Calgary

Pieces of Calgary's past left sitting in city storage lots to be sorted through by heritage authority

The original sculptures from the Centre Street Bridge. Signs for the former Queens Hotel and former Crown Building. These are just some of the hidden heritage items that the City of Calgary stored and forgot — but that heritage authorities are now trying to preserve.

'There was some sandstone that's just basically turned into sand now'

The sign for the former Queens Hotel in Calgary is one item the city has in storage. (Calgary Heritage Authority)

A city agency is taking control of some pieces of Calgary's history that have been tucked away in storage.

Following a Freedom of Information request, CBC News revealed last year that the city has portions of several heritage properties sitting in three different storage yards. Things like the original sculptures from the Centre Street Bridge or signs for the former Queens Hotel and former Crown Building.

Some of the material has been in the city's possession for decades.

The fact the stuff still exists came as a surprise to local heritage advocates.

As a result of the CBC's story, officials with the Calgary Heritage Authority had a look at the material and began searching for ways to take better care of it.

The Queen's Hotel at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Second Street S.E. in downtown Calgary was torn down in the early 1980s to make way for the new City Hall. Its sign, top left, now sits in a storage yard. (Glenbow Archives)

Steps to be taken to get material out of the weather

Executive director Josh Traptow says the first thing they wanted to do was to protect the items from the weather, as some were sitting in city storage yards exposed to the elements.

In some cases, the items were not salvageable.

"There was some sandstone that's just basically turned into sand now," said Traptow. 

The city had an inventory from the 1990s of some of the items, but he said there are others on that list they could not locate. 

Josh Traptow, executive director of the Calgary Heritage Authority, says they plan to move all of the items to a shed over the next few months to reduce their exposure to any harsh weather conditions. (Britton Ledingham/iEvolve Photo Inc.)

Traptow said the city has agreed to set aside room in a storage shed at its Mayland Heights works yard for all of the material.

The heritage authority plans to move all of the items to that shed over the next few months to reduce their exposure to any harsh weather conditions.

Then it will begin the job of categorizing it and determining whether the city should keep or sell or dispose of the material.

City likely to retain Centre St. Bridge items

A number of original sculptures and ornamental pieces taken from the Centre Street Bridge are high on the list for retention.

"The details and the carvings on some of those buffalo heads and the flower emblems are quite remarkable," said Traptow.

However, he doesn't believe that some of the other artifacts have any heritage value.

"Ultimately, I think we'll probably look at deaccessioning those items, maybe similar to a public auction," he said, noting proceeds could be used for other city heritage programs.

The sign for the former Crown Building is also in storage. (Calgary Heritage Authority)

It's also possible that for some of the material the city retains, the heritage authority could make them available for public display or even to be used as movie props.

As for what happened with some of the missing elements, it appears that will remain a mystery.

For example, in the 1990s, city council agreed to put the facade of the Crown Building into storage to make way for an expansion of the convention centre.

However, only the sign from the building remains in the city's possession. 

Traptow said some bricks were located in their search but not enough to actually rebuild the facade.