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McHugh House

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

AJ 94 01

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

Heritage Matters: Concrete Centenarian

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian book cover

The next Heritage Matters program will take place at Memorial Park Library on April 3rd at 7 PM. Calgary Heritage Authority Chair Scott Jolliffe is going to launch his book Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator. The elevator was torn down in 2011 but before it went, the Calgary Heritage Authority was given the opportunity to photograph inside and out and also to record the demolition process. The result is a wonderful book, a testament to a one-hundred year old landmark. The author is an entertaining speaker who is passionate about the heritage of our city and works hard to ensure we will still have some heritage left for future Calgarians. Please join us. This promises to be a great event.

I have written about the elevator before (see earlier post) and how we feel about these behemoths. Sad as it was to see it go, there really is very little that can be done to repurpose something like this (although some things have been tried, just check out this article on The Atlantic Cities) but not many condo developments or after-hours clubs would want to have a wastewater treatment plant as a neighbour. Documenting these concrete beauties is certainly one way to retain the memory of them and Concrete Centenarian is an excellent example of how best to go about it. The author talks not just about the structure itself, but also its purpose, the impact it had on the economy of the area and the impact it had on the people who worked there. It is a great all-round celebration of “The Government” and its people. There will be copies of Concrete Centenarian available for purchase ($30 – cash or cheque only please) and since the author will be there, you can have them signed as well.

You can register for the program online, in person or by calling 403-260-2620. Refreshments will be available and there will be an opportunity to hang out and chat with other heritage buffs.

Upcoming Genealogy Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Spring will be here tomorrow – well, technically, it will be here tomorrow. That means that the genealogy season is in full swing and is there ever a lot of events going on! There are conferences, classes and coaching all taking place in the next month. Here’s a taste of the line-up:

Family History Coaching at the Calgary Public Library takes place on the last Saturday of each month. The next session will be on Saturday March 30 from 10:00 to noon on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society and staff from Calgary Public Library will be on hand to give you on-on-one assistance with your family history project. From beginners to the more experienced, all genealogists are welcome to come and chat with our experts. You don’t need to register for this program but you do need to have a Calgary Public Library card.

Ruth Burkholder, professional genealogist and noted author, will present “Finding Great-Grandma’s Grandchildren.” Finding people of your parent’s generation can be especially difficult. Ruth’s discussion will present some ideas to use to find folks in the early 1900s. This presentation will be part of the Alberta Family Histories Society monthly meeting on Monday April 8. The meeting takes place in the sanctuary at River Park Church, 3818 14A Street SW. The general meeting starts at 7:00 and you do not need to be a member of AFHS to attend.

Same Roots, Different Branches is the theme for this year’s Alberta Genealogical Society Conference which will be held in Edmonton at the Chateau Louis Conference on Centre on April 20 and 21. There will also be pre-conference tours of some of Edmonton’s specialized libraries for conference attendees on the 19th. Check out the brochure for more information. There are some great speakers lined up and programs are available for everyone from beginners to experts. Note that there is a fee for this conference.

Roots and Branches is the conference being held on April 27 by the Calgary Stake Centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is a wide variety of sessions on offer, among them Canadian resources, researching in Eastern Europe, using British military records and writing personal histories. You can see the whole list, as well as submit your registration on their website There is no charge for this conference which will be held at the Calgary Stake Centre, 2021 17 Avenue SW. To make sure you receive a syllabus, you will need to register before April 15.

And for those of you who would like to range a bit farther, Roots Tech 2013 will be taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 21 and 22. RootsTech is an opportunity unlike any other to discover the latest family history tools and techniques connect with experts to help you in your research, and be inspired in the pursuit of your ancestors. Learn how to find, organize, preserve and share your family's connections and history. Find out more at their website. Note that there is a charge for this conference.

Please feel free to let me know of any other upcoming events that might be of interest to genealogists and family historians. I’m always glad to hear from you.

