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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

The Bow is Officially Open

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach Collection

The Big Pour - The Bow Building, 2008

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The Bow officially opened last week. It is a magnificent structure that has changed the Calgary skyline. A few weeks ago I wrote about Elveden House, a skyscraper built in the late 50’s and rising to a staggering 20 storeys. Prior to the bylaw change that allowed the building of Elveden House, buildings were limited to twelve storeys. The building of Elveden House marked Calgary’s coming-of-age. The Bow is another milestone. It is the tallest building west of Toronto and certainly one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the country. I was able to watch its growth from a hole in the ground to its current glory. I must admit, having survived the recession of the 80s, as I passed the giant pit that was dug on the site of the old York Hotel, I was scared that this would be one of those vortices that constantly reminded us of our once great city. And as I understand from what I’ve read, this might have become a reality as we faced a similar economic downturn. But it didn’t and now we have The Bow.

The Bow is an appropriate symbol for our city. It is glitzy but functional, massive but beautiful. It is cutting edge architecture, as it is the first skyscraper in Canada to use a trussed tube construction. The building has already won an award, from the Canadian Institute of Steel Constructors for its innovative structure. The use of external rather than internal support allows for maximum floor space and the expanses of glass mean that nearly every office has a window and, more importantly, a view. Emporis included it, along with the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur on its list of “most impressive corporate structures.” This kind of attention affirms Calgary as a city on the rise on the international scene.

Judith Umbach Collection

Curvature in Steel - The Bow, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach, a talented photographer and former Calgary Public Library Board chair, has documented the evolution of this magnificent structure, from the first shovels in the ground to its completion. She has donated (and continues to donate) her collection of photographs to the Calgary Public Library and they are all visible on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. You can view her photos of The Bow by clicking on the link above and searching for “bow building.” Take time to check out her other collections as well. She is documenting the development of this city by recording buildings coming and going and her work provides an unparalleled record of the living city. Judith’s dedication to Calgary and her passion for the city have been documented in a Calgary Herald article (May 31, 2013). Read about this great Calgarian here.

North West Travellers' Building with The Bow, under construction, in the background, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Forgotten Landscapes: Heritage Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Fort Calgary in 1881

Postcards from the Past, PC 1325

 

The next Community Heritage Roundtable will take place on Thursday, June 13 at Fort Calgary. A number of speakers are going to talk about heritage landscapes that have been lost or forgotten. Fort Calgary, itself, was one of those landscapes. For many years the site that had given rise to our city had been a railway yard. It wasn’t until 1974 that the value of this site was recognized and efforts made to reclaim it. Fort Calgary CEO Sarah Gruetzner will be speaking at the roundtable about the fort and the recovery of this historic landscape.

Another speaker will be archaeologist Brian Vivian who will talk about the Paskapoo Slopes area. This part of the city, which was actually the western edge of the city while I was growing up, has seen much development over the years. Many folks don’t know the rich history of the area which includes First Nations settlement, including a buffalo jump and processing camp. It is also significant as it is a unique landscape and important wildlife corridor.

Michelle Reid, a City of Calgary landscape architect, will talk about some forgotten streetscapes that have now been added to the Heritage Inventory. These include the Balmoral Circus, a circular park at the intersection of 19th Avenue and 2nd Street NW. The circus appears in the early development plans (you can see it on the detail from the 1907 map below – the whole map can be viewed in our Digital Library ) and is part of the legacy left by William Reader. Its twin, the Beaumont Circus in Renfrew, is also on the Heritage Inventory. These parks are unique in the city and are important in the history of green spaces in Calgary – a feature of the city that makes it such a desirable place to live.

 

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Balmoral Circus from 1907 McNaughton's Map of Calgary

Historical Maps of Calgary and Alberta, CALG 06

If you are interested in finding out more about our forgotten landscapes, join us at the Heritage Roundtable. The link to register is here. As usual, staff from the Community Heritage and Family History department will have a display at the event with items from the Local History collection. Pop by and say "hi".

