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What I Learned from Dave Obee, Part 2

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1851 Census LAC

1851 Census page

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the privilege of attending the Dave Obee seminar put on by the Alberta Family Histories Society last Saturday. I learned a lot about sources and records and where to find them but the most important lessons were about the goals of doing family history (which I wrote about last week) and about research techniques to maximize results.

Good research skills do not come naturally. We aren’t born with an instinct to find records (food, yes, data, not so much). Research skills are a tool, just like your genealogy software and your laptop. They are the most important tools however, because if your goal is to find your ancestors and tell their stories you must become a sleuth and to do that effectively, you need to learn how to look, not just where to look.

It helps, when you are looking at a record, to know what it is you are looking it. Is it an index, a transcription or an original document? Our goal as outstanding researchers is to track back to the original source, so indexes and transcriptions are just “maps” to help us uncover those documents. In many cases, those maps are just like the ones drawn by the gas station attendant on the back road in Italy when you find yourself lost. There may be language barriers, varying levels of local knowledge and drafting skill, and even changes in the landscape such as washouts and road works.

What this means in purely practical terms (and to not stretch a metaphor too far) is that you should use every index and transcription available. For example, there are several different indexes available for Canadian census records. Automated Genealogy has an index created by an army of volunteers. This is a particularly good index to the census records because it is done by people who are familiar with local names and places. FamilySearch also has indexes done by volunteers. Ancestry (available at Calgary Public Library branches) has all of the census records for Canada indexed and available on their site. Their indexing is done commercially, often by off shore companies, and this can sometimes cause problems.

So, what would you do if you couldn’t find your ancestor in the census in one index? Would you stop there and assume they weren’t in Canada at the time? What we should do, if we want to be the Sherlock Holmes of genealogy researchers, is check every index and transcription available (and sometimes this means paper — oh the horror!)

What if they still don’t show up, but you know they were there? Library and Archives Canada has a number of censuses scanned on their site. There are no indexes but you can look at the original documents without having to touch microfilm. Sometimes this is the only way to find your folk. You will recognize a family name when someone who isn’t familiar with the name doesn’t.

Dave has written a book on how to get the most from Canadian census records, Counting Canada, which includes lots of other pointers for squeezing every last drop of information from a census record.

Happy hunting.

What I Learned from Dave Obee

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CPL 103 15 01

Students at the Central Library, ca 1914

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 103-15-01

I was as happy as a pig eating rhubarb on Saturday — I was at a genealogy conference given by the Alberta Family Histories Society featuring the Canadian genealogy guru, Dave Obee. Dave is the author of a large number of reference works relating to Canadian genealogical records, including Destination Canada, and Counting Canada, as well as a bunch of great guides to things like directories, voters’ lists, and citizenship indexes. In addition he is the proprietor of the best (in my opinion) website for Canadian genealogy research, CanGenealogy. Dave is also a library supporter, and has written the history of library service in British Columbia, The Library Book. In his other life, he is also a working journalist so his insights into the study of people (which, really, genealogy is at its heart) are particularly valuable.

So, the most important thing I learned from my day-long participation in this genealogy conference is not about a particular kind of record or a really snazzy website to check. No, the most important lesson that I took away from Dave’s lectures, was that we have a duty to our ancestors to tell their stories. We have to look beyond the census and vital statistics and research the time and the place of our people who went before. For this we use the secondary sources such as local histories, general histories, ephemera, maps and any other number of cool, non-traditional sources (like those found in our Local History Collection). I was delighted to hear this affirmation of my own belief from someone whose work I admire. I, too, believe genealogy is not just the process of collecting names and dates. The true value of genealogy lies in the history of the people and the building of their story.

This is the approach we have been taking with the Lest We Forget project. The students we visit take documents, facts, and statistics and turn them into a life story. Perhaps they may even be interested in looking beyond their soldier, to the families left behind. This is certainly a more challenging assignment, but it is one that has immeasurable value in the understanding and the remembrance of those who went before.

So, this is the most important thing I learned from Dave Obee, but it wasn’t the only thing so in my next posting, I will mention some of the other great tips I gleaned from my day with the expert.

Who Was Lindsay?

