City Hall time capsule offers peek into Calgarys past

City Hall time capsule offers peek into Calgary\s past
Calgary City Hall Time Capsule Dug Up After 110 Years
Mayor Naheed Nenshi had the honour of removing a time capsule that was placed inside Old City Hall on Sept. 15, 1908, during construction of the landmark sandstone building.

"These are records of people. These are records of the people who dreamt big, who wanted future generations to benefit from their investment and their work," he said after removing the car battery-sized copper box.  

Nenshi told the chamber there are four near-term solutions of varying palatability, including: continuing to spend city savings on tax relief measures; shifting some of the tax burden onto homeowners; accepting the situation as the “new norm” where properties outside the core pay higher taxes than those downtown; and introducing different tax rates for small and large businesses to shield the smaller firms.

"What's unique about it is an assemblage, it's a curated collection representative of the times and the people involved," historian Harry Sanders told the Calgary Eyeopener (which was named after Bob Edwards' iconic publication).

"If you think about what it is meant to be, that it isn't something special, it's just representative of what the community was like at the time this building was placed. If those are the expectations, then I think it's pretty spectacular. We're getting the very tactile items the people behind the construction of City Hall thought were important for us to have."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi addressed the cityís business community speaking about the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for Calgary and the key decisions weíll have to make as a community moderated by Calgary Chamber President and CEO Sandip Lalli at the The Hudson in Calgary on Thursday November 8, 2018. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

"They weren't taking into account that there would be humidity or snow or rain or things coming through," said Lisa Isley, who is the paper conservator at the Glenbow Museum.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi addressed the cityís business community speaking about the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for Calgary and the key decisions weíll have to make as a community moderated by Calgary Chamber President and CEO Sandip Lalli at the The Hudson in Calgary on Thursday November 8, 2018. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

"And honestly, they didn't have the knowledge that we have now when we do put together time capsules of what could potentially go wrong — mixing metal with paper obviously creates rust and corrosion."

The next step, said Isley, will be "to give it a chance to breathe, to acclimatize, because it's been in this microclimate for 100 years."

"A lot of what's done next is documentation," she said. "It's really important that we get a lot of photos of the condition of the box, how it was oriented in the cavity and then slowly, as things come out piece by piece, we'll document that as well."

Zoe Addington, policy director with the chamber, said she is pleased city council is keeping “everything on the table” when it comes to solving the tax shift problem, but would like to see one more potential solution added to the mix: cuts to municipal spending.

And it's not the only time capsule at City Hall as another is set to be opened 66 years from now.

That one was placed in the Municipal Building — which was constructed in the mid-1980s — and is set to be opened in 2084.

“I can tell you one thing for sure,” he said. “We’ve had your back for the last two years, we’ll continue to have your back. We understand the need for small businesses to thrive and to grow, particularly in this economy.”

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

Framing a bid for the 2026 Games as a smart economic play for Calgary, Nenshi said the city could spend $390 million to leverage a $4-billion investment from the provincial and federal governments, the International Olympic Committee and private sources.

More than a century ago, members of Calgarys city council gathered items important to the city at the time and sealed them in a copper box, placing the box within a cornerstone of City Hall.

Today, mayor Naheed Nenshi pulled that box out, revealing a snapshot of a small city just beginning to grow.

“That’s not nebulous economic development, that’s actual cash being invested in the city,” he said. “And that’s money we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”

The capsule was put in place on Sept. 15, 1908, by then-mayor Arthur L. Cameron. At the time, Calgarys population was only 12,000 people, and the provinces vast oil resource had yet to be discovered.

“The challenge is that it’s not getting better. In fact, this year, because of a couple of sales in the downtown core of big skyscrapers at very low prices, it got much worse.”

In the box were 27 items, including copies of newspapers, coins, a New Testament, and an Album of the Dominion Exhibition (the precursor to the Calgary Stampede.)

In the long run, the key to solving downtown vacancies is growing the economy, both through scaling up local businesses and attracting new ones to Calgary, Nenshi said.

The conservator will remove the contents one at a time separating them from each other. Once the items have been examined, a treatment plan will be developed and we will hopefully be able to display the contents at a later date. #yycheritagepic.twitter.com/39NyyW1JIg

For each of the past two years, the city has spent around $45 million to soften the blow by limiting the increase on non-residential property taxes to five per cent.

The City of Calgary says more photos of the contents will be available and HuffPost Canada will update this post with those photos.

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