Calgary, Alberta Community Overview



Calgary's downtown, seen through the iconic Peace Bridge

Calgary is a vibrant city of 1,100,000 (2007), located within breathtaking sight of the Canadian Rockies. The city's population has doubled over the past 20 years, when it hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics. Calgary has a compact and very modern downtown core with tall, mirrored skyscrapers on the edge of the always-blue Bow River. Calgary is Canada's second-biggest head office city, second only to Toronto. The city is headquarters to the oil & gas industry (through the production & refining is generally closer to Edmonton and Fort McMurray, to the north), and is a key centre for logistics, agriculture and southern Alberta tourism.

The city is a magnet for those who love outdoors, with Nose Hill Park in the north, Fish Creek Provincial park, in the city's south end, and the parklands along the banks of the Bow and Elbow rivers. There are several hundred kilometres of recreational pathways around and through the city. And of course, its only an hour drive to the scenic wonders of Banff and the Rocky Mountains!



View of Banff from Tunnel Mountain

The city's weather generally features wide-open blue skies, but the temperatures can be quite unpredictable. Calgary can get July weather in January, courtesy of the famous Chinook winds, which not only warm temperatures by 20C in a few hours, but literally sucks the snow off the ground. Of course, being so close to the mountains, Calgary can get the occassional snowfall in any month, including July. By the way, the area's ski season usually goes from mid-November until the Victoria Day Weekend.

Calgary History

Following the last ice age, which ended 10,000 years ago, which brought humans from Asia into the Americas, the area was settled by the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan, Sarcee (Tsuu T'ina), and Stoney bands.

The lands were first explored by fur traders working for the Hudson's Bay Company and were first settled in the 1870s. Fort Brisbois was built in 1875 by the NorthWest Mounted Police (which became the RCMP) to protect the western plains from American whiskey traders. The fort was renamed Fort Calgary about the time that Treaty No. 7 was signed, where the First Nations ceded southern Alberta to the Canadian Government in return for government protection and reserves: Blackfoot near Gliechen, Blood Indians near Cardston, Peigan near Pincher Creek, Sarcee near Calgary, and the Stony near Morley.

Downtown seen behind restored Fort Calgary

Early Calgary grew around what is now Inglewood, and when the CPR built the trans-continental railroad, they located Calgary's station and railroad hotel west of the Fort and the Elbow River, setting the location for its current downtown. The city became a major commercial centre for this part of the prairies and in 1894, The City of Calgary was incorporated, and in 1904, the City abandoned most street names and converted to numbered streets. The city boomed and many old sandstone buildings along the eastern end of Stephen (8th) Avenue Walk and along Atlantic (9th) Avenue SE date back to this era when Calgary grew to 85,000 residents.

Wonderland scupture in frontof The Bow office tower

Calgary has actually had three oil booms: the first around World War I, when oil was found south of town in Pincher Creek and natural gas near Medicine Hat, the second following the 1949 Leduc strike (near Edmonton) which caused an investment boom in the city's stock exchange, and lastly following the 1974 Arab Oil Boycott, which spurred madcap exploration in Western Canada, while causing disruption in other economic sectors and other regions of Canada. The "oilpatch" headquartered in Calgary grew rapidly and the city's population grew from 325,000 in 1974 to 650,000 by the early 1980s. Any surviving pre-1974 building is considered a candidate for being declared a heritage structure.

The most recent boom ended in 1981 with the "National Energy Program" (NEP) legislation created by Finance Minister Jean Chretien (who went on to be Canada's Prime Minister), unfairly sucking over $100 billion in oil industry profits from the West. The recession the NEP caused Alberta to diversify the economy into forestry, technology, and tourism. Calgary's new glass-towered downtown gave it the pride to apply for and host the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Today (2009), Calgary's population is over the 1,100,000 level, with slow and steady growth gaining residents form all other parts of Canada.

Moving To Calgary

The city has grown exponentially over the past 30 years. Those who move here in the early 1980s remember grain eleveators and only a few homes south of Fish Creek Provincial Park, no homes west of Canada Olympic Park (then called "Paskapoo") and homes just beginning to creek up around and north of Nose Hill Park, and few homes in the Southeast below the Ogden Railyards. Each of theose areas now supports populations of over 50,000, towns in their own right, with retail, workplace, and mass-transit infrastructure. Calgary offers a range of housing from Inner City living to suburbs miles away from the urban rush, from high-density high rise condos to surburban spawl.

Calgary has a number of "bedroom communities" nearby, attracting residents wishing urban comforts of Calgary while getting a small town quality of life. To the east are Lake Chestermere and Strathmore, to the Soouth are Okotoks and High River, to the West are Bragg Creek and Cochrane, and to the north is Airdrie.

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