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

1907 Map of Calgary

1907 Map of Calgary showing Lindsay's Estate

From Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta CALG 6

With the snow still pelting down and the arrival of spring weather seeming less and less likely, I thought I would write about Dr. Lindsay. Now this is a convoluted path of reasoning, but quite logical (to me, anyway). One of my fondest summertime memories is of the rope swing near my school. We would skip class and watch the bravest souls swing out over the Elbow and drop, fully clothed, into the river. Though we said we were going to go back for the last class, we knew that once we were soaked, there was no going back. “I fell in the river and I couldn’t go to class all muddy and wet!” Rarely worked, but it was worth it.

The swing and the tree it was attached to were in the waste ground behind St. Mary’s school. We knew then that it had some kind of railroad connection as the school’s next door neighbour was the old CNR station. There was no development to speak of in the area, until after we were out of school, when Lindsay Park was developed. So who was Lindsay?

Dr. Neville James Lindsay was an Ontario born physician who came out to Calgary when it was still essentially a tent city. His office in 1883 was little more than a sheet strung across four poles. He took to the fledgling town and was quickly elected to the first town council and founded a Masonic Lodge. His medical practice grew and he was soon appointed the physician to the nearby First Nations reserves. He was also the CPR surgeon for the area.

He was a bit of an adventurer (I suppose anyone who came to Calgary in 1883 must have been something of an adventurer) and by the turn of the century, he was seeking his fortune in the Yukon, along with hundreds of other adventurers. Because of his medical knowledge and his experience with the First Nations people, he was able to find gold and copper deposits that others didn’t.

This wasn’t enough for Neville, though. Returning to Calgary he turned his hand to real estate investment. Calgary was booming prior to the First World War and adventurers found another thrill ride in the city’s economy. This was when the good doctor procured the land on the edge of the city that would become first “Lindsay Estate” and then Parkview. Although he subdivided the land for development, he never followed through. He sold the land to the Canadian Northern Railway. He then purchased the Knox Presbyterian Church on Centre Street. This was close to Lindsay’s old stomping grounds as his office and home were at 503 Centre Street. His plans for the church did not include taking up residence there, however. He was going to build a commercial development on the site, but he was going to take the sandstone of the church and build himself a beautiful mansion overlooking the Elbow River.

Dr. Neville James Lindsay

Dr. Neville J. Lindsay

From A History of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae

He got as far as building the foundations and some of the walls when something happened. Stories vary; one has him losing his shirt in the economic downturn caused by the advent of World War I, another story is that the house started to sink as soon as walls were erected. The least plausible is that in grief over the death of his wife, he could not continue with their dream home. This one is patently wrong because his wife Florence outlived him by a number of years. It was Florence who had to surrender the property to the city because she could not pay the taxes. The walls of the house stayed mostly intact until the 1950s. The site, sometimes called “Lindsay’s folly” became a popular trysting place, providing shelter for necking teens and young knights and ladies playing castle.

Herald Photo March 31 1950

Lindsay's Folly

Taken from the Calgary Herald, March 31, 1950

Dr. Lindsay was a very interesting man and there is quite a bit of information available about him. The portrait is taken from A History of the Province of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae, which can be viewed in the Local History room (in all its engraved glory) or online through Our Future Our Past. There is also an excellent collection of newspaper clippings and a research article by Harry Sanders in the clippings files in Local History. Drop in to see us.

Welcome Home, Soldier

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 965

Dinner time for 192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

We were delighted to be a part of the last Heritage Roundtable which examined community initiatives and really turned into a celebration of all the grass roots organizations that are dedicated to preserving our heritage. Our little part was to show a few of the resources that we have available at the Calgary Public Library for researching community history. One of the sources that I didn’t cover was land records and I was reminded of two land schemes that were very important to the development of the city and the province.

After each of the two world wars Canadian soldiers were offered some opportunities to help them adapt to post-war life. After World War I, the Soldier Settlement Act was introduced to help returning soldiers re-establish themselves and to pump up agricultural production, thereby aiding in the economic recovery of the country. Soldiers were encouraged to take up homesteads on the prairies, with government loans of $2500 to help with the purchase of equipment and livestock. Returning servicemen stampeded to take up this offer. This required the Settlement Board to find more land than that which was available for homesteads. They found this land by designating certain privately held parcels as settlement areas. The board was also given the right to acquire land on Indian Reserves, school lands and forest reserves. This venture was of mixed success and much has been written on this topic (two particularly good articles, one by E.C. Morgan in Saskatchewan History Spring 1968 and one by Sarah Carter in Manitoba History Spring/Summer 1999 – both available in the Local History Room)

In Alberta, one of the settlements was just east of Carbon, on land leased to the Pope Ranch. Even now, the area is still known as the Pope Lease. You can read about the Pope family (Rufus Henry Pope was a Member of Parliament and was named Senator by Sir Robert Borden) in the history of the Carbon area, Carbon: Our History, Our Heritage (available through Our Future Our Past).

