Calgary Then and Now: Stephen Avenue Mall in 1970

Stephen Avenue’s pedestrian walk is a Calgary mainstay now, but it wasn’t always that way.

Take one look at the clothes and you can guess which decade this picture is from. It was taken in April of 1970, a few months before the Stephen Avenue Mall officially opened on July 1 of that year. The Mall turned the street into a pedestrian-only walk full of shopping and entertainment destinations.

One such destination was the Palace Theatre. Designed by the internationally renowned theatre architect Howard C. Crane, it was built in 1921 for the Allen chain of cinemas, a major player in Canada’s early film distribution scene. It also played a role in the early years of Alberta radio; future Premier William “Bible Bill” Aberhart broadcast his first religious and political sermons from its stage.

The Palace Theatre showed its final film (Tango and Cash) in 1990, and sat vacant for several years until a group of investors turned it into the Palace Nightclub in 1998. But the club floundered after five years, and was reinvented as Flames Central, a sports bar and concert venue, in 2007. Ten years later, it was recently announced that Flames Central will revert back to being called The Palace Theatre.

These days, vehicles are only allowed on the road between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

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