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Queen Elizabeth and Calgary

This past week, our queen of 70 years, Elizabeth II, died at the age of 96. Elizabeth came to the throne in the middle of the modern era of architecture. Though her life was steeped in ancient traditions, she also spent much time opening modern buildings and structures around the Commonwealth. Her interactions with modern architecture in Canada were abundant. After Prince Philip's death, I wrote about Elizabeth and Philip's 1959 visit to Calgary, where they toured the new ultra-modern neighbourhood Britannia and had an evening barbecue at the Marshall M. Porter House. For the full piece, see here.

I thought I would share one interaction between Queen Elizabeth's life and the material on this site. Elizabeth's coronation took place on 2 June 1953, and within days, footage of the ceremony was shown in movie theatres across the globe. The best known version of the ceremony was the Technicolor documentary A Queen Is Crowned, which was narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier. The film opened in Calgary at the Uptown Theatre on Wednesday, 10 June 1953. The Uptown, of course, was the theatre on the main floor of the Barron Building, run by Jacob Bell Barron. The photograph below shows a lineup around the block for tickets to see the film. The newspaper advertisement beside it shows just how popular the film was: the theatre ran continuous showings for several days.

It all must have been very exciting. Jack Cawston's Barron Building and Uptown Theatre were the very symbols of modern Calgary and the oil boom underway. And in June of 1953, Calgarians sat in a packed theatre to see the coronation of their new Queen.

Over the last week, the miles-long line to see the Queen lying-in-state has become an international story. It's fitting that in Calgary her reign also began with a line to see her.