A 1960’s Inglewood Oddity: A Midcentury Aquarium

 

It seems like something out of a bizarre mid-century dream; the idea of Inglewood as home to Calgary’s one and only aquarium. An aquarium so far in-land from any ocean seems like a strange luxury that truly showcased Calgary’s booming economy and growing population of the time. The story of how the aquarium came to fruition runs deep in Calgary, and in particular, within Inglewood’s long and fabled history.


“Attendance averaged at about 200,000 people per year and for most of the time the aquarium was open, there was no admission fee.”


If you’re familiar with the restaurant scene and the famous heritage homes of Inglewood, it is likely you know about the Cross House, home of A.E. Cross, one of Calgary’s most notable business owners and one of “The Big Four”. Cross founded The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. in 1892.

When Cross passed away in 1932, his son J.B. Cross, took over the company as president. Incredibly community-minded, Cross did much to create memorable experiences for Calgarians on his properties. Besides developing the Brewery grounds into beautiful public gardens (which hosted spectacular Christmas displays annually), Cross also established the fish hatchery in 1938 and opened the Horsemen’s Hall of Fame (a Western heritage museum) that opened in 1964. Cross officially opened the Aquarium on August 25, 1960 on the site of what is now Zyn on 9th Avenue SE. The aquarium received much excitement and fanfare from the whole city and there was a huge turnout for the opening celebration. Premier Ernest Manning even performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the event.

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Most interestingly, the aquarium was the only in-land aquarium in all of North America at the time and had seawater hauled in via tanker truck from the British Columbia coast. There was 44 display tanks and over 400,000 litres of seawater on site. Attendance averaged at about 200,000 people per year and for most of the time the aquarium was open, there was no admission fee.

While I was unable to confirm this detail, I did come across a post about the aquarium on Pinterest that stated that there was a seal named Dolly who lived in an outdoor pool on-site. A seal - named DOLLY(!) - who lived in Inglewood - imagine that!

Sadly, to the dismay of Calgarians who found the aquarium to be a beloved treasure, it was closed in 1972 and was moved to Quebec City. Now it only remains as a midcentury relic in the memories of the families who visited it during that brief period of time in Calgary’s history.

 
ryan beale