Latest Posts

On Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

It's Historic Calgary Week!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 126415th Light Horse Band

Actually, next week is Historic Calgary week but I wanted to let everyone know ahead of time so you can get it in your calendars. The theme this year is Reflect and Remember, as this is the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. There will be a plethora of history programs with some of our very best historians filling you in on all kinds of history, not just that of Calgary in wartime. There are genealogy related programs, building history programs, walking tours, a ghost tour, cemetery walking tours, a tour of the Beltline with particular reference to the gay history of that area, a look at some of Calgary’s heroes and heroines, and, well, just too much good stuff to list here. Check out the brochure at the Chinook Country Historic Society website.

As our contribution to Historic Calgary Week, Carolyn and I will be doing a presentation called “A Calgary Soldier’s Story” which looks at the life of a young Irish immigrant, who came west to make a life for himself and his family. When war came he didn’t hesitate to answer the call. We will also look at the history of his house, which still stands on Memorial Drive. His story is unique, but it is also the story of many young men from this city who joined up when his country went to war.

PC 1989I.O.D.E. War Memorial outside of Calgary Public Library

The week kicks off this Friday, July 25, with the publication of the humongous historic Calgary crossword puzzle by Jennifer Prest in the Calgary Herald. The paper will also include a list of the week’s programs. If you miss the puzzle in the paper, you can download it from the Chinook Country Historical Society’s website.

One glance at the list of programs and you will see that history is about more than just bricks and mortar. Calgary is a city rich with stories, and this week is our chance to hear just a few of them.

Flood Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 611Elbow river at 25 Avenue Bridge, 1915

It will be the one year anniversary of the floods of 2013 on Friday. On Saturday, as part of the city-wide Neighbour Day celebrations, we will be launching our Flood Stories website at the Central Library. The website will be an online resource for people who are looking for information about the all of the floods we have seen in Calgary, and it will also be a place where we can keep all the stories of the people who lived through these floods.

Living at the confluence of two rivers, we are no strangers to flooding, and in the early days a really good rainstorm could knock out all access to the city and leave people stranded. Routes into and out of the city, road and rail, could be inundated or undermined and this would leave the citizens without necessary supplies. This meant milk shortages and even shortages of materials needed to rebuild the bridges.

Bridge washouts sometimes created a domino effect as the debris from one bridge knocked out the next bridge, which knocked out the next bridge and so on. Logs were a hazard as well. When we had major logging operations, such as Eau Claire Power and Lumber, on the Bow, careering logs could wreak endless havoc on bridges and other structures in the river.

The old gravity feed water supply system was often a victim of the floods, not that it was ever a great system, but high water would stir up the rivers and the silt and debris would be pulled in to our water supply. This created other crises, as these were the days before bottled water and even those with wells might find their water contaminated by the floods.

PC 1984Bow in flood, Louise Bridge, 1923

What I have noted, though, as I have been working on the information for this site is that Calgarians are a resilient lot. After each and every flood, the newspapers have stories about how neighbours helped one another, how people got together to fix the things that had been broken by the waters. We are citizens of a very special city, and I am looking forward to hearing the stories and keeping the stories of all of you great people. Tell us your story

InvitationInvitation

Heritage Matters: From Discovery Well to Provincial Historic Site

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 658Dingman 1 and 2 1913, Postcards from the Past

May 14, 1914 was possibly the most significant date in the development of the province of Alberta. On that day, a spume of petroleum gushed from the Calgary Petroleum Products’ well in Turner Valley and Western Canada’s first commercial oilfield was born. The discovery and subsequent discoveries has made this province what it is.

Archie Dingman, an innovator and general all-round enthusiast, was the General Manager of Calgary Petroleum Products and was a great pitchman for the potential of Western Canada’s oil industry. Calgarians, therefore, knew the well as the Dingman well. The Turner Valley Gas Plant, which was built to refine the petroleum from the well was the first plant of its kind west of Ontario and would remain in use until 1985. The heritage value of the Gas Plant was evaluated and in 1988 Alberta Culture acquired the site, which had been deemed to be of significant historic value to the province and the country. In 1995 it was made a provincial historic resource. It is now celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Dingman strike.

