Jun 22

1970s Calgary: The King George Hotel, A Landmark Lost

by Kristy · 0 comments

As part of Downtown Calgary’s Downtown through the Decades stage programming, we will be sharing blogs about the history of downtown. After reading these blogs, make sure you put Saturday afternoon’s stage performance – Rondel Roberts Band – in your calendar to live through the music of the era!

Grill Room at the King George Hotel: from the University of Alberta Libraries

 

In 1978, downtown Calgary lost a historic hotel. The former King George Hotel, located at 126 9th Ave SE, was opened in December of 1911. It boasted 107 rooms, all complete with hot water AND a telephone! The hotel also contained a fine dining room, known as the Grill Room. In 1914, the Grill Room advertised their daily lunch for 35 cents, and their dinner for 50 cents. Standing across from where the King George used to be is the Fairmont Palliser. Their dinner menu today, for the sake of comparison, has entrées ranging from $21 to $52.

The King George played host to many high-profile guests, among them poet Rupert Brooke, who travelled to Canada from England to write some travel diaries. In his published works, reportedly written in a guest room at the King George, he wrote:

“It is imperative to praise Edmonton in Edmonton. but it is sudden death to praise it in Calgary. The partisans of each city proclaim its superiority to all the others in swiftness of growth, future population, size of buildings, price of land – all by recognized standards of excellence. I travelled from Edmonton to Calgary in the company of a citizen of Edmonton and a citizen of Calgary. Hour after hour they disputed.”

Apparently the rivalry between the two cities dates back over 100 years!

Bar at the King George Hotel: from the University of Alberta Libraries

 

By 1915, the hotel had fallen into disrepair. Stuart Ramsay Tompkins, a Canadian scholar, writes in a letter to his wife: “Last night I stopped at the King George, alas the abode merely of departed grandeur. It has indeed fallen from the high estate and is sadly down at the heel; also the service is very poor.”

Carlton Hotel: Photo courtesy of Calgary Public Library

 

In 1926, the King George hotel was sold and rebranded as the Carlton Hotel. In 1939, the hotel housed Calgary’s first Boys and Girls Club (then only for boys) in its basement. Originally called Boys Town and operated by the Rotary Club, it offered entertainment for young boys in the interwar period. It is worth noting that, in 1975, Calgary was the first of these Boys Clubs to welcome girls into their mix, and the organization was renamed the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary.

The Carlton was demolished in 1978, taking with it many years of history.

Lead image provided by the Saskatchewan Archival Information Network

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