In 1901, coal oil for Banff's kerosene lamps was in short supply. This prompted calls for hydropower from a proposed facility at Bow Falls. However, it was felt that electricity could be brought from the nearby coal-mining area of Bankhead. In 190f, the Department of the Interior made an agreement to purchase thermal electric power from the Pacific Coal Co. (name changed to Bankhead Mines in 1907). The Bankhead power plant supplied Banff with 6500 volts, which needed to be transformed to a level that could power Banff's streetlights and homes, necessitating this transformer building. In 1922, Bankhead closed and a new source of electricity for Banff was required.
In 1912, Calgary Power Co. constructed a dam across Devil's Canyon to raise the level of nearby Lake Minnewanka. In 1922, work began on the Cascade Power Plant at the old dam site to generate electricity for Banff. In 1941, under the War Measures Act, Calgary Power built a second earthen dam superimposed on the first to raise the lake level even higher. A new power plant, visible along the Trans Canada Highway, was also built that year to better supply Calgary's war production, and a growing Banff.
The transformer substation is one of only two buildings in Banff made of locally manufactured yellow brick. It is of Italianate-inspired design and was restored in 2000.
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