Welcome to the Calgary Fellowship Group
In 1875 a foot weary troop of North West Mounted Policemen topped the valley rim and saw what they were looking for: two clean rivers, forests of spruce and Douglas Fir on the shady north face, poplars tracking the river's edge. It was the ideal place to build a fort, and though they had no reason to look that far ahead, it was the ideal place to build a city too.
First called simply "The Elbow" or "Bow River Fort" then briefly "Brisebois" by Inspector A.E.Brisebois. This was not acceptable to Brisebois' superior officers and Colonel James McLeod came up with the alternate title "Calgary" after his home in the Scottish Highlands.
The fort happened at Calgary because of whisky and the Indian tribes abused by its trade, but Calgary formed around quite different purposes. The rich grassy foothills to the west, fescue grasses in the rolling land to the northeast, the vast grass prairie to the east and southeast. The robe trade had removed the free roaming buffalo from the grasslands, so the Canadian government decided to use grass and cattle as a first stage in the process of colonization and opened the territory to ranching.
The railway came in 1883 and pioneer ranchers poured in from across Canada and beyond. In 1884, with a population of 4,000, Calgary was officially proclaimed a city. Its first boom was on.
Calgary started out looking like most western towns: a series of wood frame houses, usually two story, with the occasional wooden church steeples and a city hall clock tower. The town was destined for a change, that change came in the form of the great fire of 1886.
Fire fighters did their best, but a large portion of town burned down in spite of them. The results were, those about to build considered materials more fire proof than wood. The answer was found sticking from the banks of the Bow in several nearby locations, sandstone.
The cool, yellow stone was not only practical, it was attractive and for more than twenty years, local quarries couldn't quarry fast enough to keep up with the demand. Calgary was suddenly a city with an image, "The Sandstone City" an image separate from other cities and arguable superior. Building in sandstone became more than mere fashion, each school, bank or private mansion built from it was a contribution to identity, an act of local patriotism.
By 1912, it had a reliable supply of natural gas, it had a street railway, it had a vaudeville house and a 1500 seat, first class theatre, the Sherman Grand.
At the peak of the surge in 1912, with 47,000 people living in Calgary, something happened that was destined to out last the Sandstone.
A cowboy promoter by the name of Guy Weadick talked four of the most powerful men from the Calgary area into financially backing an experiment called the Calgary Stampede. "The Big Four", Pat Burns, Archie McLean, George Lane and A.E. Cross, planted the seeds of what was to grow into the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.
Although one in every three citizens turned out for that stampede, it still lost money. Weadick did not return to try again until 1919. Since then, the Calgary Show has never looked back. In 1923, it was merged with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. For 10 days each July, Calgarians put away their business suits, grab their white Stetsons and join one million visitors for a noisy celebration of the Old West.
After 1913, the boom in Calgary real estate faltered and the sandstone was exhausted. The cost of adding to the city's sandstone image eclipsed the desire to do so.
Just when it seemed that Calgary might have to content itself with a less than dynamic future, oil made its presence known in 1914 with the Dingman well in nearby Turner Valley. This was to be one of the shortest booms ever, lasting from May to August 1914, coming to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of World War I.
The First World War hit Calgary hard thousands of young men left to join the war effort, hundreds would not return.
In 1924 the roar of high-pressure oil and gas erupting from a drill stem, Royalite drilled below the Dingman well and struck it rich. Through '25 and '26, well after well was sunk and the flares from the successes were so brilliant that it was nearly daylight at midnight in Calgary, twenty miles away. In Calgary, life took up where it had left of in 1914. This boom would not begin to sputter until 1927.
The Depression of the 30's hit Calgary hard, those with savings weathered the 30's best, but thanks to a penchant for speculation, Calgarians had investments instead
The Depression ended in 1939 with the start of World War II, the strong demand for oil drained the Turner Valley oilfield south of Calgary. The effects of the war on Calgary differed little from those on other Canadian cities. Many young men lift to fight, to many didn't return. At the end of the war, the long pent desire to get rolling again, to know prosperity in peacetime, was as strong in Calgary as anywhere, and Calgary had the gift in the ground to do it with. Turner Valley wasn't going to last forever, but it wasn't the only oil formation in Alberta either. In 1947, oil was found at Leduc and, though the field was only fifteen miles from Edmonton, Calgary managed to keep an administrative grip on the bonanza that followed.
In the 50's Calgary became the fastest growing city in Canada and it stayed that way for a long time. From 100,000 in 1947, it mushroomed to 200,000 by 1955 and 325,000 by 1965.
The growth continued to center on oil, with reliable and constant help from the agricultural industries. The establishment as oil capital in the heyday of Turner Valley held, and as the oil patch spread across provincial boundaries and into the untapped North, Calgary remained the heart of the industry.
After the formation of OPEC sent oil prices spiraling upward in the 70's, a fresh boom began in Calgary making past booms look tame.
At the peak of the boom, 3000 people a month were arriving in Calgary. Old Calgary, what little was left, was being smashed down by the city block to make way for the new. The pressure to accommodate the boom was such that there really wasn't time for master planning. The buildings were approved with little thought given to the views to the relationship of one building to the rest.
The recession that had much of the rest of the world in its grip finally found Calgary in 1982. Some would say the recession was brought on by: the federal government's National Energy Program , the failing cohesiveness of OPEC, Reaganomics, or a world oil glut. Whatever the cause the boom in Calgary had come to an end and was going the other way. Minute vacancy rates shot up to 20% for office space downtown. Full employment became 15% unemployment and the trains going east were fuller then the ones coming west.
Stereotypes live long and its hard to change them. Calgary has been known from the beginning as a cow town and still has that Wild West image. The reality, is to expect a forest of Manhattan like skyscrapers, one will see the impressive and monumental new municipal building nest to the well-preserved sandstone structure of old City Hall. The Olympics has left us with the legacy of the country's best hockey arena, the Saddle dome. The speed skating oval is simply a marvel of architecture and technology, only the second covered structure of this kind in the world. We are proud of a large and still growing university and three institutions of college rank. A new, very functional rapid transit system links residential areas with downtown in minutes. But the Calgary of today will welcome you to our city with a traditional, warm "Howdy ".
With Calgary's large ethnic presence, one can delight themselves with
the best gourmet meals and a variety of events virtually from around the
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