Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada
Building façades on Stephen Avenue
© Historic Resources Management Branch, Alberta Culture and Status of Women
8th Avenue, Calgary, Alberta
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1880 to 1930
1880 to 1930
Stephen Avenue Mall
Old Stephen Avenue
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: 8th Avenue, Calgary, Alberta
Stephen Avenue is a superb illustration of the central role that retail streets have played and continue to play in the Canadian urban experience. As a well-preserved commercial street, the avenue bears eloquent witness to the emergence of the modern retail sector in Canada from 1880 to 1930. With the coming of the railway, Prairie cities grew at an unprecedented rate, and their gridiron urban plans reflected a new functional pattern: financial and commercial sectors located near the train station, surrounded by residential areas while factories were farther away. Elegant illustrations of Calgary's sandstone era, the buildings of Stephen Avenue are handsome representatives of the architecture of their time, featuring Victorian, Art Deco and Beaux-Arts elements.
Description of Historic Place
Stephen Avenue National Historic Site of Canada is a historic district in downtown Calgary, also known as Old Stephen Avenue. It consist of nearly three dozen commercial buildings from the 1880-1930 era (known as the Sandstone Era), mostly retail properties, with several former banks and one church.
Stephen Avenue was designated a national historic site in 2002. It is recognized because: it tells of the processes of prairie urban development including orientation towards the railway, a gridiron plan, and spatial specialization; it tells of the rising importance of the retail sector of the Canadian economy; and it tells of the central role that such retail streets have played, and continue to play, in the Canadian urban experience.
The heritage value of Stephen Avenue resides in its distinctive character as a late-nineteenth-century retail streetscape in a growing prairie urban centre.
Source: Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada, Minutes, November 2001.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
a collection of buildings of compact, rectangular massing, and of modest height (from two to six storeys), the predominantly linear character of the district, as a function of a 'main' street within an urban grid, the complete use of lots with buildings abutting each other, façades flush to the sidewalk, and rear alleys, the predominantly masonry construction, largely stone with some brick and stone combinations, and one wooden structure, the diversity of design in the façades reflecting the evolution of architectural styles in commercial building from the late 19th century to the 1930s, the visual coherence of the street, created by façades set flush to the sidewalk, by the horizontal definition of the façades through the use of stone or brick string courses between each storey and the presence of ornately detailed cornices, the regular pattern of large windows - either flat or round-headed - defining the street façade of each building, the variety of architectural detail of the principal façades, including in the commercial shop fronts at street level, the door and window surrounds, original window sashes, cornice detail and historic signage, the dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company store with terra cotta cladding, greater height and volume.