In the course of our daily reporting, we often uncover unusual projects, places, or connections that don't make the final cut. Instead of keeping it to ourselves, we're pleased to share our Architrivia.
Fans of professional wrestling in the 1990s should be duly familiar with the Hart family. Scenes of Bret "The Hitman" Hart and his late brother Owen sauntering to the squared circle with a confident swagger and a Canadian flag are ingrained in the minds of children who grew up during the heyday of the WWF (now WWE). And just as much as they would flaunt their nationalism, the family's Calgary connection was always front and centre on the screen. While wrestlers' names and origins would frequently be altered to align with the persona of their character, a bellowing ringside announcer would always bill the Harts as proud Calgarians.
The neighbourhood of Patterson Heights is where it all began. The Hart House was the home of the extensive family of patriarch Stu Hart, an Order of Canada recipient. This 5,600-square-foot brick mansion with a tremendous view of the skyline once served as a children's orphanage, and was purchased by Hart in 1951 for $25,000. The 1905-built home featured 22 rooms, four fireplaces, five chandeliers from the McDonald Hotel, and a coach house.
But the basement of the home was where some of professional wrestling's biggest stars, alongside strongmen and football players, honed their craft. The Hart Family Dungeon was a gym and wrestling school that Stu established after founding Stampede Wrestling in 1948. The Hart House and The Dungeon gradually earned a reputation among fans after repeated televised acknowledgements — one of the first was made by former colour commentator and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. All of Stu's eight sons became professional wrestlers, training in The Dungeon before setting off on their careers. Billy Graham, Greg Valentine, Davey Boy Smith, Chris Benoit, and Edge are among the most famous graduates of The Dungeon. Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, and Natalya — the granddaughter of Stu and first female to graduate from the school — still actively wrestle with the WWE.
Stu Hart's death in 2003 prompted the family to sell the mansion. The years that followed put the future of the house into jeopardy. Initial preservation plans in 2006 ended with a tied vote, leaving the structure in danger of demolition. A revised plan then called for its restoration and the construction of 13 townhomes on the surrounding grounds, set to begin in 2007. This development never saw the light of day, and despite being put up for sale again three years later for $5 million and an associated development permit, no buyer came forward. In 2012, the City finally designated the Hart House a municipal heritage site, an arrangement that would also see nine houses with secondary suites built on the property.
The house has since been restored and was reportedly available for rent at $10,000 a month. Now accommodating six bedrooms, family rooms, a gym, a library, and a gourmet kitchen, the building's stately appearance obscures the hard-hitting action that once took place in its famed foundation.
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