After the end of the second war a similar scheme was enacted for the soldiers returning from that conflict. The Veterans’ Land Act sought to overcome some of the problems that were created by the Soldier Settlement Act and so gave the soldiers more latitude and more opportunity. With a small down-payment soldiers could get a government loan to help buy land. More money was available for equipment and livestock. The veterans were encouraged to settle on small holdings or in the suburbs of larger cities. Lots in several outlying areas of Calgary were set aside for the ex-servicemen including Mount View/Winston Heights and Bowness. Members of the Bowness Historical Society were at the Heritage Roundtable talking about their community initiative which was to produce a second volume of their community history. This volume contains stories of the “Settlement”, which was itself a tight-knit community within the tight knit community of Bowness. Forty-seven houses were built by Bennett and White on land purchased from John Lawrie. Lots were approximately one acre, allowing for small scale agriculture such as gardens, bee hives and chicken coops. In the map below, of Bowness in 1959, shows the larger lots of the Soldiers Settlement area. (This map is also available in the Local History Room).

There are lots of very interesting bits of information to be gleaned out there. At the Heritage Roundtables we are always finding out more about our city and, of course, here at the Central Library we have the wonderful treasure trove that is our Local History collection. Come and visit us, you never know what you'll find.

Map CALG 10

Veterans Land Act Lots in Bowness

Historic Map Collection, CALG 10

 

Snowdon Building: A Success Story

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

JU

C.C. Snowdon Building, 2010 11 Street SE, a diamond in the rough

Judith Umbach Collection

Sometimes we in the heritage community get to hear about something not being torn down. These are the stories that make our day. I read a tweet the other day about just one such success story. Heritage Property Corporation, a development company noted (and appreciated) for its restoration and adaptation of historic buildings, has undertaken a massive project in Ramsay. They are restoring and redeveloping the Snowdon building on 11th Street SE. It was particularly heartening because this was exactly the kind of building that could have been razed with no one complaining. It is an industrial site, once the home of C.C. Snowdon Company, a wholesaler, refiner and importer of oil and gas products. The building is, quite frankly, an “ugly duckling.” But the developer saw the value and the potential in this building and is in the process of turning it into a red-brick beauty.

C.C. Snowdon (Campbell Camillus – don’t you love that name?) was born on May 16, 1881 in Montreal, the son of Cornelius Camillus Snowdon and Maria Peck. He graduated from Westmount school and worked for Imperial Oil before coming out to the west with the Canadian Oil Company. He formed his own company, C.C. Snowdon Co. in 1907. The first building on the site in Ramsay was a simple wooden shack. Around 1911 he built a red brick building, complete with an arched doorway. It was quite elegant for an industrial building. Over the next three years, more building was done on the site. His venture was very successful and eventually the company expanded into Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton. C.C. Snowdon was an important part of the fabric of the Ramsay area, providing employment for many.

At the time of his death he was living in Mount Royal on Durham Avenue. He was a member of the Glencoe club and was very active in the community. According to the article in the Calgary Herald that was written following his death in 1935, he gave extensively to charity, but preferred his donations remained anonymous. His family continued to run the company after his death until 1960, when the shares were sold and the company was developed into Turbo Resources. The Ramsay warehouse was in operation until 1983. In 1988 a fire destroyed part of the building and it was left unrepaired until the current developer purchased the site in 2008. As part of the redevelopment, a two story addition will be built in the area that was damaged by the fire.

I love to hear stories about buildings that are saved from the brink by the foresight and inventiveness of dedicated people. Especially when they are ugly ducklings.

The "Little Giant" Tommy Burns

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 831The Norman Block, ca 1910s

We recently worked on a question for a customer looking for information on an ancestor. We do that a lot and it is always interesting, but we don’t always blog about it. This time I’m going to because the person we are researching was a famous boxer who lived and worked in Calgary in the early part of the 20th Century. I had heard of him, in passing, but didn’t know too much about him, except that a fire started in his clothing store and spread to the rest of the Norman Block, burning it down for the third time.

