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Balmoral School Celebrates 100 Years

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

AJ 91 02

Balmoral School, 1968

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0571

While chatting with some friends at the Historic Calgary Week volunteer recognition event, I was reminded that Balmoral School was celebrating its 100th anniversary. Actually, the school had planned its celebrations for June 21, but we all know what happened on that day, so it was postponed until the new school year. On Friday September 13 the celebration was held and the new clock faces unveiled. There is a great deal of history in that clock tower.

Built in 1913, Balmoral school was the last and most expensive of the nineteen sandstone schools built by the school board between 1892 and 1914. The sandstone building boom ended with the onset of World War I. After the war many of the artisans who worked the stone had returned to their homes in Scotland. Other materials were available at a reasonable cost, so no more sandstone schools were built.

When it opened, Balmoral was an elementary school, with the Crescent Heights Collegiate sharing the building. William Aberhart was principle of Crescent Heights. The High School moved to its own building in 1929.

The defining characteristic of Balmoral School is its clock tower. It has stood blank-faced since the school was completed. Stories about the clock-that-never-was abound. A favourite is that the works for the clock were shipped to Canada on the Titanic. It’s a good story, except the Titanic was sunk in 1912, a year before the school was built. The true story is that, as war approached and the boom ended, there was no money for a clock for the school. Over the years different groups have tried to remedy the situation, but fundraising is a difficult thing and there was never enough money raised. There was even a song written about it:

Old clock tower overhead,
Still no clock when we go to bed
No clock wakes us in the morn
No clock since our school was born

Finally, a corporate donor, BP Energy, offered money to pay for a clock for the tower. Sadly, the years had taken their toll on the tower and to bring it up to a state where it could hold the clock would cost over 100,000 dollars. As a compromise, clock faces, without working mechanisms, were installed to fill in the painted wood faces. They indicate 4:05, which was the time of the end-of-school bell when the school first opened.

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Balmoral School taken during a snowstorm, 1966

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 91-02

The Weir

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 229

Head Gates and Irrigation Canal, Calgary, ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 229

I seem to be obsessed with water these days. Or maybe it’s a normal reaction to betrayal by your rivers. Possibly not a healthy obsession, but I am going to write one more water-related post and then I will stop, promise. What caught my attention this week was the closure of the Harvie Passage, the man-made rapids designed to make the area around the weir safer for experienced paddlers (although they still strongly recommend that novices and folks in rubber rafts portage around the rapids) Harvie Passage is closed because the mighty Bow has rearranged the area and repairs need to be made before it is safe for use.

I remember going to a meeting where the plans for Harvie Passage were explained. It seemed like such an innovative way to deal with the “drowning machine” as the weir was known at the time. The building of two channels, designed to enhance the experience of the Bow, opened up that area of the river and allowed for enthusiasts to paddle without portage.

Growing up on the Bow, I knew the weir was there, but it wasn’t until much later in my life that I knew, first what a weir was exactly and second, why it was built. It may not seem like it this year, but the area in which we sit was considered by the early explorer John Palliser to be essentially a desert and not suitable for settlement unless irrigation could be provided. That section, still known as the Palliser Triangle, wasn’t even considered good enough to give away to homesteaders so it was taken out of the homestead scheme.

When the CPR came to claim their alternate sections of arable land as payment for building the railway, they also looked at the Palliser Triangle. They had just built a railway from coast to coast. Irrigating the prairie “desert” (the largest irrigation project in North America) would be a piece of cake by comparison and could increase their profits enormously. It was to this end that the weir was built, starting in 1904. This diversion would send water into a canal to send it on its way to the arid lands to the north and east. The Main Canal carried Bow River water to the Reservoir #1, or, as we call it today, Chestermere Lake (that was news to me too).

