Historic Stephen Avenue & The Glenbow Museum

About The Tour

Long before there were any buildings, the confluence of the Bow and the Elbow rivers was a gathering place for aboriginal tribes.  In 1869 the Canadian government purchased vast tracts of Rupert’s Land which had been under the jurisdiction of the Hudson’s Bay Company since 1670.  In 1874 Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, conceived the idea of the North West Mounted Police as an attempt to preserve the land north of the 49th Parallel as Canadian lands.

Fort Calgary was named after the Scottish “Calgary.” The construction of the fort began in 1875. In 1881, the decision was made to route the national railway through Calgary.  In 1884, Calgary became the second incorporated town, and in 1893 it became the first city in what was then known as the North-West Territories.

There was a major fire in 1886.  Sandstone construction replaced timber-frame, hence the moniker “The Sandstone City.”  Construction activity peaked in 1912 and the population crested at 81,000 in 1914 having risen from 4000 in 1901.  By the end of the First World War, the golden age of the Sandstone City was over.



It is largely the fortuitous result of difficult economic times from 1914 until the discovery of oil in Leduc in 1947 that the buildings of historic Stephen Avenue survive intact to this day.  These buildings form the highest concentration of designated historic resources in Calgary.

Our tour will begin at 4th Street SW and 8th Avenue SW (Stephen Avenue).  We will walk East and North stopping to admire the sandstone and brick reminders of the vision of Calgary’s early settlers.  I will tell you stories of early Calgary and the interesting folks who made our city great.  We will check out some great public art and get you oriented to downtown Calgary.

We will then make our way to the Glenbow Museum where I will give you a curated tour of the current and permanent exhibits.  You will then be free to spend as much time checking out the rest of the museum and art gallery as you like.

This tour, on its own, will take approximately two hours.