Calgary History

Calgary has come a long way from the fort established by the North West Mounted Police in 1875.

Before Calgary was settled by white Europeans though, it was the domain of the Blackfoot natives, whose presence has been traced back 11,000 years.

The first recorded European presence here took place in 1787, and by 1860 settlers began arriving to hunt buffalo and sell illegal whisky.

Keen to put a stop to dodgy whisky dealing, Canada’s first prime minister sent a troop of Mounties to impose the law and make the prairie suitable for immigration.

The sleepy little trading post of Fort Calgary was born. The population began to swell with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1883. The following year, Calgary became a city.

But 1914 was Calgary’s big turning point: oil was discovered in the Turner Valley, 35km (22 miles) southwest of the city.

Overnight, Calgary became a boomtown, attracting settlers and investors and generating massive amounts of money.

Additional oil discoveries throughout the century saw continued growth, and Calgary became the administrative centre for the Canadian oil industry.

As oil prices dropped in the early 1980s however, so did the city’s economic fortunes, and unemployment escalated. It took until the late 1980s for Calgary to recover.

The city’s successful hosting of the XV Olympic Winter Games in 1988 put Calgary firmly on the map.

Calgary’s population growth has continued into the 21st century, along with dramatic urban sprawl. Construction companies have barely been able to keep up with the demand for new suburban housing, and identikit subdivisions have sprung up.

But fluctuating oil prices mean Calgary has come to realise it cannot depend on its natural resources alone and the city is already diversifying into areas such as manufacturing, transportation and IT.

Did you know?
• Calgary is named after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
• Calgary’s +15 skywalk network was devised by architect Harold Hanen and opened in 1970.
• Despite finishing last, Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards set a British record of 71m (233ft) in the ski-jumping event at the Winter Olympics in Calgary.

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