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Calgary Board of Education Celebrates 125 Years

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 854

New Central School (later James Short School) 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 854

In the next few years we are going to see a plethora of anniversaries being celebrated. The years at the beginning of the 20th century were a boom time for Calgary. Between the 1901 census and the 1911 census, the population of Calgary grew from around 4000 to around 44, 000. With the population growth came the establishment of important and lasting institutions and the construction of many fine buildings. The Calgary Public Library was built in 1911 and officially opened on the first day of 1912. The beautiful sandstone City Hall building was completed. In 1912 we celebrated our first Stampede. The street railway, our first transit system, was built in 1909. The period between 1900 and 1912 was one of major importance in the building of our city.

One organization, however, was already celebrating a significant anniversary in 1910. By that year the Calgary Board of Education was already 25 years old. On March 2, 1885 the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 was formed by an order of the Executive Council of the North West Territories. A school had existed in Calgary before this time but it was funded through subscription, not through taxation. At the time of its formation, the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 had 70 students and met in a small building on 9th Avenue and 5th Street SE. In no time the size of the student population had overwhelmed the school and space was rented on the second floor of a building on 8th Avenue E. owned by I.S. Freeze.

The student population continued to grow and the Board was forced to issue a debenture for the construction of a purpose-built school in 1887, which would become Central School, on 1st Street W north of 5th Avenue. By 1893, it, too, was overcrowded. Throughout these early years of its existence, the board was plagued by a shortage of classroom space necessitating the rental of rooms in various locations including the Alberta Hotel. In 1893 plans were put in place to build a new school, which would be called the South Ward School.

AJ 23-13

South Ward School, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 23 13

Growth continued to be matched by the growth of the student population and, therefore, a growth in the school system. Some of those magnificent sandstone schools were built to meet the demand of the burgeoning population. We have pictures of many of those schools in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, which can be accessed through the link on the left. We also have some very good histories of education in Calgary, such as From Slate Pencil to Instant Ink and From Slate to Computer by McLennan. We also have the 1906 annual report of the newly formed Province of Alberta, Department of Education. These are all available in the Community Heritage and Family History Room at the Central Library. The Calgary Board of Education has put up a really good PowerPoint presentation about some of their historic schools. You can see it at this link: http://www.cbe.ab.ca/125thCelebration/index.htm

Happy Anniversary CBE. Here’s wishing you another 125 years.

Museum of the Highwood

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 78-19

High River CPR Station, 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 78 19

In a sad and ironic twist of fate, while we were celebrating Historic Calgary week, a much valued and beloved historic site was suffering. The Museum of the Highwood, in High River, was damaged by a fire which started in the early hours of Wednesday July 28. Thankfully, the fire was contained to the roof and attic of the structure. The collections were damaged slightly by smoke and water but archival material and photographs, stored in a vault, were unaffected. Members of the museum and archives community in Alberta pitched in with residents of High River to give their time and expertise to rescuing the collections.

PC 604

The Museum is housed in the old High River train station which has a connection to Calgary. In order to build the Palliser Hotel, the two existing station buildings which comprised what was the third Calgary CPR station would need to be removed. In order to do that a new station was built and the two smaller sandstone buildings dismantled. One would provide the material for the station at Claresholm and the other for the new station at High River. Interestingly, both stations are now being used as museums.

We are lucky to have photographs of the two train stations while they were still in use as stations. These photos are from the Alison Jackson collection and date from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Alison was correct in her assessment that these buildings might one day be under threat of demolition.

The Imperial Limited Arriving in Calgary, 1909

Postcards from the Past PC 604

Railway stations were being demolished in startling numbers as passenger train traffic declined. The efforts by the communities of High River and Claresholm have preserved an important piece of the history of the railroad in Western Canada. In far too manyplaces, the old stations were lost.

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Claresholm Train Station, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 86 12

For readers interested in the history of the building (and demolition) of stations across Canada, there is a great book in our BSSS collection called The train doesn’t stop here anymore: an illustrated history of railway stations in Canada by Ron Brown We also have a great collection of books relating to the railway and its role in the west in our Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. One of my favourites is a description of the workings of the Calgary Depot by Ross Taylor, who worked there for many years. The book is called Through these doors: a look at the workings of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Calgary Depot, 1940-1966. It is a wonderful collection of memories, photographs and drawings that give a behind-the-scenes look at life in the Calgary station.

