There will be a city of at least 25,000. I see houses, schools, shops and churches and everything one needs for a happy life and I will help to build it.
William Roper Hull, 1883
William Roper Hull was an entrepreneur, visionary, philanthropist. His contributions to Calgary, Alberta and Western Canada left a blueprint for legions of others to follow.
Mr. Hull recognized that a quality life requires a fabric of services, resources and relationships.
As a result of William Roper Hull’s generosity, thousands of kids, young adults and families are helped every day through Hull Services.
His spirit of influence remains as strong today as he once envisioned.
William Roper Hull was born in Somerset, England in 1856; Hull sailed for Panama with his brother John in 1873 when both were in their late teens. They crossed the isthmus by foot, travelled by steamer to Victoria, B.C. boated up the Fraser River toward Yale looking for their Uncle William Roper. After working on their Uncle’s ranch for a number of years, the Hull brothers continued their journey on foot to Kamloops, where they started the Cherry Creek Ranch.
When the North West Mounted Police needed horses, the brothers gathered 1,200 head as well as many cattle and drove them over the Crowsnest Pass to what was then known as the North West Territories. They came to a small outpost known as Calgary. Here they sold their horses to the North West Mounted Police and the cattle to the North West Cattle Company, which later became the Bar U Ranch. This was the first of many trips for the Hull brothers.
William and John supplied beef to the Canadian Pacific Railway as it was pushing to the west across British Columbia. The first assignment of stock to be shipped into Alberta by rail from the west was 400 head brought into Calgary by Hull and another partner.
During that season they brought 3,000 cattle to Alberta, selling off two thirds, and using the money to buy their new ranch called `25`. They stocked the ranch with the remainder of their cattle.
In 1892, William Roper Hull and his brother John Roper Hull purchased the Bow Valley Farm from Quebec Lt.-Gov. Theodore Robitaille and renamed it the Bow Valley Ranche (formerly the Bow Valley Farm). The brothers later purchased two ranches near Nanton, Alberta. Operations rapidly expanded, and by 1888 they owned the largest meat business across British Columbia and the North-West Territories. W.R. Hull began operations on his own. With the well-known A.E. Cross and M. Cochrane, he opened the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company.
In the mid-1890s the Hull brothers dissolved their partnership with John taking control of the interests in British Columbia and William taking the Alberta holdings.
During his life in Alberta, Hull poured his time and resources into the development of the community, especially around the Calgary area where he resided. As a commercial real estate developer, he was responsible for many notable Calgary landmarks and other comparable buildings in British Columbia and Alberta. In Calgary this included the Grain Exchange building, the Alberta Block, the Albion Block, the Radio Block and Alberta’s first cultural building, Hull Opera House.
William Roper Hull cultivated the social life of an elegant class of ranchers whose lifestyle was unique to the time period in which he lived. The Bow Valley Ranche became the focal point for their gatherings. When the original log home from the Government Supply Farm burned down in 1896, Hull built the Bow Valley Ranche House. The Ranche House represented the height of country luxury and grace. Hull wanted a home that would allow him and his wife Emmaline (nee Banister) to entertain on a lavish scale and be a fitting monument to his financial success. Mr. Hull hired James Llewellyn Wilson, Calgary’s most prominent architect, to design the house. Under the ownership of W.R. Hull, the ranch also became known for its irrigation system and crop production. Newspapers and reporters often referred to the ranch as Alberta`s Irrigation Farm.
In 1902, W.R. Hull and Emmaline moved into the little city where they had built another mansion which they named as Langmore. It stood on 10th Avenue and 6th Street S.W.
William helped form the Stock Growers Association and was a charter member of the “Pack of Western Wolves,” a forerunner of the Ranchman’s Club. Throughout the years, he gave generously to many agencies in the growing towns of Alberta.
Hull is most well-known as an early Alberta entrepreneur. Hull’s abilities as both a cattleman and a businessman were integral to the development of the vast prairie land and to the growth of the early economy, shaping Alberta into the province it is today.
It isn’t because of his many contributions as a businessman, however, that Hull has been written into history as one of Alberta’s most outstanding volunteers. He also possessed the qualities of a community-minded citizen and philanthropist— a generous spirit and a genuine interest in the well-being of others. He was especially dedicated to the welfare of children, and volunteered his time with the few existing youth organizations in Alberta at the time, including the Scouts and the Navy Leagues.
Hull had a vision for creating a healthy and vibrant community. “I see homes, schools, shops, and churches with everything one needs for a happy life and I will help build it,” he once said.
Even at the time of his death in 1925, Hull continued to show his dedication to the community, bequeathing his land and money to the building of a charity dedicated to the well-being of children and youth. When his wife Emmaline died in 1953, Hull`s estate was used to begin a home for orphaned children.
Today, Hull Services carries on his tradition by helping more than 9,000 of Calgary’s most vulnerable children and their families each year. In 1994, in honour of his accomplishments and memory, William Roper Hull was designated a Canadian Historian at the Bow Valley Ranche in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
William Roper Hull had built one of the most successful ranching operations in Alberta’s history, but it is perhaps his contributions to the community that have had the most impact on the people of the prairie province. Today, Hull Services, in addition to a Calgary park and school are named in his honour.