The Annual Calgary Bull Sale

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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The Exhibition Grounds, site of the 1902 Bull Sale, ca 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 271

The annual Calgary Bull Sale was held for the 113th time last week at the Stampede Grounds. That makes it the longest running consignment bull sale on the planet. It began as part of the annual meeting of the Territorial Pure Bred Cattle Breeders Association, with the aim of providing the “small farmers to obtain pure bred stock as reasonably as the large rancher had been able to do by buying carload lots. “ Because of the size of the Territories and the cost of transporting less than a carload of animals, small farmers were limited in their access to breeding stock outside of their immediate neighbourhood. For many it was cheaper to buy stock from the East, but these animals weren’t necessarily the best for the climate out here. To level the field for the smaller producer, the stock was transported free of charge. The sale took place on the Friday of the annual meeting at R.C. Thomas’s Frontier Stables. According to the newspaper report, the bidding started slowly, but the bull Lord Kitchener turned the tide with a starting bid of fifty dollars which quickly went to one hundred. W.R. Hull paid $250 for a two-year old. Apparently the cows went much cheaper, being, as they were, “a little off colour.”

The sale was not just to benefit the small producers. Improving cattle herds on the prairies was a benefit to all producers. The cattle on the land at the time were descendants of the Texas longhorn, which was a tough breed, but not as well suited as the British breeds such as Herefords and Angus to our colder winters. Plus, as any steak connoisseur can tell you, they are better eatin’.

This year the average price of a Hereford bull was nearly $5000. The record price paid for a bull, one which has yet to be broken, was set at the 1981 sale when a Grand Champion Hereford bull from B and H Hereford Farm sold for $280,000. That’s a lot more than Lord Kitchener got at the first sale. The numbers from the sales tell a story, and it’s not always a happy one. Going through the excellent history of the Bull Sale by JoAnne Jones Hole, one cannot help but notice that although prices seem to remain steady, the number of animals at the sale has dwindled. In 2000 there were 572 bulls sold, in the last sale, 208. There is still optimism in the industry and the Annual Bull Sale still continues to draw buyers from both sides of the border, a testament to the quality of the Alberta herds and the early efforts of the Territorial Pure Bred Cattle Breeders Association to build them. Let's hope this optimism continues. Alberta beef is still the best!

We have the book Calgary Bull Sale 1901-2000 by JoAnn Jones Hole as well as several catalogues from the 1950s in our Local History Collection. These are just a small part of the collection of materials about the history of the ranching and the cattle industry in Southern Alberta. Drop in for a visit.

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Dipping Cattle near Medicine Hat, NWT ca 1902

Postcards from the Past, PC 103

Houses Tell Great Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Fred McCall Home

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 7520


Your house holds many secrets. Some we probably don’t want to know about and only surface if we start removing walls. Other secrets can be interesting, even fun and you won’t even have to swing a sledge hammer to find them. There are scads of resources available at the Calgary Public Library, the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. Staff from those three Heritage Triangle members will be at the Central Library on Saturday to introduce some of the resources that we have, all within walking distance of one another, that can help you tell your home’s story. Register here.

Maybe your home is an elder statesman – one of the many houses built during the big building boom in the early 20th century. If that is the case, you might want to consider joining the Century Homes project. This project was a great success last summer with over 500 homes on the list. The photos of those homes and the information signs that the owners created to share their stories are now in our Century Homes database, the newest member of our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Check it out to see the kinds of stories other owners have uncovered.

