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Let's Fly

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1122

The Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (circa 1940s?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 1122

We’re pursuing the theme of Mavericks this season, partly because of our inaugural One Book One Calgary celebration and partly, I think, inspired by the results of our recent election, where Calgary voters surprised the world with their “maverick” choice for mayor. Interestingly enough, the mavericks I had in mind for this week’s blog entry, were the aviators; people who took to the skies when flying was still in its infancy. Reaching for a segue, I suppose I could mention that Mayor Nenshi wants very much to provide access to the Calgary airport by finding ways to build a tunnel under the new airport runway (well, it is a stretch, but…)

One of the first manned heavier than air flights in Calgary was a truly maverick operation. Two young men, Alf Lauder (15 years old) and J. Earle Young (12 years old) designed a kite like flier powered by a motorcycle engine. It would not lift off, however, so they borrowed a two-cylinder Buick car and towed the contraption and finally did manage to get it off the ground.

Prior to World War I, most flying in Calgary was done for entertainment. Fliers exhibited their skills at the Calgary Exhibition and at air shows. After the war, though, flying took off, so to speak, and Calgary, with its typical can-do attitude soon had an aircraft company, the McCall Aero Corporation Ltd which was founded by Freddie McCall in 1919. An Aero Club was established in 1926. This club trained more pilots under a scheme by the government of Canada that saw flying clubs earn $100 for every pilot’s certificate its graduates attained. Sixty people graduated from the ground school in 1928, with a girl at the head of the class.

Calgary served as an RCAF air base during the Second World War Lincoln Park air base was built. It housed the Number 3 Service Flying Training School and the Number 10 Repair Depot. One of the hangars currently houses the Calgary Farmers Market. Also during the war, Calgary’s municipal airport was leased to the RCAF. It was not returned to the city until 1949.

The history of flight in Calgary is as interesting as the rest of our rogue history. If you are interested in finding out more about flight in Calgary, join us during our Heritage Weekend, November 5, 6 and 7. We are hosting two aviation related programs. On Friday November 5 at 7:00 in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library, Stephane Guevremont, from the University of Calgary, will be talking about Calgary’s Forgotten Heroes: 403 Squadron. Another program for aviation buffs, From Triumph to Tragedy, F is for Freddie recounts the electrifying story of the Mosquito bomber that flew more missions than any other in WW2 with Richard De Boer. It is also in the John Dutton Theatre, on Saturday November 6 at 11:00. You can register for these or any of our other Heritage Weekend programs online at (click on Programs and then search either the name of the program or “heritage weekend” to see all of the programs). You can also register in person at your local branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620

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RCAF Photo 79, over Calgary, circa 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 1871

Heritage Matters

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 34-04

CNR Station Decorated for Queen's Visit, July 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-04

I was delighted to read that the City of Calgary won honourable mention for the Prince of Wales Prize for Municipal Heritage Leadership at the Heritage Canada Foundation conference in St. John's on Saturday October 2. According to the Heritage Canada Foundation: For the second time since the inception of the Prince of Wales Prize, the jury made a unanimous decision to award an Honourable Mention to the City of Calgary, where efforts to develop policies and plans that favour the conservation of the city's built heritage have been ongoing for 30 years. This is quite an honour for a city as young as Calgary and that, in decades past, has had lovers of old buildings tearing their hair out. We have come a long way.

The City was nominated by the Calgary Heritage Initiative to acknowledge the progress has been made including the passage and ongoing implementation of the Calgary Heritage Strategy. Congratulations in particular to the City of Calgary's heritage staff, and to City Council for its growing support of heritage. Keep up the good work!

And if you’re interested in just how this honour was achieved, come down to the Central Library for our program Heritage Matters: Historic Preservation the Cowboy Way. On Friday October 22 at 5:30 pm, the City of Calgary’s Senior Heritage Planner, Darryl Cariou, will give a talk about heritage preservation in Calgary including some of the successes, some of the failures and some of the ongoing and unique challenges facing those involved in the business of evaluating and protecting Calgary’s built heritage. You can register for the program online at (click on programs), in person at your local branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620.

