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The Barron Building: Art Deco in the Oil Patch

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Barron Building courtesy Judith Umbach

Barron Building, 610 8th Avenue SW

Photo by Judith Umbach

It seems hard to believe, but there was a time when there wasn’t much office space in Calgary. When the oil strikes of the 1940s were made, companies set up shop in old hotels and run-down office buildings. Very little building had been done in Calgary since the depression and it seemed likely that the administrative offices of the hordes of oil companies would have to be established in that “E” place (Edmonton – the capital, for those of you outside of Alberta). That was not how Jacob Bell Barron imagined the future. He saw the opportunities offered by the oil boom and started building. The Barron Building (called the Mobil Building, for its tenant, from 1958 to 1969) was the first of the office towers erected in the wake of the Leduc discovery. It was a different kind of office building to what we are used to. It was mixed use, combining a movie theatre, retail space, office space and J.B.’s magnificent penthouse and rooftop garden. The garden, complete with a lawn for J.B.’s dog Butch, won a Vincent Massey Award for excellence in urban planning.

When the building was built, it was considered something of a risky venture. The outcome of the oil strikes could have been a boom or a bust. Barron was willing to take the risk and, not just that, build a building that was almost exuberant in its details. The architects, Stevenson, Cawston and Stevenson used a step-back design, popular in the 1930s, that allows for more sunlight to come to the street and also for terraces on the roofs of the projecting floors. The theatre, while reflecting J.B. Barron’s interest in the entertainment industry, was not unusual in mixed-used buildings. The methods used to construct the building were cutting edge as well. They used Q-floor construction which is strong, but light, and allowed the electrical and ventilation to be run in the floors. This allowed for maximum flexibility in the placement of room partitions. The strip windows were also a first in the city.

We are developing a greater appreciation for buildings from the mid 20th century and the Barron is an outstanding example of this Moderne style and valuable for the pivotal role it played in bringing the oil industry to Calgary.

Barron Building by Judith Umbach

Barron Building

Photo by Judith Umbach

News for French Canadian Genealogy Researchers

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Front page of Tanguay

Front page of Tanguay's Dictionnaire généalogique ...

Ancestry.com recently announced that they have added a very valuable resource to their collection. The Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'à nos jours by Father Cyprien Tanguay is the resource for people researching French Canadians. It is often called just “Tanguay” (a sure indication that it is important!) and includes information about the founding families of French Canada.

In its paper incarnation Tanguay is 7 volumes plus supplement (it sits in our genealogy collection at 929.3714 TAN). It is the product of a lifetime of research and data collection by Fr. T. whose passion for genealogy led him to archives and churches in Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario and the U.S. The result is a massive collection of pedigrees that, in some cases, takes the families back to their place of origin in France.

This collection is arranged by the surname of the male head of the family and can include dates and places for major life events as well as the names of children and their spouses. The collection is, of course, in French, so searches should be in that language. And, as with any compilation on this scale, there can be errors, but it is still one of the best resources for French Canadian research. And the nice thing about the collection as it appears in Ancestry is that there is a transcription of the page. This can be very helpful when looking at documents such as this one that were published in the 19th Century. The print isn’t always as clear as we would like. Its availability as a database also means that you will be able to search all the names in an entry, not just the head of household’s.

Ancestry also has several other great resources for searching French Canadian roots, including the Drouin collection (see, another source known only by the compiler’s name). These databases can be accessed through the library subscription to AncestryLE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library.

We also have other great non-database resources for those researching their French Canadian ancestors including an index to Quebec land grants, the Drouin collection on CR-ROM, the aforementioned Tanguay in paper form, as well as a number of very good guides to doing French Canadian research, including Miller’s Manual. 1886560471 You can find them in the catalogue by searching ‘Quebec genealogy.’

Le Pere Lacombe

Postcards from the Past, PC 1597

PC 1597

Horses, horses, horses

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 324f

Guy Weadick, Organizer and Manager of the STAMPEDE, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 324f

The Calgary Stampede has announced its plans for the big centennial celebration in 2012 and I am thrilled to say that the party will include “Together we create” which will showcase the horse. It is only fitting that these magnificent animals will play an important part in the Stampede Centennial.

I love horses. They have always been the highlight of the Stampede for me. I’m not really a midway fan and though I enjoy the spectacular stage shows and all of the hoopla that goes with the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, it is always the horses that draw me to the grounds. I try to catch the heavy horse and cutting horse competitions and I always visit the barns to see who is there. I am a city girl, and have never owned a horse (or really wanted to) but I do appreciate the intelligence and the grace of these big animals. I heard a man once describe them as being like big dogs, meaning that you develop the same kind of bond with a horse, that they are loyal and loving and smart. That certainly has been my experience of them.

