Pumphouse Theatre

For ages 8 to 80. There is something for everyone at the Pumphouse Theatre.

After two disastrous fires in 1912 were blamed on an inadequate water supply, the 40,000 residents of Calgary demanded a better water distribution system. In 1913, this pumping station was constructed to draw water from the nearby Bow River for the citizens of Calgary.

A twelve-foot diameter tunnel with two-foot thick concrete walls was created 58 feet below the riverbed. It was designed to house smaller pipes, which carried water from the Pump House to North Calgary. While this tunnel is now flooded, the pipes inside it are still in use today. The pump that sits silently in the room next door was one of the two huge pumps originally installed for this purpose.

Water flowed by gravity from the Bow River through a large duct and into two 40-foot deep wells located below what is now the Joyce Doolittle Theatre dressing room. From here it flowed into a huge cistern that supplied the pumps. Debris was blocked from entering the duct by a large screen at the river (the jetty and screen can still be viewed in low river seasons) and by 1\\4\’\’ screens where the water entered the wells. A scathing report in 1918 from the City of Calgary\’s chief chemist resulted in the addition of liquid chlorine to the water as it left the Pumphouse for the particles that remained in the water after the screens. In the mid-1920\’s water was no longer drawn from the Bow River but was instead channeled from the Currie Reservoir on the Elbow River via large wooden pipes. At the Currie Reservoir, chlorine was dumped directly into the open reservoir pits — an outdated method compared to that already in use at the Pump House. In 1929, the engineers in charge of the construction of the Glenmore Reservoir recommended that a pipe from the new reservoir be brought into the Pump House to supply water. Also recommended was the addition of two new smaller pumps to work as booster pumps to serve North Calgary. The two big centrifugal pumps in use were to be phased out and the wells sealed up. While the wells are still intact, the pump next door was kept for a back-up while its twin was hauled away for scrap in 1940.

The two new smaller pumps chugged along until 1968 when Bearspaw Dam came on line to supply North Calgary. With no useful purpose anymore as a Pump House, the pumps that had been installed in 1929 and all other still operative equipment were removed. The Pump House was slated for demolition when, in 1971, Joyce Doolittle poked her head through a boarded window and saw the potential for a community theatre.

After much lobbying, fund raising, commitment and labor, the leaky vehicle garage was upgraded to the Shed Theatre in 1972 while the Pump room was used as a rehearsal space. On March 8, 1972, the Calgary Youth Drama Society was incorporated to manage the affairs of the facility.

The Province of Alberta designated the Pumphouse and its surrounding area a Registered Historic Resource Site in 1975 and the site was designated a Canadian Water Landmark in 1980 by the American Waterworks Association.

In 1982, the first major renovation of the Pumphouse was completed. The Shed Theatre was renovated into a 300-seat theatre and the front entrance, washrooms and lobby were added. The second major renovation occurred in 1984 with the addition of the workshop, greenroom and dressing rooms off the Shed Theatre. At this time the theatres were renamed with the Shed Theatre being rededicated the Victor Mitchell Theatre and the Pump Room dedicated the Joyce Doolittle Theatre. On October 19, 1988, the Society was renamed to its present title of the Pumphouse Theatres Society. In 1990 the City of Calgary designated the Pumphouse Theatre a Municipal Historic Resource.

For more than 30 years, The Pumphouse Theatre has been a home for Calgary’s emerging performing arts scene. In any given year more than a dozen companies will produce over 35 shows in the two theatres. The many diverse groups that perform at the Pumphouse Theatre range from large established companies to small up-and-coming artists collectives. Consequently, the shows produced here range from blockbuster musicals to Irish dramas to cutting edge performance art.

The Pumphouse Theatre is committed not only to providing a high-quality venue for the arts but also to keeping that venue affordable for Calgary’s arts community. In order to keep costs manageable, especially for smaller groups and newcomers, rental rates for non-profit arts organizations are heavily subsidized.

In addition to providing a venue for the arts community year-round, the Pumphouse Theatre has hosted the annual Calgary Region One Act Play Festival since 1986. Each year 12 groups compete for a spot in the Provincial One Act Festival. This festival provides Calgarians with the opportunity to experience a broad spectrum of community theatre over three nights.

In 1984, the Pumphouse Theatre expanded its presence in the community by offering Summer Drama Daycamps for children between the ages of 8 and 14. These camps are designed to introduce theatre basics to children as well as foster an early interest in theatre and the arts. Increasing popularity of these camps stimulated an expansion in 2003 to offer year-round drama classes for 5– 16 year olds as well as a one-week spring break drama camp. For ages 8 to 80, there is something for everyone at the Pumphouse Theatre.

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Box Office & Program Administration

Address Details

2140 Pumphouse Ave SW, Calgary, AB T3C 3P5, Canada

Phone: 403-263-0079 ext. 100

E-mail: boxoffice@pumphousetheatre.ca Website: www.pumphousetheatre.ca

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Contact Details

  • Name Pumphouse Theatre
  • Full Address 2140 Pumphouse Ave SW, Calgary, AB T3C 3P5, Canada