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Skiing in Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 963

Ski Jump on the Roof of the Grandstand,

Built for the Calgary Winter Festival, 1921

Postcards from the Past, PC 963

Because Calgary is so close to the mountains, a ski hill within the city may seem unnecessary. What we need to remember is that at one time, getting to Banff and the surrounding area was not a simple drive up the highway. It could be a journey fraught with peril along the Banff Coach Road (so called, I believe, because it was designed for coaches not cars!) For a devoted skier, this was not an acceptable situation so over the years ski hills have been developed in and near Calgary.

A pioneering organization in the development of local ski hills was the Calgary Ski Club which was founded, originally, early in the 20th century by a handful of Scandinavian immigrants interested in ski jumping. The presence of this group led to the strangest sight ever in Calgary winter history, the ski jump on top of the grandstand at the Exhibition Grounds (see the postcard above).

In its second incarnation, founded in the 1930s, The Calgary Ski Club looked for a suitable venue in or near the city so that avid skiers could ski during the week. Golf courses provided some possibilities. They were unused during the winter and some, like Shaganappi, were owned by the city. So it was to Shaganappi that the Ski Club turned in 1938. A perennial problem in Calgary, of course, is the chinook wind and that, coupled with the drought of the 1930s made skiing in the city a sporadic affair. The Ski Club experimented with farm equipment and eventually started using a grain blower to blow snow from areas where it was abundant onto the hill. Despite its great location (on a bus route), the installation of a rope tow and its popularity, Shaganappi ski hill lasted only until 1951. It wasn't until some 20 years later that the City invited a private operator to re-develop the runs, exactly where they had been when the ski club had them.

Asked to move from the municipal course the club sought another hill, and found what it thought was a good choice, on the north side of what is now Coach Hill, just above Bowness. It was not a unanimously popular choice and the development of Paskapoo in 1961 kind of put an end to that idea.

Happy Valley

View of the Chalet at Happy Valley Ski Hill, 1960s?

Happy Valley Calgary's Year 'Round Playground

Paskapoo remained a public hill and many of us learned to ski there. It would later become Canada Olympic Park. Just down the road a bit (advertised as being 5 miles from the city limits) was Happy Valley, “Calgary’s year ‘round playground,” which included a ski hill with a chalet and two poma lifts. The photograph of the beautiful chalet comes from a brochure dating from the 60s that we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. Also in that collection is the book I used to find out about the Calgary Ski Club, Calgary Goes Skiing: a history of the Calgary Ski Club by David Mittelstadt. If you are interested in finding out more about skiing in and around Calgary, we have some great resources in the Local History Room and we would be happy to show you the ropes (rope tows,perhaps ).Laughing

Jane’s Walk : Walk and Talk our City’s Neighbourhoods

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 907

Residential View - Mount Royal

Postcards from the Past, PC 907

I have been very lucky over the last week to meet a number of people who are passionate about their communities. At the Heritage Round Table last Thursday, I was able to hear people speak about Haysboro and Meadowlark Park. I also heard a presenter from the This is My Cecil project talk about the community feeling engendered by that wonderful old hotel and importance of a touch point like The Cecil for the community that existed here in the East Village in the past. I was also able to speak with “Uncle Buck” who is the editor of the East Village View, an important information resource for the people of this East Village community. It may be that as the city grows, the communities that make it become more important. We all want to feel a part of a larger group and many of us want others to know the stories of our communities. I live in the community I was brought up in. It is just over 50 years old and was the ‘burb of its day, but is now considered to be nearly inner city.

I am very proud of my community. If you have strong feelings about your community, or just “community” as a general concept, you may want to consider volunteering with Jane’s Walk to give a tour of your community or to help with other things. Jane’s Walks have been happening since 2007, with the first walk in Toronto. Since then a dozen other cities have started Jane’s Walks. Calgary is one of those cities. The walks are a way to combine a simple stroll around the neighbourhood with stories from the people who live there, people who know the history and local lore of the area. They are named in honour of Jane Jacobs, a visionary thinker, whose book The Death and Life of Great American Cities championed the interests of residents and pedestrians over the car-centred approach to urban planning that was then the norm. She stood up for old buildings and their refurbishment, rather than their destruction. She changed the way we thought about urban life. Her work would inspire generations of urban planners and community activists.

