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506 - 4 Street SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2P, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1980/07/04

Knox United Church Provincial Historic Resource, Calgary (March 2006); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, 2006
South and west elevations
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Other Name(s)


Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1912/01/01 to 1913/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2006/03/30

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

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 development and high-rise towers. A two and one-half storey wing to the north completes the complex. Featuring a prominent corner courtyard, stained glass windows and a soaring square-plan bell tower, the church has been called 'the cathedral of the west.'

Heritage Value

The heritage value of Knox United Church (formerly Knox Presbyterian Church), lies chiefly in its role as the home of the oldest Protestant congregation in Calgary, dating to 1883. The building is also significant as an example of the Gothic Revival style of Canadian church architecture.

Knox United Church dates back 1883 (one year prior Calgary's incorporation as a town), when Reverend Angus Robertson arrived to minister to the fledgling Presbyterian community in Calgary. Such notable pioneers as Colonel James Walker of the North West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.) and Dr. Andrew Henderson, one of the city's first physicians, were founding members. Later, members such as Alexander Calhoun, Calgary's first librarian, contributed to the calibre of the Knox community. A first wooden church was built that year and served the community until 1886, when a much larger church was constructed - the first large stone building in Calgary. The 'third' Knox Church took the form of a significant addition to the previous building, completed in 1905. During this time, major charitable efforts also were initiated under the church's auspices. Several daughter churches, including a Chinese community, were sponsored. The growth and vitality of the congregation - at the time the largest in the city - necessitated a new facility, and in 1913, this church was completed. Knox Church has served not only as a place for religious worship, but also as an important social centre for Calgarians of all walks of life.

A model Gothic Revival church built in the English Perpendicular style, Knox has been referred to as 'the cathedral of the west,' and was for many years the tallest building in Calgary. Grand in scale and finely crafted inside and out, the building retains its landmark status as a striking church building amidst the urban environment surrounding it.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Heritage Resource Management (File: Des. 485)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of Knox United Church include such features of the Gothic Revival style as:
- main facade featuring bell tower with crenellated parapet, piers, arched entrance, spandrels surrounding the main entrance, and copper roof;
- large Perpendicular windows, smaller lancet windows;
- slightly rounded, shallow and gently ranked treatment of the buttressing;
- intricate stone window tracery.

Other character defining elements include:
- World War One memorial window in the central bay, as well as extensive stained glass throughout, including thirty- seven memorial;
- use of local Paskapoo sandstone;
- furnishings such as the baptismal font and the oak communion table;
- Cassavant pipe organ with 4,355 pipes;
- oak flooring;
- linoleum flooring in corridor area;
- plan and finishes in adjacent meeting rooms on the main and basement floors.




Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Religious Institutions
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type



Religion, Ritual and Funeral
Religious Facility or Place of Worship

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

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. 485)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




Related Places

Front (north) elevation


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…


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