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Awesome Heritage!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 947

On Friday we will be launching our third annual One Book One Calgary. This year’s book is The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. There is going to be a lot of exciting programming associated with this celebration, starting with the launch itself – Calgary’s Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor will be on hand as will a number of other prominent Calgarians who will tell us what they find awesome about this great city. Click here to find out more.

Another of the programs, and one that I am particularly looking forward to, will be with Calgary’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders (who is pretty awesome). He will be regaling us with awesome things from Calgary’s past. You can find out more and register for this program here. It will be at the Memorial Park Library (which is also awesome)

As my contribution to the “awesome” parade, I thought I would list the heritage buildings that I find awesome (and I’ll stop using that word now) This is only a very small part of my list, this is a blog, after all, and I’m sure I’d lose you all about number 40, so here is my much abbreviated list of some a-word heritage structures in Calgary.

The Cecil Hotel – it may seem weird that this hotel, which has recently been in the papers as a prime candidate for demolition due to its unsavory past, would make my list, but there is something about this building that I love and I would hate to see gone. It is one of the few remaining hotels of its period and although many call it an eyesore, it does have its own charm. For me, the Cecil represents the working class roots of Calgary, especially the East End of Calgary.

The Calgary Public Building – built in 1931, this edifice includes the only manned elevator in the city. It is a wonderfully elegant concrete structure which retains much of its original exterior detail . In its adaptation to modern use, it stands as an example of how heritage buildings can be made useful and efficient.Post Office

The Craftsman houses along 17th Avenue SW. I love the Craftsman style of house. There is a block just east of the Richmond Road turnoff that has several original Craftsman style homes still standing. I know this isn’t exactly a heritage site, but I smile whenever I drive past them.

The Burns Building – this was the building that got me interested in my city’s heritage. I was oblivious to all of the beautiful old buildings in the city until the Burns Building attacked Mayor Sykes and nearly sealed its own fate. That we were able to save it was a triumph and a symbol of what can be done when citizens raise their voices.

The CNR Building/St. Mary’s Parish Hall, beside St. Mary’s School. This building was derelict when I was attending St. Mary’s. We occasionally (don’t tell anyone) would sneak in and have a look around. It was a beautiful building, even in its dotage. It was also the scene of the most memorable event of my high school years. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor filmed a part of the movie “Silver Streak” in the old building. It stood in for an abandoned railway station somewhere near Kansas. Sadly, the interior was gutted by fire in 1985 but it was brought back to life in 1987 when it became the home of the Alberta Ballet.CNR STation

These are just a very few of the heritage structures I find “awesome” (sorry) in this city. (And I didn’t mention the Glenmore Dam once) What is your most favourite heritage site?

Aviation History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1122


The Airport, Calgary, Alberta Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1122

We had a wonderful Heritage Weekend despite the snowy weather and the inevitable fear of failure (mostly of the technology) it all went off without a hitch. And, boy did we have some speakers! We heard about the Barron building, the Century Homes project, the plans for Calgary that never happened, stories of interesting people and events from Calgary’s past, information about the heritage in our midst and about the great Calgary aviator, Freddie McCall. Pages Books was there selling the works of many of our speakers (thanks Richard) and the meet and greet included lots of people from many organizations, all chatting about heritage in this city. It was a real buzz! I don’t know how we will top it next year, but we’ll try!

I am almost, but not quite,” heritaged” out so I was madly casting about for a blog idea. As usual, the newspapers provided my topic. As I was doing some BMD transcription for the Alberta Family Histories Society (a great project, if any of you are interested in it) I found an article that fit quite nicely in with the subject of our Friday night speaker. On September 17, 1919 a flight was made by two airmen, Lieuts. Lobb and Rowe, from Saskatoon to Winnipeg, and it only took 5 hours! They had to make 3 stops for gasoline.

