"CNR Station (formerly St. Mary's Hall), 18th Avenue and 1st Street S.W."
“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared July 27, 1997.
St. Mary's Parish Hall
• 141 - 18th Avenue S.W.
• Built: 1905
• Architect: James J. O'Gara (also designed St. Mary's school, Lacombe Home and a section of Holy Cross Hospital)
• Original cost: $14,304
• Construction materials: ocally quarried sandstone
• Architectural style: Referred to as "boomtown Baroque", classical elements. "The imposing classical facade with a central pediment and pilasters and heavy cornice, actually stands as a false front before a mansard - roofed building..."
• built on Oblate property in the Mission District where the first Roman Catholic Cathedral, schools and convent were erected. Lot was part of the original homestead given to Father Lacombe in 1884.
• this three storey (plus a basement) sandstone structure was erected as a parish hall for the neighbouring St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral.
• hall was a focal point for the community and played a role in the development of Rouleauville.
• seated 500 people and was used for concerts, recitals, and theatrical performances. St. Mary's Boys School held day classes in the basement (1907 -1910). Newly arrived immigrants attended night classes to learn English and mathematics.
• societies used the facility for regular meetings; Calgary Operatic Society, the Catholic Mutual Benevolent Society.
• Ukrainian Catholic religious services and a Ukrainian reading room were also accommodated in the hall.
• during the real estate boom (August 1911) the church sold the Parish Hall to Canadian Northern Railway for $60,000. CNR reputedly purchased the Lindsay estate for $125,000. The company planned to buy up additional property and replace the hall with a new rail terminus in a bid to compete with the Canadian Pacific Railway. World War I and the economic downturn ended this development scheme and the existing structure was renovated for station use.
• August 16, 1911 Ontario railway entrepeneur and president of Canadian Northern, Sir William Mackenzie, came to Calgary to look over prospects and spent considerable time in the company of local businessman, Pat Burns.
• parts of Avenues formerly known as Spruce, Poplar and Pine were closed by city by-law to accommodate tracks.
• by 1913 - renovations included addition of wooden platform and laying of required trackbed (11 tracks).
• first train arrived in July 1913. First passenger train arrived 16 months later.
• converted to Calgary terminus in 1916 - further interior/exterior renovations. South - side addition of brick express structure (in railway architectural tradition) and wooden canopy extending entire length of east side.
• by June 1919 Canadian National Railways assumed ownership of terminal and line when the company incorporated Canadian Northern.
• 1951 - south-side express building extended.
• station well known terminus for the Goose Lake Line (Calgary - Drumheller - Rosetown - Saskatoon - Kamsack - Dauphin - Portage - Winnipeg)
• station permanently closed July 5, 1971 - last dayliner left for Edmonton
• 1979 city acquired the hall and additional property in the Lindsay Park area.
• designated a Provincial Historic Resource in February 1981.
• 1984 city's proposal call for appropriate re-use was awarded to the Calgary City Ballet.
• fire gutted structure in August 1985 during renovations by Calgary City Ballet
• major renovations completed in 1987. Two large dance studios constructed in the original Parish Hall and the ballet's wardrobe department housed in the 1916 brick addition. Re-named the Nat Christie Centre.
• since 1991 home to Alberta Ballet who co-ordinates rental of studio space to community groups.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared July 22, 2003.
Then: St. Mary's Parish Hall
141 18th Ave. S.W.
• This three-storey sandstone structure designed by James J. O'Gara was built in 1905 as a parish hall for St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. The 500-seat hall was used by the church and the community for concerts, recitals and theatrical performances. From 1907 to 1910, St. Mary's Boys School classes were held in the basement. During the real estate boom of 1911, St. Mary's sold the hall to Canadian Northern Railway for $60,000. It was renovated for station use, with the first passenger train arriving in 1914. By June 1919, Canadian National Railways assumed ownership of the station and rail line when the company incorporated Canadian Northern. The station closed July 5, 1971, with the departure of the last day liner for Edmonton.
Now: Nat Christie Centre.
• In 1979, the City of Calgary purchased the former Parish Hall and, two years later, it was designated a provincial historic resource. Around 1984, Calgary City Ballet (now Alberta Ballet) leased the facility and, with funding from the Nat Christie Foundation, began extensive renovations. In spite of a fire that gutted the structure, the project was completed and, since 1991, the Nat Christie Centre has been home to the Alberta Ballet.