On Friday, May 23, at 5:30 we will be welcoming the director of the Turner Valley Gas Plant Provincial Historic Site, Ian Clarke, to the Central Library for our next Heritage Matters program. He will give us his insider perspective on the never-ending saga of the 100 years since Dingman No.1. You can register for this program in person, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online.

PC 1340Turner Valley Oil Fields, Postcards from the Past

Research the History of Your House, World War I Edition

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 758East Calgary, Alberta

 

It is that time of year again. With Historic Calgary Week fast approaching folks may be thinking ahead to the Century Homes project. We are offering a revised version of our program on researching house history, focusing on a house on Memorial Drive that was home to a soldier who served in World War I. This will give us the opportunity to explore some military resources for genealogists and house historians. In fact, we were able to find this solider because of the research that someone had done on their heritage home. They mentioned in their sign that the original owner had been on active service in 1915 so using a bit of reverse research we were able to find the house and the owner (and a whole lot more).

We are working again with our Heritage Triangle partners and we have managed to pull up a ton of information. I don’t want to give away too much, but even if you don’t have a house to research, you may just want to drop in to hear the story of this house and its fascinating tenants. You can register for this program in person at any library branch, online or by calling 403-260-2620.

I would also like to give a nod of appreciation to all of the organizers and participants of the Heritage Fair that was held over the weekend. It does my heart good to see all the students and the hard work they’ve put in to their projects. Also, a big thanks goes out to the staff and soldiers at Mewata Amoury for hosting the event. It was great.

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.

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

Upcoming Genealogy Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

Dave Obee is coming to town! The Alberta Family Histories Society is bringing Dave Obee to Calgary for a day-long event covering many aspects of Canadian genealogical research. He will be talking about using the internet for research, finding information on our immigrant ancestors, how to squeeze the last drop of information from the census and Canadians in World War I. Dave Obee is a very big name in Canadian genealogy circles and has written a number of books that I use nearly every day. This is going to be a great seminar and it is dirt cheap - $35 if you register before March 1, $45 if you register after. Check out information on the Alberta Family Histories Society website. I am so looking forward to this – I hope to see you there.

Closer to home, we will be offering our Genealogy for Beginners program at the Fish Creek Library on February 22 at 7 PM. This is the perfect opportunity to find out how to start that family history project. For more information and to register click here.

Also remember our Family History Coaching sessions on the last Saturday of the month from 10 to noon until June 28. We meet on the 4th floor of the Central Library and we can help you one-on-one with your genealogical research. This is a drop in program, so no registration is required.

In the genealogy vein, but not exactly a genealogy program, is the lecture series being put on at the Military Museums to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. A series of lectures will be run over the next three months including Dr. John Ferris, talking about the outbreak of World War I, Rob Alexander sharing his grandfather’s account of the Dieppe Raid and the invasion of Italy from his diaries, and Lindsey Sharman introducing Forging a Nation: Canada Goes to War, the newest exhibit in the Founder’s Gallery at the Museum. For more information visit their website.

Sarcee Camp

192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp Calgary, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

If you are a teacher looking for an interesting way to engage your high-school students in the life of a World War I soldier, contact me about presenting our Lest We Forget program. We bring the service records of local soldiers and each student can use these documents to create a story or a tribute to the soldier. This has been a very successful program, leading students to a deeper understanding of the meaning and impact of war in the lives of our ancestors. If you’re interested, contact me.

Tonight is the Heritage Trades Roundtable at Rideau Park School. We will be listening to presentations about Beautiful Brick. For more information and to register visit their site.

 

If you have an upcoming genealogy event you would like us to mention, please feel free to post a comment below.

