Beaulieu from the south east
Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, aj-14-10
We are going to be at Lougheed House on Saturday July 21 for their annual Ride through Time. Ride through Time is a great chance for all Calgarians to see the house and its gardens. It is a party atmosphere, with a pancake breakfast for the first 600 guests, a display of antique cars and fun and games for the whole family. This is one of our favourite events of the year because we meet a huge variety of people. Another perk is that we get to set up our display in the magnificent Lougheed House, which is the only remaining Victorian residence in Calgary.
The house has seen one hundred and twenty years of this city’s development. It has ridden the booms and the busts. The house was built in a boom year, 1891, on 2.8 acres of land which was part of a larger parcel granted to Senator Lougheed in 1890 (see Land Patent below). Beaulieu was pretty much out on its own at the edge of the city. A photo in an article on the “bright future” of Calgary in the Globe of October 17, 1891 shows the house under construction with no buildings anywhere nearby. It really was out on the bald prairie. But, as the Globe article stated, Calgary’s future was bright, and in a short time the city had grown and the community of what is now the Beltline was well populated. (You can read the article by going to the database “The Globe and Mail: Canada’s Heritage from 1844” under History and Genealogy in our E-Library)
Letters patent, issued to Senator James Lougheed, on block 86, lots 1-20
Western Canada Land Grants Database, Library and Archives Canada
Central High School would be built a few years later, and, as the postcard below shows, the area was well populated by 1912.
Senator Lougheed died in 1925 and Lady Lougheed continued to live in the house, even after it had been taken by the City of Calgary for non-payment of taxes in 1934. (This was not an uncommon occurrence. Many of Calgary’s great homes were seized during the depression for non-payment of taxes.) After Lady Lougheed’s passing, the city organized an auction to clear the house of its furniture, art and other fixtures. The family had taken what they could but the rest was sold. I can only imagine the grief of the Lougheeds at this development.
Once the city owned the land, the question arose of what to do with it. The beautiful sandstone mansion could have been lost to the wreckers ball but, in an ironic twist of fate, the very economic downturn that had led to the city owning the house, also led to its survival. Unemployment was soaring and young people had very limited options. The Federal Government pledged one million dollars for courses to prepare young people for work. What better place to hold these classes than Beaulieu.
With the coming of World War II, the training programs ended and Beaulieu was shuttered for two years. In 1941 the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) was formed. They needed training and once again beautiful Beaulieu stood at the ready. It was converted into barracks for the women. After the war, the house was briefly a YWCA residence for demobbed service women and then came the Red Cross. They rented the building and then later purchased it. Land that was not purchased by the Red Cross was developed as small apartment building in the 70s. Eventually the Red Cross outgrew its space and once again there was talk of demolishing the building in order to build a bigger facility. It was a boom time. The small apartment buildings were knocked down to make away for larger towers. However, by 1980 we had hit a bust and the plans for the large apartment towers were abandoned. In the interim, though, Beaulieu had been declared a provincial historic resource and ownership was transferred to the province. The Red Cross was given a building nearby and a parking garage was built under the backyard.
The house lay empty for 15 years. In 1993 the city purchased the land on which the apartment buildings had stood and set it aside for park purposes. The Lougheed Estate was finally back together, though owned by two different arms of government.
The Lougheed House is a wonderful symbol of this city’s history. Drop by on Saturday and say hi!
Thirteenth Avenue [looking] east showing Beaulieu on the right
Postcards from the Past, PC 165