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Paget Hall, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 1045

Celebrating the Bow

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Light up the Bow

River of Light, by D. Hayes

August 21, 2010

This summer, Calgarians have been invited to celebrate the beautiful river that runs through our city. As part of the City’s commitment to protect and sustain our natural resources, including our rivers, an innovative public art project was launched that involved six artists each directing a project to allow citizens and visitors to reflect on the beauty and significance of the Bow River. One of the projects, River of Light, wrapped up on Saturday with a unique show, as hundreds of lighted spheres were released to float down the river from Edworthy Park to the lagoon at Prince’s Island. I watched this water-borne procession from the Bow River pathway, near the osprey nest in Broadview Park. The display was beautiful and I was happy to be a part of a very large crowd of people who had gathered to pay homage to the river that has been described as “the spine” of our city. If you want to read more about this project, which was designed by Createmosphere, you can visit the blog at

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View from Mount Pleasant, ca. 191_

Postcards from the Past, PC 267

As the Celebration of the Bow has revealed, when people look at the Bow, they see different things. For example, “when lumberman Isaac Kerr looked at the river, he saw a city” (The River Returns by Armstrong, Evenden and Nelles). Watching the spheres float, and noticing the speed of their travel and the efforts by the kayakers to keep the flow going, I was reminded of the log drives that, every spring, brought trees from west of the city to the sawmill of the Eau Claire Lumber Company, founded by Kerr and Peter Prince. While log drives are not as artistically pleasing as a flotilla of lighted orbs, they are beautiful in their own way. (I loved the song “Log Driver’s Waltz” as recorded by the McGarrigles and animated by John Weldon for the NFB.)

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Log Jam on the Bow River, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past, PC 141

I was always astonished that we had a lumber industry here in Calgary. There are very few trees in this city that were not planted by the inhabitants but because of the rich forests that lay to the west and the mighty Bow River, which provided the perfect transportation system, Calgary was the lumber supplier to the area, and Eau Claire Lumber was the major player. You can see photos of the Eau Claire Lumber Company and its companion company, the Calgary Water Power Company, in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. There is an excellent chapter on the lumber industry in Calgary called “The Wooden River” in the book The River Returns, which is available at many of the branches of the Calgary Public Library. There is also a history of the Eau Clair Lumber Company written by T. M. Schulte based on the reminiscences of an employee of the company, Theodore Strom. It is in the Local History room, call Lumber 333.7932 SCH.

Documents from the Eau Claire Lumber Company are at the Glenbow. You can view the timber surveys online from this finding aid:

I have always lived within walking distance of the Bow and I am delighted by this initiative to celebrate its importance to the city. Please feel free to share your comments about your feelings for the Bow by clicking on the Comments link, then on “Click here to join”. You will become a member of our online community and will be able to post comments on anything you read here.

The Plus 15 Walkway System

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach photograph

Plus 15 to Penny Lane, 5 St & 8 Ave SW

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Calgary’s Plus 15 System is synonymous with the downtown core. It is an extensive 16 kilometer public skywalk network of 57 bridges, designed to protect pedestrians from inclement weather and help reduce congestion on the streets. To get a better sense of how large the Plus 15 System really is, if you could rearrange all the skywalks into a straight line the walkway would be longer than 159 football fields placed end-to-end. Harold Hanen, who is “credited with being the father of Calgary’s plus-15 system” [“Striving for an affinity,” Calgary Herald, Sept 23, 1984], designed the network of 15 ft high walkways - hence the name Plus 15 - in the late 1960s.


The first official Plus 15 bridge, which connects the Westin Hotel to Calgary Place across 4th Avenue S.W [PAM FILE 388.41 CAL 1999], was built in 1970. However, this bridge was not the first pedestrian bridge built in Calgary. The first pedestrian bridge in Calgary is thought to be a bridge that connected the New Calgary Market (129 – 7th Avenue SW) to the Arcade on 8th Avenue [“Calgary Stock Exchange,”

If you are interested in learning more about the Plus 15 system, including the project’s architect Harold Hanen, the library has a wealth of resources for you to consult. We have a newspaper clippings file, local history books, pamphlet files, and historical maps of the Plus 15 system, as well as biography clippings file on Harold Hanen. In addition, we have historical photographs of the Plus 15 System in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. I found the map “1987 Calgary - Downtown Business Area” (Calg 34) to be particularly interesting as it shows what businesses were in the buildings connected by the Plus 15 system in 1987, as well as proposed Plus 15 & C-Train routes. For instance, did you know that there was a Plus 15 connecting a Dairy Queen to the Chevron Plaza on 5th Ave and 4th St S.W. in 1987?

