Latest Posts

On Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

Gardens, Historic and Not

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

PC 1498

Residential View, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 1498

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

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

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

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

 

PC 658

CPR Park, Calgary ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 658

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

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

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

 

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

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

AJ 25 08


Alberta Block, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-08

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

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

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

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

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

CHACPL LogoLand Use

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

PC 1936

819 5th Avenue NW, ca 1914

Postcards from the Past, PC_1935

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

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

 

PC 694

"Where Felix Worked" (CPR Powerhouse)

Postcards from the Past, PC_694

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

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

819 Kayla

819 as it is today

Photo courtesy Kayla McAlister

McHugh House

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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

AJ 1142

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.

cpl 211 12 28

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)

files

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)

PC 271

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.

PC 103

Dipping Cattle near Medicine Hat, NWT ca 1902

Postcards from the Past, PC 103

Houses Tell Great Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 7520

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)

AJ 1434

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

3456789101112Showing 71 - 80 of 305 Record(s)