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Gardens, Historic and Not

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

PC 1498

Residential View, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 1498

I saw Janet Melrose on the morning news today. She's Calgary's Cottage Gardener, and Garden Animator at the Calgary Horticultural Society and she was saying that it is too early to go out and start mucking about in the garden. (Not that we’d want to today; I see snow out the window).

But if you are interested in gardens and would like a little taste of what our ancestors contrived to grow, you can join Janet May 7 at Central for a look at some of Calgary’s historic gardens. While it is hard to believe that we can even grow grass in this climate, Calgarians have always been garden lovers and have been willing to brave the disappointments and disasters that come with our weather, in order to celebrate the hard-won successes.

I love gardens and have written before about the Brewery Gardens which started as a project to make work for A.E. Cross’s employees during the Depression, and ended up as a beautiful park, complete with aquarium. It is one of my earliest memories of a garden but that may have had more to do with the fish ponds than the plants.

There was also a garden next to the old train station on 9th Avenue. It would have been about where the Calgary Tower stands now. The railroad was actually responsible for a great many gardens across the prairies. They had land to sell and a good way to encourage people to settle in what might have seemed an inhospitable climate, was to cultivate gardens beside the stations to exhibit just what could be accomplished. The CPR garden in Calgary was more like a park, possibly designed to give travelers a little bit of air on the long journey west (like the dog walking area at the airport, maybe) It was the city’s first public park, opened in 1891. We have a strange little postcard of a lady and her dog at the fountain in the park. It had been hand tinted by someone with a very sketchy sense of colour (see below). Edwinna Von Baeyer’s indispensable history of gardening in Canada, Rhetoric and Roses includes information about the railway garden movement. We have a copy in the Local History room.

 

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CPR Park, Calgary ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 658

The picture at the top of this post shows a view of a beautiful Japanese style garden somewhere in Mount Royal. I think this may have been John Burns’ garden, behind his home on Prospect Avenue. Burns had the garden developed some time after he moved in to the home in 1928.

Some more modern gardens are in the news. I am thinking particularly of Century Gardens, developed to celebrate the city’s centennial in 1975 and built in a brutalist style. On May 4 at 4 p.m. there will be a Jane’s Walk of Century Gardens which will include a parkour demonstration. The garden seems built for this kind of pursuit and the tour and demo will be great, I’m sure. For more information check out the website.

To register for Janet’s program on Tuesday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library you can contact us at 403-260-2620, register online or in person at your local branch.

 

Heritage Matters: Invisible People and Places 50s and 60s Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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Alberta Block, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-08

The telling of Calgary’s history tends to focus on the ranchers and oilmen, and establishments that they represented. A lot of history gets overlooked and very often these hidden histories tell us more about ourselves than mainstream history does. Lucky for us, historians are nosy folk, and what was hidden is increasingly being exposed.

Our next Heritage Matters program will do just that. Kevin Allen, who is part of the Gay Calgary Research Project, will present Invisible People and Places in 1950s and 1960s Calgary May 3rd at the Central Library, uncovering the history of Calgary’s gay and lesbian community as it struggled to find its place in the post-war city.

Young people today may be shocked to learn that until 1969 it was actually illegal to “engage in homosexual activity.” Doing so could land a person in prison. Even when the government changed the laws, people with “different” sexual orientations were still the victims of harassment and violence. For these reasons, among others, the history of this segment of our society has been driven underground. Kevin and his colleagues are working to change that. You can see more of the project on their website.

Heritage Matters is presented by the Calgary Heritage Authority, The City of Calgary Land Use Planning and Policy and the Calgary Public Library. It is going to be a very popular presentation, so make sure you register either online, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or in person at your local library branch.

Kevin is also going to be hosting a Jane’s Walk the very next day, May 4. He will be conducting a tour of the Beltline area, looking at sites that were significant to the gay and lesbian community in the 1960s and 70s.

CHACPL LogoLand Use

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

PC 1936

819 5th Avenue NW, ca 1914

Postcards from the Past, PC_1935

I never like to see old houses demolished. I was especially sad to see that one of the Sunnyside homes on 5th Avenue slated for demolition is one we are very familiar with, number 819. We have images of that house and of a family that lived there in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. We were so attracted to the postcards that we created a presentation designed to highlight just how much information can be found with only a few little clues. We called it “Ancestors and Their Attics” and presented it during Historic Calgary Week. We started with the postcard above which had the names Felix, Jo and Eva and “taken in July 1914 at Calgary” written on the back. With that little bit of information we were able to track down another card with the last name of the family, who lived at 819 5 Avenue NW for a brief time between 1914 and 1915.

We were able to spin that information into a bit of a family narrative. Felix was a railway man. At the time the family lived in Calgary, he was working at the powerhouse behind the new Palliser Hotel. The way we found that was by searching for photos to use to illustrate the CPR, where Felix said he worked in the 1916 census. In searching, we found the picture of the powerhouse with “Where Felix Worked” written in the same hand as on the other postcard. The cards had been acquired years apart. Using this we followed the family to North Carolina, where Felix continued to work on the railroad, moving through the ranks to brakeman (as listed on his 1917 US draft registration card) eventually becoming an locomotive engineer. Jo and Eva were both born in Kansas, but Felix’s place of birth remains an enigma to us. That he was registered to vote in Calgary (we found his name in a municipal voters list) suggests he was Canadian but some documents say he was born in France. The family had lived in the States, they were there for the 1910 census, moved to Calgary for a brief time, and then back to the States by 1917, when Felix was required to register for the draft.

