Recognized Federal Heritage Building
© Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
801 11th Street SW, Calgary, Alberta
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1917 to 1918
Event, Person, Organization:
Thomas W. Fuller
Mewata Drill Hall
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
Mewata Armoury, also known as the Mewata Drill Hall, occupies a site in downtown Calgary. It is a large, low-massed structure in the Tudor Gothic style, and is set around a large central drill hall. Constructed of red brick with stone and sandstone trim, its rugged battlemented façade conveys a strong image of solidity and impregnability. The main entrance is a low central troop door flanked by projecting three-storey crenellated towers in the manner of fortress architecture. The building has small narrow windows, bartizans, and small turrets complete with firing slits. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
Mewata Armoury is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
Mewata Armoury is one of the best examples of a structure associated with the theme of the federal government’s late 19th-century initiatives to build militia practice and training recruitment centres. The intention was to concentrate the volunteer militia in large urban areas by building drill halls in all major cities. Mewata Armoury housed both militia and permanent force units in the inter-war period, served as the focus of a substantial training camp in the Second World War, and continues today as an active militia establishment.
Mewata Armoury is an excellent example of the Tudor Gothic Style used for militia architecture from the end of the 19th century until the First World War where its functional design, and very large floor space are distinguishing characteristics. It is one of the works of the architect Thomas W. Fuller.
Mewata Armoury is a distinctive landmark situated in downtown Calgary. It has maintained an unchanged relationship to its site and plays an important role as a landmark in the neighbourhood.
Sources: Ivan J. Saunders, Corner 8th Ave. S.W. and 11th St. S.W. Calgary, Alberta.
Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 83-082; Mewata Armoury Corner 8th Ave. S.W. and 11th St. S.W. Calgary, Alberta. Heritage Character Statement 83-082.
The following character-defining elements of the Mewata Armoury should be respected.
Its excellent aesthetic design, good functional design and excellent materials and craftsmanship, for example: its large, low-massing and the building’s Tudor-Gothic Style; the rugged battlemented façade of stone and red sandstone distinguished by its central ogee-arched troop door flanked by protecting three-storey crenelated towers and sitting under an over-entrance gallery; the four large square, crenelated, three-storey, bastion like corner towers linked by continuous crenelated exterior walls; the decorative detail including stone and sandstone detailing, stylized bartizans, small narrow windows, stylized firing slits, and the decorative pilastering of the exterior walls; the large unobstructed space of the central drill hall.
The manner in which the Mewata Armoury is compatible with the present character of its downtown location and is a local landmark, as evidenced by: its scale, design and distinctive profile that contribute to the commercial character of its downtown setting; the structure’s specialized military role and continued use as an active Canadian Forces reserve armoury, which makes it a well-known local landmark.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
The Mewata Armoury was erected on a convenient site in the downtown business district in 1917-18. It is a large stone-trimmed red brick building executed in the baronial or Tudor Gothic style common to most of the Canadian government's pre-1930 armoury/drill halls. The Mewata Armoury was associated with Calgary's military history and continues today as an active militia establishment. It is a substantial, familiar and well-located local landmark declared to be an Alberta Heritage Resource in 1979.
The Mewata Armoury was a minor variant on a well-tried architectural theme. Designed in the baronial or Tudor Gothic style, Mewata's rugged battlemented facade conveyed a strong image of solidity and impregnability very appropriate to its military function, principa1 expressed through four large, square, crenellated, three storey, bastion-like corner towers linked by continuous crenellated exterior walls evocative of the curtain walls of medieval fortifications. This military imagery was reinforced by the building's small narrow windows and by the stylized bartizans, complete with firing slits that topped the decorative pilastering of the exterior walls. The principal focus of Mewata's main facade its central entry, further heightened the fortress-like character of the building. This consisted of projecting three-storey crenellated towers flanking a wide low ogee-arched main entrance, joined above by an over-entrance gallery whose original functional purpose would have been a machicolatron designed to bring plunging fire to bear on the entry. Collectively, these somewhat stylized fortification features marked Mewata as a somewhat extreme example of the Tudor Gothic style and decorative vocabulary that characterized m pre-1940s Canadian drill hall and armoury construction.
The construction of a major Calgary drill hall was the product of a new attention to the combat readiness, organization and training of the Canadian militia particularly notable in the decade before 1914. The city of Calgary offered various free sites to the federal government but R.B. Bennett, then M.P. for Calgary, strongly favoured its location on the eastern edge of Mewata Park, facing 8th Avenue. While completed too late to be of practical value during World War I, Mewata Armoury has continued as an active military establishment since that time. It was the headquarters for all Calgary militia units fie 1918 to 1939, housed a small unit of the Regular Force (B Squadron of Lord Strathcona's Horse) from 1920 to 1936 and, during World War II, formed the centre of a substantial training facility. Since 1945 it has accommodated militia and cadet organizations while providing facilities for a great variety of civic organizations. It is the only one of major Alberta armouries still in active military use.
The Mewata Armoury is an environmentally significant and visually important Calgary landmark, a unique building in a well known central location. This perceived value, reinforced by its 1979 designation as an Alberta Historic Resource, derives from its near downtown location, its prominent siting at the western end of Calgary's principal 8th Avenue commercial thoroughfare and its continuing wide-ranging use for special civic events. Built with its central entry facing the centre of 8th Avenue at the eastern edge of Mewata Park at 11th Street, its location continues to mark the division between the western edge of the downtown and a riverside park belt extending west along the Bow River Mewata thus occupies a significant visual, spatial and architectural niche in the built environment of downtown Calgary.