History of Knox

The Rev. James Robertson was appointed Superintendent of Western Mission for the Presbyterian Church in Canada in 1881. From Winnipeg, he set out by horse and buggy to cross the prairies and after a most hazardous journey arrived in Alberta at a small frontier settlement consisting mostly of men.

Robertson found no formal place to preach, so he took his ministry to the local saloon where the men usually gathered. He obviously made a deep impression on his listeners as not long after they decided that they needed a more suitable place in which to worship.

Knox Presbyterian Church was established in 1883 in the small settlement, now named Calgary grew quickly, and so did the church.

The congregation moved to the I G Baker store. Attendance continued to increase and soon the Presbyterians were sharing a tent with the Methodists. Finally they were able to build their own church for a cost of $1000. The small wooden building was opened on October 21, 1883.  With the coming of the railroad, the centre of the town moved, and in March of 1884 the wooden church was hauled on skids across the ice of the Elbow River to be nearer to the new downtown.

In 1886, the cornerstone of a new building was laid at Centre Street and Seventh Avenue South and seated 330 people.

This was constructed of freestone gathered form local quarries. This structure cost $8000. This structure was expanded in 1905, but still could not accommodate the growing congregation.

Knox cornerstone was laid in 1912

In 1912 the cornerstone of the current Knox United Church was laid.

A new sandstone building, unofficially called ‘The Cathedral of the West’, was built in 1912 at the corner of Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue South. This sanctuary remains in use today, though a Christian Education wing was added in 1960.

In 1925, many of the members of Knox voted to become a part of the United Church of Canada.  Some members wished to remain in the Presbyterian fold, so went on to form a new congregation. Knox United Church remains in the downtown area of Calgary, a city now with a population of over 1,000,000 people.

With a ministerial staff dedicated to social ministry over the years and a like-minded congregation, Knox people have continued to reach out to the community.  Most recently through ‘The Calgary Urban Projects Society’ (CUPS) and ‘Inn from the Cold’, both organizations deal with street people. It has also been in the forefront of the movement to welcome gays, lesbians, and the transgendered into the United Church.

Knox Centre is the adult educational arm of the congregation and welcomes people of all faiths, providing educational sessions, study groups and outstanding speakers, as well as, Bible studies. It draws support from the religious community of Calgary and the surrounding area.

Knox is fortunate to have a fine Cassavant organ, one of the largest in western Canada. This forms the centre of a strong music program. A permanent labyrinth was dedicated in the fall of 2005 and is open for daily meditations.  The building is now also well-known throughout the area as a venue for musical concerts of all kinds and is working to become more involved in the arts community in Calgary.


In September 2013 Knox celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the building.

If you’d like to contribute in some way to the historic building and grounds support, you can donate via PayPal (or using your credit card) by clicking the button below.


A tax receipt will be issued for all donations of $20 or more.

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