I didn’t know what a fascinating life the “Little Giant” had led. He was born Noah Brosso into a family that would soon grow to 13 children, only 8 of whom would grow to adulthood. Noah was small, but feisty and athletic and tried his hand at speed skating, soccer, and lacrosse before realizing he was a boxer born and made. Well, born Noah, he soon became Tommy Burns, a more Irish sounding name, and less stressful for his poor mother who feared he would sully his family name.

He fought all through the United States, becoming World Heavyweight Champion, the only Canadian to do so. He was a pioneer in many ways, defending his championship against all comers in all countries, no matter what their race or colour. He travelled the world defending his World Championship, this was the only way to make it truly a World Championship, he felt. He also was the first World Champion to fight a title bout with a "man of colour." Jack Johnson, a Texan and child of slaves, had tried to box in a championship match before, but all previous champs refused, upholding boxing’s colour bar. Tommy was different and agreed to meet Johnson, but the bout had to be fought outside of the US in Australia. Tommy did not win this fight, which was stopped by police and the title went to Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Burns didn’t quite retire from fighting. He beat Billy Lang to become the champion of the British Empire, but the boxing had lost its magic and Tommy needed to find something else to do. He would become a manager of fighters.

So far, so good. But what does this have to do with Calgary? Well, Tommy settled in Calgary and opened a clothing store in the Norman Block, with his brother as manager. He also groomed fighters and promoted bouts. One of the fighters that Tommy thought would have a shot at a title was Arthur Pelkey. He would need some bouts and some headlines to be able to challenge Johnson, so a match was set up for him against Luther McCarty who was also thought to be a likely contender for the championship. Burns arranged a bout between the two at the arena he had built just outside of the city limits (as boxing was illegal in the city, if admission was charged). Tickets were sold at Burns’s clothing store and were sold out in no time. On the day of the bout, Burns hired eight streetcars from the city to take the spectators out to the venue.

PC 1581Peleky McCarty bout

On the night of the bout, observers noticed that McCarty didn’t look too well. He’d fought a hard bout and was later thrown from a horse. A doctor examined him and declared him fit to fight. Early in the first round, Luther took a hard punch from Pelkey that dropped him to the ground. He didn’t get up. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Luther McCarty was dead.

Burns was charged with manslaughter in the death as was Pelkey. The Manchester Arena mysteriously burned to the ground. The death of a fighter fuelled calls for further prohibition on boxing matches. Both Pelkey and Burns were found to be not responsible for the death, but Pelkey lost the will to fight and Burns’s reputation suffered. He was broke, so in 1918 he climbed into the ring again and beat Tex Foster. He fought the British Champion Joe Beckett in 1919 but was knocked out. That was the first and last time Tommy Burns hit the canvas. He hung up his gloves and became a publican and vaudeville performer. Late in his life he found religion and became an evangelist. He died in 1955 on a visit to Vancouver and is buried there.

PC 1071The Deathbed of Luther McCarty Tommy Burns Library of Congress Bain collTommy Burns with his Championship Belt, Library of Congress, Bain Collection B2-2103-14

Calgary's French Connection

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 652

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Calgary, dated 1909

Postcards from the Past, PC 652

When we think of Canada’s French Canadian population we rarely think of our city. Did you know that it was a French speaking person who welcomed the North West Mounted Police when they arrived at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in 1875? Father Doucet, an Oblate, in the area to minister to the First Nations tribes who called this area home, had already established a mission at the site. The Mounties thought the area would be ideal for their fort and so asked the missionaries to move further up the Elbow. The area where they finally established their mission, Notre Dame de la Paix, eventually became Rouleaville, Calgary’s first French community.

The presence of the mission attracted other Catholic development including a hospital, cathedral, convent and schools. St. Mary’s school, started in a log cabin in 1885, is still in operation, albeit in a newer building. The settlement attracted other Francophones including Metis who were employed as the 19th century equivalent of truck drivers, moving freight in and out of Fort Benton. Father Lacombe, the visionary behind this community, sought official status for the area of land the Oblate fathers were occupying and was ceded the rights to two quarter sections. This furthered the development of the area and soon French speaking businessmen and professionals were building their mansions in the area. The earliest of these were the Rouleau brothers, Charles and Edward. (aj 1142) Charles’ lovely mansion is gone, demolished in 1939 to make way for the Athlone Apartments, but Edward’s house was moved to a spot behind the old St. Mary’s Parish Hall (now Alberta Ballet) and still stands.

