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Three New Heritage Sites

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1377

Suburban Calgary, Riverside ca. 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 933

At a well attended ceremony in Council Chambers on Monday January 24, three new heritage sites were ‘plaqued’ by the Calgary Heritage Authority. Plaques are given every two years to sites that are of historical significance to Calgary’s development based on criteria of architecture, history and context. Some of the sites that have been awarded plaques in the past are the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, St. Mary’s Parish Hall, Sunalta School, Alyth Lodge (Ogden Hotel) and the North West Travellers Building (to see pictures of any of these sites, you can visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library from the link on the left side of the page)

The three new sites named Monday are the Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden which is between 6 and 7A Streets NE; the Old North Trail (Spiller Road SE) and the Mission Bridge. Each site holds historical significance and each represents a different aspect of how we define heritage.

The Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden is the last of a number of similar gardens that were created by members of the Vacant Lot Garden Club as a way to beautify the city and put unused land to productive use. It was originally suggested by the aptly named Town Planning commissioner, James H. Garden and was started in 1914. Membership was $1.00 annually which entitled the holder to use one lot. Land owners such as Colonel Walker and J.C. Cockburn donated lots for use by the club. Calgarians were able to grow their own produce and reduce their reliance on “imported” food. Just as an aside, and a library tie-in, Alexander Calhoun, the first head librarian of the Calgary Public Library, was active in forming the club, as part of his role on the Town Planning Commission.

Spiller Road was a part of the Old North Trail that ran from the Yukon to New Mexico and was used by First Nations for thousands of years. According to Blackfoot Chief Brings-Down-the-Sun, the trail forked where Calgary now stands. “The right fork ran north into the Barren Lands as far as people live. The main trail ran south along the eastern side of the Rockies, at a uniform distance from the mountains, keeping clear of the forest and outside of the foothills. It ran close to where the city of Helena now stands and extended south into the country inhabited by a people with dark skins and long hair falling over their faces." (The Old North Trail by Walter McClintock, p434) When the NWMP built Fort Calgary, part of the trail became Macleod Trail, the main route to forts in the south such as Fort Macleod and Fort Benton in Montana.

The Mission Bridge was built at the place where travellers forded the Elbow River. Father Lacombe suggested that farmers coming into town from areas to the south would benefit from the building of a bridge to allow them easier access to markets. The first bridge was built in 1886 but soon became rotted and worn. In 1897 a new steel bridge was erected (see photo). In 1915 a concrete bridge (the first in Alberta) was erected. During construction, however, one of the worst floods to hit Calgary nearly destroyed the unfinished bridge and took the life of Quinton Campbell, a city worker. (This was the same flood that destroyed the original Centre Street Bridge, with the above mentioned Commissioner Garden, and the City Engineer, who planned and oversaw the construction of the Mission Bridge, G.W. Craig, aboard. They both survived the disaster.) Though this bridge has been renovated and rebuilt many times, elements of the 1915 bridge still remain.

PC 1377

Mission Bridge during flood, ca. 1923?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1377

Heritage Round Table - Heritage Trades

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

AJ 1256

Entrance to Reader Rock Garden, ca 1960s

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1256

That we are very keen on the preservation of Calgary’s heritage sites goes without saying (this is the Community Heritage blog, after all). We have a deep admiration for people who work on behalf of these goals, groups like Calgary Heritage Initiative, the Heritage Planning Department at the City, the historical societies, and the legions of volunteers who work tirelessly inventorying, advocating, lobbying, writing, touring, to get heritage resources recognized and protected.

What we often overlook is what happens to heritage sites once they are legally protected. The conservation and restoration of heritage buildings requires different skills than building a new building or even renovating an older building. Work on heritage sites and artifacts require that the craftsman have an understanding of traditional materials and methods of construction.