While cruising through our postcard collection here, I came across a series of wonderful postcards showing Alberta Slim (Eric Edwards), Canada’s Yodeling Cowboy. The photos show Slim and his horse Kitten (named for his beloved childhood pony) who, it is said, could tell fortunes and perform any number of tricks (see the photo below). In addition to the photos, we have Alberta Slim song books in our Local History collection.

More trivia: Did you know that we have a national horse? The Canadian is a breed that had its origins in the horses that were sent to Quebec by Louis XIV in the 17th Century. The breed was used to develop other North American breeds such as the Morgan and the Tennessee Walking Horse. It is a multi-purpose breed that was used in logging, pulling coaches and for riding. Strong, smart and easygoing (just like the rest of us Canadians) it was named the official horse of Canada in 2002. I saw this beautiful breed at Horse Haven at the Stampede last year (See, I do spend a lot of time in the horse barns). Let’s celebrate the horse!

Alberta Slim and Kitten

Postcards from the Past, PC 1559c

PC 1559c

Heritage Roundtable : New Uses for Old Places

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 908

East Calgary (National Hotel in centre)

Postcards from the Past, PC 908

The Heritage Roundtable is taking place this week. The topic will be Adaptive Re-Use which is conserving older buildings by finding new uses for them. The meeting will be at the Temple B'Nai Tikvah, 900-47th Avenue SW. beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30)

Adaptive re-use is recycling on a grand scale and can be a new lease on life for buildings that can no longer serve the purpose for which they were built. There have been some notable successes in Calgary. The Palace, once a movie theatre, is now a nightclub; The Lorraine, built originally as an apartment block is now an office building and the King Eddy, once a fairly notorious hotel, is poised to open as the centerpiece of the Cantos National Music Centre. There are other projects afoot and we will be hearing from some of the driving forces behind those projects. The speakers will be:

Howard Bell, a member of the renovation team that converted a church into Temple B’Nai Tikvah

John Kerr and Philip Dack on plans for the historic National Hotel and livery barn in Inglewood

Shara Rosko, Director of the John Snow House, which has been converted to a resource centre by the New Gallery.

Reid Henry, President and CEO of cSpace Projects, on the plans to turn the sandstone King Edward School into an “Arts Incubator”

This promises to be yet another deeply interesting evening. I always coming away from these events marvelling at the dedication of the heritage community and filled with optimism for historic preservation in this city. If you would like to join us, you can register at http://www.calgarycommunities.com/events.php (use the drop-down menu to find Roundtables – Heritage New Uses for Old Spaces – and fill in the form. There is no charge for attending the Roundtables)

And if you’d like to see pictures of some of Calgary’s heritage, built and otherwise, visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (under Books & More on our website)

AJ 0458

King Edward School (photo taken in 1967)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0458

'Bob Edwards has left us - gone over the hill'

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 0564

Bob Edwards' Residence, 919 4th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, photograph taken 1968

On this day in history we lost a unique voice in Alberta journalism. Bob Edwards passed away on November 14, 1922, due to a leak in his heart (as reported in a special edition of The Calgary Eye-Opener) Likely the cause of death was pneumonia, possibly from influenza, possibly from his particular relationship with alcohol, to borrow a phrase from my sister-in-law.

Whatever the cause of his death, Edwards’ passing left a huge hole in the journalistic world. Never a “just the facts, ma’am” kind of journalist, he wrote scathing and often libelous articles criticizing politicians and social figures. He had a biting wit and a “forcibility of expression” as was stated in one of the many eulogies printed in the Eye Opener. His wit and forcibility of expression often got him into trouble and more than once he was taken to court to defend his words against charges of defamation.

But he was funny! It is well worth the time to read the Calgary Eye Opener. It offers a different perspective on staid old Calgary. Nothing escaped Edwards’ eye. One of my favourite articles is from the Eye Opener of July 15, 1905: “The Edmonton Fair Association this year featured the climbing of a greasy pole, on the top of which was hung a five dollar bill. Every little while the Edmontonians do something to indicate that they don’t think the world expects very much of them.”

He was something of a paradox, however. He was highly critical of politicians, but in the end, he became one, joining the Alberta Legislature as an MLA in 1921. (Maybe that's what killed him.)