You don’t have to own a century home to join us at this program, though. Maybe you have a fabulous 50s bungalow in one of the suburbs built during yet another of Calgary’s booms. What did the land look like before the ‘dozers moved in? Who was the first person to live in this house out in the boonies and what did they do? There is always an interesting story to be told. Just look at this one:


Sunalta HouseSign for Sunalta House

The original land title from 1910 states that C. Montrose and Florence B. Wright purchased the lot from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company for $200, as well as the lot to the east. Although it is not certain if they lived in the house, they were definitely an intriguing couple.
Clare Montrose Wright studied divinity at Victoria College in Toronto.
Florence (Kinrade) Wright had been an aspiring vaudeville stage performer in Hamilton, ON until February 25, 1909 when her sister, Ethel Kinrade, was murdered n the family home. Florence and Ethel had been the only ones home at the time and Florence claimed that a “tramp” had come to the door demanding money. When Florence went to get the money, the tramp shot Ethel. When Florence returned , she quickly handed him the money and fled out the back door. A man that met Florence’svague description was never found and eventually suspicion landed on Florence herself. Florence stood trial, an event that made the news clear across North America, but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.
Following in trail, the couple married on June 28, 1909 in New York and moved to Calgary. Montrose gave up his plans to pursue the ministry and ended up practicing law.
Montrose died in 1918. After Montrose’s death, Florence returned to the stage, gaining moderate success, and eventually moved to California where she died in 1977.
The life and trial of Florence was immortalized in a book titled “Beautiful Lies” by Edward Byrne and a play in 2007 titled “Beautiful Lady, Tell Me” written by Shirley Barrie.

Your home may have an equally compelling tale (although perhaps without the murder). Join us and find out how to uncover it.

Can't make it to the event on Saturday? Watch the Livestream here: http://www.livestream.com/virtuallibrary

The McKay House

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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McKay House, circa 1960s

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1434

When Point McKay was developed, I was still young enough to mourn the loss of the Cinema Park Drive- In rather than contemplate the origin of the name or the heritage that it represented. At the time it looked like a great expanse of empty land – I had no idea what it was. And then I forgot about it.

And that is what is so great about my job. A customer came in looking for information about the old house in Point McKay. “What old house,” I asked in my ignorance. Well, there is an old sandstone house in amongst all the new development, which is being used as a community centre. So, of course, I had to remedy my ignorance and do some digging (I know – it’s unforgivable that I didn’t know about this, but hey, I was diverted by the drive-in!)

What I uncovered was a fascinating story of a real pioneer family. Alfred McKay originally came to this area on the original CPR survey in 1880. In 1886 he returned to Calgary and squatted on a beautiful plot of land on the Bow, across the river from the CPR line and the sandstone bluffs above it. He built a log cabin and by 1891 he had clear title to his homestead. To build his house, he would quarry sandstone across the river and, when the river had frozen, he would move the stone across to his plot. It took him several years to quarry the stone and build the house, but, according to his son Gordon, all was completed by 1904 and the family moved in. In an article, written at the time of the naming of Point McKay, Gordon and his sister, Mrs. G.S. Lord (yes, that was how women were addressed then), remembered that the house was quite modern for its time; it had a bathtub and running water and a pump run by a windmill (or by the kids, depending on the weather). The children remembered their father’s mustache, which he had sworn never to shave off as a reminder of the friends he had made on the survey. Alfred’s wife died in 1908, leaving him with seven children to raise. The house was added to over the years, making more room for the growing family.

Alfred lived in the home he had built until his death in 1940. He had donated 50 acres of his homestead to the city, land that became Shouldice Park. The house stayed in the family’s hands until 1953. That was when the land became Calgary’s largest drive-in, the Cinema Park. In the late 70s land in the city, especially on the river, was becoming a bit too pricey for something like a drive-in (and residents of Parkdale were likely never happy that it was there in the first place) so by 1978 show units were being built by Campeau. The house was nearly lost, as vandals set fire to it in 1977, but it was saved and turned into the community centre by the developer.

So, one of the wonderful old homes in the city still lives on its original site, thanks to the developer and early exponents of heritage preservation. I like learning about success stories.

