Nestled beside Shaw Millennium Park along the new West LRT line, the Mewata Armoury and Drill Hall is a one-of-a-kind building in Calgary’s inner city.
The word “Mewata” is said to be derived from the Cree word for ‘O be joyful’ or ‘to be happy’. With construction beginning 1915 and a completion date of 1918, the structure was the brainchild of architect Thomas W. Fuller. Based on Tudor Gothic style, the building is constructed of brick with stone trim and with three-storey towers, narrow windows and turrets, resembles a fortress or castle.
According to www.historicplaces. ca, the Armoury was built in accordance with the federal governments late 19th century initiatives to build militia practice and training recruitment centres.
“The intention was to concentrate the volunteer militia in large urban areas by building drill halls in all major cities,” said the website. “Mewata Armoury housed both militia and permanent force units in the inter-war period, served as the focus of a substantial training camp in the Second World War and continues today as an active militia establishment.”
In a Federal Heritage Buildings “Review Office Building Evaluation” report from 1984, more light is shed on Mewata’s uses after construction.
“It was the headquarters for all Calgary militia units from 1918 to 1939, housed a small unit of the Regular Force (B Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse) from 1920 to 1936 and, during World War Two, formed the centre of a substantial training facility.”
Historic Places also pointed out the heritage value Mewata holds for the time it was built.
“The scale and bold design of the Mewata Armoury exemplify the wave of national pride that greeted Canada’s strong performance in the South African War and which led to a dramatic increase in militia enrolment in western Canada.”
With its rich military history, the armoury and drill hall also hold many anecdotal tidbits in the Twittersphere from Calgarians and beyond.
“I catered Mess Dinners there a lifetime ago. It was very propah,”wrote @tarasukut, “…I remember being a little boy going to watch junior football at Mewata Stadium next to “the castle”. #yyc,” wrote @musicbaum and “My lit agent will be shopping a zombie apocalypse story for Young Adults where Mewata Armoury is the starting point.”, wrote @saskatoonauthor.
Today the armoury is home to The Calgary Highlanders — an infantry unit originally created in 1910 and known as the Calgary Regiment, the First Battalion — training unit, The King’s Own Calgary Regiment — a reserved, armoured regiment as well as several other local events.
The Mewata Armoury was declared an Alberta Heritage Resource in 1979, a Federal Heritage Building in 1984 and a National Historic Site in 1991, of which there’s only six in Calgary — Lougheed House, City Hall, Fort Calgary, SAIT’s Heritage Hall, the Palace Theatre and Stephen Avenue being the other five.
Have you been to Mewata Armoury? What do you recommend checking out while there?