History of Fort Calgary

From is origins as Mohkinsstsis (Blackfoot), Wîchîspa (Nakoda) and Guts’ists’i (Tsuut’ina) to its more recent history as a national historic site, Fort Calgary has a complex story to tell.

In the summer of 1874, 150 men of the North West Mounted Police marched west across the prairie from Dufferin, Manitoba to establish a series of forts. Part of the Force established Fort Macleod to the south and spent their first winter in a harsh and unfamiliar environment, aided by the Blackfoot. The following year they built Fort Calgary.

Glenbow Archives NA-235-2

The NWMP, now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), came as part of a larger national policy to establish Canadian sovereignty and bring Canadian law and order to the west, to stamp out the whiskey trade, and to prepare the way for the treaties that would open the land for settlement.

In 1877, the government signed Treaty 7 with the Blackfoot Nations of the Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani, and with the Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut’ina Nations. This Treaty covers most of southern Alberta and is still in effect today.

Between 1875 and 1914, the Fort grew into Calgary Barracks and became the centre of a flourishing community. Fort Calgary was a police administration centre, a community symbol of law, order and prosperity, a hospital, a refuge, a social centre, and a focal point for settlers, ranchers and business.

In 1914, Fort Calgary was sold to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway who later sold the site to the Canadian National Railway. For the next 61 years, Calgary’s origins were hidden under a railway yard and storage area. In 1925, Fort Calgary was declared a National Historic Site.

Glenbow Archives NA-2864-26435

In 1974, thanks largely to the efforts of Alderman John Ayer, The City of Calgary bought the site and returned the city’s birthplace to the public domain. The Interpretive Center opened in 1978.

In 2006, Fort Calgary launched a three-phase to revitalize and redevelop the site to broaden and deepen the story told here.

In Phase I, the Deane House was rehabilitated, the Hunt House was restored, the MétisCabin was restored and returned to its original location, and upgrades to the park on the east side of the Elbow River were completed.

Hunt House, After Restoration

In Phase II, artist Jill Anholt released an interpretive art piece, Markings, to symbolize the original fort building.

Yellowhouse Aerial

Phase III is now underway. This phase, called The Fort Calgary Redevelopment: New Museum Project, is a complete reconstruction of the current museum and partial renovation of the 1888 Barracks.