The Story of the Hop In Brew House

Take a tour through the history of this hoppy home.

The kind of hip place you bring out-of-towners to, these days the Beltline’s Hop in Brew (213 12 Ave. S.W.) is mainly known for tap beers and a wonderfully informal atmosphere. But like many centennial buildings of its kind, it has lived lives prior to being a pub.

The house was built in 1911 by a cattle driver from Denver who moved his livestock to Calgary back when its total population hovered around the 44,000 mark. The cowboy left the city a few years after completing the home, and in 1919 it became an annex to the neighbouring YWCA, a status it maintained until 1923, when auto mechanic Frank Patton and his family moved in. Patton opened his business, Patton’s Garage, in the spacious rear lot of the home. That business would later be renamed Calgary Auto Body Works and then become Roller’s Body Service.

Residents of the house are seen waiting for the procession of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their world tour in this photo dated May 25, 1939.

By 1942, E.A. Stone owned the home and it was turned into a rest and nursing home with Roller’s still operating out of the back lot. The story gets a little murky after this point, but we do know the home was eventually bought by Margaret Moore and her family. Margaret’s daughter Mary Illingsworth turned the bright yellow home into a rooming house, which at one point housed as many as 17 tenants including Mary. The bottom floor was divided into two rooms, with Mary’s being the largest near where the bar now stands. Both the second floor and gabled roof loft, originally intended as servants quarters, were partitioned into 8 separate rooms. Some of those door frames left in place (including a few that retain their original transom window glass) are still there. (Incidentally, when the current owners commissioned patterned glass to replace the broken transom windows, they used the same pattern for the bar on the main floor.)

Mary retired in 1994, but, having the house to herself, soon realized the old home was difficult to keep warm without the heat of from a bustle of people. The Hop In Brew was born when current operator Dick Hoppener and his landlord began renovating the home, converting it into the shabby-chic hub Calgarians know and love. “The walls were six inches thick and there was no insulation whatsoever.” says Hoppener of the home before renovations. “They tried newspapers but they were all crumpled down around the floor. We found a lot of old brittle newspapers, some of them from 1911 and one with the Titanic on it.”

Though many aspects of the home were modified to bring it up to code, such as adding a second staircase in the back where once there was a closet and installing ten support pillars to allow the home to support 100 pounds per square foot, many aspects, from the windows to its second floor columns, are original. Surprisingly, Hoppener isn’t all that impressed by his pub’s roots. “It’s just a house in my eyes,” he says with a laugh. “I’m Dutch, where I come from we start counting when it’s 500 years old.”

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