In addition to the books, we have a great collection of photographs and postcards in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, accessible on the left hand side of this page. You can use the search terms “railway” and “railroad” and “train” to find hundreds of railway related pictures. Have a look. And remember, if you are a railway buff, or if your family, like mine, came out to work on the railway in the west, we have lots of very interesting stuff here. Drop in and see us sometime.

Year of the Home Child

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Barnardo Boys

A group of Barnardo boys from Miss Macpherson's Home, London, England, who arrived at the Marchmont Home in April 1922
Library and Archives Canada / C-034840

Canadian Parliament has declared that 2010 is the year of the Home Child. An official stamp will be issued in October to commemorate Home Children in Canada.

Approximately 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain between 1869 and 1938. It is believed that the descendents of these children make up about 12% of the population of Canada. It is interesting that many people do not know about this chapter of Canada’s immigration history.

The children who were a part of this scheme were supposed to be orphans or from families too poor to support them. They would be sent to Canada to work as farm labourers or domestic servants. A number of agencies, such as the Barnardo Homes and the Middlemore Homes, were involved in identifying and transporting the children. The premise behind this was that Canada was seen as a land of opportunity that could provide these children with a more promising future that what they would have had back home. Sometimes this was the case. We did some research a while back for a society who is working on a database of home children and found information about a young boy who was sent as a home child to a farm family in Saskatchewan. The family treated him like one of their children and eventually he went to medical school.

There were, of course, the other stories. Some children were abused and neglected and treated as slaves but it is a testament to their strength and persistence that many remained in Canada and became the foundation of families and communities. Some four million of us are descended from them but we often come across the fact that our ancestor was a home child by accident. The experiences of some were so traumatic or they were so embarrassed by their early circumstances that they never spoke of their history. We find out about it only when we start our research and hit the brick wall of a child immigrant with no family background.

There are a number of resources available to genealogists who have a home child in their family tree. Library and Archives Canada is a good place to start: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/index-e.html

From this link, click on Immigration and Citizenship, and then on Home Children. The site provides information and a link to the Home Children Database, created by another organization that has done a lot of work on documenting the experiences of home children in Canada, the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). The direct link to their site is:

http://www.bifhsgo.ca/home_children.htm

Pier 21 also has a site where the stories of home children have been collected. You can find those here:

http://www.pier21.ca/research/collections/the-story-collection/online-story-collection/british-home-children

And finally there is the site for the descendents of British Home Children:

http://www.britishhomechildren.org/

If you are interested in reading about home children in Canada, there are a number of very good books available at the Calgary Public Library. Some of the titles are Uprooted: the Shipment of Poor Children to Canada 1867-1917, Nation Builders: Barnardo Children in Canada and Neither Waif nor Stray: the Search for a Stolen Identity . You can find others in the catalogue by searching for the subject Home Children (Canadian Immigrants)

Black History Month, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Black History Month

February is Black History month in Canada. This is a fairly new recognition despite the fact that people of African descent have been playing a role in Canadian history since the time of Samuel de Champlain. Black History Month began as Black History Week in the 1970s. By 1976 it had become Black History Month. It was officially recognized by the House of Commons in 1995 and in 2008 the Senate unanimously passed a motion to recognize the event.

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

The history of the immigration of African Americans into the Prairie Provinces is a story of determination and courage. You can find out more about it in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We have The Window of our Memories volumes 1 and 2, by Velma Carter, which is the story of Black pioneers in Alberta and includes the stories of those pioneers and their descendants. Another very interesting book is Deemed Unsuitable by R. Bruce Shepard which looks at the problem of racism on both sides of the border and how it affected the immigration of African-Americans into the Canadian Prairies. And, for those of you who would like to try out an old-school format, we also have a thesis on microfiche by Judith Hill, “Alberta’s Black Settlers: a Study of Canadian Immigration Policy and Practice”. (You can find other works by searching the library catalogue using the subject terms “Black Canadians History”). These works tell us a lot about the immigration of black people into Canada, but they also have a lot to tell us about ourselves and how Canada came to be. It is not always easy to read, but it is crucial to our understanding of our history and our future.

Vital Conversations, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Mawson City Plan

City Plan, 1914

Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the City by Thomas Mawson

On Friday, in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library, The Calgary Foundation and the Calgary Public Library, with support from the City of Calgary’s Office of Sustainability are hosting a discussion based on issues raised by the 2009 Vital Signs Report. You are invited to come and add your voice to help shape our rapidly changing city. We are interested in building a sustainable city and need your input. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to The Calgary Foundation either through their website http://www.thecalgaryfoundation.org/ or by telephone at 403-802-7719.