If you have a home with a great story behind it, or would like to find out if your homes has a hidden past, or if you’re just curious about the history of houses in Calgary, join us on March 9 for “Research the History of your House.” Librarians, archivists and researchers from the three members of our “Heritage Triangle” (City Archives, Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives, and Calgary Public Library) will be on hand to introduce you to the wonderful world of house history. It takes place at 10:30 in the morning in Meeting Room 1, Lower Level, Central Library. Register online, in person or by telephone at 403-260-2620.

ARticle from Sep 28 1940 Calgary Herald

Photograph of Alfred S. McKay on the occasion of his 80th Birthday

Calgary Herald, September 28, 1940, p10

'88 Winter Olympics

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Pam File


Come together in Calgary, Host city for the XV Olympic Winter Games, 1988

Promotional publication from the CHFH Collection

It is hard to believe (and even harder for me to admit) but it has been 25 years since the winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988. I was working at the Central Library at the time and it was the most wonderful and weird experience I have ever had. People from all over the world speaking languages I didn’t even know existed, were here in our little town. The place was really hoppin’ and we were here in the middle of it. For ten days we were a cosmopolitan city. And I think that once we had the taste of this worldliness, we were hooked. The city changed forever after 1988. We had been given the example of what we could be and we wanted it. We were Cowtown no more.

You can capture some of the optimism that gripped the city by checking out the documentary history of the Olympics. I’d forgotten what a treasure trove we have here in the Local History room until one of my colleagues from our Virtual Services popped down to see if we had anything cool she could photograph for our Facebook page. Well, that set me off on a tangent – sometimes we get carried away and return way too much information, just like Google. I uncovered endless shelves of material that we had collected from the time of the original idea, through the bid process and on through the development and then the games themselves. My colleague was entranced by the volunteer handbook - a major document handed out to all the Olympic volunteers along with their teal blue jackets. This was an appropriate item for her to feature, as it embodied, more than any other item, the spirit of those volunteers and the pride Calgary can take in the fact that this voluntarism continues to be a distinguishing characteristic of our city.

The Olympics made us feel special, and we’ve managed to hold on to that feeling. If you’d like to relive that magical moment, visit us at the Central Library on the 4th floor and check out some of the really cool items we have in the collection. We’d love to see you.

from news releases

Artist's rendering of the proposed Canada Olympic Park at Paskapoo, 1983

From a collection of press releases in the Local History collection

Black History Month

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Black History Month

February is Black History month in Canada. This is a fairly new recognition despite the fact that people of African descent have been playing a role in Canadian history since the time of Samuel de Champlain.

Alberta is a fairly young province and most of us are descendents of immigrants of either internal or external. Our people came from all over the world, but we are often unaware of the history of black people in our province. Most of us know about John Ware, a former slave, who became a legendary cowboy and rancher in Southern Alberta. But many of us do not know of the settlers who came and established towns such as Breton, Campsie, Wildwood and Amber Valley. Many came from Oklahoma, which became a state in 1907. The government there made it quite clear that black people would be segregated and treated differently from the white settlers who were rushing in to homestead. Many of the state’s black residents fled to Canada, about 1000 to Alberta and Saskatchewan. They did not have an easy time of it. Canadians were alarmed by the influx of these immigrants and tried various measures to keep them out. In 1911 an Order in Council was passed which deemed African Americans unsuitable for the climate in Canada and prohibited their immigration. When they did arrive, they faced the difficult reality of the land which they were homesteading. They were in heavy bush which had to be cleared by hand. The land was not exactly productive and many men had to work in Edmonton to support their families. In spite of this they stayed and Amber Valley, alone among the other primarily black settlements, survived into the middle of the 20th century.

