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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)

PC 1325

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.

 

map CALG 06

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.

PC 2013

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

Postcards from the Past, PC 2013

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

PC 1936

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 Heritage Programs in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Baintunnur Mosque Calgary

Baitunnur Mosque, Calgary

Courtesty the Baitunnur Mosque

Heritage Matters: Designing the Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary with Architect Manu Chugh

The Calgary Heritage Authority invites you to the first Heritage Matters of 2013, featuring Architect Manu Chugh. Learn about the design of the Baitunnur Mosque in Northeast Calgary. This event is being held at the Central Library on the south side of the main floor on February 22 at 5:30. There is no charge but we’d like you to register for the program.

Chinook Country Historical Society monthly program: The History of the Calgary Local Council of Women with noted author Marjorie Norris

The Calgary Local Council of Women was an important lobby group, tackling social and political issues at the beginning of the 20th century, a time when women were starting to assert their political power. Ms Norris will also talk about the role of nursing sisters in the First World War. It is a free program and will be held in the Burnswest Theatre at Fort Calgary on February 26 at 7:30 pm. You can find a more detailed description as well as see the upcoming programs at the Chinook Country website.

Research the History of Your House

In preparation for the next round of Century Homes displays we will be offering Research the History of Your House on March 9 at 10:30 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We will be joined by our colleagues from the City Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library. Our presentation will present resources from all three institutions to help you uncover the history of your house, whether a hundred years old or younger. This will be great for Century Homes participants but also for anyone who is interested in the history of their house, the people who lived in it or their community. This was a very popular program last year, so register early.

Historical Gardens of Calgary

Following our presentation on March 9 we will be hosting Janet Melrose, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, who will present a slide show and information about the Historical Gardens of Calgary. This program begins at 1 and will be held in Meeting Room 1 on the lower level of the Central Library. This program is filling up fast, so register soon.

Planning with Heritage in Mind

The Federation of Calgary Communities and The City of Calgary have collaborated to present “Planning With Heritage in Mind ", part of their “Partners In Planning" courses. These free workshops educate community members and the public about the planning process. This program will talk cover Heritage Planning. The Municipal Development Plan and the Calgary Heritage Strategy present a new vision where the City works with a range of stakeholders including communities to build a culture of preservation. It will include an introduction to the preservation principles of “identification, protection and management” which will be illustrated with local case studies. The program takes place on March 16, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Thorncliffe/Greenview Community Association: 5600 Centre Street North. Please register for this program at the Federation of Calgary Communities website.


In May 4 and 5 we will have another series of Jane’s Walks – more on that in the future, but check out The Calgary Foundation website if you’d like more information or to volunteer to be a leader.

Also, starting June 2 and running until October 27 (Saturday or Sunday, 2 pm) the cemetery tours of Union, Burnsland and St. Mary’s start up again. For more information check the 2013 Parks Program Guide.

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CPR Station Gardens, Calgary, ca 1915?

Postcards from the Past, PC 256

Thanks to Bob van Wegen for the information. If you have a heritage related program you would like us to include in our blog postings, please contact me via the comments section below.

Library and Archives Canada Launches New Census Databases

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1891 Canada Census

Page from the 1891 Canada Census

With all the kerfuffle over the changes to collection access and services at Library and Archives Canada, I haven’t been paying much attention to what they are actually doing out there in Ottawa. I was directed to a great database at their site, the Veterans’ Death Cards records, by a member of the AFHS. Because it fit in very well with my work on the Lest We Forget Project, I was very excited that I had more information on the soldiers that the students in the Project were working on. It turned out that the Veterans’ Cards were just the beginning.