If you'd like to read about Bob Edwards, you can find an article in the Dictionary of Canadian Biographyavailable online through our E-Library under History and Genealogy. Or you can read the excellent "chrestomathy": Irresponsible freaks, highball guzzlers & unabashed grafters : a Bob Edwards chrestomathy : in which are collected extractions from the Calgary eye opener, Wetaskiwin free lance, The channel (Boulogne-sur-Mer, Fr.) & other estimable broadsides helmed by the late R.C. Edwards, M.L.A. : fact, gossip & fiction for readers of the English language the title of which neatly expresses the style and "forcibilty" of Edwards' journalistic style, or you can read the brilliant biography by Grant MacEwan, Eye Opener Bob. These are all available at the Calgary Public Library. I also highly recommend that you read the Eye Opener itself. It can be read online at the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project website www.ourfutureourpast.ca. Select Early Alberta Newspapers and then use the drop-down menu to choose Calgary. It is also digitized at Peel's Prairie Provinces. We also have the paper on microfilm in the Community Heritage and Family History Room at the Central Library and we have paper collections of articles as well. Drop down and visit and we'll introduce you to the wit and wisdom of Bob Edwards.

Lest we Forget: Researching Military Ancestors

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478

IODE War Memorial in Memorial Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

The Military keeps excellent records. Some of them they won’t let you see, but some of them are rich with detail for the family historian. We are privileged at Calgary Public Library, to be included in a project with Library and Archives Canada called ‘Lest we Forget.’ The aim of this project is to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Students are given the opportunity to use primary source material (some of those wonderful records created by the military about their men and women) and tell the story of a member of Canada’s Armed Forces who died. Students can get the names of people they would like to research in a number of places – on cenotaphs, in the Books of Remembrance (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/books) the Virtual War Memorial http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/virtualmem) or through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14)

There are also resources for research closer to home. Many schools have plaques dedicated to their students who served in the military; churches also have memorials to their members who died in war. I have found lists of the war dead in company histories and in the histories of towns and communities, many of which we have in our Community Heritage and Family History collection. And that is just the beginning.

The next step in the students’ research is to look at the personnel records of their chosen person. These are available online at Library and Archives Canada for members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I ( http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/index-e.html ) and can be requested for those who died in World War II. Of course there are other military service records, many of which can be viewed at the Central Library (for example, some mercenary soldiers came to Canada after the American Revolution and put down roots. We have lists of these soldiers in our genealogy collection – weird, eh?)

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Of course there are tons of other records that can be accessed if you have military ancestors. You can find out some of what is available for your own research in the following sources:

Canadians at War, 1914-1918, a research guide

Index to Canadian Service Records of the South African War

Tracing your Army Ancestors

And that doesn’t even begin to touch the resources that are available for “putting the flesh on the bones” so to speak - the resources that can tell us what it was like to serve in the war. These are available online and at the library. We have an extensive collection of books and resources relating to the Canadian military. There are also resources at the Military Museums, the Regimental museums and the University of Calgary.

If you are a teacher and are interested in having your class participate in the “Lest We Forget” program, please contact me, Christine Hayes, at email

If you are interested in learning more about researching your own military ancestors, keep our Family History Coaching program in mind. On the last Saturday of every month (except December) from September to June at 10:00 we have two coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society on site to help genealogists with their questions. We also have knowledgeable staff available at all times to help with any and all questions related to genealogy (and anything else Humanities related)

PC 569

Six Soldiers in Calgary, 1916?

Postcards from the Past, PC 569

Canada Gazette is Online

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Page from Canada Gazette

Page listing Divorce Notifications from Canada Gazette 1889

Courtesy Collections Canada

The Canada Gazette turned 170 years old on October 2. Why is this important? Does anyone know what the Canada Gazette is? Well, for those of you who are not govdoc nerds, it is the official newspaper of the Government of Canada and has been published since 1841. So, why should we care? Well, like some government documents it can be kind of, (how do I put this nicely), dull. But like many government documents it contains all kinds of unexpected and valuable information that can help researchers and genealogists find that elusive next bit of info.

Yes, the Canada Gazette contains information about rules and regulations that govern our lives, but it also contains all kinds of good stuff about people. Did you know that until 1968, to get a divorce, Canadians had to petition the Senate where a special committee would weigh the evidence and then pass and Act of Parliament granting the divorce? The intent to divorce had to be published six months in advance in the Canada Gazette and two newspapers from the district where the petitioner lived. So, if you suspect that great grandpa had more than one wife, you can check to see if he was a bigamist or a serial monogamist. The online version of the Gazette is searchable by name or keyword.

You would actually be shocked at the number of genealogists who find more than one marriage for one of their ancestors. And the often don’t find the divorce documents. As I said in an earlier posting, when you do genealogy, you have to brace yourself for the unexpected. And sometimes that means using resources that you may not have thought of. I always like to try out new sites by running the names I am researcher through the database. When I tried this time, I found that two of my relatives had declared bankruptcy, that an uncle of mine has an unclaimed bank balance and a member of the American branch of my family was given a visa exemption. I also found some land allotments and some company information.