AJ 1142

Dr. Edward Rouleau Residence, 114 18 Avenue SW, ca 1972

Moved to vacant lot behind the Alberta Ballet building (141 18 Avenue SW)

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1142

The existence of a French community in Calgary is unknown to many of us. La Bureau de Visibilite de Calgary and La Societe Franco-Canadienne de Calgary sponsor Les Rendez-vous de la Francophonie throughout the month of March. On the 22nd of the month, these organizations along with the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Community Association and the Calgary Public Library are presenting, in English, “Rouleauville – Calgary’s French Connection” at the John Dutton Theatre of the Central Library at 2:00. Admission is free. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about an important part of Calgary’s early history. See you there.

PC 136

Sacred Heart Convent, built 1893

Postcards from the Past, PC 136

Everyday People and the Houses They Live In

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

AJ 1344

202 17th Avenue SE, ca 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1344

Our last posting was about Millionaire’s Row on 4th Avenue SW. This week I’m going to have a look at a house in a slightly more modest area of town. This stems from some research I did for Ed’s Restaurant. They are back in business, having been shut down by the floods, they were looking for some history of their building at 202 17 Ave SE.

The restaurant is an example of a great reuse of an old home. The part of the city it is in still has a few old gems, including the McHugh house just up the road, but their numbers are falling. The area around the Stampede Grounds was not a snazzy neighbourhood like Mount Royal or Elbow Park and the houses are fairly typical middle class and working class homes. Often these are exactly the houses that fall to the wrecker’s ball because they have no noted names associated with them. But as I always tell my genealogists, it is not just the well-heeled who made this city what it is; without the everyday folk, there would be no city. The house that is now Ed’s is a wonderful example of just that kind of place as evidenced by the variety of folks who called it home.

The people who lived at 202 17 Ave E were working folk. Percy McNaughton, a barber at Gem Barbershop, was the occupant in 1910. In 1911 it was a widow, Agnes Flanagan, living there with her boarder Laura Josh.

In 1915 the house was occupied by William Shergold who was shown to be on active service. His story was quite poignant. He was a young cabinet maker who came to Canada in 1913. Having served with the 5th Devon Territorials, he offered his talents to the 103rd Calgary Rifles and, when war broke out enlisted in the army. He was 23 years old, fair haired and grey eyed. Sadly, while he survived the war, he later died of TB of the kidney, which was attributed to his service overseas. He is buried in Edmonton.

After the war, Charles Mennell lived in the house. He was a chef and his wife (Mrs. Chas. in the directory) was a clerk at Binning’s Dry Goods on 8th Ave E. By the late 20s and early 30s, the revolving door of occupants had slowed and the house was occupied by farmer Raymond Preffer and his daughter Genevieve, who was the proprietor of Norma’s Beauty Parlor (which, it appears, she ran from her home).

The house continued to be occupied by average, working class people through the 40s, seeing another barber, an oil driller, and a landscape gardener. By the 1970s it had been subdivided into apartments occupied mostly by retirees. By then that part of 17th Ave E had become somewhat shabby and down at the heels. The houses started to go, and businesses sprung up, but somehow 202 and its neighbour survived. There are just a few of these old gems left in the neighbourhood, but when we see them we can remind ourselves that they housed the lifeblood of this city, the people who made Calgary what it is today.

AJ 1345

Another house in the area, 17th Avenue SW between 1st and 2nd Streets

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1346

Calgary's Millionaire's Row

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

PC 1013

Houses of Peter Prince, Hugh Macleod and Victor Anderson on 4th Avenue W

Postcards from the Past, PC 1013

One of Heritage Park’s jewels, the Peter A. Prince House, has been a part of the park since 1967. The Prince House is just one of several grand homes which once lined Reinach Avenue West, also known to locals as ‘Royal Road’, or ‘Millionaire’s Row’. When the city changed to a numbered quadrant system in 1904, Reinach became 4th Avenue West.

Peter Anthony Prince's stately house was built in 1894, and originally stood at 238 4th Avenue SW, at the northeast corner of 4th Avenue and 2nd Street West. Prince moved to Calgary in 1886, and became the manager of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company. His wealth came from several business ventures, including a flour mill and elevator, the Prince-Kerr ranch at Brooks, and he later formed the Calgary Water Power Company. In 1966, Alberta and Southern Gas and Alberta Natural Gas donated the Prince house to Heritage Park, sponsoring the move and restoration as a project for Canada’s Centennial in 1967. In preparation for the move, the woodwork and 25,000 bricks were removed, and the house was divided into three sections. It was reassembled on a simulated sandstone foundation, where it still stands today.