This discussion will embrace many topics and certainly one that we must consider, and one that is dear to my heart (this is a heritage focused blog, right) is the importance of sustaining the built heritage of our city. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library is integral to that goal. The mandate of this collection is to preserve and make accessible items relating to the history of Calgary. We have a wide range of resources for people interested in finding out more about their homes, their communities and the way our city has developed.

The collection, itself, is something of an historical artifact. It is as old as the Calgary Public Library. Our first Head Librarian was Alexander Calhoun, a man whose innovative ideas, including tailoring the library collection to the needs of the community, made the Calgary Public Library a dynamic and responsive organization from the day it opened its doors on January 2, 1912. Calhoun was very involved in his community and was very interested in making Calgary a great place to live. The city was facing then, as it is now, unprecedented expansion that saw the city grow from 12,000 people in 1906 to 44,000 in 1912.

Calhoun was a member of the first city planning commission in 1911. It is possible that he heard the presentation by Thomas Mawson, “The city on the plain and how to make it beautiful” which he delivered to the Canadian Club of Canada. The city planners engaged Mawson to make a plan which would see Calgary into its future. They believed the city would reach a population of 1 million by the year 1914. (We never see those "busts" coming, do we?) Mawson’s Plan, called Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the city, is available, along with transcripts of the two speeches he gave in Calgary, in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. If you have never seen it, you must come down and have a look. Our downtown would have looked very different had the planning commission been able to affect any of the changes he suggested. Mawson was very concerned with the way people lived in cities. He was influenced by the City Beautiful movement and the Garden City movement and his plan reflects those influences. It was a very beautiful vision of the future of Calgary. Here is a picture of what he envisoned for the market area of the city.

Market area, Mawson Plan

Mawson’s report is only one of the resources relating to city planning that we have in our collection. We are on the 4th floor of the Central Library (616 Macleod Trail SE). Drop in for a visit.

Banff Town Warden

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Banff Town Warden

I am intrigued by the history of the Banff area. It was and is a very special place and we are privileged to live so close to Canada’s first National Park. Anthony Henday had visited the area in 1754 and David Thompson had explored the Bow Valley but it was the fall of 1883 when three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains that the Banff we know now was born.

The people responsible for the park and the town within it were the wardens. A warden was a jack-of-all-trades and his position involved long hours and a wide variety of duties. Walter Peyto was one of those wardens. He served from 1914 to 1948 and as part of his duties he was required to keep a journal of his activities. His grandson David Peyto has edited and published four volumes of these journals which he has called Banff Town Warden. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the activities of the men who fought fires, controlled nuisance animals, feed the zoo animals , maintained the telephone lines, controlled predators, and looked for lost hikers, among other duties. What must have been Walter’s most memorable duty had to have been the eleven days spent in a freight car with two buffalo bound for the Toronto Zoo. The life of a warden was not a boring one.

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Buffalo in Banff National Park, 1905

Postcards from the Past PC 1570

Calgary Brewing and Malting

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1376

Calgary Brewing and Malting Co.

Postcards from the Past, PC 1376

Another historic Calgary site has been in the news recently. The owner of the Calgary Brewing and Malting site in Inglewood has applied for demolition permits for some of the buildings on the site. Although it is a Class A heritage site, this designation does not legally block the owner from demolishing the buildings. A Historic Resource Impact Assessment has been ordered.

The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company was really one of the very first Calgary industries. It was founded in 1892 by A.E. Cross, one of the Big Four, on a site which was, at the time, just outside of the city limits. It had two key elements important to a brewery; its proximity to the rail line and an artesian well nearby (because we all know, "the water makes the difference, naturally.") Some of the buildings on that site date to the original founding of the company. There are also buildings on the site that hold historic significance because of their architecture. For example, the administration office was designed by Hodgson and Bates in 1907 and maintains some of the original detail including a sandstone carving of a buffalo head and horseshoe, the logo of the company and a familiar symbol to anyone who grew up quaffing the company’s products (which did include soft drinks!) Calgary Brewing and Malting was the first industry in Calgary to use natural gas in 1908. The gas came from a well drilled by Archie Dingman's Calgary Natural Gas Company on Colonel Walker's estate.