They announced that they would try a non-stop flight the next week so I went searching for the newspaper report of their success. I found a small article on page seven of the September 23 edition of the Calgary Daily Herald. It seems that, sadly, the weather did not cooperate and they had heavy rainfall for 2 hours and a strong head wind. They had to make three stops, again, but this time it took them 14 hours to complete the flight. The plane belonged to the Keng Wah aviation school and was “driven” by Lieut. Harry Lobb. The Keng Wah school was an interesting one. Set up by Stan McClelland, a lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, it was developed to train young Chinese men from the China, the US and Canada to fly for Sun-Yat Sen’s airforce. It's base was just outside of Saskatoon.

At the same time this was happening, Fred McCall was flying at fairs around Alberta. He was overwhelmed by the response from the people he met and was taking many of them on their first "flip". This was pretty brave of them considering that only two months earlier, McCall had "landed" his plane on top of a carousel at the Exhibition Grounds in Calgary. The history of aviation is a strange and interesting study, is it not?

You can find the story of the aviation school in Aviation in Canada: the Formative Years by Larry Milberry This title can be signed out. You can also sign out the biography of Fred McCall by Shirlee Smith Matheson, Maverick in the sky An interesting item you might want to have a look it is a 1919 publication called Aviation in Canada by Alan Sullivan. This book is in the Local History collection, so doesn’t go out, but it can be consulted at any time.

Article CDH Sep 18 1919

Headline of article on Fred McCall's efforts to establish a passenger flight service

Calgary Daily Herald, September 18, 1919, p. 8

From Our Future Our Past

The Next Heritage Challenge: Mid-Century Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 216

Eighth Avenue looking east from First Street West

PC 216

When I look at some of the pictures in the Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, which is comprised of pictures of buildings that were threatened in the 50s and 60s by urban renewal and other development schemes, I sometimes ask myself, “What were they thinking when they tore that down?” Many of the buildings that were lost were outstanding examples of their period, such as the Burns Mansion, most of the hotels on 9th Avenue, the CPR station and huge numbers of homes. There were people, such as Alison Jackson, who were concerned and did their best to protect those buildings and, thanks to them, not everything was lost.

Now we’re starting the same process with some of our mid-century buildings. I know that I have a hard time thinking of heritage when I look at a building that was new when I was a child and sometimes, not always but particularly when confronted with anything “avocado” coloured, I have to say, “Eeeeuw!” Prejudices aside, if we don’t start looking at these buildings with an eye to the future, the next generations will look at the surviving pictures and say “What we’re they thinking?” Two buildings have recently been in the news, both of them mid-century and both under threat: The Barron Building and the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue.

We’ve already lost Earnest Manning High School, the Number 5 Fire Hall is at risk, the Barron Building’s future is up in the air and a demolition permit has been issued for the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue. There is a lot of mid-century architecture in this city; we had one of our infamous booms during the 50s and 60s. Many of these are reaching the end of their lifespans and are will be looked at with a view to redevelopment. We need to be aware, before we start tearing things down willy-nilly, that what we look at today as an outmoded, electrically challenged nuisance, may one day be considered an outstanding example of the architecture of the time.

If you are interested in finding out about modernist architecture in Calgary there are a number of very good resources. Two books in our collection, both in Local History and in the regular collection are Calgary Modern 1947-1967 and Suburban Modern: Postwar Dreams in Calgary.

There is also a wonderful collection of photos at the Canadian Architectural Archives in the Calgary Civic Trust fonds.

And for those of you interested in the history of the Barron family and the building that bears their name, Irena Karshenbaum will be giving a presentation during our Heritage Weekend (October 19th and 20th) on the Barron’s and the importance of the Barron building as an anchor to the oil industry in Calgary. Find out more about our Heritage Weekend!