I went on to do a bit more exploring of the databases that LAC has put up. A great place to find out about these digitized records is through the Library and Archives Canada Blog. Anyone who has ancestors in Canada should subscribe to this one, because it turns out, they have been digitizing all kinds of records. For example, they have just put up a new “edition” of the 1906 census of the Northwest Provinces that now includes the ability to search by name and ages. In December, they began a process to launch 15 census databases including very early returns from New France. While many of these haven’t been indexed they can be viewed page by page (and the really early ones aren’t that long anyhow.) The blog also includes information about the release of the next Canadian census (1921 – Yay)

The Ancestors Search on the LAC website will catch a lot of the databases. You can see what is available and which databases are part of the search here Included are passenger lists, border entry records, land records and military records.

Another way to search the digitized holdings of Library and Archives Canada is to use the Archives Advanced Search and select “Yes “the drop-down menu beside Online. I used the search term census and found censuses of various First Nations as well as the Federal census records.

Another link you should try is the listing of Microform Digitizations That list includes the recently digitized War of 1812 records So, although it can be a bit of a struggle to find the records, they are there and are well worth looking for, especially now that we can’t get the microfilm from Library and Archives Canada anymore.

Have you got a suggestion for a really great website that you’d like all the other genealogists out there to know? Let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Awesome Heritage!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 947

On Friday we will be launching our third annual One Book One Calgary. This year’s book is The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. There is going to be a lot of exciting programming associated with this celebration, starting with the launch itself – Calgary’s Poet Laureate, Kris Demeanor will be on hand as will a number of other prominent Calgarians who will tell us what they find awesome about this great city. Click here to find out more.

Another of the programs, and one that I am particularly looking forward to, will be with Calgary’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders (who is pretty awesome). He will be regaling us with awesome things from Calgary’s past. You can find out more and register for this program here. It will be at the Memorial Park Library (which is also awesome)

As my contribution to the “awesome” parade, I thought I would list the heritage buildings that I find awesome (and I’ll stop using that word now) This is only a very small part of my list, this is a blog, after all, and I’m sure I’d lose you all about number 40, so here is my much abbreviated list of some a-word heritage structures in Calgary.

The Cecil Hotel – it may seem weird that this hotel, which has recently been in the papers as a prime candidate for demolition due to its unsavory past, would make my list, but there is something about this building that I love and I would hate to see gone. It is one of the few remaining hotels of its period and although many call it an eyesore, it does have its own charm. For me, the Cecil represents the working class roots of Calgary, especially the East End of Calgary.

The Calgary Public Building – built in 1931, this edifice includes the only manned elevator in the city. It is a wonderfully elegant concrete structure which retains much of its original exterior detail . In its adaptation to modern use, it stands as an example of how heritage buildings can be made useful and efficient.Post Office

The Craftsman houses along 17th Avenue SW. I love the Craftsman style of house. There is a block just east of the Richmond Road turnoff that has several original Craftsman style homes still standing. I know this isn’t exactly a heritage site, but I smile whenever I drive past them.

The Burns Building – this was the building that got me interested in my city’s heritage. I was oblivious to all of the beautiful old buildings in the city until the Burns Building attacked Mayor Sykes and nearly sealed its own fate. That we were able to save it was a triumph and a symbol of what can be done when citizens raise their voices.

The CNR Building/St. Mary’s Parish Hall, beside St. Mary’s School. This building was derelict when I was attending St. Mary’s. We occasionally (don’t tell anyone) would sneak in and have a look around. It was a beautiful building, even in its dotage. It was also the scene of the most memorable event of my high school years. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor filmed a part of the movie “Silver Streak” in the old building. It stood in for an abandoned railway station somewhere near Kansas. Sadly, the interior was gutted by fire in 1985 but it was brought back to life in 1987 when it became the home of the Alberta Ballet.CNR STation

These are just a very few of the heritage structures I find “awesome” (sorry) in this city. (And I didn’t mention the Glenmore Dam once) What is your most favourite heritage site?