Sources such as this can also be wonderful resources for finding out what was going on in the country at a given time and what was on the minds of Canadians and their elected representatives.

If you are really interested in the history of the Gazette, you can have a look at 160 Years of the Canada Gazette. We have a copy at the Central Library in our Government Documents collection on the third floor. There is also a link to the online version right here: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/cg-gc/book-livre/toc-tdm-eng.html

If you’d like to search the Gazette online, it is on the Library and Archives Canada website right here: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/canada-gazette/index-e.html?PHPSESSID=l5tc67ddnkvf1afr9qle7k8hr3

Bye Bye Ogden Grain Elevator

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

AJ 1185

Ogden Grain Elevator, 1974

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1185

Sometimes even the ugliest structures evoke a feeling of nostalgia. I felt very sad when the Robin Hood elevator came down in 1973. It had been a landmark from my childhood – I liked to see the jaunty Robin as we made our way downtown. I was impressed that he was also on our flour bag at home. Nice, warm fuzzy for such a cold, concrete structure, eh? Its destruction netted 27,000 tonnes of rubble that was cleared away to make room for the new Gulf Canada Square. Admittedly, there is not much that can be done with huge concrete tubes, in the way of repurposing, but it is still sad to see these landmarks go.

The Odgen Federal Grain Elevator had that effect on a many people, as well. No less a person than Le Corbusier discussed the Dominion Grain elevators in his publicationToward an Architecture. He speaks of them as “not pursuing an architectural idea, but simply guided by the results of calculations (derived from the principles that govern our universe)… [they] stir in us architectural emotions, thus making the work of humanity resonate with the universal order.” (p. 106). Well, I guess that explains it. I was responding to the universal order when I cried at the loss of Robin Hood (I’m going to go with that explanation, it sounds like I know what I’m talking about). The illustrations of the elevators included in Toward an Architecture were considered so beautiful (or something) that they were reproduced as postcards. Years later, Yousuf Karsh would photograph similar elevators in Port Arthur, treating them, he said “just like cathedrals.”

The Ogden Elevator had an interesting history. Normally these huge concrete terminals were built in port cities. The prairie elevator, with which we are all familiar, was the tall wooden structure situated every five or so miles along the rail line. Those elevators, the prairie sentinels, definitely evoke warm fuzzy feelings. But the Dominion Elevators were designed for the much larger volumes of terminals and ports. The Dominion/Federal/Ogden elevator was designed by C.D. Howe and built in 1915 by the Dominion government to work in conjunction with similar elevators in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, as well as with port terminals such as Port Arthur, Vancouver and Port Nelson. It would provide storage and cleaning facilities for 2.5 million bushels of Alberta grain and act as the shipping centre to the ports. It was a marvel of construction for its time. It was powered by electricity from the City of Calgary, channeled through a substation on the site to power the 53 engines required to work the machinery; there was a state of the art dust collection system installed and it could handle the loading of 36 railcars per hour. It cost one million dollars to build this massive concrete structure. It was such a wonder that it featured in a publication put together to promote business development in Calgary.

But what do you do with 56 cement silos? It was no longer efficient to run the elevator and its location in the heart of the city made it difficult for farmers to get their grain there. The Calgary Heritage Authority has been working with the owners of the site and has photographically recorded the interior and exterior of the building so there will be a record of its existence. But the old gal herself is gone. I read it took six seconds to bring her down.

AJ 1265

Robin Hood Flour Mills

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1265

Serendipity and the Search for Glenbow

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Glenbow Residents

Residents of Glenbow Alberta, ca 1911-1913

Doreen Morden Family Archives

We have been helping and, frankly, watching in awe, one of the regular researchers who frequents the local history collection. She is working on a reconstruction of the town of Glenbow, a town that very few people have heard of. It was the centre of a quarry, which provided sandstone for several prominent buildings in the province. The town was five miles east of Cochrane on the north side of the Bow. The land was not really fit for farming as it was on a bench over the river but keen eyes noticed that in the outcroppings were seams of sandstone. Various attempts were made, starting in 1905, to set up a quarry to exploit the resources of the valley but it wasn’t until 1908 when an American, Chester de la Vergne, bought the property. He had wealth that had come from the family’s refrigeration business and soon he had excavated a town site, which eventually included a school. A post office was in operation from 1908 to 1920. De la Vergne loved the area and established the Glenbow Ranche as a home for him and his family. He built a magnificent house on the property.

