WebStamp August 08, 2017

Historic Calgary Grain Exchange Building

Calgary’s first skyscraper, The Grain Exchange Building located on the southwest corner of 8 Ave. and 1st St. S.W., was an instrumental hub in Calgary’s economic development. The Hull Block was renamed to the Calgary Grain Exchange during construction after being approached by the Calgary Board of Trade and the members of the Exchange to make it home to the newly formed Calgary Grain Exchange. After the rapidly growing Exchange outgrew the Grain Exchange building in 1919 it has served as a business block for a variety of business and professional people.

Calgary's Grain Exchange Building Circa 1915

The Exchange and 21 grain companies housed in this innovative building set Alberta grain prices using telegraphic communication with other major grain centres. With the rapid increase in agricultural development in Alberta in pre World War I years, Calgary rapidly became a service centre for the grain industry in Alberta creating major economic growth for Calgary.

The architect of the building, Hodgson & Bates, had offices there until 1915, along with the American Consulate in 1911 and the Alberta Liberal Party in 1950. Today it is an active economic center with small thriving businesses including a restaurant, jewellery, visual arts, clothing manufacturers, artist, lawyers, and medical practices.

You enter the building from 1st St. through an ornate central door way with heavy oak doors with bevelled glass under an elaborate sandstone arch carved by Norman Priestly. Inside was just as impressive with solid brass stair railings and hardwood trim throughout. Pictures depicting some aspect of Alberta, a sheaf of grain and a buffalo are portrayed on the walk-in vaults on each floor.

Historically it was the first building to expand Calgary’s business section off 8th Ave. The basement was designed as a bowling alley and billiard room providing business men a place to relax and socialize while at work. William Roper Hull, a rancher, real estate speculator and founding member of the Calgary Grain Exchange built the building for a cost of $164,000 (equivalent to $4.1 Million today). As a perceptive business man John Roper Hull began making a difference and stimulating the local economy with the Grain Exchange Building.

Along with his brother John Roper Hull, William Hull continued to make a difference for Calgarians. They were the first to use irrigation on their crops, and developed a meat packing plant along with a chain of butcher shops supplying beef for railway workers laying the rails in B.C. Hull was also instrumental in building Calgary’s first cultural centre, Hull’s Opera House, and the still standing Alberta Block. He was also a cofounder of the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company.

The Grain Exchange Building is a significant historic Calgary building that has made a huge difference for Calgarians and continues to do so today. Be sure to visit the many unique merchants and business in the Grain Exchange Building and do your part in supporting the local Calgary economy, and yourself.

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Marinus (René) Verschuren
Marinus (René) Verschuren
Founder of WebStamp
René has been involved in the publishing and printing industry since the 1970s. He has published and distributed a successful 24-page weekly news advertiser with a circulation of 4400 copies. Also for the last 20 years, he has been a printer, plotter, scanner and 3D printer technician and installer. Since High School, he also has worked as a janitor, cabinet maker, building construction, landscaper/designer, computer operator producing microfiche, graphic artist, and webmaster, among many other professions, qualifying him as a Jack-of-All-Trades.
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