Hugh S. Macleod, proprietor of the New Grand Central Hotel, made his home in a large Queen Anne mansion at #312.

The home of R. N. Kirkpatrick, customs inspector, was at #318. This home was later owned by Henry A. Perley, proprietor of the Alberta Hotel, which still stands on Stephen Avenue. H. A. Perley left money in his will for the Perley wing of the General Hospital.

Home of DW Marsh

Residence of D.W. Marsh, 203 4th Avenue W

From Picturesque Calgary, 1901 published by the Calgary Herald


One of Calgary's grandest homes was that of Daniel Webster Marsh, located at 203 4th Avenue West. D. W. Marsh arrived in Calgary in 1884, and was mayor in 1889. He made his fortune through fur trading in Montana, supplying beef to Canadian Pacific Railway crews, and later as a Calgary merchant. When he died in 1916, he left an estate valued at $351,000, equivalent to nearly $6,000,000 today. The Marsh home was later divided into eight suites, and was demolished in 1953-54 to make way for Universal Motors.

In 1892, D. W. Marsh also built another home at 215 4th Avenue SW, next door to his own. He sold this home to the Anglican Church, and it was the official residence of Bishop Cyprian Pinkham, known as ‘Bishop’s Court’. In the early 1900s, the home is listed to Mrs. D. W. Moore. Mrs. Moore ran a boarding house, and her home was later expanded to become the 68-room Braemar Lodge. The exclusive Braemar Lodge had a total of 68 rooms, and was considered the finest hotel in the city, until the Palliser Hotel was built. The Braemar Lodge graced 4th Avenue West until 1965, and was in the process of demolition when it was destroyed by fire.

AJ 33 17

Braemar Lodge, 215 4th Avenue W, ca 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 33-17

This post was written by Kayla M.

W.R. Brock and Company

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 901

W.R. Brock and Co. Ltd, 8th Avenue and 2nd Street SW, ca. 1912?

Postcards from the Past, PC 219

This most beautiful building was the Calgary home of W.R. Brock Company Ltd. It was a western branch of an established Toronto firm, owned by William Rees Brock, a native of Eramosa Township and brother to the founder of Great-West Insurance, Jeffry Brock.

When this building was erected, in 1905/06, it was out in the boonies. The location had been decided by the company’s traveler, W.H. Berkinshaw, who liked the prospects in Calgary so much that he made a deal with W.R. Brock. Brock wanted to open the western branch of the store in Winnipeg, but Berkinshaw, promised the manager-ship of the western branch, championed Calgary and so this beautiful building was built on the corner of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street W. According to Elsie Morrison (Calgary, 1875-1950), the only other business out that way was a livery stable. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, as the 1906 map shows a number of businesses in the area, including Frontier Livery, but also including R.C. Thomas’s businesses, a tailor and a ladies shop as well as a drug store.

W.R. Brock was a dry goods supplier who specialized in carpets, woolens, tailors’ trimmings and fabrics, men’s furnishings, women’s clothing, including dainties, and ran a mail order business. By 1912, the business was doing so well a third storey was added, overseen by William Stanley Bates. The plans and specifications are in the Glenbow Archives.

The building was very much on the cutting edge of design. It had a sprinkler system and a commercial alarm hooked into the fire department (Morrison reports that in 1950 it was still No. 1 on the Fire Department’s alarm list). This may have something to do with the fire in the business district of Toronto in 1904 that consumed many businesses, Brock’s among them (even though that building, too, had a fire sprinkler system). It also boasted the first concrete sidewalk and passenger elevator.

When the Great War started, the company saw its share of men enlist. You can view the Honour Roll online. One of the Calgary men who enlisted was Edwin Lyle Berkinshaw, the son of W.H. Berkinshaw. He died in the Ypres Salient in 1916.

W.R. Brock and Co. lasted on the Calgary site until 1952. At that time the listings in the Henderson’s Directories change to Robinson, Little and Company, another dry goods store. It appears that the building was demolished some time before 1956 (or was it just reclad, as suggested by one of our readers, see comment below) and in 1957 the Empire Building is shown as occupying the spot. A restaurant called Bennett’s was on the main floor of the building. I have been unable to find out exactly what happened to the Brock business. For a time the building was occupied by a company called Robinson, Little and Co. which traded in the same kinds of goods as W.R. Brock. A little more research and I'm sure I'll turn up something.

PC 901

Interior, W.R. Brock Company Limited, Calgary, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 901

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