The weir was always a dangerous spot. A brief search through the old newspapers turns up many accounts of people drowning at that spot. Warning signs and buoys didn’t stop people from attempting to “shoot the rapids.” The idea of turning such a deadly, but necessary, area of the Bow into an attraction, was an inspired one, and I hope all will be well with Harvie Passage in the future.

We have some fascinating material on the history of the Western Irrigation District including Flow Beyond the Weir , which is the history of the Western Irrigation District, and some of the original reports and conference proceedings of the Western Canada Irrigation Association. Drop in to the Local History room at the Central Library and have a look.

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Canadian Pacific Irrigation Department Building, Calgary, 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 668

The Old Swimmin' Hole

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

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Swimming in Elbow Park, ca 1940s (?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Finally it is summer! Yay, just in time for fall. I was looking for a postcard to illustrate something about Elbow Park and I happened across this one that shows people swimming in the Elbow River. It was also posted as a nice summertime picture for Photo Fridays on our Facebook page. This got me to thinking about one of the best things about living at the confluence of two rivers – we have awesome swimming holes.

If any of you have heard Harry Sander’s list of 100 Awesome Things about Calgary, you will have heard about the rope swing on the Elbow River in what is now Lindsay Park. Well, back in the olden days, when I was a kid, there was no development in Lindsay Park, it was just waste ground owned by the city and the CNR. That made it a great hiding place for us to play hookey on a warm summer day (or a cold winter day, we didn’t need much of an excuse to duck school). We used to swing on the rope swing and drag our feet in the swimmin’ hole, sort of an inlet in the already shallow Elbow River. The more adventurous of us would drop in to the water and spend the rest of the afternoon lying on the bank in the sun trying to dry out our blue jeans. That was a really good excuse not to go back to class.

 

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Kiddies Pool at Bowness Park, ca 1920s

Postcards from the Past, PC 960

One of my other favourite places, and not just to swim, was Bowness Park. The company my dad worked for used to have a family picnic there every year. We got to ride on the rides and boat around the lagoon and swim in the kiddies pool. While not exactly a swimmin’ hole, it was a great place to spend a hot summer day.

The wading pond at Riley Park was a kind of swimming hole as well. Originally it was just a mud-bottomed slough (familiar to those of us who grew up on the prairies as the place where the cows drink and the ducks float). By the time I was old enough to paddle in the pool, it had been cemented and a lovely clump of willows planted in the middle. It is still a favourite with families in Calgary – my son loved to paddle in the pool when he was a baby.

Pool at Riley Park

Pool at Riley Park, prior to 1930

There were other excursions as well. When we were older we would ride our bikes out to Twin Bridges near the YMCA Camp and wander around in the silty river bottom. When we got our drivers’ licenses we’d pack up the car with towels and beer and dogs and spend the day and the evening hanging out and swimming in the river, until the RCMP whooshed us away and sent us all home.

Our junior high school used to hold its summer field day at Glenmore Park, and when we could shake off the chaperones (our moms and teachers) we would sneak a dip in the reservoir. Swimming in the city’s drinking water was not, apparently, limited to sneaky kids. Before the Glenmore Reservoir was built, there was a city reservoir roughly where Richmond Green is now. Militia units trained in the surrounding park and the soldiers were known to cool off after a long day of training in the reservoir, much to the dismay of the medical officers.

With the recent uprising of our peaceful rivers, it would be best to check on conditions before you try to take a dip in any of Calgary’s swimmin’ holes. But while you’re reminiscing, why not post your swimmin’ hole story in the comments section? We’d love to hear it.

The 1921 Census of Canada is Here!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

 

Calgary in 1921 Census

Cover page for Calgary, District 4, 1921 Census of Canada

Courtesy Library and Archives Canada

 

Since we’re already on a census theme, I am overjoyed to announce that the 1921 Census for Canada was released by Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada earlier this month and the images are now available on Ancestry Library Edition. There is no name index as of yet, but Ancestry is hard at work trying to get all 8.8 million names indexed. This census has been eagerly awaited by genealogists. Given the wrangling required to get the 1911 census released, we weren’t sure we were ever going to see this one. For many genealogists, this may be the first census on which we can find our parents or grandparents. I know it is going to answer any number of questions for me once I can locate my mom’s mom and her family.