The history of the immigration of African Americans into the Prairie Provinces is a story of determination and courage. You can find out more about it in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We have The Window of our Memories volumes 1 and 2 , by Velma Carter, which is the story of Black pioneers in Alberta and includes the stories of those pioneers and their descendants. Another very interesting book in our Local History collection is Deemed Unsuitable by R. Bruce Shepard which looks at the problem of racism on both sides of the border and how it affected the immigration of African-Americans into the Canadian Prairies For an interesting twist on the John Ware story, we have a graphic novel by a local author, The Duchess Ranch of Old John Ware by James Davidge and Bob Prodor. (You can find other works by searching the library catalogue using the subject terms “Black Canadians History”). We have also included a list of related works in our History and Current Events NextReads newsletter for February. You can sign up for these newsletters here. These works tell us a lot about the immigration of black people into Canada, but they also have a lot to tell us about ourselves and how Canada came to be. It is not always easy to read, but it is crucial to our understanding of our history and our future.

You can find out about related programs on the Calgary Public Library website.

Information about the nation-wide celebration can be found on the Government of Canada Citizenship and Immigration website. The theme for this year’s celebration is Black Canadians in Law Enforcement and Black soldiers in the War of 1812 You can also find interesting facts and stories at the Historica site.

CPL BHM

Upcoming Heritage Programs in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Baintunnur Mosque Calgary

Baitunnur Mosque, Calgary

Courtesty the Baitunnur Mosque

Heritage Matters: Designing the Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary with Architect Manu Chugh

The Calgary Heritage Authority invites you to the first Heritage Matters of 2013, featuring Architect Manu Chugh. Learn about the design of the Baitunnur Mosque in Northeast Calgary. This event is being held at the Central Library on the south side of the main floor on February 22 at 5:30. There is no charge but we’d like you to register for the program.

Chinook Country Historical Society monthly program: The History of the Calgary Local Council of Women with noted author Marjorie Norris

The Calgary Local Council of Women was an important lobby group, tackling social and political issues at the beginning of the 20th century, a time when women were starting to assert their political power. Ms Norris will also talk about the role of nursing sisters in the First World War. It is a free program and will be held in the Burnswest Theatre at Fort Calgary on February 26 at 7:30 pm. You can find a more detailed description as well as see the upcoming programs at the Chinook Country website.

Research the History of Your House

In preparation for the next round of Century Homes displays we will be offering Research the History of Your House on March 9 at 10:30 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We will be joined by our colleagues from the City Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library. Our presentation will present resources from all three institutions to help you uncover the history of your house, whether a hundred years old or younger. This will be great for Century Homes participants but also for anyone who is interested in the history of their house, the people who lived in it or their community. This was a very popular program last year, so register early.

Historical Gardens of Calgary

Following our presentation on March 9 we will be hosting Janet Melrose, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, who will present a slide show and information about the Historical Gardens of Calgary. This program begins at 1 and will be held in Meeting Room 1 on the lower level of the Central Library. This program is filling up fast, so register soon.

Planning with Heritage in Mind

The Federation of Calgary Communities and The City of Calgary have collaborated to present “Planning With Heritage in Mind ", part of their “Partners In Planning" courses. These free workshops educate community members and the public about the planning process. This program will talk cover Heritage Planning. The Municipal Development Plan and the Calgary Heritage Strategy present a new vision where the City works with a range of stakeholders including communities to build a culture of preservation. It will include an introduction to the preservation principles of “identification, protection and management” which will be illustrated with local case studies. The program takes place on March 16, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Thorncliffe/Greenview Community Association: 5600 Centre Street North. Please register for this program at the Federation of Calgary Communities website.


In May 4 and 5 we will have another series of Jane’s Walks – more on that in the future, but check out The Calgary Foundation website if you’d like more information or to volunteer to be a leader.

Also, starting June 2 and running until October 27 (Saturday or Sunday, 2 pm) the cemetery tours of Union, Burnsland and St. Mary’s start up again. For more information check the 2013 Parks Program Guide.

PC 256

CPR Station Gardens, Calgary, ca 1915?

Postcards from the Past, PC 256

Thanks to Bob van Wegen for the information. If you have a heritage related program you would like us to include in our blog postings, please contact me via the comments section below.

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