(Photograph of the Arcade is from:

Central Memorial Park

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Central Park prior to planting

Central Park Prior to Planting

This week is Historic Calgary Week. We here in the community heritage and family History department at Calgary Public Library are doing some things to celebrate (see our earlier blog entry about that) but there are loads of other things going on as well. One we’re particularly interested in is the Central Memorial Park Walking Tour on Tuesday July 27 at 7:00 pm. Heritage architect Lorne Simpson will be leading the tour of the newly restored park.

We have an attachment to the park as our first library sits proudly at the east end. It might not have been so had some members of City Council had their way. The matter was put to a plebiscite and on August 12, 1908, the site in Central Park was chosen over Sharple’s Corner by a vote of 193 to 157. I don’t know exactly where Sharple’s Corner was, but the Sharple’s Block was at 123 8 Avenue East. (If that’s the case, we would have started out very close to where we ended up!). At the same time the good people of Calgary voted 336 to 115 to give $20,000 to build the new library. At the time the library was built, Central Park was just an uncultivated green space originally set aside as a park in 1899. When the library’s chief librarian first saw it in 1911 he said it was “an unsightly wilderness of sand and scrub.” This may have been partly due to the construction work on the library, but planting had not begun (see photograph above), though the bandstand was in place by 1909.

Early in its history the park had been used as a tree farm by the city. In 1899 maple trees were brought from Brandon Manitoba and sold for 15 cents to Calgary ratepayers. In 1901 other varieties of trees were brought in. There was a windmill to pump water and a man hired to take care of the trees in the park (and on the boulevards). By 1912, however, Central Park was a showpiece. Plans, some of them carried out, included a South African War Memorial and two large fountains and plantings in front of the library that included a statues of Amazons. Now, the fountains did not come to pass, although the plumbing for them was discovered during the excavation of the garden for its renovation and the fountain was finally built during that restoration. The South African War Memorial and the Amazons, however, were put up in the garden. The memorial remains but the Amazons have disappeared. One can only wonder at the reaction to the half-naked ladies in the garden was, although it is possible that because it was in front of a cultural institution, it may have been tolerated, much as the statue of David at the top of the stairs in the Memorial Park Library was tolerated. (The story was told to me by a lady who used to visit the library when she was a child. She loved the fancy washrooms and the naked man at the top of the stairs!)

PC 961

Central Park, ca. 1910s

Postcards from the Past, PC 961

The park has been restored to its original glorious state and is a very important feature in the neighbourhood. I have heard Lorne Simpson talk about the park and I can highly recommend his walking tour. For more information you can visit the Chinook Country Historical Society website where you can look at the brochure as well as a schedule of events. Historic Calgary Week is a great opportunity to get to know your city. I hope to see you at some of the events.

Stampede Parade 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Booking Bronco

The Booking Bronco

Calgary Public Library

It is Stampede Season again. And, once again, Calgary Public Library is a proud participant in the Calgary Stampede Parade. Our “Booking Bronco” (see above) is ready for action and our staff will be walking the route, some of them dressed up as characters from books. This gives us a different kind of opportunity to meet our friends and customers and it is one we look forward to every year. Watch for us this Friday and if you’re on the parade route, give us a YAHOO!!!

Both Calgary Public Library and the Stampede are approaching important anniversaries. In 2012 we will celebrate the first 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede and of Calgary Public Library. Calgary in 1912 must have been quite a town. The pride and optimism that fueled calls for a public library for this fine city also found expression in the Calgary Stampede. This is a dichotomy that continues to define Calgary to this day. We know how to celebrate our origins in the rural and ranching communities and the rugged entrepreneurs that started the city and we also value our more refined cultural institutions like libraries. (Not that we’re that refined – watch for us in the parade and you’ll see what I mean. Library employees can Yahoo with the best of them). Our library has one of the highest per capita usage levels in North American and our Stampede is the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. We certainly don’t do things halfway.

