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We’re ‘unwrapping’ Historic City Hall


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Witness to our history

One of our most familiar landmarks for more than a century, Historic City Hall has stood alongside Calgarians throughout our greatest victories and our hardest challenges including the Spanish flu of 1918 and two World Wars.

As Calgary navigates COVID-19 together, we are working towards the completion of Historic City Hall’s heritage rehabilitation and we are pleased to announce we’ve reached a significant milestone.

We’re ‘unwrapping’ Historic City Hall

Historic City Hall has been completely under wraps since May 2017, when it was surrounded by a heavy-duty protective enclosure.

Our exterior work is nearing completion and we no longer require the enclosure. We’re beginning the process of ‘unwrapping’ Historic City Hall and Calgarians will soon be able to view the building for the first time in three years!

While Historic City Hall was undergoing heritage restoration, the wrap covered the construction crew, equipment and materials, and protected the sandstone and exposed building components from weather. It allowed us to work through every season regardless of extreme temperatures which was an important factor in meeting our project timelines.

Underneath the wrap, the temperature remained a minimum 15 degrees Celsius, even if outside it was + or -30.

What are we going to see?

One of the most defining features of the building is its sandstone exterior.

When construction began on Historic City Hall in 1907, more than a dozen sandstone quarries lay within our current city limits. Hundreds of public, residential and commercial buildings from the time boasted local sandstone, and Historic City Hall is a beautiful example of Calgary’s late Sandstone City era.

Oliver sandstone quarry, circa 1915. This quarry operated in the gully on either side of 17th Avenue SW. Courtesy Glenbow Archives

Of Historic City Hall’s 15,522 pieces of sandstone, 15,142 have received painstaking heritage treatment.

At the project outset, every stone on the building was individually mapped and prescribed a renewal regimen. The sandstone pieces were then rehabilitated one by one, with treatments including cleaning and structural fortification. Old sandstone that had deteriorated too greatly to be repaired was replaced with new sandstone. Approximately 2,400 new sandstone blocks were used.

The sandstone blocks on Historic City Hall’s clock tower were individually mapped and prescribed rehabilitation methods.

“What Calgarians will see when Historic City Hall is unwrapped is a refreshed, rejuvenated version of the familiar landmark that has graced Calgary for more than a century,” says Darrel Bell, acting director of Facility Management. “The work we’ve done on the sandstone over the last three years has been a labour of love and has restored our sandstone to a condition set to last for another hundred years.”

New sandstone blocks such as these pictured on the left were used to make repairs to century-old sandstone, such as that pictured on the right. 98% of the building’s 15,522 pieces of sandstone sandstone received treatment which could include cleaning, structural fortification or replacement

Weathering…how sandstone tells a story

Calgary, Paris and Glasgow all have something in common: our heritage buildings all bear the mark of our unique pasts.

For instance, Glasgow’s centuries-old sandstone buildings have a patina that comes from the coal burning that took place every day over hundreds of years. Many of Paris’s limestone buildings wear damage from wars, or more ordinary things like damage from lack of maintenance or incompatible repair materials. Here in Calgary, Historic City Hall’s sandstone has been weathered by our harsh Prairie winters and sunlit summers.

How will the building’s new sandstone look alongside the stone that has acclimated for more than a century?

For the most part, we won’t notice a big difference.

Replacement sandstone was very carefully selected to be visually and materially compatible with the original sandstone’s physical and chemical properties, composition, grain size, and colour.

Because sandstone is a natural commodity that is formed in the earth, it is full of character and can be found in a wide variety of colours including green, tan, red, pink and black. The project team worked diligently to place new stone in areas where its colour and appearance blended as seamlessly as possible with hundred-year-old stone.

Slight colour variations in the sandstone will exist on the building, just as it does in nature. While some new sandstone will initially look lighter in colour than existing stone, it will weather over time.

