Amongst the towering modern skyscrapers one can see Calgary's architectural past. After the entire downtown was destroyed by fire in 1886, the city was rebuilt in sandstone, leading to Calgary's early nickname, the "Sandstone City." Paskapoo Sandstone consists of sand grains eroded from the ancestral Rocky Mountains and transported to the east by rivers 65 to 58 million years ago. Over time, the sands were buried under hundreds of metres of younger sediment, cemented with minerals precipitated from groundwater, and then slowly exposed by erosion to form the sandstone outcrops that can be seen today along our river valleys.

A large collection of heritage buildings known as Stephen Avenue Walk can been seen in downtown Calgary. Some schools in and around the downtown core have preserved their sandstone facades; the most accessible is probably the McDougall Centre ( 455 - 6 Street SW), formerly the Calgary Normal School and McDougall School . You can also visit  Beaulieu , the beautifully-restored sandstone mansion (and gardens) of Senator Lougheed, on 13th Ave. near 7 St. SW  Beaulieu is directly across the street from the prestigious Ranchmen's Club (not to be confused with the Ranchman's country bar on Macleod Tr.). The private club sports some unique western Canadian-themed stone carvings on the exterior.

Amongst many of the other Calgary buildings to be seen is the  Scotiabank Saddledome . Built originally for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, it seats approximately 20,000 people for many different types of events. The sloping roof which looks like a saddle is actually the worlds largest self-supporting concrete roof.

When you walk through the downtown core, you will notice that the buildings are connected to each other by overhead glass-enclosed walkways.  This is called the Plus Fifteen system (because regulations specify that the walkways be built 15 feet above ground level).  The +15 system enables pedestrians to walk from one end of downtown to the other without coats and boots in winter.  The value of this may not be readily apparent to the summer visitor, but Calgarians do appreciate it in winter.

 An excellent blog on Calgary's history and architecture is on the Calgary Public Library's website, Community Heritage and Family History.