Beautiful Brick: The Heritage Trades Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

ch 2012 008

Parkdale house, developed by Alfred McKay and built with Crandell Pressed Brick

Century Homes Photographs, CH 2012-008

The second Heritage Trades Round Table is set to go on January 28. This one is particularly apropos given the decision recently taken by the CBE to demolish the lovely old Elbow Park School, as it is on the subject of beautiful brick.

Calgary has long been known as the "Sandstone City" due to the number of nearby sandstone quarries. Many people are unaware, however, that we had a good number of brickworks in the vicinity as well. The area around Cochrane had the silty hard clay that was great for making bricks and much of the production of the three brickyards operating there in the early 20th century was shipped to Calgary. Calgary had its own brickyards as well; the earliest of these being Peel’s brickyard which opened in 1886 in the area of what is now Roxboro. “Gravity” Watson’s yard was established in 1893 near the Edworthy Ranch in the Shaganappi area. This became known as Brickburn. The company was later sold to Edward Crandell, whose beautiful brick home still stands in Patterson Heights and is perhaps better known as the house where Stu Hart lived and trained his wrestlers.

Another entrepreneur who got into the brick business and whose imposing home still stands was William Nimmons. He started a small brickyard on the site of his quarry in the Bankview area. The quarry at Glenbow also had brickworks on the site. There were also small brickworks, run by home builders who provided bricks for their own construction. William Kempling was one such. His operation was located between Centre St. and 4 St. E.

If you are a brick aficionado and would like to learn more about the history of brick production and construction in Calgary, you need to come to the next Heritage Roundtable. You will meet some of the people who make the preservation and maintenance of the buildings and features we love possible. The evening will include:

•Historic brick production & industry in Alberta — Malcolm Sissons, president, I-XL Industries Ltd., a 4th generation family business founded in 1912 as the Redcliff Pressed Brick Co.

•Current brick masonry trade, traditional methods — Neil Puype, principal of a heritage building consulting company and 5th generation brick and stone mason

•Early brickyards & building with brick in Calgary — Marilyn Williams, Heritage Roundtables steering committee

This is going to be great, talking ‘bout brick in the Sandstone City, so join us. The event takes place Rideau Park School gymnasium, 829 Rideau Road SW and starts at 7:00 pm (doors will open at 6:30 pm). It is open to the public and free of charge. To register, click here.

 

AJ 88 05

Mewata Armouries, entrance to the Drill Hall, ca 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 88-05

The Value of Old Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School

Elbow Park School

From the Elbow Park School Website

Elbow Park School is in the news again. The CBE is meeting to discuss what will be done with the school – should it be torn down and replaced or restored? Schools often present challenges for the people who want to save old buildings. They are large and occupy vast tracts of land, often in very desirable neighbourhoods. The people who hold Elbow Park’s fate in their hands are facing a real dilemma. Yes, a new school would have all the bells and whistles, enough plug ins for all the electronics (I work in an older building myself and understand this challenge especially), a better gym, and all the amenities that new buildings offer, but they will also lose a character building, in a sense they will lose the history of their school. The neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in the city, will lose more of its defining characteristics, the characteristics that make it such a wonderful place to live.

So what, you might say. This is a pointless discussion. An old building is an old building and the best way to deal with it is to replace it. That it is flood damaged is the perfect opportunity to look to the future and build something “better.” This is at the heart of much of what we do in the heritage community. What is the value of an old building? Is there more than monetary value to consider when we decide their fate? Is newer necessarily better?

There are lots of arguments to support both points of view. Reusing old buildings adds character to cities – remember when Mordecai Richler famously stated that Calgary would be a helluva city once it was uncrated? We’ve come a long way from there. We value our heritage and realize that preserving our old buildings gives a sense of the history to a city, something that we lose every time we knock one of them down. Old school buildings are especially important in the history of place. “Schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last a century. They represented community investments that inspired civic pride and participation in public life," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There is an excellent study on the fate of historic neighbourhood schools by the Trust called “Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl.”