Maps, maps, maps

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Calg 4

Calgary, NWT, 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection CALG 4

In passing, in an earlier blog, I mentioned that we are undertaking a project which will digitize parts of the collection of maps that is held in the Community Heritage and Family History room. We have been looking forward to this day for a very long time, as maps are such great resources, but such awkward things to use. They are even more awkward to store, and this sometimes makes accessing them a bit of a fight. (Not that the fight isn’t worth it!)

Well, with our new project, cranky maps are going to be a thing of the past. We have digitized a small number of early Calgary maps, but, and this is a way better thing for a library-geek, we have entered the information on all of our maps, even the ones that aren’t digitized, into the database as well. What this means is that the entire collection can be searched by keyword and the date of the map shows up as well. This is a vast improvement over trying to find the maps by looking at the red duo-tang which held the list of maps (in no particular order) or by browsing the collection, which didn’t work either, as more than half the collection is not in the map cabinet at the front of the room. (I told you they were awkward to store!)

The upshot is that we hope to see many more users of our map collection and many more requests for particular maps. In my last blog entry I talked about how important maps can be to genealogists. Aside from the directory maps of rural areas, which include names of landowners, maps can tell their stories about the place and the people. When we do tours of the local history room for schools, I like to show a wonderful map we have from 1913 (the Harrison & Ponton map of the city – which is digitized on the site) and point out the wonderful names of the districts of Calgary: Deer Park, Silver Heights, Poplar Grove, and the location of the proposed university, just west of the Banff Motor Coach Road. This map tells a story about Calgary and the people in it. We were coming off one of the greatest booms in our history; we had annexed miles of land and laid out neighbourhoods for the coming population boom. We were determined to be a city of substance. We were going to have a university, just on the western edge of the city. So what happened? We don’t have a Silver Heights or a Poplar Bluff, or a Happyland for that matter. And we know that the university isn’t west of the Banff Coach Road. Well, just as we are today, we were a city with our eyes on the future. But the future was going to be a little further off than we thought, because by 1913 the boom that we are celebrating this year, with all the building that occurred in 1912, had bust. The city did not grow to be the huge, sprawling metropolis that we had anticipated in the early part of the 20th century. This is the story behind the map.

So, check out our map collection and let us know what you think. You can post a comment at the bottom of the page. And when you’ve found the map you’d like to see, come down and visit us on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We would love to take you on a tour of our delightful (yes, now it is delightful) map collection.

Our Mayor Launches Historic Calgary Week (and we launch a collection!)

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

Mayor Nenshi

Mayor Nenshi Proclaims Historic Calgary Week,

Photograph courtesy Val Jobson

It is here! Mayor Nenshi launched Historic Calgary Week this past Friday at the Southern Alberta Pioneers building. There are SO many interesting programs going on this week, I can’t decide where I want to go. Check out the brochure and join in on this celebration of our heritage.

So, because it is the annual celebration of our history, Calgary Public Library has launched our newest digitized collection - Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta. Maps can be a fascinating way to look at the history of a city and its people and this collection highlights a sampling of historic Calgary maps that have been digitized from the Community Heritage and Family History's print map collection found in the Local History Room at the Central Library. The print map collection consists of hundreds of maps dating from the early 19th century and into to 21st. Below is a sample of one of the digitized maps:

Calg 4

 

Map showing Calgary in 1884

Community Heritage and Family History Map Collection, CALG 4

This map of Calgary N.W.T. shows locations and dates of early Calgary buildings and provides valuable insight into our city's history and development. For example, did you know that in 1884 the City Pound was across the street from where the Central Library is now?

 

Click here to see the collection, or find it through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (under Books & More from our website)

To see the sample of digitized maps available online, click on Digitized Map link on the collections front page. You can also access information about the hundreds of actual maps in our collection; click on the Browse All tab at the top of the page. So while we work at getting more of the maps digitized and available, you can see the real thing in the Local History room on the fourth floor at the Central Library. And keep in mind, that if you have any questions about the maps or about history or genealogy, you can contact us via our Chat Reference, by email or by telephone at 403-260-2785.

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