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2140 Pumphouse Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta, T3C, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1996/03/18

Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) (2008).; The City of Calgary, 2008
Front (south) elevation
Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) (2008).; The City of Calgary, 2008
Interior view showing a pump
Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) (2008).; The City of Calgary, 2008
Front (south) elevation and context

Other Name(s)

Pumping Station No. 2
Pumphouse Theatre

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)


Listed on the Canadian Register: 2008/03/28

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Built in 1913, the Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) is an industrial, Vernacular style, red-brick building. It is located on the south bank of the Bow River west of downtown Calgary in the city's Sunalta neighbourhood. The hipped-roof building is situated amidst a park-like landscape and approached by an allee of mature and historic poplars. Since 1977 the building has functioned as the Pumphouse Theatre. The property was protected as a Provincial Registered Historic Resource in 1975 and declared a Canadian Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association in 1980. It was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 1996.

Heritage Value

From 1913 to 1967, Pumphouse No. 2 was an integral component in Calgary's water supply and distribution system. From 1913 to 1933 the pumphouse was the main intake and pumping station to serve the city. During this period it supplemented the city's inadequate, gravity-fed, water distribution system with a steady, pressurized supply of water. Originally, the structure contained an electrically operated set of pumps, a system of screens (with screen washing apparatus), chemical tanks and a sterilizing plant.
Establishment of the pumphouse contributed an additional daily supply of 68,191,350 litres (15,000,000 gallons) of screened and chlorinated water to the city's distribution network, nearly tripling the system's previous capacity. The increased capacity was delivered by two, single-stage centrifugal pumps housed within the pumphouse, each pumping 34,095,675 litres (7,500,000 gallons) per day, and each driven by a 450-horsepower electric motor. Water was drawn into the pumphouse from the river by a reinforced concrete flume, 183 metres (200 yards) in length, and ultimately pumped into a new trunk main which ran along 10th Avenue to the eastern part of Calgary, dispersing water throughout the city.
The increased capacity delivered by Pumphouse No. 2 mitigated the strain placed on Calgary's water system by the unprecedented growth that the city experienced from 1910-13, and ensured that a sufficient amount of water and pressure would be available for fire fighting purposes. Establishment of Pumphouse No. 2 and the increased supply and pressure which it delivered, also allowed for the unimpeded development of buildings above the six-storey height limit which had been imposed for fire fighting reasons. When required for fire fighting purposes, the pumphouse could deliver 45,460,900 litres (10,000,000 gallons) of water per day at substantially increased pressure with the pumps designed to run 'in series'.
After the Glenmore Dam and reservoir and Water Treatment Plant became functional in 1933, and the gravity-fed water system was replaced, Pumphouse No. 2 became a booster station supplying water to the Bankview area and to a new 2,273,045-litre (500,000 gallon) tank near King George School in the North Hill area of north-west Calgary. Pumphouse No. 2 served in this capacity until 1967 when it was retired after 54 years in service.
Pumphouse No. 2 is architecturally significant for its functional, industrial Vernacular design which displays a plain but attractive character. It is built of pressed brick that comprise load-bearing walls. Regularly spaced piers expressed on the exterior provide a symmetrical and ordered appearance. The pier's more important functional purpose was to support a steel traveller (track) encircled the building's interior, capable of moving 9.1tonnes (10 tons) of equipment when repairs were required. The load bearing walls also support a timber-truss roof which spans the entire floor area without interrupting the space for additional support. Surmounting the roof is a ventilator which allowed the immense amount of heat generated by the pumps to freely leave the building. Notably, the pumphouse retains, in place, one of the two large original pumps, and a section of the water intake line which contains the fluctuating water of the Bow River.
The pumphouse property retains much of its historic contextual integrity comprising landscaped grounds which constitute a park-like setting. Amidst this setting the pumphouse is located on high ground, well above flood level, framed by a broad lawn and connected to the street by an allee of mature and historic poplars. The trees, which continue along Ninth Avenue, were likely planted under the direction of William Reader, the prominent Superintendent of Parks for the City and may constitute part of his vision for Calgary as a city with beautiful tree-lined streets.
Source: City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 06-100

Character-Defining Elements

The exterior character-defining elements of the Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) include such features as its:
- one-storey, rectangular form, five bays in width (symmetrical primary facade) and four bays in depth and with a small, square flat roofed rear extension;
- dual and parallel hipped roofs clad in cedar shingles with a ridge-line ventilator surmounting the roofline of the southern-most roof;
- red, pressed-brick exterior and load-bearing construction with regularly expressed piers creating panelled bays, a panelled parapet, and brickwork detailing; comprising denticulated cornices and splayed window and doorway lintels;
- regular fenestration pattern with rectangular openings and double-width front and side doorways, configured for transom lights.

The interior character-defining elements of the Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) include such features as its:
- open space character of room above the pump;
- open, king-post, timber-truss roof;
- remnant portions of the overhead steel equipment-moving track (traveller) and its interior steel supports;
- basement pump (Mathers and Platt / Canada Foundry Co. Ltd.) and the remaining intake line (containing fluctuating river water) and outgoing line;
- opening in the floor above the pump for heat escape.

The contextual character-defining elements of the Bow River Pumphouse No. 2 (Pumphouse Theatre) include such features as its:
- placement on the south bank of the Bow River amidst a park-like setting of broad lawns and plantings;
- entrance approach consisting of an allee of mature and historic poplar trees which continue along Ninth Avenue.




Recognition Authority

Local Governments (AB)

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Municipal Historic Resource

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type


Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub


Water or Sewage Facility

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

City of Calgary Heritage Planning File 06-100

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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