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Heritage Day, 2009

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1082

CNR Station, formerly St. Mary's Parish Hall

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1082

The theme of this year’s Heritage day (Monday February 16) is Heritage and the Environment: Saving Places Built to Last. It is an opportunity for Canadian communities to celebrate the numerous environmental benefits achieved from the rehabilitation of heritage properties. These are issues that Calgarians are facing right now, as we look at the two working man’s hotels, the Cecil and the King Eddy, and contemplate the future of these two old-timers.
While it sometimes seems that we are a city of “razers” we actually have quite a few outstanding examples of buildings that have been rehabilitated and repurposed. The photo in this posting is of the old Canadian Northern Railway station. It has been repurposed twice in its lifetime. It started its life as the parish hall for St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was then sold and renovated to become the CNR railway station. In its third incarnation it is the Nat Christie Centre, the home of Alberta Ballet.
You can see photos of other historic buildings, including some like the Lougheed Grand, the Clarence Block (which was McNally Robinson booksellers) and the Dominion Bank (now Teatro Restaurant) in our databases Postcards from the Past, A Virtual Tour of Historic Calgary and Calgary’s Heritage Homes.
In addition to information about historic buildings in Calgary, the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library also houses items which may be of interest to those of you looking to restore a vintage home. In addition to books of the nitty gritty how-to variety, we also have catalogues from hardware stores that include paint samples and pictures of various fittings. We also have resources for those of you interested in researching the history of your home. Come and see us on the fourth floor of the Central Library and we would be delighted to show you the resources we have.

Black History Month

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1485

Main Street, Pincher Creek, 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 1485

February is Black History month and it is the perfect time for an examination of the people who settled this lovely province of ours. Because I am a family historian, my focus has always been on the stories of "regular" folks - not the kings and politicians that make up the official record but people like me and you and our families, the real builders of this country.

People of African descent have settled in Alberta since the middle part of the 19th century. Many were escaping slavery or racial discrimination and all were looking for a better life. People like John Ware, a legendary rancher who was born into slavery in South Carolina and whose skills as a cowboy made him famous. Or people like the Lewis family who settled near Calgary and moved into the bustling town to work in the construction trade during one of Calgary's many booms. Or Annie Saunders, a nanny and domestic to Colonel Macleod's family who set herself up in business in Pincher Creek.

Black History month is our chance to celebrate those pioneers and their descendents. Check the Community Heritage and Family History collection for books like John Ware's Cow Country, Blacks in Deep Snow: Black Pioneers in Canada or the magazine Alberta Views which contains a fascinating article on Annie Saunders by local author Cheryl Foggo in the January/February 2009 issue.

Someone's in the Kitchen

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 843

Cowboys' Kitchen on the Prairie, Western Canada, ca 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 843

I was taught to make bread by my grandmother. She told me to stop kneading when the dough "felt right." For generations of women, this was the way we learned to cook - a mother, grandmother, auntie or other female family member passed on her techniques and her secrets of the kitchen. The only time they ever used cookbooks was when they were trying something fancy. But they did have cookbooks. They had cookbooks prepared by the ladies organizations they belonged to, or from a company that sold spices or other food products, they had cookbooks from the gas company. I have inherited some of these - stained and written in though they may be ("these are not good" beside a muffin recipe that called for wheat germ).

So it is no surprise that for me, one of the highlights in the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Calgary Public Library is the great collection we have of cookbooks. We have items like the Watkins Cook Book (1936) and the United Farm Women of Alberta Cook Book (several editions). We have cookbooks from community organizations like the Troup 89 (Calgary) of the Boys Scouts of America and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Ladies Aid. These often include more than just recipes. They have household tips and dietary advice They could also include tips on etiquette and on cooking in special circumstances (for example for large groups or for the sick).

It is in books like this that we can discover the day to day existence of our mothers and grandmothers. Cookbooks provide a little window onto the lives of women and families that we often can’t find in other resources. So, please come down and visit us at the Central Library, in the Community Heritage and Family History Room. We’ve got lots of interesting stuff to see.

Christmas at the Grand Union Hotel

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 696

The Grand Union Hotel, designed by noted architect William Dodd, was built in 1905 on Atlantic Avenue (or Whisky Row, as it was affectionately known). It was operated by A. Moodie, who also owned the Royal Hotel. The horse-drawn bus, seen in the picture, ferried travellers to and from the train station, four blocks away. The balconies could be seen from the station and offered views of the activity along Atlantic Avenue as well as views of the mountains. In 1906, just a year after it opened, it offered a sumptuous menu for Christmas dinner. The menu included familiar favourites such as creamed potatoes, corn on the cob, mince pie and French fries. It also included the more sophisticated fare:

Canape of Caviar, Clear Green Turtle Soup, Cream of Oysters

Planked White Fish de Hanover Sauce

Sweet Breads Braized [sic] a la Rothchild

Domestic Duck with Boston Clam Dressing

Saddle of Venison, Black Currant Jelly

Lobster Salad au Cresson

For dessert you could choose between Plum Pudding with Brandy sauce, three kinds of pie and pineapple trifle, ice cream, Oka cheese and jelly.

The Local History Collection in the Central Library includes many menus from Calgary establishments. You can find them in the library catalogue by typing the name of the establishment and the word 'menu' in the search box on the Calgary Public Library homepage (

Grand Union Menu coverMenu

Merry Christmas

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 152

Carnegie Library, Calgary, Alberta, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 152

Anyone who has read this blog knows about the very cool postcard collection that we have here in the Local History room. Many images on the blog are pulled from that collection, which can be viewed from the Community Heritage and Family History site by clicking on the link Postcards from the Past on the left side of the page. In that collection are quite a number of Christmas postcards – generally consisting of a vignette of a building or a scene from Calgary in an embossed card with a Christmas greeting in red around the picture. The card in this entry is a view of what is now Memorial Park Library.

These cards mostly date from the ‘teens, a time when the craze for picture postcards was at its highest. All kinds of innovative cards were produced, such as “diamond dust” cards on which the picture was outlined in a kind of sparkle. These cards wreaked havoc with the electric stamping machines and were, for a short time, banned.

Though Christmas cards were invented in 1843, the postcard craze at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century reduced their popularity. Postcards were less expensive to send and were a quick and easy way of sending greetings to family back home.

To see more examples of Christmas postcards from the Calgary Public Library collection, visit the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library and search the site using the term “Christmas”.

Sarcee Military Camp

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 567

Sarcee City, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 567

Most of us are familiar with the battalion numbers on Signal Hill but did you know that the young men who created those numbers were trained for battle on the land below the hill? This area was known as Camp Sarcee and beside it grew a small "town" of shops catering to the needs of these servicemen. The city, known as Sarcee City, had a tailor, an ice-cream parlor, a photo studio, a jeweller and watch repair, a pool hall, a cafe - everything a soldier may have needed.

PC 965

Sarcee Camp, 192nd Battalion, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

If you have ancestors who gave their lives in the Second World War, Library and Archives Canada has a new database Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead. This database will allow researchers to more easily access these records.

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