“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared October 19, 1997.
Heritage Hall (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology)
• 1301 16th Avenue N.W.
• Built: 1921 - 1922
• Architect: R.P. Blakely, Provincial Department of Public Works Architect and designer of many prominent educational buildings.
• Contractor: J.McDiarmid Company of Winnipeg. J.Ballantyne and Company - Plumbing and Heating and Cunningham Electric of Calgary.
• Original cost: $714,200
• Construction materials: Steel and concrete. Medicine Hat brick and locally quarried sandstone cladding. Tyndall trim ornament.
• Architectural style: Collegiate Gothic. Long rectangular building divided into three sections. Building has crenellated roof lines. Battlements and towers give the structure a medieval look. The front entrance has " tablet flowers which originated in the 15th century medieval churches carved in the portal moulding. Fine detail is carried through to the fork-tailed dragon door hinges and the devil on the port latch. This influence dates back to early Christian times and was intended to ward off evil spirits."
• Original interior details: The floors were terrazzo, made of rectangles of marble chips in fine cement and separated by thin bronze rods. Oak doors. Bannisters were made from solid maple, some pieces 18 feet long. Spiral stairs inside the towers led to upper level observatories.
• Alberta was the first province in Western Canada to address the need for a skilled worked force at the post secondary level with the establishment of the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in 1916. (now Southern Alberta Institute of Technology)
• First Institute was located in Colonel Walker School and nearby converted fire hall #8.
• By the end of World War I the Institute had outgrown its quarters and on July 21, 1919 110 acres on the edge of town known as the North Hill was purchased for $75,849 from Ezra Riley to be developed as a permanent campus.
• The Main administration and teaching building was one of three structures scheduled for construction in 1921. The other two were the workshops building and the powerhouse building.
• The site of the three storey structure known as the Main Building was carefully chosen to maximize the view from the North Hill and to capitalize on the impressive presence of the building on the property.
• The contract for the Main Building was awarded February 28, 1921.
• Cornerstone was laid June 22, 1921 by the Honourable George P. Smith, Minister of Education for Alberta.
• Built to accommodate both the Normal School (a teacher training facility and attached public school) and the Institute. The Institute occupied the east wing of the building while the public school and Normal School was housed in the west wing. The auditorium and gymnasium were shared facilities.
• When the school opened in September 1922 there were 40 staff and 800 students. Programs included Motor Mechanics, Mining, Building Construction, Art, and Drafting.
• Between 1932 and 1936 enrolment declined and times were difficult. At this time staff developed one of Canada's first retraining programs for the unemployed. In 1934 the school offered an aeronautical training course which included the complete design and construction of an airplane.
• 1940 - 1946 campus taken over by the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Main Building became home to No. 2 Wireless School. The school and tons of machinery and equipment were relocated to the grandstand at the Victoria Park Fair Grounds for the duration of the war.
• After the war, when the school returned to the Main Building, the fledgling University of Alberta in Calgary occupied the west wing.
• There have been three additions to the Main Building, all expanding northward. (1926, 1928 and 1950) in 1960 the school was renamed the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
• the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology serviced approximately 50,000 registrants in all programs during 1996 - 1997.
• Currently Heritage Hall is home to SAIT's Department of Energy and Natural Resources, Registration and Student Employment Centre, Business Development and International Training and Alumni Association offices.
• 1985 the Main Building designated a Provincial Historic Resource and renamed Heritage Hall.
• May 11, 1989 designated as a National Historic Resource and a ceremony was held to "commemorate the contribution of Heritage Hall in the development of vocational education in Western Canada."
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared September 11, 2002.
THEN: Calgary Normal School and Main Building -- Provincial Institute of Technology and Art
• Built by the provincial government in 1921 at a cost of $714,000, this Gothic structure served as the Main Building for the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (renamed the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1960). In addition to a technical program offering motor mechanics, mining, building construction and commercial work, it housed the Calgary Normal School for teacher training with an attached public school. From 1940 to 1946, the entire campus was taken over the RCAF and used by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan as the No. 2 Wireless School.
Following the war, the buildings reverted to the provincial institute, although the University of Calgary occupied a portion of the Main Building's west wing.
NOW: Heritage Hall -- Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
• In 2001, as part of a $50-million restoration project, a north side convention hall scrapped from the original 1921 plans was finally built. In addition to this exquisite atrium, the entire building was renovated.
Reopened last fall, Heritage Hall now houses high-tech classrooms, a cafe, auditorium and offices including the president of SAIT and alumni relations. The renovation uncovered lost architectural elements and signed wall murals painted by art students in the late '40s. This city landmark is a provincial historic resource and a national historic site.