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Brewery Gardens

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 51-08

Disney Themed Display

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 51-08

The days are getting longer. Thanks to a wonderful Chinook things are warming up. Now is the time to think about gardens. OK, so maybe it is a bit early to think about actually gardening in Calgary but I stumbled across this picture of Snow White in the Brewery Gardens and I thought now would be a great time to talk about those particular gardens and what they’ve meant to Calgarians over the years.

The gardens were originally developed in 1932 and were a project of James Cross, the son of A.E.Cross who had taken over management of the Brewery from his father. Originally the plan for the garden was a bit of a make-work effort. In keeping with the Cross family tradition of looking out for their employees and giving back to their community, the gardens were an idea designed to reduce the need for layoffs and to give employees something to do during the Depression. It was a simple design, stands of trees and shrubs and a few flower gardens.

This would all change with the introduction of the fish ponds. James Cross was interested in water. Calgary Brewing and Malting’s slogan for a time was “The water makes the difference, naturally.” Indeed, the brewery was founded where it was because of the presence of an artesian well on the property. Water was important to good beer, and James realized that fish, too, needed clear, clean water to thrive. The symbolism was not lost on James Cross. From 1938 to 1972 a fish hatchery would be operated on the Brewery site. Water, warmed in the brewing process, would be used to sustain the hatchlings and the fish raised at the hatchery were used to populate the ponds and streams in the garden. The hatchery was just the first step in a process that would make the Calgary Brewing and Malting site a community centerpiece. By 1960 the Cross family had opened a large aquarium on the site – the largest inland aquarium in Canada. The second floor was designed to house James’ collection of western memorabilia. This would become the Horseman’s Hall of Fame in 1963.

The gardens themselves would house artifacts. A cabin, believed to be the oldest building in Calgary, was rescued and moved to the gardens in 1933 (see the picture below). Streetcar 14, after completing its final run, was moved for preservation to the site. Its frame was used to build the replica streetcar that runs at Heritage Park.

AJ 21=14

Cabin in Brewery Gardens 1957

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 21-14

The gardens were open to the public and were a very popular spot. In the winter, decorations were put out to make the gardens a year-round attraction. The first photograph shows a Disney-themed display from 1960 as viewed by Alison Jackson, whose collection of photographs can be viewed in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

According to a 1997 Historical Resource Impact Assessment of the site by Ken Hutchinson Architect Ltd. (which is available in the Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library) the structure of the gardens were found to be intact “with the important exceptions that the pools no longer contain water and fish and that the gardens no longer have the floral displays”. The 1875 cabin was still on the site, as was a replica of the original buffalo mascot. The talk surrounding the Calgary Brewing and Malting site has included the possibility of bringing the gardens back to their original state. That would be an interesting development and one many residents of the area (and others) would like to see.

PC 1406

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens

Postcards from the Past, PC 1406


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