Phase II: North side of the park was added.


Phase I: South side of the park was initially developed.


Schematic rendering of the buildings that stood here, according to the footprints indicated on the 1961 fire insurance maps. According to old photographs, there was a small playground on the southern portion.


Schematic rendering of the buildings that stood here, according to the footprints indicated on the 1911 fire insurance maps. According to old photographs, there was a small playground on the southern portion.

Annie Louis (ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE Sien Lok Society)

+ Tell me your story. How long have you been in Chinatown?
What was Chinatown like then?
I came here in 1953 and I first got climatized to Chinatown in Vancouver. I met my husband here and we got married in 1958. They were living at 112 4th Avenue, right where the Regency / Dragon City Mall is.

We attended the church, the Chinese United Church, partly due to the Ho Lem Senior and their son, Dave. You knew everybody; it was a very small community. You came for lunch and started with 2… then you would have a table of 12 or 14. We ate at New China, The W.K… We would meet in the evening for coffee at Linda Mae’s. 

The Ng Tower and 5 Harvest Plaza both went up at the same time. George Ho Lem developed 5 Harvest and Yuk Sum Ng developed the Ng Tower.

+ When was the park established?
Phase I (1980s) — the south side of Sien Lok Park
Phase 2 (1999) — the north side of Sien Lok Park

We raised the money to build the pagoda and the lighting, and the city maintained it after that.

Annie Louis with her son, Les Louis in the north side of Sien Lok Park.
Following in his mother's footsteps, Les is currently the vice president of Sien Lok Society.
Photograph courtesy of Sien Lok Society.

+ Tell me about the formation of Sien Lok Society.
Sien Lok Society was founded in 1968, and didn’t really get off the ground until 1969. The East-West Penetrator proposal was put forth by mostly Canadian-born business folks, and so a few of us decided to get together to fight City Hall. There were around a dozen of us local Chinese, and then it ballooned. In 1968 there was a big conference, and then in 1969 we really formed as a whole, getting active, protesting, fundraising… 

In the 1970s, when it became clear that City Hall wasn’t going to knock down Chinatown, we could start planning for the development of the park. Hugh Louie and myself were heavily involved at the beginning, and I am still on the board. Sien Lok Society does not speak for all of Chinatown — which is how the United Calgary Chinese Association formed. UCCA was a bit more old school, less about confronting City Hall.

When we started planning for the first phase of SLP,  it was an idea from the directorship to claim the parkland and make it Chinatown’s own. It was just open land there.

+ What was on this land before this park was established? How was the land acquired?
There was nothing much here — it was grassy city land. When we had a Chinese school, we would have a skating rink back there. It was our own DIY. 

+ Who was the architect or urban planner in this process?
We had to work with The City to design the park, so it was Sien Lok Society and City Planners.

+ Can you tell me about the history behind the building’s design development and about the construction process?
We had the pagoda and the playgrounds. It was simple and we wanted to have something with Chinese character, where people could sit down and relax. It was used by not just the local community, but others from Downtown walking along the pathway.

We used to have the Sien Lok Society barbecues on the north side. We hosted our picnics in the park (last time was 2013-2014), but then the City started demanding permits. They posed too many hoops.

Photograph courtesy of Sien Lok Society.

That’s how we ended up with Phase II. We started conceiving of this phase in the mid-1990s. The Calgary Chinese Elderly Citizens’ Association (CCECA) wanted their building on the Park, but because it was City land, Sien Lok Society protested. We advocated for them to use the Indian Friendship Centre lot instead, but they didn’t want to. As a compromise, the City allowed Sien Lok Society to have the northern portion of the park (hence, Phase II). 

There are 2 monuments — ‘Gold Mountain’ and ’The Wall of Names’ and the two lions on the side.  We did get some feedback as to what to put in the park. Casino funds helped to put the monuments there. 

The pathways were completed by the City.

+ Do you know of any major renovations or changes to the park since it was first constructed?
Not a lot. There’s more maintenance than anything else. Today, the City maintains the land, and Sien Lok Society maintains the fixtures.

The pair of lions is lifted into place. September 15, 1999. Photographs courtesy of Sien Lok Society.

Sien Lok Park aerial, shot in 2019. Photograph courtesy of Sien Lok Society.

At the bottom of the photograph, the future site of the park is visible. The north side of today’s Sien Lok Park can be seen on the west side of the Centre Street Bridge, being used as a parking lot. Across Riverfront Avenue is the empty, grassy lot that would later become the south side of Sien Lok Park.  In the corner, a swing set and sandbox are visible.

Photograph courtesy of Marilyn Williams and The City of Calgary.


Photographs taken in 2019 – 2020.

Find more information on Sien Lok Park on The City of Calgary’s Historic Resources site.