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May 25, 2019

Calgary Then and Now: Hudson’s Block in 1907

Hudson’s Bay Company was here from 1891 to 1913. Now you’ll find a Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters there.

We now know the Hudson’s Bay building as the stately white one on the corner of Stephen Avenue and 1 Street S.W. But that is not the original Western Canadian home of the company, which is nearly 200 years older than the country it’s in.

The Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in 1670 after European explorers realized there were huge fur reserves around the inland sea of the same name. King Charles I granted his nephew Prince Rupert the watershed around the bay, which became known as Rupert’s Land, and the “Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay” was formed. At the time, it was the largest landowner in the world; Rupert’s Land covered 15 per cent of the continent of North America, though the area’s Indigenous peoples disputed its sovereignty.

For its first 200 years, the Hudson’s Bay Company focused on fur trading, but it expanded into general retail after 1869, when Rupert’s Land was incorporated into the new country of Canada. Its first store west of Winnipeg was at Fort Calgary, and it moved into Hudson’s Block on Stephen Avenue and Centre Street, pictured here, in 1891. This picture was taken between 1907 and 1908.

The store operated there until 1913, when its current building went up on the corner of 7 Avenue and 1 Street S.W. The building was expanded in 1929 to face Stephen Avenue as well. Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters set up shop in the Hudson’s Block in December.

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