Calgarians fight to save historic brewery from destruction

History buffs across Calgary are joining forces to try and save an old brewery from the wrecking ball.

In May 2009, Ronald Mathison of Matco Investments applied for a demolition permit for the Calgary Brewing and Malting Co. site, unbeknownst to the surrounding Inglewood community. Mathison filed for demolition because renovating the building was too expensive and the rotting foundation made upkeep dangerous.

Project Brewery ­– made up of the Inglewood 1875 Society, the Calgary Heritage Authority, the Chinook Country Historical Society and the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society — printed a pamphlet for Calgarians to voice concerns to the City of Calgary and the Alberta government.

Last Thursday marked the first anniversary of Project Brewery’s distribution of Call to Action, the pamphlet with information on the Calgary Brewery and a plea from concerned citizens to preserve it. Lindsay Blackett, the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit, met with Project Brewery and community members to listen to speaker Brian Vivian. Vivian, an archeologist, was assigned to work at the East Village Project prior to Inglewood’s development.

Vivian and his team were surprised by how some of the old bottles some of the team discovered with Calgary labels were.

“We found two major historical sites,” said Vivian. “Two dumps dating from 1910 and 1920.”

Some early bottles found in the Brewery dump came from glass factories in London, England, proving Calgary was involved in national and international trade even early in its history.

“Breweries, in the historical sense, are the most important in communities that started in the west,” said Vivian. “They were often the first to open once a place had established … it was the dominant marketing force.”

In the early 1900s, Calgary was already well integrated into Canada’s trade industry according to Vivian.

Vivian believes preserving the site is a worthwhile project, noting the brewery proved vital for provincial trade in the 1900s. Excavations held in small northern towns near Edmonton found beer caps with the Calgary Brewing logo, showing the development of economic ties the brewery was creating throughout the province.

Despite calls for the Calgary Brewing and Malting Co. Building to be made a historic site, the Historic Resource Impact and Assessment has yet to provide its recommendation to the province as to whether the site has any historic significance. Until the HRIA finishes their evaluation, neither the province nor Mathison can move forward. The province ordered the HRIA in June 2009 in response to the outcry around the destruction of the brewery, putting a hold on the demolition. Once the assessment is complete, it will be up to the province to decide whether or not to designate it as a Provincial Historic Resource.

“Most of us have found once you designate a site, it benefits the surrounding area, much like the Distillery District in Toronto,” said Cynthia Klaassen, the president of the CHI society.

Over the last 10 to 15 years the Distillery District has become a large tourism destination and Klaassen thinks Calgary’s old Brewery Flats could become the same.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.