Something's Happening at the Zoo

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 1510

Prehistoric Animals in the Natural History Park at the Calgary Zoo, 1941

Postcards from the Past, PC 1510

The Calgary Zoo recently released its 20 year plan and it really looks ambitious. The President /CEO has said that “twenty years from now, the Calgary Zoo will bear little resemblance to the zoo today.” The prospect is exciting although not without controversy. The function of zoos has changed over the years. When I was a child the animals were kept in cages. In a major redevelopment, the Calgary Zoo built more natural habitats. The Calgary Zoo has changed and adapted over its entire 84 year history and I’m glad to see the tradition continue.

I have mixed feelings, though, about the loss of the dinosaur park. When I was little, the dinosaurs were the most memorable feature (possibly because they frightened the wits out of me).

The dinosaurs have been a fixture at the Calgary Zoo since the 1930s when the Zoological Society’s director returned from Europe filled with enthusiasm about the dinosaur park in Hamburg. A man on a mission, he decided to create a similar natural history park in Calgary. It made complete sense, of course, because we had rich fossil beds and lots of evidence of prehistoric life (barrels of which would come gushing out of the ground at Leduc about 10 years later). To that end, experts were consulted — these models were not going to be horror show beasts — they would be accurate representations of prehistoric life.

A number of sculptors were involved in the realization of these models, with John Kanerva being the most prolific, eventually turning out a large proportion of the park's 56 dinos. The Natural History Park opened officially in 1937, once Dinny, the life sized brontosaurus was completed. The Calgary Daily Herald praised the zoo, in attempting to replicate the “grotesque creatures of the reptilian age which monopolized the world aeons ago” (Aug. 21, 1937). The Natural History Park also incorporated actual fossil specimens as well, which were housed in the Fossil House (see photo below).

While I will be sorry to see the prehistoric park go, I do understand the reasoning behind it. We have a great resource right on our doorstep, at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller and while I have fond memories of the dinosaurs and the fossil houses, I look forward to the future of the Calgary Zoo, still one of the best in the world.

If you are interested in finding out more about the dinosaurs of Calgary, the spring 2013 issue of Alberta History, includes an excellent article by Calgary’s Historian Laureate emeritus, Harry Sanders. You can find the magazine (and lots more besides) in the Local History room at the Central Library.

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Fossil House a the Calgary Zoo, ca. 1940s?

Postcards from the Past, PC 2013

Century Homes, 2013

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Magnus Brown Residence, 1906 8th Avenue SE in 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 80-10

It is time again for Century Homes. Last year’s project was wildly successful and we’re hoping to see even greater response this year. We have launched the legacy database, which you can view in our Digital Library. This database is a gold mine of information about heritage domestic architecture, typically one of the hardest heritage resources to document and preserve. Large, luxurious old homes, like the McHugh house, attract a lot of attention when they are threatened with demolition, but what of the small homes of everyday people? That is what I found so exciting about the Century Homes project. Calgarians jumped in with both feet to celebrate the everyday history of their communities and it is a wonderful thing. I never tire of telling people that history is not a list of facts and dates, it is the day-to-day life of the average person that is the important history.

We will be joined by experts from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library to offer our program on researching the history of houses again on May 25th at 2:00 pm. (Register here, in person at your branch or by phone 403+260-2620) This program will be great for anyone wanting to participate in Century Homes, for anyone who is just interested in the history of their house or community or for people who are researching houses as an adjunct to genealogical research. Old houses tell great stories and we will help you coax a story out of yours.

Here is a little story about a house that is no longer with us. This house, at 1306 8th Avenue SE, across from the A.E. Cross house, belonged to Magnus Brown. Magnus was born in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1850. He participated in the Red River Rebellion, fighting against Riel in 1869. He was captured by the Metis but managed to escape. In June 1873 Brown married Letitia Cook from Winnipeg. Brown moved to the Red Deer River District around 1882 where he raised stock. In 1885 the Brown’s relocated to Calgary and Magnus secured contract work with Canadian Pacific Railway for railroad and irrigation construction. He was in charge of the ditch built by the Calgary Irrigation Company. Brown served on city council from 1910 to 1912. He was a devoted member of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association.

