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Alberta’s Beacon to the World: Discover the Famous Calgary Tower

The Calgary Tower in 1969

Once Canada’s tallest building, I think the Calgary Tower is still a sight to behold.

In This Alberta Article You Will Discover:

  • The History of the Calgary Tower
  • Why The Calgary Tower is Important
  • What The Calgary Tower Means to Calgary
  • What To Expect When Visiting the Calgary Tower

For a brief moment in time, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was home to the tallest structure in the entire country. Groundbreaking and awe-inspiring, the 191-metre Husky Tower dominated the Calgary skyline when it opened to the public in 1968, 15 months after construction began. While Toronto’s TD Centre would surpass it as Canada’s tallest building later that year and today it is dwarfed in height by the city’s more run-of-the-mill Petro-Canada Centre and Bankers West buildings, the importance of this tower should not be underestimated.

For a brief moment in time, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was home to the tallest structure in the entire country.

The Calgary Tower, or the Husky Tower as it was named in 1967, was conceived of as a joint project between the Husky Oil Company and the Marathon Realty Company — meant to serve as a joint head office for both companies’ Calgary operations. It was also an attempt to revitalize the downtown core — as well as celebrate Canada’s centennial.

Ground was broken on February 15, 1967, when a brand-new continual pour, slip-forming construction technique was implemented. The concrete pour stopped 24 days later, resulting in the tall, cylindrical base of the tower. The rest of the tower was completed with 15 months of breaking ground, costing a total of $3.5 million. It officially opened to the public on June 30, 1968. In 1971, Canadians would come to know the structure as “The Calgary Tower.”

Even though Calgary has no geological fault lines, the tower was designed to withstand earthquakes, as well as hurricane-force winds. The tower can actually sway up to 16.5 centimetres in the breeze, helping it withstand the stress. To demonstrate how influential this building was at the time — it was the first building in Canada specifically designed to withstand an earthquake!

Much remained status quo for the next 26 years, until, leading up to Calgary’s influential 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the tower underwent a $2.4 million renovation. Aside from the interior spruce-up, perhaps the most notable improvement was the installation of a massive cauldron on the top of the tower. The cauldron, which is four metres in diameter and weighs an impressive 4,000 kilograms, was lowered on the roof of the “Pod” via helicopter and functioned as the world’s largest and highest Olympic Torch, burning a natural gas flame for the entire duration of the games. The Olympic fire could be seen from 26 km away.

The torch is still used regularly today, for special events such as Canada Day. In March of 2006, the torch began an annual lighting to commemorate police, fire, military and other emergency services personnel who have died in the line of duty. The first lighting for this occasion commemorated the first anniversary of the tragic slaying of four RCMP in Mayerthorpe, AB.

Over the next 20 years, several more improvements have been added to the tower to make it more accessible and enjoyable for the 500,000 visitors who come to see it each year. Notable features today include the renovated Panorama Dining Room, a restaurant that revolves atop the tower, and the newest addition, a massive glass floor, which allows those unafraid of heights to walk out some 500 feet above Calgary’s 9th Avenue SW and stare straight down to the traffic below. (Don’t worry about breaking through the glass, according to the Calgary Tower’s website, the glass can hold “a couple of hippos.”)

Don’t worry about breaking through the glass, according to the Calgary Tower’s website, the glass can hold “a couple of hippos.”

tower1

Although not as impressive today, it’s easy to see why people were amazed by the tower in 1969.

Despite being overshadowed by other notable structures such as Toronto’s mighty CN Tower, the Calgary Tower still receives international acclaim as part of the World Federation of Towers. This federation brings together all of the world’s great towers, providing they meet their strict requirements of having a public observation deck, and being a prominent building in their region. Other notable members include the CN Tower, Eiffel Tower (France), Menara KL (Malaysia), Empire State Building (USA), Tokyo Tower (Japan) and 26 others worldwide. Yes, the Calgary Tower is in good company indeed.

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Post image by Dreamstime.com

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

7 comments… add one
  • Amanda Nov 14, 2012

    is it just my imagination or was the tower at one point yellow and red? I tell people this and they look at me funny… and this old photo does not confirm or deny???

  • test.net Oct 18, 2012

    Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my site so i came to
    go back the want?.I am trying to to find things to improve my website!
    I suppose its adequate to make use of some of your ideas!

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  • Piper Apr 4, 2012

    this gave me great information that no other site had. tank you for that

  • David Webb Dec 3, 2010

    OK – so, what do you know that I don’t? Love to hear it!

  • terri-mayb Dec 3, 2010

    heey you i think i know more about the calgary tower then this website becasue i grew up learning about it and my dads ex bf’s dad helped build this tower

  • David Webb May 31, 2010

    Such as?

  • John Smith May 31, 2010

    You should add more details to this

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