Historic City Hall’s new sandstone is carefully chosen to blend with existing stone. Here, new sandstone is slightly lighter in colour, and it will weather over time.

“When we’re looking at a beach from the distance, the expanse of sand looks like one colour,” explains Bell. “However, when we scoop up a handful of that sand and look at it very closely, we can see that the grains are actually a wide range of colours and textures. We can think of Historic City Hall the same way: from a distance, the building will look the same uniform tan. However, when you view the building up close, you’ll notice that each sandstone block has its own subtle range of rich colour variations that are inherent to sandstone.”

What’s next?

The removal of the protective enclosure and scaffolding beneath it will be complete by the end of June.

We are working towards welcoming back Historic City Hall’s tenants at a time appropriate to the current pandemic. We’re excited to reintroduce this treasured heritage building in its revitalized condition, ready to stand for another century.


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Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says health officials may also have to rebook vaccination appointments for those getting the required second dose.

Hinshaw made the announcement just hours after the federal government said there will be no shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and reduced shipments for about three weeks after that.

The slowdown is due to Pfizer retrofitting its Belgium-based plant in order to ramp up production down the road.

Hinshaw says Alberta has 456 new cases of COVID-19, with 740 patients in hospital.

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died.

“This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release Tuesday.

“We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans.”

Alberta recently finished giving first doses of vaccine to all residents in its 357 long-term care and supportive living facilities.

“These are absolutely the highest-risk locations, and people who live in these facilities are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Hinshaw told a virtual news conference.

“Two-thirds of all our (COVID-19) deaths have been in long-term care and supportive living facilities.”

Alberta has given 90,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those in the high priority cohort: those in the care homes and front-line health-care workers.

Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just over 171,000 this week and nothing the following week.  Both vaccines require two doses weeks apart for full effectiveness.

The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing the next phase of priority cases: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older.

Alberta remains under strict lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres remain shuttered.

The province relaxed some measure slightly on Monday. Outdoor gatherings can have 10 people maximum. Personal care services, like hair salons, manicure and pedicure salons and tattoo shops, can open by appointment only.

Hinshaw said it’s not clear when further restrictions can be lifted.

“Our health system is still under severe strain,” she said.

“This continues to impact our ability to deliver care, not only for COVID-19 but all the other health needs Albertans have.”

There were 11,096 active COVID cases Tuesday, about half the number recorded at its peak in mid-December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Central Alberta man sentenced to 18 years on 26 charges following child porn bust

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RED DEER, Alta. — A central Alberta man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison following what is being called one of the largest child pornography busts in the province.

The man can’t be named due to a publication ban to protect the identity of his victims, some of whom were sexually assaulted by him.

He pleaded guilty in October 2019 to 26 charges, while more than 50 counts were dropped.

Court in Red Deer, Alta., heard that the man’s victims were between two and 10 years old.

During the police investigation, members of Alberta’s internet Child Exploitation Unit seized more than 180,000 images of child pornography from the man’s digital devices and more than 27,000 videos.

During sentencing, provincial court Judge Jim Hunter called the 36-year-old man’s actions deplorable.

“The offences are extremely grave. Each time the files are viewed, the child is revictimized. The potential for revictimizations are immense,” Hunter said Tuesday.

“His moral culpability is very high. His collection was vast and extremely well organized — close to the highest numbers ever dealt with in Alberta.”

The man was initially charged in January 2019 following a tip from the Queensland Police Service in Australia.

Hunter said the man knew the legal and moral wrongfulness of his actions.

“He not only made child pornography, he traded and distributed it. I acknowledge (the accused) has a number of mental illnesses including pedophilia disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but not enough to mitigate the sentence.”

The man was also given a 10-year long-term supervision order and banned for life from owning weapons and firearms. He must also register as a sex offender and submit his DNA.

After seeking a sentence of 20 years, Crown prosecutor Carolyn Ayre said she is satisfied with the judge’s ruling. (rdnewsNow)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021 

The Canadian Press

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