The house was well known for its rhubarb patch, cultivated first by Brown but then by the next owner of the property, a Mr. Laurendeau. He in turn sold it to Mr. Servonnet, who continued to cultivate the patch, but eventually sold the property in 1969. The land was then sold to the city in 1970 and a senior’s residence, called the Rhubarb Patch, stands there.

Gardens, Historic and Not

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

PC 1498

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

Heritage Matters: Concrete Centenarian

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian book cover

The next Heritage Matters program will take place at Memorial Park Library on April 3rd at 7 PM. Calgary Heritage Authority Chair Scott Jolliffe is going to launch his book Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator. The elevator was torn down in 2011 but before it went, the Calgary Heritage Authority was given the opportunity to photograph inside and out and also to record the demolition process. The result is a wonderful book, a testament to a one-hundred year old landmark. The author is an entertaining speaker who is passionate about the heritage of our city and works hard to ensure we will still have some heritage left for future Calgarians. Please join us. This promises to be a great event.

I have written about the elevator before (see earlier post) and how we feel about these behemoths. Sad as it was to see it go, there really is very little that can be done to repurpose something like this (although some things have been tried, just check out this article on The Atlantic Cities) but not many condo developments or after-hours clubs would want to have a wastewater treatment plant as a neighbour. Documenting these concrete beauties is certainly one way to retain the memory of them and Concrete Centenarian is an excellent example of how best to go about it. The author talks not just about the structure itself, but also its purpose, the impact it had on the economy of the area and the impact it had on the people who worked there. It is a great all-round celebration of “The Government” and its people. There will be copies of Concrete Centenarian available for purchase ($30 – cash or cheque only please) and since the author will be there, you can have them signed as well.

You can register for the program online, in person or by calling 403-260-2620. Refreshments will be available and there will be an opportunity to hang out and chat with other heritage buffs.

Upcoming Genealogy Events

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Spring will be here tomorrow – well, technically, it will be here tomorrow. That means that the genealogy season is in full swing and is there ever a lot of events going on! There are conferences, classes and coaching all taking place in the next month. Here’s a taste of the line-up:

Family History Coaching at the Calgary Public Library takes place on the last Saturday of each month. The next session will be on Saturday March 30 from 10:00 to noon on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society and staff from Calgary Public Library will be on hand to give you on-on-one assistance with your family history project. From beginners to the more experienced, all genealogists are welcome to come and chat with our experts. You don’t need to register for this program but you do need to have a Calgary Public Library card.

Ruth Burkholder, professional genealogist and noted author, will present “Finding Great-Grandma’s Grandchildren.” Finding people of your parent’s generation can be especially difficult. Ruth’s discussion will present some ideas to use to find folks in the early 1900s. This presentation will be part of the Alberta Family Histories Society monthly meeting on Monday April 8. The meeting takes place in the sanctuary at River Park Church, 3818 14A Street SW. The general meeting starts at 7:00 and you do not need to be a member of AFHS to attend.

Same Roots, Different Branches is the theme for this year’s Alberta Genealogical Society Conference which will be held in Edmonton at the Chateau Louis Conference on Centre on April 20 and 21. There will also be pre-conference tours of some of Edmonton’s specialized libraries for conference attendees on the 19th. Check out the brochure for more information. There are some great speakers lined up and programs are available for everyone from beginners to experts. Note that there is a fee for this conference.

Roots and Branches is the conference being held on April 27 by the Calgary Stake Centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is a wide variety of sessions on offer, among them Canadian resources, researching in Eastern Europe, using British military records and writing personal histories. You can see the whole list, as well as submit your registration on their website There is no charge for this conference which will be held at the Calgary Stake Centre, 2021 17 Avenue SW. To make sure you receive a syllabus, you will need to register before April 15.

And for those of you who would like to range a bit farther, Roots Tech 2013 will be taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 21 and 22. RootsTech is an opportunity unlike any other to discover the latest family history tools and techniques connect with experts to help you in your research, and be inspired in the pursuit of your ancestors. Learn how to find, organize, preserve and share your family's connections and history. Find out more at their website. Note that there is a charge for this conference.

Please feel free to let me know of any other upcoming events that might be of interest to genealogists and family historians. I’m always glad to hear from you.

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