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Happy Birthday to an Iconic Building

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

 

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The Hudson's Bay Company's New Departmental Store in Calgary, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 1665

 

The Hudson’s Bay building downtown has turned 100 years old. It has been a part of the lives of Calgarians for a very long time. It has certainly been an important part of my life, even though I’m slightly younger than 100 (and my Nan worked at Eaton’s so I could get a discount). Still, I used to shop the bargain basement for my stockings when I was a candy bar girl (complete with red mini-dress) at the Palace Theatre across the street. I used to skip school to eat French fries and drink iced tea in the Chinook Room (because I didn’t want to run into my Nan at Eaton’s)

Now, while the building is 100, the company itself is much, much older. The Hudson’s Bay Company was established in the 17th century to take advantage of the fur trading opportunities. The first post was established in Calgary in 1876, hot on the heels of the NWMP establishment of Fort Calgary. It has always been a part of this city. Its growth was an indicator of the health of the city — kind of an indicator species, if you will. When the decision was made to run the transcontinental railway through Calgary, thus shifting the focus of settlement from the confluence of the Bow and Elbow to the west side of the Elbow River, the Bay followed suit, opening a small store at Centre Street and Stephen Avenue. But the city continued to boom and soon this little store became inadequate so a newer, more elegant store was built on the same site.

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8th Avenue looking East, (you can see the old Hudson's Bay Store at the end of the block on the left)

Postcards from the Past, PC 587

You can still see this building at 102 8th Avenue SW. As the city continued to grow, this store was added to and expanded but by the beginning of the 20th century, Calgary was booming again. The Bay needed to evolve to meet the needs of this new, sophisticated (and moneyed) town. The site they chose was on the corner of 1st Street and 8th Avenue, physically not too far from where they were, but the store the company would build was miles beyond the Victorian structure they left behind.

As they described it themselves in the announcement of the opening of the new store, their old place was “work — worn, wearied and the dear, faithful old walls “weren’t up to the challenge of the new century. It sounded more like they were describing someone’s grandma. They would be “winging their way to premises more dignified and capacious — befitting the aspirations of this progressive institution” and the aspirations of the progressive city which it served. The opening of this store, one of the grandest in the country, was a nod to the optimism and potential of Calgary.

The ad announcing the grand opening of the new location waxed eloquent about the sun setting on the old ideals and hopes and rising again on the renewed ambition and the new “life fluid coursing through [the] veins” of the new Hudson’s Bay; this could have been a metaphor for the new life blood that would be gushing through Calgary in the near future (sorry, couldn’t resist). The opening was a gala affair, kicking off on 14th Avenue east, winding its way to the Braemar lodge to pick up the Lieutenant Governor and then on to the store. There were bands and honour guards, a luncheon with speeches and toasts and band concert, held in The Rendezvous.

The Hudson’s Bay would become more than just a store for Calgarians. It was a meeting spot, a cultural centre and it even had a library for its customers. The Elizabethan Room promised an elegant dining experience and the children could be entertained on the rooftop playground. During the war its top floor housed the RCAF No. 4 Training Command, possibly because the store already had a beacon on its roof to guide pilots toward the airport. It was one of the grandest stores the Hudson’s Bay had ever opened and remains, to this day, one of the most beautiful buildings in the core. It is the Bay, what more needs to be said.

For those of you interested in Calgary's commercial heritage, our next Heritage Matters program - the launch for our Heritage Weekend - will be on just that subject. It will feature author Steve Speer speaking about his photographic vision of Calgary's skyline through his book, Building on the Bow. Landmarks of Downtown Calgary. For more information and to register check out our program guide.

PF 786.2078 PIA

Programme for a recital at the Hudson's Bay Green Room by Gordon Bryan, visiting examiner

from the Royal Academy of Music, 1933

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

Addressing Flood Damage to Calgary’s Heritage Places

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

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Fortieth Avenue, SW, Elbow Park Flooded,June 1923

Postcards from the Past, PC 612

Sadly, many of the neighbourhoods which were hardest hit by the floods of late June were the old neighbourhoods, where many of the city’s century homes are located. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society (CHI) has put together a Heritage Roundtable to address the issue of flood damage to these heritage places. The evening’s topical discussion will be on the extent and severity of damage to historic resources in Calgary, including heritage sites, and older buildings and neighbourhoods. Even if you aren't a heritage homeowner, we all have a stake in the heritage of our city and this discussion will be of great interest.

The panel members will also offer advice on reclaiming and restoring heritage properties. Fixing up a century home with a brick or sandstone foundation is somewhat different from mucking out the basement of a 1950s bungalow with a poured concrete foundation. Horsehair insulation and plaster walls react differently to water than do drywall and fiberglass. The panel members have years of expertise and they are willing to share.

Presenters will also cover potential sources of government aid and other help and provide advice to affected property owners.

The Roundtable will be at Fort Calgary on July 25 starting at 6:30 pm. The event is free and everyone, whether a heritage homeowner or just a person with an interest in heritage, will find this evening to be very informative. You are asked to register at the Calgary Communities website.

The evening’s speakers will be:

Eileen Fletcher, Heritage Conservation Advisor, Alberta Culture: Historic Resources Management Branch;

Darryl Cariou, Senior Heritage Planner, City Wide Planning and Design, City of Calgary;

Alexandra Hatcher, Executive Director/CEO, Alberta Museums Association;

Halyna Skala Tataryn, Heritage Housing Specialist, Real Estate Representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

If you are dealing with a flood-damaged historic property, the CHI website has valuable section on their forum that includes links to resources such as Canadian Conservation Institutes “Resources for Salvaging Personal Valuables” and “After the Flood” by Eileen Fletcher on the Alberta’s Historic Places blog, RETROactive The Calgary Public Library has also put together a resource list for all homeowners dealing with flood damage. You can pick up a copy at your local branch or find it online here.

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High River Flood, May 11, 1942

Postcards from the Past, PC 1627

Gardens, Historic and Not

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

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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.

 

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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)

 

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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

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

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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.

 

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"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)

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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

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

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

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