Parade day marks the dividing line between business as usual and a pancake munching, bbq lunching debauch. It was ever thus, as the pictures below illustrate. The first postcard is from the 1908 Dominion Exhibition, which gave Guy Weadick and the Big Four the idea for an annual version of this grand annual party. It shows a log cabin, being hauled through the streets of Calgary. The second photo is of the Pendleton Band and it is from the first Stampede parade in 1912. These two pictures are from our really great collection of Stampede postcards. You can find them all in the CHFH digital library by clicking on Browse and then typing in “stampede parade”.

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Dominion Exhibition Parade, 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 630

PC 284

Pendleton Band, Stampede Parade, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 284

We also have a great collection of books relating to the Stampede. One of my favourites, that really goes a long way toward explaining this seeming anomalous annual event, is Icon, Brand, Myth by Max Foran. You can find this and other titles in our catalogue by searching for the subject “Calgary Stampede History”.

So YAHOO to you and Happy Stampedeing.

Aboriginal Awareness Week

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Aborignal Awareness

This week is Aboriginal Awareness Week in Canada. Yesterday I took a stroll into Olympic Plaza (another one of the perks of working at the Central Library) and watched some of the events that celebrated the theme “Power of Youth, Wisdom of Elders.” There were young dancers and drummers in their traditional costumes, young people that carry the pride of their ancestry and the continuation of the old ways into the new millennium. I also listened to the speech by Narcisse Blood, who brought the wisdom of his elders into the debate on the relationship of man and nature in this new, commercial world.

In this blog I talk about our built environment, the historic buildings that are under threat or have been repurposed. I also talk about genealogy, which celebrates the past and our ancestors place in that past. I often think I have my head buried in the past with only passing concern for the future. But watching the young people celebrate their past and listening to Narcisse talk about moving into the future, using the wisdom of the past, I came to the realization that one is inseparable from the other. I know it is a cliché to say that those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but I believe that not only is there a very great chance that we won’t learn from what we know of the past, but that if we don’t learn, there may not be a future. Originally I had posted an entry this week about endangered places but listening to Narcisse’s speech, I realized that the First Nations people in this area of the country had already lost their places. The grasslands that supported the people are gone along with the buffalo which was hunted to near extinction in a very short period of time. Narcisse passed on the wisdom of his grandfather, who, rather than be impressed by his grandson’s catch of nine beautiful whitefish, admonished him to only take what he needed. This, possibly, is the way we need to approach what we have. This applies to places, to people, and to things. Let’s use only what we need. Let’s fix what we have and celebrate our successes. Let’s bring the past into the future and learn from what both our youth and our elders have to tell us. To quote Narcisse: “Greed is not an option.”

The Calgary Public Library has lots of resources for anyone who is interested in the history of the first peoples of this area. There is a very good collection in the Community Heritage and Family History section of the Central Library including some early accounts by explorers who were among the first to encounter the people who lived in this area.

Pc 849

Sarcee Camp

Postcards from the Past, PC 849

The Rivers that Shaped Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1308

At the Junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC1308

I’ve written before, I think, on the rivers of Calgary, or more specifically, on the floods in Calgary. But the theme of this week’s Heritage Roundtable got me thinking about the importance of the rivers in Calgary’s history. After all, we are a city with a district called Bridgeland – obviously, there is some importance attached to the rivers and the crossing of them. The earliest settlement of Calgary was established at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers. Fort Calgary was built in 1875 in what is now the east side of the city but at the time, and until the CPR decided to situate further west, it was the hub of settlement in this area. There is a reason that City Hall is in the east end of Calgary, that was, in the early years, where the action was.

It is possible that the decision to establish the settlement where the Bow and the Elbow meet was in keeping with the encampment of the First Nations people who would settle there for the winter. The bluffs around the city, carved by those very rivers, were suitable for use a buffalo jumps and the water was clear and clean and necessary for life. The Elbow River still serves as the source of our drinking water, which is some of the best in the world. This was not always the case. Before the construction of the Glenmore Dam, the city’s water was delivered via a gravity feed system from somewhere near Twin Bridges to a reservoir in what is now the Richmond Green golf course. Reports of small fish and other things coming through the taps prompted the building of a proper dam and water treatment system that still serves part of the city.

The history of the library was also affected by the river running through our centre. Alexander Calhoun felt it was necessary to establish Calgary’s first branch library on the north side of the Bow because the inhabitants of that side of the city were cut off from the “city proper”.

