Architecture at Union Cemetery

Since the Victorian era, the incorporation of buildings and other architectural elements has been an important part of cemetery design. Below are some of the interesting features found in Calgary's union Cemetery.


The Chapel - Mortuary



The Chapel at Union Cemetery is unique in Calgary in both its function and construction. It was built in 1908 to provide grave side services and storage of coffins during the cold prairie winters in the days when all graves were dug by hand. Services were held in the main floor chapel area and, at the end of the ceremony, the coffin was lowered to the mortuary area in the basement where, for a nominal fee, the remains would be stored until the spring weather allowed for interment at the gravesite.

At first glance, the building appears to be made of the same quarried sandstone, which was a popular building material in Calgary at the time, but it is actually made of cast concrete blocks which have been placed in such a way as to minimize the evidence of their casting.The Chapel - Mortuary is the only remaining building from this time period in Calgary exhibiting this type of construction. The pews have been removed from the Chapel area, but it remains relatively intact and original. The racks on which the coffins were stored are still in place in the basement as is some of the original equipment.

The Chapel - Mortuary probably saw its last services in the early 1960s and is today used for storage, but a suggestion has been made to partially restore it to its original purpose by turning it into a mausoleum for cremated remains.


Galloway House

When James Galloway was hired as caretaker of Union Cemetery in 1899, the house at right was built to serve as his residence. The original brick construction has been covered by layers of renovations over the years, but it remains a valuable example of late 19th century residential construction. The house now serves as the office for the current foreman and cemetery staff as well as a place for storage and light construction. Casting of concrete plaques used for determining lot and row numbers are currently cast in the basement.

In the 1990s, the foreman of Union Cemetery discovered one of Galloway's diaries in the house. This document has been of great value to a number of researchers studying the cemetery.

James Galloway is buried not far from his former residence.



Entrance Arch

  Designed by parks superintendent Richard Iwerson in 1912, this neo-classical "heroic" arch once straddled the main entrance to Union Cemetery. It has since been moved slightly north east of its original location and now forms a focal point, and entrance of sorts, to the lower portion of Reader Rock Gardens, just North of the cemetery.


Stairways to Nowhere

Originally, several sets of concrete steps were cast into some of the steeper section of the terrain to facilitate access from the roadways to the gravesites. A few of these stairways remain today, but unfortunately they have disappeared from some of the steeper sections where they are most needed.



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