Jane’s Walks are a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that aim to put people in touch with their environment and their neighbours. They are given, free of charge, by people who have an interest in their neighbourhood. They aren’t necessarily about architecture or history or planning – they offer a more personal take on the neighbourhood; local lore and culture, issues facing residents, the social history of the area. If you are interested in Jane’s Walk, it will take place in Calgary on May 1 & 2, 2010. It is organized by the Calgary Foundation and starting in April you will be able to see the roster of walks at If you would like to volunteer to be a walk leader, or would like to volunteer in any other capacity you can contact Julie Black at or at 403-802-7720. You can get more information about Jane’s Walks on the website

If you are interested in leading a walk in your community (or if you are just interested in the history of your community) we have wonderful resources here at the Calgary Public Library in the Community Heritage and Family History collection. We would be delighted to help you find information to enhance your "Jane's Walk" of your community. You can find us at the Central Library, 616 Macleod Trail SE, on the 4th floor; you can telephone us at 403-260-2785 or you can contact us by email at

PC 638

Sunnyside, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 623

Calgary Brewing and Malting - Follow-Up

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 758

East Calgary, Alberta with the Brewery in the background, ca. 1910s

Postcards from the Past, PC 758

The Town Hall Meeting regarding the Calgary Brewing and Malting site at the Inglewood Community Centre last Thursday was a resounding success. Nearly 200 people listened to a variety of speakers including Max Foran, who spoke about the history of Calgary Brewing and Malting, his wife Heather, who told about her experience as the underwater fish feeder at the aquarium and Darryl Cariou, Senior Heritage Planner for the City of Calgary, talked about the heritage value of the site and the status of the project. We also heard from community members who shared their experiences of the Brewery and the significance of the site to their lives and we heard about projects such as the Ramsay Exchange, where preservation of heritage buildings has fit in successfully with development plans. It was a very positive meeting, and raises hope that the needs of the community, both the immediate community of Inglewood and the larger community of the city, and the needs of the developer can be accommodated. For the latest information and updates visit

Calgary Public Library had a display of materials related to the subject and were our resources well used. Dr. Foran read from a copy of the Heritage Resource Impact Assessment done by Molson’s in the 1990s and Global TV used two of our postcards of the Brewing and Malting site to illustrate their news story. We do have a good collection of material related to Calgary Brewing and Malting including the postcards in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Use the search term “brewery or brewing”. The results should include a postcard of the Brewery gardens and the Horseman’s Hall of Fame. If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the brewery, the history of the neighbourhood or the history of the Cross family, come down and visit us in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We are open from Monday to Thursday, 9am to 8pm, Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 10am to 5pm. Stop at the reference desk at the 4th floor and we'll show you around.

Calgary Brewing and Malting

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1376

Calgary Brewing and Malting Co.

Postcards from the Past, PC 1376

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

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

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

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

or you can telephone 403-244-4111.

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

The Stampede Parade

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 868

Parade on Stephen Avenue, ca 1900s

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

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

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

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

St. George's Island

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1755

St. George's Island Park, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 1755

I don't know what you did on Victoria Day but I'll bet a large number of Calgarians celebrated by visiting some of the city's fine parks. This photo shows a large crowd of people in the park on St. George's Island. St. George's Island was a park long before it housed the Calgary Zoo. Originally the island was a stopping point for itinerant travellers, but by 1890, the city had obtained a lease on the islands, St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick, from the Federal Government on the recommendation by William Pearce. The lease stipulated that the city upgrade the islands for use as parks by the citizens of Calgary. A ferry service was provided from 1892 to 1900, when a footbridge was constructed. In 1907 a by-law was passed to raise $25,000 to build the Algoma steel bridge that exists to this day. It was completed in 1908.

Calgarians loved the park. There was a bandstand and a biergarten (constructed without checking about the legality of selling beer in a public facility - so it became a teahouse). The top floor of the biergarten was a dancehall. Cinder pathways were laid and fire places installed for picnickers. Average turn outs for the band concerts were estimated, in a Calgary Herald article from 1911, to be 1,500 to 2,000.

There had been a few attempts to start a zoo in Calgary. Citizens thought that the island would be a perfect setting. After a few false starts, the zoo's collection began with two wayward deer that had found themselves in the big city and were corralled in the cages the dog catcher had set up near the biergarten. The display became so popular that the fledgling zoo, under the direction of parks superintendent William Reader, began to grow.