I can’t imagine what life would be like without those marvelous rivers. I remember lazy summer afternoons drifting down the Elbow, skipping school to swing on the rope in what is now Lindsay Park, but was, then, just scrub land. I love the summer walks in the Weaselhead area, watching the swallows building their nests on the bridges and visits to the pelicans at the weir in the Bow. The Bow and Elbow rivers have played an important role in many aspects of the growth and development of Calgary and they have provided the inhabitants of Calgary with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

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Bow River and Irrigation Canal, Calgary

Postcards from the Past PC143

In addition to the historic images of the rivers in and around Calgary available in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link is on our homepage and to the left of this entry), we have a number of different books that have interesting information on the history of water in Calgary. Max Foran's Calgary: an illustrated history has a very good account of the founding of the city, as well as information about Calgary's water supply. From Prairie to Park by Morris Barraclough, which is available in the collection At Your Service: part 1 includes a very detailed history of Calgary's parks including the attempts by early horticultural pioneers such as William Pearce to bring irrigation, and therefore the ability to grow trees, into the city. We also have two books by John Gilpin on order for the collection: Elbow Valley: a People Place and Builders and Benefactors: the Story of Calgary's Parks and Open Spaces. both are listed in the library catalogue and, so, you can place a hold on either or both. We are looking forward to reading them ourselves.

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 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.

Brewery Gardens

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 51-08

Disney Themed Display

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 51-08

The days are getting longer. Thanks to a wonderful Chinook things are warming up. Now is the time to think about gardens. OK, so maybe it is a bit early to think about actually gardening in Calgary but I stumbled across this picture of Snow White in the Brewery Gardens and I thought now would be a great time to talk about those particular gardens and what they’ve meant to Calgarians over the years.

The gardens were originally developed in 1932 and were a project of James Cross, the son of A.E.Cross who had taken over management of the Brewery from his father. Originally the plan for the garden was a bit of a make-work effort. In keeping with the Cross family tradition of looking out for their employees and giving back to their community, the gardens were an idea designed to reduce the need for layoffs and to give employees something to do during the Depression. It was a simple design, stands of trees and shrubs and a few flower gardens.

This would all change with the introduction of the fish ponds. James Cross was interested in water. Calgary Brewing and Malting’s slogan for a time was “The water makes the difference, naturally.” Indeed, the brewery was founded where it was because of the presence of an artesian well on the property. Water was important to good beer, and James realized that fish, too, needed clear, clean water to thrive. The symbolism was not lost on James Cross. From 1938 to 1972 a fish hatchery would be operated on the Brewery site. Water, warmed in the brewing process, would be used to sustain the hatchlings and the fish raised at the hatchery were used to populate the ponds and streams in the garden. The hatchery was just the first step in a process that would make the Calgary Brewing and Malting site a community centerpiece. By 1960 the Cross family had opened a large aquarium on the site – the largest inland aquarium in Canada. The second floor was designed to house James’ collection of western memorabilia. This would become the Horseman’s Hall of Fame in 1963.

The gardens themselves would house artifacts. A cabin, believed to be the oldest building in Calgary, was rescued and moved to the gardens in 1933 (see the picture below). Streetcar 14, after completing its final run, was moved for preservation to the site. Its frame was used to build the replica streetcar that runs at Heritage Park.

AJ 21=14

Cabin in Brewery Gardens 1957

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 21-14

The gardens were open to the public and were a very popular spot. In the winter, decorations were put out to make the gardens a year-round attraction. The first photograph shows a Disney-themed display from 1960 as viewed by Alison Jackson, whose collection of photographs can be viewed in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

According to a 1997 Historical Resource Impact Assessment of the site by Ken Hutchinson Architect Ltd. (which is available in the Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library) the structure of the gardens were found to be intact “with the important exceptions that the pools no longer contain water and fish and that the gardens no longer have the floral displays”. The 1875 cabin was still on the site, as was a replica of the original buffalo mascot. The talk surrounding the Calgary Brewing and Malting site has included the possibility of bringing the gardens back to their original state. That would be an interesting development and one many residents of the area (and others) would like to see.

PC 1406

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens

Postcards from the Past, PC 1406

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