Brinkhaus Jewellers on 6th Avenue S.W. occupies a home that once housed some of the city’s first Jewish immigrants. Cody Stuart / CREB®Now

Calgary’s final downtown houses shine in video showcase

The handful of older homes left in the downtown core may seem out of place, but thanks to an enterprising Calgarian, they have landed squarely in the spotlight. If YouTube can make celebrities of children and animals, why not houses?

Dating back as far as the 1950s, most of the homes have been converted into small businesses or left vacant.

They are often dwarfed by skyscrapers all around them, and many are nothing special to look at, but digital storyteller Kelsy Norman says there’s more there than meets the eye. His realization prompted him to shoot the video “The Last Houses in Downtown Calgary,” which appears on his website kelsynorman.com.

“As I walked or cycled through downtown, I would see these houses and think they were pretty cool,” said Norman. “While we have some unique, modern buildings, it’s fascinating to learn the history of these remnants from our past and relish the nostalgia. Maybe some famous Calgarian or important pioneer lived there.”

“While we have some unique, modern buildings, it’s fascinating to learn the history of these remnants from our past and relish the nostalgia.” – Kelsy Norman, digital storyteller

Those remnants include, among others, a Brinkhaus Jewellers store that once housed the city’s first Jewish immigrants, as well as a one-time residence for low-income renters in the Downtown East Village. Norman figured that if he found them interesting, others might too, but he never imagined just how many others there would be.

“When I made the video, I told my girlfriend that if 500 people watched it I would be happy,” he said.
Imagine, then, his reaction when his video attracted over 60,000 viewers, and counting.

“The response has been crazy,” he said. “As a substitute teacher with the Calgary Board of Education, I love that people are saying ‘wow, I learned something about Calgary from this.’ Many of them grew up in the city and never realized these places existed, while others recognize some of the buildings and share their stories around them.”

As a former Newfoundlander, Norman has fallen in love with Calgary, and he relishes the chance to share his passion with others.

“Anything I ever wanted to do I have been able to accomplish in Calgary,” he said. “I feel lucky that I can educate viewers about these places and give back to the city. People think this is a new city without much history to offer, but we have a lot to celebrate and a unique past, and I want everyone to see that.”