We have the opportunity to hear from some of the trades people who work on heritage buildings, landscapes and artifacts at the next Heritage Roundtable on Thursday January 27 at 7:00 PM at Beaulieu, the historic Lougheed House. Speakers from various heritage trades will be there to give us insight into their work. Ken Armstrong, a mason and stone carver, will talk about tradition versus modern stone carving techniques; Janet Jones, a horticulturalist, will give us insight into the rehabilitation of the Reader Rock Garden; Steve Ramsey, the Manager of Facilities and Maintenance for heritage Park will give us a general overview of the park’s processes of heritage preservation and maintenance, while discussing the restoration of the 1885 Morrisey, Fernie & Michel passenger cars. There will also be time for questions and discussion and, of course, the all important networking with others interested in Calgary’s Heritage. You can register for this event online at or by telephone at 403-244-4111. These roundtable events are always interesting and you get to meet some of the neatest people. I hope to see you there.

AJ 44-09

Crest on the wall of Beaulieu

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 44-09

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 14-06

"Rosscarrock" William J. Tregillus Residence

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 14-06

I’ve written before about the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (you can see the previous entry by clicking here) It is a resource that we library folk have always relied on to provide authoritative biographical information about Canadians. For years we used it in its paper form so we were overjoyed when it went online. In almost all of my genealogy presentations I point out the value of national biographies for genealogists and historians. They contain well-researched articles about notable people in a country’s history. The ability to search such a resource online is a great advantage. Online searching provides access to all the names in the entry, not just that of the principal subject. Anyone mentioned in an article will come up in a search. You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography through the “E-Library” link on the Calgary Public Library homepage. Just click on “History and Genealogy” to see the menu.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography turned 50 last year. The Supervisory Editor, Willadean Leo, will be at the University of Calgary, in the History Department, Social Sciences Building room 623 at 12:30 on Wednesday November 24th to give a talk about this venerable resource, its history and plans for the future. She will present examples of completed biographies, talk about some of Western Canada’s famous and infamous DCB subjects and talk about some of the biographies that are underway.

This will be a most informative lecture, one I’m sure many genealogists, biographers and historians will be interested to hear. Come and share your ideas for DCB s next half century. I hope to see you all there.

AJ 0848

Headstone of Sam Livingston, at Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0848

Cow Town/Punk Town

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Album Cover

The Golden Calgarians - It's Fun to Be Alive

From the Author's Collection

I may be showing my age here, but punk rock meant a lot to me. I had the misfortune to have missed golden era of counter-culture rock, I was still a pup when The Beatles broke up and the Rolling Stones had gone all “Emotional Rescue” on us. We were mired in glittering lights and Saturday Night Fever. But then my brother came home from university with a bootleg Ramones tape and my life gained new meaning.

I was lucky that I lived in Calgary. Young people are often shocked to learn that conservative old Calgary was once a hotbed of punk music. We saw the best bands and we produced some of the great Canadian punk rock bands. Do you remember The Golden Calgarians? The keyboardist from that band will be coming to talk about this city’s punk rock past. With him will be Lori Hahnel, local author and founding member of the all-girl band The Virgins. She will read from her novel, Nothing Sacred, which draws on her punk rock background and evokes very vivid memories of that time and place.

Because punk was a new kind of music, perceived to be violent and anti-establishment, a lot of the venues available for shows were the older, seedier hotels such as The Calgarian, The New Noble and The National. Kids with Mohawks and multiple piercings would invade the space occupied by the old fellers and good ole boys. I gained an appreciation for the old hotels and their gloomy bars and probably spent more time in them than was healthy. Maybe it was this that led to my interest in old buildings? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Cow Town/Punk Town is just one of the many programs we are offering on our Heritage Weekend, November 6 and 7, at the Central Library. Check it out on our website - just type ‘heritage weekend’ into the keywords search and you will pull up all the programs we are offering. You can also register in person at your local library branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620. Hope to see you there.

AJ 1326

Calgarian Hotel

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, detail from AJ 1326

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

PC 1871

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.

AJ 1045

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

PC 267

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.)

PC 141

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”.

PC 630

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.

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