Calgary Then and Now: Downtown Skyline in 1886

When Memorial Drive was a dirt path and Bridgeland was a farmer’s field.

It’s been more than 130 years since Calgary was incorporated as a town in 1884, and in that time, its skyline has become unrecognizable. You have to look closely to see the similarities in the updated shot of the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, taken from Tom Campbell’s Hill Natural Park in Bridgeland. The distinct features of the land, clearly visible in around 1886 when the photo was taken, have been almost completely covered by roads, buildings and trees.

St. George’s Island on the left side of the original photo was Calgary’s first park, and has been home to the Calgary Zoo since 1929. The adjacent St. Patrick’s Island was originally opened as a park in the 1890s, and while its redevelopment was interrupted by the 2013 flood, it reopened in 2015 after major renovations.

On the extreme left of the original photo is a bridge across the Elbow River. This is not the historic 9th Avenue Bridge, which still stands today but which is slated to be replaced – that bridge was built in 1907. The bridge in the shot was built 20 years earlier to connect vehicle traffic between Inglewood and what was already beginning to emerge as Calgary’s downtown core.

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