At its peak, Glenbow quarry was thought to employ 500 men. By 1909 things were looking very good. A grain elevator was built in 1910 on promises that a bridge would be built over the Bow to connect the farm land on the south side with the town on the north side. But by 1912 the boom that had fueled the prosperity of the Glenbow quarry had bust. Building ground to a halt and there was no need for the fine paskapoo sandstone that had made Glenbow’s fortune. The bridge was never built so the elevator stood useless until it burned down in 1915. De la Vergne tried to start a brick making industry in order to give work to his employees, but this, too, was destined to fail. People were forced to leave the town, to look for work elsewhere. Buildings were removed or burned; equipment from the mine was sold as scrap. Three large homes, built by optimistic acquaintances of de la Vergne’s lay abandoned for many years and in the 1970s de la Vergne’s own house, empty for many years, was burned to the ground. Eventually, the Glenbow land was purchased by E.L. Harvie for farming. The land has since been donated to the Government by the Harvie family for use as a Provincial Park, but Glenbow the town has ceased to exist.

Our researcher’s task is to look for information about the town and the people who lived there as part of a volunteer effort to map the old town and quarry. Because there is so little left of Glenbow, the researchers are relying on information gleaned from any resource they can get their hands on. They are searching for the names of people who lived in the town, in hopes of finding as much information as they can. This is where serendipity has come in. (Although, serendipity does come after much hard work J)

Following a clue provided by the information on Glenbow in a local history, our researcher pursued the name of a woman whose child was put up for adoption after she died in childbirth. Using cemetery transcriptions, vital events records, online sources including Ancestry and Rootsweb, she was able to find contact information for a descendant of one of the family members. This person had a photo of some of the denizens of Glenbow standing in front of a building. That is the photo above. What we are hoping is that one of you may recognize someone in this picture. The more people that can be identified, the better chance there is of finding someone who has information. If you think you recognize anyone in this photo, please let me know. I will pass the information on to the researchers. You can post your information as a comment below (or you can contact us at information@calgarypubliclibrary.com)

If you are interested in finding out more about Glenbow, you can check out the local history Acres and Empires either in print at the Calgary Public Library or online through Our Future Our Past. You could also think about attending a talk on February 28 at the Chinook Country Historical Society’s monthly meeting at Fort Calgary at 7:30. Brian Vivian and Susan Caen will be talking about the town site, the quarry and the area surrounding. (Check out the information here - click on 2011-2012 Monthly Program Details)

PC 255Land Titles Building (made with Glenbow sandstone)

Land Titles Building (built with sandstone from the Glenbow Quarry)

Postcards from the Past, PC 255

Birthday Wishes to Two of Our Branches

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calgary Public Library Archives

Exterior, Millican-Ogden Branch, 1980s

Calgary Public Library Archives

Next year is the big 100th anniversary celebration for Calgary Public Library. On January 2, 1912 we opened our doors to the public and have been going strong ever since. Our first branch was opened in the next year, October 1913, in Crescent Heights. It was a very popular branch, as all of our branches have proved to be. This month, two of our branches are celebrating anniversaries, Glenmore Square, which turns 25 and Shawnessy, which is 10.

Branches have been a very important part of the library system. Our first Head Librarian, Alexander Calhoun, believed that one central library could not serve the already widespread population of the city. Crescent Heights was a logical choice for a separate branch as it was cut off from the city by the Bow River. There were bridges spanning the Bow but the population, which was about 10,000 at the time, could not always easily reach the city centre. Remember that the magnificent Centre Street bridge which now spans the river, was not finished until 1916, the bridge that they used to get across to the city centre was the rickety “McArthur” bridge, which would eventually be washed away in a flood.

Calhoun was a great believer in bringing the books to the people. In 1914 he opened a reading room, aimed at the unemployed, in the Rex Theatre. In 1915 he sent library discards donations solicited from the public to the YMCA reading room, the Sarcee Military Camp and at Victoria Barracks. Actual branch expansion was halted until the 1940s when the Inglewood, Hillhurst and Glengarry branches were opened.

Our celebrants, Glenmore Square and Shawnessy are relative newcomers, reflecting the expansion of the city. Glenmore Square branch started its life as the Millican-Ogden branch in 1986 and Shawnessy opened its doors in 2001. Both branches are hosting celebrations in honour of their birthdays and would like to invite everyone to come and visit and celebrate with them. There are programs and storytimes (and probably cake) at both branches. Check out the schedules on our website under Programs and Events on the left side of the page.

Calgary Public Library Archives CPL 351-03-22

Shawnessy Branch Under Construction

Calgary Public Library Archives CPL 351-03-22

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