Barron Building CHAB

Barron Building

Courtesy Calgary Heritage Advisory Board

Canadian Federal Voters Lists in Ancestry

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Ancestry LE

Thanks to the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, I found out about an excellent new resource available to genealogists researching their Canadian roots. Often, in the absence of census records, we suggest that our genealogists check out the voters lists for the area they are researching. We have the municipal voters lists in paper format in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We also have one set of Federal Voters Lists, for 1974. We used to have to borrow other years from Library and Archives Canada on microfilm. Now Ancestry has put up Federal Voters Lists for Canada for 1935-1980. Most of these images have been indexed, but a few of the later years are still only available as images for browsing. (The indexing was done by OCR and if you have a look at some of those later lists, you’ll understand why they haven’t been indexed.) To find your people in the indexed lists, you can go to the Canadian Voters Lists database in Ancestry and type in the name. Keep in mind that OCR indexing is far from perfect and it may still be necessary to browse the lists, if you know someone should be somewhere but their name doesn’t turn up. You can also find people in the un-indexed lists, but in both cases, you will need to know in which electoral district they lived.

To find an electoral district there are a few resources. Not all sources cover all years so you may have to use more than one.

For electoral districts prior to the 2003 reorganization, you can visit the Elections Canada website. This site allows you to search the 301 districts by place name and keyword. Or you can try the Parliament website which has a list of historical ridings. It can’t be searched by town but you can get a list of all ridings in the province and this may help you narrow down your search.

There are also electoral district maps available online at this site, which includes the National Atlas of Canada.

Otherwise you can use print sources such as the Canadian Almanac and Directory, which we do keep, so our collection runs from 1911 on. There is usually a way we can help you find an electoral district, so if these resources don’t help, please ask us.

If you are still in love with the clickety click of the microfilm reader, you can still get these voters’ lists on microfilm. Dave Obee has produced two great finding aids: Federal voters lists in Western Canada, 1935-1979 and Federal voters lists in Ontario 1935-1979 You can find out more about using electoral lists at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

If you’d like to find out more about the Alberta Family Histories Society discussion list, visit their website. Information about the discussion list is right there on the front page.

Remember, you can access Ancestry LE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library for free with your library card.

Voters List Calgary 1915

Calgary Municipal Voters List

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Heritage Weekend is Just Around the Corner

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 925

Lake View Heights, Proposed Community, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 925

Have you signed up for our Heritage Weekend programs yet? Better get on it – you wouldn’t want to miss any of these great programs.

We start the weekend with Heritage Matters on Friday night. We will hear about the fabulously successful Century Homes project and follow the quest of one homeowner to discover his homes’ past.

Right after that, pop up to the Dutton Theatre to hear about one of Calgary’s aviation heroes, Freddie McCall (for whom McCall Field was named). Shirlee Smith Matheson and Freddie McCall Jr. will be speaking and the Aero Space museum (a partner in this presentation) will have artifacts and art on display. You don’t have to register for this one – just drop in.

Next day starts with Irena Karshenbaum presenting The Oil Barrons, a talk about the Barron family and their remarkable contribution to Calgary. I’ve heard Irena speak and can say from experience that this will be a great presentation.

Then at noon, there is a Communities Heritage Roundtable about Canadian Heritage in our Midst. A panel of experts will talk about sites of national significance right here in Calgary.

At 1 o’clock we will hear from Stephanie White about Unbuilt Calgary. This will be an intriguing presentation as we hear about a century’s worth of plans for Calgary development, some of which never made it off the drawing board, some which may one day come to fruition (boating reach ‘round City Hall, anyone?)

At 2, we are going to be regaled with Stories of Calgary. Some of my favourite historian-storytellers are going to be on hand to tell us stories of Calgary’s past and the intriguing people who made up this great city. Hugh Dempsey, Harry Sanders, Max Foran, Nancy Townshend and Brian Brennan – all brilliant storytellers, will keep us entertained, and probably teach us a thing or two.

Last, but not least, we will have a Meet and Greet with representatives of some of Calgary’s heritage organizations. These are the folks who work behind the scenes to support and protect heritage in Calgary. Come and mingle with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met – it’s going to be grand.

To find out more information and to register, follow this link.

I hope to see you there.

AJ 70 18

Calgary Municipal Airport, McCall Field, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 70-18