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The Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

I was looking for a suitable topic for a Thanksgiving entry and stumbled across this photograph of the Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo taken on Thanksgiving Day 1963 by Alison Jackson.

AJ 80-01

Alison Jackson's photographs make up one of the collections in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Miss Jackson was a librarian with the Calgary Public Library from 1941 to her retirement in 1974. One day, walking home for lunch, she shot a photo of the Patrick Burns mansion which was shortly to be demolished. The demolition of this building and, especially, the old courthouse galvanized Alison into preserving on film buildings which were under threat. She had a keen eye and an exceptional talent and in 1975 her photographs were used to illustrate two books on the built history of Calgary: Be It Ever So Humble and A Walk Through Old Calgary both by Trudy Soby (now Cowan). These items can be borrowed from the library if you would like to see some examples of Miss Jackson's photographs. After Miss Jackson's death in 1987, her estate donated her photographs and slides to the Calgary Public Library. They have been digitized and can be viewed in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (the link is on the left hand side of the page. To browse just the Alison Jackson Collection, just click on the link.

When Alison took this photograph, the Conservatory was not under threat. In fact it was new. A donation from Eric Harvie, through the Woods Foundation, provided the money for the first component of the conservatory which was opened by John Ballem, who was the President of the Zoological Society at the time. It had been built on the site of the old Biergarten/Band Stand that had been built in 1912 before there was even a zoo on St. George's Island. The original intention was that the building, seen in the postcard below, would be a true biergarten but the province was officially "dry" and no alcohol, not even beer, could be served. The building became a teahouse with a dance hall on the second storey.

PC 541

ST. George's Island Biergarten

Postcards from the Past, PC 541

There are a number of very good books on the history of the Calgary Zoo. One of the newest is by Tyler Trafford: The Evolution of the Calgary Zoo. You can find this and other titles in the collection by entering the words "calgary zoo history" in the catalogue search box on the Calgary Public Library website.


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