We now have a zoo that is known the world over. St. George's Island continues to be a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike.

To see more photos of St. George's Island and the early years of athe zoo, check out the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. The link is on the right side of the page. If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the Zoo, you can check out the CHFH collection on the 4th floor of the Central Library. The resources I used in researching this entry were the Summer 1979 issue of Dinny's Digest (590.737123 DIN Winter - Fall 1979); Ark on the Bow River, a bound manuscript by Catherine Phillip (590.744 PHI) and The Evolution of the Calgary Zoo by Taylor Trafford (590.737123 TRA). We also have newspaper clippings in our files as well as a number of other interesting items. Drop by, we'd love to see you.

Calgary Municipal Railway

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1041

Streetcar with two conductors, ca. 1912-13

Postcards from the Past, PC 1041

It was almost exactly 100 years ago that Calgary's first rail transit system began running. "This is an epoch in the history of the remarkable progress in the growth of the city of Calgary" said Mayor Jamieson at the conclusion of the official inaugural run of the municipal street railway system at 8 am on Monday July 5, 1909. (The first run had actually been at 3:10 that morning.) The streetcars were rushed into service so that locals and visitors to the Provincial Fair, could take the streetcar to the Victoria Park fair grounds. At the close of that first day, $450 in fares had been collected, representing about 9000 passengers.

This was a very big deal. A municipal railway was seen to be an indicator of "municipal maturity" as noted by author Colin K. Hatcher in his book Stampede City Streetcars. People applauded the cars as they passed by. Reverend Kerby spoke of the streetcar system in his sermon at Central Methodist the Sunday prior to the launch, saying that Sunday service was not necessary as "people with two legs can walk out to the parks or the hills if they want fresh air, and the exercise would do them good." Two days later a massive storm hit which flooded the subway at Second Street East and partially suspended the brand new streetcar service.

The Calgary Municipal Railway is in the news again, nearly 60 years after regular service was discontinued. It seems that when 16th Avenue was first paved, the rails from the Crescent Heights line were simply paved over. This has resulted in cracking of the roadway so the rails are being pulled up and about 1.2 kilometres will be preserved and given to interested museums.

You can see photos of the streetcars in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (use the search "streetcar OR streetcars")

There is a very good history of Calgary Transit at this link:

You can also find Colin Hatcher's book Stampede City Streetcars: the story of the Calgary Municpal Railway in the library catalogue.

Bowness - Small Town in the Big City

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 941

Calgary Auto Club House, Bowness Park (originally John Hextall Residence)

Postcards from the Past, PC 941

I made a little visit to Bowness last week to do some shopping. My husband and I stopped at a little diner for lunch and I was amazed by the feel of the place. Bowness still feels like the small town it was when I was a child visting my mom's aunt and her family there. People still smile and greet you, staff in shops are friendly and welcoming and it really retains a lot of its small town charm.

The district has a very interesting history. It began with the vision of John Hextall, an Englishman, who caught the land speculation bug during one of Calgary's boom times in 1910. He bought the Bowness Ranche lands for $39 per acre. His hopes for the subdivision were that it would become a beautiful garden suburb, similar to Mount Royal. Caveats were put in place that required homes being built to be worth $3500 or more.

Despite his enthusiasm and promotion of the development, lot sales did not take off. By 1913 there had been a downturn in the economy and then, in 1914, war broke out and the real estate market collapsed. Hextall died in 1914 and his son, who had taken over the business, died in the war in 1916. Development in Bowness slowed to nearly a standstill.

It wasn't until the 1940s that development started up again, mostly by people building their own homes away from the taxation and restrictions of the City of Calgary. By 1952 Bowness, now a town, had a population of around 900 mostly blue collar workers. By 1964 it had become a part of the city.

The Bowness Historical Society has written a really good history of their community called Bowness: Our Village In the Valley (call number 971.2338 BOW) which is available at many of the branches of the Calgary Public Library. I used this resource for many of the facts in this posting. The Society has lots of information on their website as well. You can find them at

Digital Alberta History

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Check out: Our Future, Our Past: The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project is a free, ongoing, project providing all those interested in Alberta's history access to cultural and heritage materials. Highlights of the collection include early Alberta newspapers including the Calgary Herald dating from 1885, Calgary Stampede history, local histories of Alberta communities, medical, multicultural and legal history and more

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