I had a boo ‘round Ancestry this afternoon and had a bit of a time finding where they had stashed the images. Because they are not indexed, the records don’t show up in a search or in the card catalogue. But nothing will stand in the way of a genealogist on a quest. The way I found them (thanks to my colleague for assisting) was to log into AncestryLE, hit the Search button at the top of the page and then choose Explore by location in the middle of the page. Then I selected ‘Canada and then Alberta. You can choose any province except for Newfoundland, which wasn’t a province in 1921. Once you’ve selected your province, you will see a list of record types. Census and Voters Lists are the first category but the 1921 is not listed. Select View other… and you will see the 1921 Census at the bottom of the list. You can monitor progress on indexing by looking at the number to the right of the heading. Right now, there is a zero beside it. As indexing is done, the numbers should increase.

Once you’ve clicked on the link for the 1921 census you will see a box to the right labeled Browse this collection (see below).

Select your province and go wild. You can actually do this from home—check out Library and Archives Canada’s information page for a link—but to use indexing, once it is done, you will need to have an Ancestry subscription or use your library card for free, in-library access to Ancestry Library Edition. The images are great, especially compared to those of the 1911 Census, and the names are very easy to read. Have fun!

1921 Census in Ancestry

The 1921 Census Navigation Page on AncestryLE


And here is a reminder for those of you with Heritage Homes which may have been damaged in the floods, there is another information session being held tomorrow night, August 15, at Christ Church, Elbow Park, 3602 8th Street SE. You may have seen one of the presenters, Eileen Fletcher, on the Global Morning News talking about these sessions. There will also be a drop in session from 4-8 p.m. at the same location. You can find out more about this at the City of Calgary’s website and at the Calgary Heritage Initiatives website.

 

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Elbow Park, Calgary, 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Elbow Park School

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School from website

Elbow Park School

From the School Website

The beautiful old Elbow Park School has been in the news recently. It looks like damage to the building was quite extensive and there is some question as to its future. Right now, it appears that the wings on either side of the main building have been undermined and are sinking. They are pulling away from the main part of the building and causing cracks and other structural issues. The CBE is currently deciding whether to repair the school or build a new one. The Minister of Education has pledged to do as much as possible to save as much of the historic school as possible. For the next two years, students from the Elbow Park will be in a modular school being set up on the grounds of Earl Grey School.

Elbow Park School was originally a cottage school, which was a two storey building as opposed to the bungalow schools of four rooms in a single storey. In 1917 the cottage building was moved to 3640 7 Street and in 1919 two more rooms were added. In 1960 the building was still in use for shop and home economics classes for Rideau Park students. In 1962 this enhanced cottage school became the home of Tweedsmuir School for Girls.

In 1925 a bylaw was approved by an overwhelming majority to spend 100,000 dollars on a new school in Elbow Park. The Parents Association lobbied hard as they felt their existing school was too small, badly ventilated, poorly heated and a firetrap due to its open central staircase.

William Branton, Calgary School Board architect and building superintendent, with consulting architect R.P Blakey, designed the school. The cornerstone was laid on March 27, 1926, by F.S. Selwood, Liberal MLA and D.S. Moffat, City Solicitor. To mark the opening on November 26, 1926, a bridge and whist tournament was held, followed by refreshments.

Elbow Park was the first brick school in Calgary. The assembly hall, once the gym, and currently in use as the library, resembled a typical Old Country chapel. The papers said: "The walls are being artistically finished with a dappled light brown tint. The building is ultra-modern in every respect. "

Our fingers are crossed that this old beauty can be saved. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society will have updates on their forums, which can be accessed here.