The site also bears historic importance because of the role of the company in the life of this city. The area around was known as Brewery Flats because of the importance of the industry as an employer to the people who lived there. The Cross family employed people in good times and in bad. During the Depression, rather than lay off employees, they were put to work creating the Brewery Gardens, trout ponds and fish hatchery. They held the jobs for those who had gone to serve in World War II. The grounds also housed the largest salt water aquarium west of Vancouver and the Horseman’s Hall of Fame. There is an excellent discussion of the site and its importance to the city on the Calgary Heritage Initiative’s website:

http://www.calgaryheritage.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=1678

The Community Heritage Roundtable and the Inglewood Community Association are hosting a meeting regarding this site on July 16, 7 pm at the Inglewood Community Hall, 1740 – 24th Avenue SE. RSVP your intention to attend at the following website by July 14: http://www.calgarycommunities.com/events.php

or you can telephone 403-244-4111.

We also have resources available here at the Calgary Public Library. Of particular interest is the four volume Historical resource impact assessment done by Ken Hutchinson Architect Limited for Molson’s in 1997. This is in the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library, along with other information about the company.

The Stampede Parade

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 868

Parade on Stephen Avenue, ca 1900s

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

Did everyone see the parade? We are strategically placed here at the Central Library. We have windows that look right over 6th Avenue E, right at the beginning of the parade route. We were able to catch a little of the action on Friday morning. Mike Holmes was the Grand Marshal and in good cowboy style, he was proudly astride a horse. No buggy rides for him.

The parades haven’t changed too much in the many years I have been watching them. There are always lots of horses (and the attendant street sweepers) lots of bands, plenty of colourful costumes and our First Nations neighbours in traditional dress. The Native bands around Calgary were among the first people that Guy Weadick approached when he was putting together the first Stampede in 1912 and they have been a part of the parades and, really, every aspect of the Stampede since then.

Our first Stampede parade was led by the fire chief Cappy Smart. Of course, parades were a part of city celebrations long before the Stampede. There was a great parade for the Dominion Exhibition in 1908. The postcard image in this entry is of a Roman chariot being driven through the streets of Calgary for that parade. I don’t know why I’m always surprised to realize that the streets in Calgary were dirt at that time, but they were. We have lots of postcard images of parades in Calgary. You can search the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection (the link is on the left side of this page) for “parade” and turn up some interesting ones. If you’re interested in Stampede history, we have a very fine collection of postcards of the original Stampede along with cards from other events, including the 1908 Exhibition. Use the search term ‘stampede’ or ‘dominion exhibition’ to see those. We also have a good collection of material such as programs, livestock catalogues, lists of prize winners and even planning documents from when the Stampede was proposing to move to Lincoln Park. Come on down and see us!

Where, Exactly, is Balaclava Heights?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Map, 1907

Detail from a 1907 map of Calgary

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Maps are very useful tools for navigation but they can also speak volumes about the history of a city. The Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library has a great collection of historical maps. I love to use the maps to illustrate our stories of the history of Calgary's development. You can see times of extreme optimism as in the map that accompanied the 1913 Henderson's directory. The city looks enormous. New subdivisions have sprung up all around the perimeter of the city. Districts like The Bronx, Harvetta Heights, The Nimmons Subdivision and Balaclava Heights. What is fascinating is that none of these places actually existed. The map, however, shows residential lots and roads and other fascinating features. What this map represents are the dreams and aspirations of Calgary's boosters and its real estate developers. The reality was that Calgary was facing one of its infamous busts and though the city's promoters would have liked to create these wonderful neighbourhoods, the economy would just not support it (doesn't sound familiar, does it?)

To highlight some of the interesting maps in our collection, we have mounted a display in the windows of the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Next time you're walking by have a peek in and see some of this cartographic history of our fair city.

Vanishing Sentinels

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 842

Slim Moorehouse at Vulcan Grain Elevator

Postcards from the Past, PC 842

It is not difficult to wax poetic about the grain elevator. My earliest interest in built history was in these sentinels of the prairie. As I drove the backroads of Southern Alberta I would stop and photograph elevator after elevator and marvel at the simple elegance of their structure. They were often the hub of the community, a meeting place as well as a place of business. I remember, very dimly, a visit to the "coop" elevator in Shipman, Saskatchewan with my great-uncle (I could almost spell, and to me it looked like coop, who knew co-op at 4?) It was a scary place with noise and dust but it was a fun place, too, with the farmers "chewing the fat" and catching up on news of the town.

But the world is changing, and these giants are disappearing. Jim Pearson, in his book Vanishing Sentinels: The Remaining Grain Elevators of Alberta and British Columbia, has documented the ones that still stand. He will be visiting the Calgary Public Library on Wednesday March 18 at 6 PM in the meeting room on the 4th Floor of the Central Library. Jim's presentation includes photographs of grain elevators and information about their history and how they work. You can also visit Jim's website to find information about his book and other projects.

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