There is also the practical value of restoration. It is a far greener option than dumping demolition rubble into a landfill. Restoration allows for the removal of any nasty stuff like asbestos and allows for a general buff-up. If Jane Jacobs is correct that new ideas require old buildings, sending our kids to school in a historic building could open the way for who knows what kind of engagement. If you don’t want your kids to go to school in an old building, then perhaps we should reconsider the value of Ivy League schools, or Oxford or Cambridge. Part of what makes the experience there so valuable is the history behind them, represented, not in the least, by their wonderful historic buildings.

I hope we get to keep that beautiful school. It would be a shame to lose another one.

PC 1998

St. Mary's School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1998

Xmas Gifts for the History Buff on Your List

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian

There is nothing like a blizzard to get me started thinking about Christmas shopping. In particular, how much I don’t want to be out shopping in weather like this. So, with that in mind I thought I would pull together a little list of books and some other suggestions for gifts for the history lover in our lives.

This was a really good publishing year for local history. Many of our favourite historians released books that would be great presents not just for local history buffs, but for family or friends who don’t know our city, but should.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Development Derailed: Calgary and the CPR, 1962-1964by Max Foran. In June of 1962, the Canadian Pacific Railway announced a proposal to redevelop part of its reserved land in the heart of downtown Calgary. In an effort to bolster its waning revenues and to redefine its urban presence, the CPR proposed a multimillion dollar development project that included retail, office, and convention facilities, along with a major transportation centre.

The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers in Southern Alberta by the Calgary Herald; foreword by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Flood of 2013 chronicles an unforgettable summer of angry rivers, unprecedented flooding and undeniable human spirit. This gift is a “double give” as a portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Calgary Foundation’s Flood Rebuilding fund.

Calgary LRT Walks: South Stations and Northwest Stations by David Peyto (available from Peyto Lake Books. One of the best ways to learn more about Calgary, to appreciate and enjoy the city, is on foot. Calgary LRT Walks describes many walks from LRT stations and include information on routes, buses, bathrooms and eateries.

River throws a tantrum by Rona Altrows; illustrated by Sarah-Joy Geddes is about one boy’s perception of the flood and evacuation. It was published by Pages Bookstore and read at one of their story times by Mayor Nenshi.

Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator by Scott Jolliffe looks at the history and demolition of the old Government elevator in Ogden. It is richly illustrated with the author’s photographs. Concrete Centenarian is available at many of the bookstores mentioned below. It is also available directly from the Calgary Heritage Authority for $30. For the CHA, email elevatorbookinfo@gmail.com

Marion Nicoll: Silence and Alchemy by Ann Davis, Elizabeth Herbert, Jennifer Salahub. Marion Nicoll is a widely acknowledged founder of Alberta art and certainly one of a dedicated few that brought abstraction into practice in the province. Her life and career is a story of determination, of dedication to her vision regardless of professional or personal challenges. She was the first female instructor hired by the school that is now ACAD.

Unbuilt Calgary: A History of the City That Might Have Been by Stephanie White. There have always been great plans afoot for Calgary. Stephanie White looks at some of the plans and what they would have meant for the city.

Wild Horses, Wild Wolves: Legends at risk at the foot of the Canadian Rockies by Maureen Enns. Ghost River Wilderness Area, located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, is one of only three provincially designated wilderness areas in the province. It is in this beautiful, threatened and geographically remote area that Maureen Enns, a well-known artist, author, educator and conservationist, has come to discover an incredible world inhabited by wild horses, one of the region’s most elusive and iconic creatures.

Any one of these titles would make a great gift. Many of these books can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo but also check our local booksellers such as the Glenbow Museum Shop, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books and Owl’s Nest.

Do you have a suggestion for a great local history book to give as a present? Please put your title in the comments and we'll add it to our list.

12345678910Showing 1 - 10 of 93 Record(s)