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Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada

8th Avenue, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2002/07/18

Building façades on Stephen Avenue; Historic Resources Management Branch, Alberta Culture and Status of Women
Building façades on Stephen Avenue
Building façades on Stephen Avenue; Historic Resources Management Branch, Alberta Culture and Status of Women
Building façades on Stephen Avenue
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Other Name(s)

Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada
Stephen Avenue
Stephen Avenue
Stephen Avenue Mall
Stephen Avenue Mall
Old Stephen Avenue
Old Stephen Avenue

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1880/01/01 to 1930/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/23

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada is a historic district in downtown Calgary, also known as Old Stephen Avenue. It consist of nearly three dozen commercial buildings from the 1880-1930 era (known as the Sandstone Era), mostly retail properties, with several former banks and one church.

Heritage Value

Stephen Avenue was designated a national historic site in 2002. It is recognized because:
- it tells of the processes of prairie urban development including orientation towards the railway, a gridiron plan, and spatial specialization;
- it tells of the rising importance of the retail sector of the Canadian economy; and
- it tells of the central role that such retail streets have played, and continue to play, in the Canadian urban experience.

The heritage value of Stephen Avenue resides in its distinctive character as a late-nineteenth-century retail streetscape in a growing prairie urban centre.

Source: Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada, Minutes, November 2001.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:

- a collection of buildings of compact, rectangular massing, and of modest height (from two to six storeys),
- the predominantly linear character of the district, as a function of a 'main' street within an urban grid,
- the complete use of lots with buildings abutting each other, façades flush to the sidewalk, and rear alleys,
- the predominantly masonry construction, largely stone with some brick and stone combinations, and one wooden structure,
- the diversity of design in the façades reflecting the evolution of architectural styles in commercial building from the late 19th century to the 1930s,
- the visual coherence of the street, created by façades set flush to the sidewalk, by the horizontal definition of the façades through the use of stone or brick string courses between each storey and the presence of ornately detailed cornices,
- the regular pattern of large windows - either flat or round-headed - defining the street façade of each building,
- the variety of architectural detail of the principal façades, including in the commercial shop fronts at street level, the door and window surrounds, original window sashes, cornice detail and historic signage,
- the dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company store with terra cotta cladding, greater height and volume.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1880/01/01 to 1930/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Trade and Commerce
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type


Commerce / Commercial Services
Office or Office Building


Commerce / Commercial Services
Shop or Wholesale Establishment

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Indigenous Affairs and Cultural Heritage Directorate Documentation Centre 3rd Floor, room 366 30 Victoria Street Gatineau, Québec J8X 0B3

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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Front (south) elevation


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