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Elbow Park, Swimming in the Elbow

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Oh, the water....

by Christine H - 5 Comment(s)

 

PC 611

25th Avenue Bridge during the floods of 1915

Postcards from the past, pc 611

It has been a trying time, hasn’t it? Our beautiful rivers turned ugly on us. We knew they were fickle – we’d seen evidence of it in the past (see above) but somehow living through it and seeing the aftermath makes it different. We were particularly hard hit here at the Central Library. As I write this, we are still without power, which means our IT centre is without power, which means we have no computers. I started at the library before there were computers, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, but I realize I have become very reliant on the availability of online resources.

In the old days we had a Recordak machine – this would take a photo of the book card and the library card together and this would be developed as microfilm. By the time I was doing circulation we actually had a computer system in place, but there was no online card catalog – we were still using the same old card catalogue and a new, updated version on microfiche. We were unable to find out if a book was on the shelf or not. If it was there, great, if not, well...

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Circulating books using a Recordak Machine, Georgina Thomson Branch, 1965

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 105 35 08

Then we launched the S.S. OPAC (online public access catalogue). We got t-shirts and had big parties because this was a revolutionary development for us. We could find out if books were in our system, if they were checked in or signed out and we could also place holds that would be caught the instant a book was returned. It made using the library so much more convenient. For the first little while, we couldn’t use the catalogue from home, but that didn’t matter much, because so few of us had internet access and what we had was glacially slow. But we kept developing our technology to make life for library customers simpler and quicker.

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Gerry Meek launches the S.S. Opac at Village Square, 1992

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures CPL 209-16-08

Now, we are back to square one – maybe even further back. I would have liked a Recordak machine this week. It would have been far easier than recording each transaction manually. That aside, sitting here, in the branch named for our first Head Librarian, I have come to realize that the library is still the same place that he envisioned. It is safe and welcoming. Customers have come in with needs as diverse as a place to wash their hands after mucking out basements in Elbow Park and the need to find some diversion. We have provided a place for people whose homes are still without power to charging their telephones and laptops and a place for folks just needing to see a smiling face and an indication that some things are still OK. Alexander would be proud.

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Mr. Alexander Calhoun, 1912

Calgary Public Library, Our Story In Pictures CPL 103-03-01

Elveden House, or, A little bit of Ireland

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

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Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 4306

 

I pass it every day on my way to work. It was part of my childhood, being fairly close to where my father worked, and I never knew anything about it. But as I was glancing out of the C-Train window, I noticed the beautiful green panels on the exterior of the building and then checked out the names, Elveden, Guinness and Iveagh. I thought I’d seen Iveagh House in Dublin. What was the connection with the Guinness family, whose products I enjoy every time I travel to visit our family in the Emerald Isle? Seemed like something I should know so I poked around a bit to find out just what was going on.

We have the photo, above, of Elveden house under construction. This is from the Alison Jackson collection (which can be viewed on our digital library). This is usually my first stop when I am looking for building information, as we have put information from the various newspaper articles we have published over the years, as well as other information we have gleaned from various sources. What I found out was that Elveden house was the first skyscraper in Calgary, built in 1959-60 at a cost of 5 million dollars and rising to 20 storeys. Until that time, buildings had been limited by law to 12 storeys in height. The owner of the building was a Guinness subsidiary, British Pacific Building Ltd, which partly explains the Irish allusions. The company built extensively in Canada, one of its projects was the Lions Gate Bridge.

On October 14, 1960, Viscount Elveden (Arthur Francis Benjamin Guinness, the grandson of the Earl of Iveagh – there are all my answers regarding names) officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the main tower. Mayor Hays placed a box of records in the stone which included the Guinness Book of Records, an architect's drawing of Elveden House, pictures of Calgary, coins, local newspapers and magazines and a couple of bottles of Guinness. Hays called the building a landmark that would be “distinctly visible mark on Calgary’s skyline.” Motifs of the hexagon, which I noticed on the panels on the façade of the building, are repeated throughout the building as are harps and angels, which represent the Irish source of the Guinness fortune. Rumours were flying when the Earl of Iveagh visited Canada in 1949 that the building project they would undertake would be a Guinness brewery, which would have been great. But instead they chose to put up office towers. I found some newspaper clippings in our files which were written as construction was underway. The descriptions of the amenities of the building sound very cutting edge for the time. For example, workspaces were flexible and the glass on the south side was tinted, to allow natural light into all the offices. In addition, 70% of the materials used to build the structure were Canadian made.

