Concrete pieces of Calgary's history up for auction, with bids starting at $1

From bison heads that adorned the Centre Street Bridge, to the sign from a long-since demolished historic Calgary hotel, some unique items are up for grabs.

Want a one-tonne bison head cast from the Centre Street Bridge? It could be yours

These concrete casts from Calgary's Centre Street Bridge are up for auction, with bids starting at $1. Proceeds will go toward Heritage Calgary's plaque program. (Submitted by Levis Online Auctions)

Some concrete pieces of Calgary's history are going up for auction.

Heritage Calgary is auctioning off cast concrete bison heads and crests that are believed to date back to the 1983 restoration of the Centre Street Bridge, and were removed from the bridge in 1999 when it was closed for renovations. 

It's also auctioning off the painted tin sign and cornices from the Queens Hotel, which once stood at 802 Second Street S.E. Those decorations likely date back to a hotel addition that was built in 1902. 

"It's very unusual and exceptionally rare to have something so historical, city-related to show up for the public," said Cheryl Sonley, owner of Levis Art Auctions.

The items were taken over by the organization after a Freedom of Information request by CBC revealed that a number of heritage properties had been sitting in city storage yards for decades. 

Josh Traptow, executive director of Heritage Calgary, said the auction will fund the heritage plaque program, which recognizes sites listed on the city's historic resources inventory. 

He said some of the items were offered as donations to public institutions in the city, but there was no interest. 

The Queens Hotel sign is one of 27 historic Calgary items up for auction. (Submitted by Levis Online Auctions)

Most of the unique items aren't ideal for buyers looking to pick up a piece of history on a whim — the Queens Hotel sign is more than six metres wide while the bison heads are life-sized, and buyers will need to arrange to transport their purchases off city property. 

But for the right buyer, it could be an incredible opportunity to cherish a rare piece of local memorabilia.

The Centre Street Bridge sculptures, modelled by artist Al Stinson after bison at the Calgary Zoo, sat on the bridge between 1983 and 1999.

And the Queens Hotel, built in 1893, was open for nearly a century. In the 1980s, there was talk of designating it a historic site — or even renovating it, to feature a Western-style saloon — before it was ultimately demolished and replaced by the city's municipal building and underground parkade.

Bids for each lot start at $1. 

Private appointments can be booked through Levis to view the heritage items at an undisclosed city location.

The auction also includes 350 pieces of original art, most by Canadian artists. Bids can be made online, with the auction set to close on April 18. 


  • An earlier version of this article didn't credit Al Stinson, the sculptor who made the bison heads.
    Apr 10, 2021 2:51 PM MT

With files from Rick Donkers


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