The downtown branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Alberta No.1) is one of the most significant memorials to the Calgary men who fought in the First World War.
On the building are the words, “1914 Great War Veterans Club 1919.” The dates refer to the group of soldiers who had returned to Calgary after fighting in the Great War (as the First World War is often called). Many of these men were determined to create better opportunities at home by forming the Great War Veterans' Association of Canada in 1917. Its mandate was to advocate on behalf of the more than 560,000 soldiers who had returned to Canada after fighting in the First World War.
Taking up the cause the Calgary Branch of the Great War Veterans' Association was formed in 1919. It drafted the “Calgary Resolution” which in part demanded the federal government compensate soldiers for their lost wages during the time they had been away at war. The resolution failed, but out of this movement sprang a group of men who were determined to improve the quality of life of Alberta’s veterans.
In the first royal visit to Alberta in 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward) broke ground for the construction of the memorial hall. Due to construction delays and cash shortfalls the building was not completed until 1922. The Great War Veterans’ Association later joined the Canadian Legion of the British Service Club, which would eventually become the Royal Canadian Legion.
The brick building is a two storey structure that features accents of sandstone that was taken from a local quarry. The entry archway of the building is also local sandstone with the words Royal Canadian Legion #1 marking the window above the door.
Inside the building there are several murals which depict the actions of the soldiers who fought in the First World War. The same men who, after returning home, became tireless advocates on behalf of veterans who often required medical care and jobs training.
Despite the conservative style of the building it was designated a provincial historic resource on Nov. 11, 1983 because of its important connections to the First World War and the Canadian soldiers it now memorializes.
Today the building continues to serve as a resource for veterans and the broader community and that’s why it is an important facet of Calgary’s living history.
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