 

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"Where Felix Worked" (CPR Powerhouse)

Postcards from the Past, PC_694

The family was renting the house. We know this because the owner of the house is listed in the tax assessment records for 1911 (the year the house was built) as David Hambly, who was a contractor. He also appears in the 1911 census at 819 with his wife Isabella, his son Harry and daughter Kathleen as well as his father James, who was also a contractor. In 1911 their neighbours were Robert Wilkinson and his family in 817, William Edward (?) and his wife in 817a (the back of the house) and then Hugh McPherson, all the way down the street at 827. It looks like 823 and 825 were not yet completed or weren’t occupied.

Sunnyside was a growing community back in 1911 and in a way, these houses are providing a home, albeit on the verge of their demise, for another community. Wreck City is a project that has devised a way to say a glorious farewell to these old homes. By installing artists in each of the houses, the final days of these old dears will be marked with beauty and invention. As I say, we never want to say goodbye to these old homes, but if we must, let it be with a party. Check out the Wreck City website for information about the houses and their artists and join in the farewell party.

819 Kayla

819 as it is today

Photo courtesy Kayla McAlister

McHugh House

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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McHugh House, 110 18 Avenue SW, taken in 1966

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 94-01

You know how it is – when you see something every day, you don’t necessarily “see” it anymore. This was true for me of the McHugh house (which I never knew by that name, we always called it the Nun’s House because there seemed to be a lot of nun’s coming and going) I looked at that house nearly every day for the three years I went to high school. What I knew about it was it was surrounded by trees and you didn’t dare park in the driveway. That was it. Now I see that it is coming under threat of demolition. That makes me sad. This beautiful little house is one of the oldest residences in the city. It is a beautiful example of the Queen Anne Revival style (the turret gives it away) a style which is quite rare here. And its history is deeply entrenched in the history of the Mission area and the Catholics who settled there.

The house was built by Frank McHugh, in 1896, on land that Father Lacombe acquired to establish a Catholic mission. The two quarter sections Lacombe was given are bounded by what is now 17th Avenue on the north and 4th Street to the west. Because the language of most of the population (Oblates from Quebec) and the traders (Métis) was French, that was the language of the settlers that were drawn to the area. Most prominent were the Rouleau brothers, a doctor and a lawyer. In 1899, the area was incorporated as the village of Rouleauville. In 1907 the city annexed Rouleaville and it was rechristened Mission.

The Mission area is still dominated by the Catholic presence. The Cathedral and Convent, the Old Holy Cross Hospital, which was once run by the Grey Nuns, the Catholic Schools, St. Mary’s, St Monica and St Martin des Porres and the old church hall, which was turned into a railway station, are all reminders of the role of the Church in the development of early Calgary. Heck, they were here before the railway. They met the Mounties as they arrived in the area.

The McHugh’s sold the house in the 20s and it remained a residence until the Congregation of the Brothers of our Lady of Lourdes purchased it in the 1960s and ran it as one of the city’s first homes for troubled youth. It has served as the Don Bosco Home, the Religious Education Centre, the home of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and as the Elizabeth House, a home for young expectant mothers. The house is in need of major renovations but the Catholic Church is morally opposed to taking money raised by gaming, as would be the case if they were to apply for heritage resource assistance. The City and Province are both talking to the Diocese to find a solution that fits everyone’s needs so, although the application for demolition has been filed, it is not a done deal yet.

You can read about the history of Rouleaville/Mission and the McHugh family in our Local History room and on the City of Calgary’s Discover Historic Calgary website. You can keep track of the developments in the McHugh house story by following the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society’s Blog and Watch List

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Dr Edouard Rouleau House, 114 18th Avenue SW, taken in 1974

House has been moved south of the old St. Mary's Parish Hall/CN Station

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1142

Raise a Glass to Citizen Ralph

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Campaign brochure

It's Time, Ralph Klein for Mayor

Brochure from the Pamphlet Files Collection, 1972

I have to admit, while he was in office, I was a little skeptical of Ralph Klein. But I was young and naïve and thought that the way things appeared was more important than the way things really were. It wasn’t until I grew up that I developed an appreciation for Ralph and what he did for this city and this province. He wasn’t the kind of politician you’d expect to find anywhere except maybe the southern US. He had a big personality and an everyman charm that won the hearts and the votes of, first the citizens of this city and then all of Alberta. He was colourful, to say the least and he could always be counted on to speak his mind. I've missed his way of doing business.

The tributes pouring in all have the same story, Ralph was a guy who was upfront – he was the same guy in the council chamber, in the Legislature, as he was in the St. Louis. Sometimes that guy made mistakes, but he was always honest and always concerned about the average Albertan. He saw us through the Olympics, paid off our debt, oversaw the building of the new municipal building (which came in under budget) and, most importantly, he was present at the 75th anniversary of the library (see the picture below, of the Mayor in a vintage car).

The Local History Room at the Central Library has a great collection of ephemera, such as brochures and speeches, from Mr. Klein’s various campaigns and tenure as both mayor and premier. We also have photographs in the CHFH Digital Collection. There are clippings and articles and books and all kinds of interesting stuff.

Here's to you, Mayor Ralph. You were one of a kind.

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Mayor Klein in a vintage car celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Calgary Public Library, 1987

Calgary Public Library, Our Past in Pictures, CPL 211-12-28