Two other towers were built over the next few years; Iveagh House (called the British American Oil Building for its tenant) which went up in 1960-61 and Guinness House, which was built in 1964. Among the clippings was the information I was dying to learn – what is the correct pronunciation of Elveden? An equally curious reader posed this question to the Calgary Herald in 1962 and their sleuthing turned up the pronunciation “Elden” in one of those weird quirks of pronunciation, the likes of which have given us “wustershire” sauce. Apparently, the pronunciation “elvden” is OK but “elVEEden” is just not on. Who knew?

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Calgary Skyscrapers, with Elveden House in the background, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, 1962

 

Hospitals in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Mountview home for girls

Mountview Home For Girls, 1958

From The Calgary Herald, March 8, 1958

I was doing a bit of research for a customer on a hospital in Calgary that I had no idea had existed. A little digging turned up the bit of information the customer needed, but in the process I discovered a whole whack of hospitals that had existed in Calgary that I had not heard of. The big hospitals are well documented; we have tons of information on the General and the Holy Cross as well as the newer hospitals such as the Foothills and the Lougheed. But what I didn’t realize was that there were smaller hospitals and hospital units scattered throughout the city.

I suppose it’s a bit of a cliché to say that things were different at the turn of the 20th century, but sometimes I’m not sure I realize just how different. I am sometimes shocked as I go through early newspapers at the things I find.

One that I find particularly unsettling is the advertising of children for adoption – I still can’t wrap my head around that one. The other is the prevalence of disease. I suppose we know, intellectually, that the city would not have been a clean place, that there were no antibiotics and that water wasn’t always clean. In many cases, the response to illness was to isolate the infectious person – that was the case with smallpox, tuberculosis and typhoid, for example. As late as 1912, hospitals had to turn away people with contagious diseases, as there wasn’t sufficient isolation space for them.

The hospital I was looking at was built in response to the need for more isolation units. The land was purchased in 1913 with plans to build a smallpox isolation hospital and a typhoid and/or tuberculosis hospital. The Mount View Hospital and its neighbour, the smallpox hospital, were built on 16th Avenue NE in 1914. Shortly after it opened, a fire broke out in the linen room. The intrepid “lady superintendent” immediately responded, only to have the fire pump break. Not to be so easily defeated, she organized a bucket brigade and had the flames doused by the time the firemen arrived.

By 1916 Mount View was housing returned soldiers who were suffering from TB. There was a bit of a scandal in 1917 when the number of eggs given to the patients was cut back. Apparently the treatment for TB was as much milk and eggs (often raw) that a patient could hold. The reduction provoked an outcry and sparked some very interesting letters to the editor. To get to the nub of the matter, the Calgary Daily Herald launched an investigation and found that the treatment of patients in the hospital was up to and even surpassed treatment in other sanitaria. The patients were fed very well, but since more recent research had proved that an unlimited diet of milk and eggs was not necessarily the best, the cut to the diet was reasonable. The reporter also found that several patients were being accommodated on the newly built porch (this was November, and part of the treatment for TB was exposure to cold, fresh air) and others were accommodated in tents on the site. There were also three padded rooms in the basement for “mentally deranged” patients. (CDH Nov 3 1917, p12)

By the 20s Mount View had become a home for delinquent girls, run by the United Church. I'm not sure what constituted delinquency, but the home stayed open until 1958.

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

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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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

McHugh House

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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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

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