glazed) and transom lites; the main entrance doorway assembly of oak construction with glazed, oak, double-doors, sidelites and a transom lite that incorporates a fanlite;
- commemorative elements such as the red, polished granite cornerstone and bronze entranceway tablet commemorating World War I victims.
The interior character-defining elements of City Hall include such features as its:
- centrally planned interior arrangement with bisecting axes (hallways) under a domed and sky-lit rotunda;
- rotunda light wells surrounded by highly detailed, cast-iron railings;
- reverse-flight, cast-iron staircase with a highly detailed balustrade and thick, squared newel posts.