When Calgary's skyline changed forever 50 years ago

It was 50 years ago that the Calgary Tower we know today started taking shape in downtown, changing our city's skyline for decades to come. Take a look back at the beginning of a Calgary icon.

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This photo of downtown Calgary was captured by drone in March 2017. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

It was 50 years ago that the Calgary Tower we know today started taking shape in downtown, changing our city's skyline for decades to come.

With construction materials of concrete and steel, pouring the base of the iconic building — formerly known as the Husky Tower — began on May 15, 1967. It was completed 24 days later.

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The record pour was one completed in a 24-hour period and measured nearly 12 metres, according to the Calgary Tower's official records.

Calgary Tower construction got underway in 1967, one year ahead of the official opening on June 30. (Glenbow Photo Archives)
This was the design put forward for the Canadian Pacific Railway area downtown. It included the Canadian Pacific Oil and Gas building; Husky office tower; 'Restaurant Tower' to be the tallest point in the city; new CP station; and Palliser Hotel, to be extended over railway track to form part of the complex. All buildings were to be linked by concrete tunnels. (Glenbow Photo Archives)

The tower officially opened to the public on June 30, 1968. There is planning underway for next June when the tower's 50th anniversary milestone will be celebrated.

Instantly recognizable from afar, the tower offers spectacular views of downtown, a restaurant and acts as a tourist magnet.

A large flame will erupt from time to time after a momentous occasion, like a Canadian winning an Olympic gold medal.

Video journalist Mike Symington got an up close look at how they light the Calgary Flame in 2014. Take a look here. 1:45

Designed by W.G. Milne, with A. Dale and Associates, it sits at the heart of downtown. It has dominated Calgary's skyline, but over the years has become less prominent as giant skyscrapers shoot up nearby.

The Bow building in downtown Calgary had been the tallest tower in recent memory, but it's been surpassed by Brookfield Place.

The Calgary skyline shown with the Husky Tower in 1981. (Canadian Press)
Calgary's skyline as seen from a condo which sold for nearly $8.4 million in 2016 at the River complex near downtown Calgary. (Colin Hall/CBC)

The original cost of the tower, owned by Husky Oil Limited and Marathon Realty, was $3.5 million in 1968.

It featured a 360-degree view of the city from both the restaurant, which boasts a revolving floor and seating for 200, and observation decks, which fit 250 sightseers.

One CBC Radio listener sent in this photo of the stunning Calgary skyline in silhouette. (Submitted by Mark Salkeld)

There are two, steel-encased staircases with 762 steps from top-to-bottom, but two, 25-passenger high speed elevators, which travel to the top in 62 seconds, are the most common choice of transport.

The tower was designed to withstand elements, like high winds up to 161 km/h. On a windy day the tower can, and will, sway up to 16.5 centimetres.

Although Calgary is not an earthquake zone, it was the first building in the western provinces designed to withstand one.

The skyline has completely changed in the last 50 years since the Calgary Tower dominated. (John Gibson/CBC)
The Roaming Gnome, which pops up at landmarks around the world for a marketing campaign, relaxes on the glass floor of the Calgary Tower. It provides locals and tourists alike with an amazing few down at the streets of the city. (Calgary Tower/Facebook)

There are three lights on the roof: 12 on the crown, 96 on the ring and 24 each on the upper and lower pods.

Each fixture has a unique IP address that can be programmed individually to produce over 16.5 million colours and lighting effects. The project took six weeks for installation and two weeks for testing.

The tower now projects those many lights throughout the year to mark occasions of great importance or tragedy.

The sky blazes with orange as the sun comes up behind the blue-lit Calgary Tower. The lights can shine a rainbow beams of colours, often in solidarity or recognition of something happening in the world. (Kelly J. Quinn/Facebook)

Now known as Sky 360, the revolving restaurant has seen many tourists and locals alike over the years. Here's how much they served in 2016:

  • Around 96,000 guests.
  • Around 11,000 bottles of wine.
  • About 27,000 steaks.
  • More than 2,000 birthday or anniversary parties last year (that the restaurant was notified of). 
  • Roughly 30 proposals (that the restaurant was notified of).
The restaurant that sits atop of the Calgary Tower is Sky 360. (Sky 360/Facebook)
The iconic building is a 190.8-metre free standing observation tower. (Devin Heroux/CBC)
The Calgary Tower was built to honour Canada’s centennial and was intended to promote the downtown core as a part of the city's urban renewal program, according to its website. (calgarytower.com)
The Calgary Tower has been a staple of the city's skyline for many decades. (David Bell/CBC)
A Swainson's hawk sits perched on a pole with the Calgary tower as a backdrop. (CBC)
The Calgary Tower has been one of the most photographed landmarks of Calgary. (Kelly Hofer)
The Calgary Tower has a commanding view of the every changing downtown core around it. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Rising from the downtown core, the Calgary Tower is a must-see for any visitor.

Information provided by the Calgary Tower