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Museum of the Highwood

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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High River CPR Station, 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 78 19

In a sad and ironic twist of fate, while we were celebrating Historic Calgary week, a much valued and beloved historic site was suffering. The Museum of the Highwood, in High River, was damaged by a fire which started in the early hours of Wednesday July 28. Thankfully, the fire was contained to the roof and attic of the structure. The collections were damaged slightly by smoke and water but archival material and photographs, stored in a vault, were unaffected. Members of the museum and archives community in Alberta pitched in with residents of High River to give their time and expertise to rescuing the collections.

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The Museum is housed in the old High River train station which has a connection to Calgary. In order to build the Palliser Hotel, the two existing station buildings which comprised what was the third Calgary CPR station would need to be removed. In order to do that a new station was built and the two smaller sandstone buildings dismantled. One would provide the material for the station at Claresholm and the other for the new station at High River. Interestingly, both stations are now being used as museums.

We are lucky to have photographs of the two train stations while they were still in use as stations. These photos are from the Alison Jackson collection and date from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Alison was correct in her assessment that these buildings might one day be under threat of demolition.

The Imperial Limited Arriving in Calgary, 1909

Postcards from the Past PC 604

Railway stations were being demolished in startling numbers as passenger train traffic declined. The efforts by the communities of High River and Claresholm have preserved an important piece of the history of the railroad in Western Canada. In far too manyplaces, the old stations were lost.

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Claresholm Train Station, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 86 12

For readers interested in the history of the building (and demolition) of stations across Canada, there is a great book in our BSSS collection called The train doesn’t stop here anymore: an illustrated history of railway stations in Canada by Ron Brown We also have a great collection of books relating to the railway and its role in the west in our Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. One of my favourites is a description of the workings of the Calgary Depot by Ross Taylor, who worked there for many years. The book is called Through these doors: a look at the workings of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Calgary Depot, 1940-1966. It is a wonderful collection of memories, photographs and drawings that give a behind-the-scenes look at life in the Calgary station.

In addition to the books, we have a great collection of photographs and postcards in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, accessible on the left hand side of this page. You can use the search terms “railway” and “railroad” and “train” to find hundreds of railway related pictures. Have a look. And remember, if you are a railway buff, or if your family, like mine, came out to work on the railway in the west, we have lots of very interesting stuff here. Drop in and see us sometime.

This Blog won a Lion Award

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Lion Award

I am delighted to tell you that the Community Heritage and Family History blog has won a Lion Award in the category of Advocacy and Awareness. This means a lot to me and my colleagues because it lets us know that, first, you are reading us Smile and second, that our postings are helping to promote a knowledge and appreciation for the heritage of this beautiful city.

Lion Award front

The Lion Awards are given out every two years by the Calgary Heritage Authority to recognize citizens and groups who have endeavored to support heritage conservation in Calgary in any capacity. The Advocacy and Awareness Award, in particular, is given to people or groups who advocate or promote the preservation of a heritage site or who work to increase public awareness of heritage issues. We are very proud to have been chosen for this award. Thank you to the Calgary Heritage Authority and thank you to everyone who follows us on this blog. Also, thanks to our colleagues in the heritage community. We have been warmly welcomed by all the people we encounter at the various heritage events in the city and we get some of our best ideas from them. There is an impressive community of people working to preserve our heritage – many of whom work behind the scenes and get little recognition. So, thanks to you. Without you there would be no heritage to write about.

We had a great time at the awards ceremony. The keynote speaker, Reid Henry, director of Calgary Arts Development , spoke about the Artscape Wychwood Barns in Toronto which was an inspiring look at the reclamation and revitalization of the historic Wychwood streetcar repair barns. It gave me hope that similar solutions could be found for some of the heritage industrial sites in our city. Have a look at the Wychwood site:

After the awards we were given a tour of the Water Centre building architect Leslie Beale. The Water Centre is one of those buildings that will endure, becoming a heritage structure in time. It is quite an astonishing achievement. It is a LEED gold building that is both people and environmentally friendly (not to mention, architecturally stunning) and we very much enjoyed our tour. After the tour we were able to mingle with authors, advocates, architects and others involved in heritage preservation and restoration in this city.

The Lions are named for the iconic Centre Street Bridge lions, one of which graces the front entrance to the Municipal Building. I thought I would include a couple of photographs of one of the lions from when it was living on the Centre Street Bridge. This photo is from the Alison Jackson Photograph Collection which is housed here at the Central Library and is accessible through our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (see the link at the left)

So, thank you all for your support and “Yahoo!”

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Centre Street Lion

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1253 ca1950s

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Lion Awards

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Centre Street Lion

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 1254

I have been fortunate to be involved with the Calgary Heritage Round Table, an umbrella group for organizations and individuals passionate about Calgary and its heritage. The enthusiasm and growing attendance at meetings such as these shows the increasing interest in heritage issues in Calgary. I see this interest too, not just in "old" buildings but a desire to capture and preserve the stories of its people reflected on a daily basis here at Calgary Public Library through the customers who visit our Community Heritage and Family History collection.

Are you one of these impassioned individuals concerned about Calgary's heritage or do you know of an outstanding person or organization who is making a difference? Here's an opportunity to support heritage conservation by recognizing citizens and groups who have undertaken initiatives, of any scale in Calgary. The Calgary Lion Awards, is your chance to recognize them publicly. As it says on the Lion Awards website " Historic preservation is part of good city building and community identity. Historic resources serve to enhance our perspective, understanding and awareness of our past and help us build a sense of identity and pride in our local communities." Show your pride in taking the time to nominate outstanding individuals or groups. Awards will be given in the following areas: Building Restoration, New Building Design, Community Revitalization, Landscape, Advocacy and Awareness, and Heritage Trades People/Craft People.

For more information, go to the City of Calgary website The nomination deadline is Wednesday May 28. 2010 and the awards will be presented July 28, 2010 at The Water Centre, 625 25 Ave S.E.

Want to know more about the iconic Centre Street lions? Check out this wonderful Alison Jackson photograph and some background information on the bridge and lions from our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library:

Discover Historic Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards From the Past PC 52

A couple of months ago I went to a Heritage Roundtable where the City of Calgary Heritage Planners talked about a new website they were launching. It was called “Discover Historic Calgary” and it contains a whack of information about the built heritage of the city of Calgary. I was very excited to see this website because we here in the Community Heritage and Family History section of the Calgary Public Library always knew what kind of information the Heritage Planners were collecting about the buildings in the city but access to this information was a little complicated. Now it is available on a website for all interested Calgarians to see. It is well worth a visit. It includes information about buildings on the “Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources” and includes information such as location, history, significance and even historic and contemporary photographs. It also includes an explanation of the Historic Resource Evaluation System.

You can search for historic buildings by keyword, by address, or by development era. The advanced search allows you to search by use, architectural style, use or community. The “Help” link provides a really good overview of what the searches entail. This is another great resource that researchers interested in the history of Calgary can use in conjunction with our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. You can access Discover Historic Calgary at

Finding Granny with a GPS

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Grave of George McDougall

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1458

The City of Calgary is thinking about offering a new way of burying our dead. With Queen’s Park Cemetery rapidly running out of space, the City is planning for a new cemetery in the city’s southeast. As part of that burial ground they would like to offer a natural burial ground where graves would be dug by hand, bodies would be buried unembalmed and in biodegradable caskets and the land left to go back to its natural state. There would be no grave markers and anyone wishing to find a burial site would be given a GPS unit and the grave co-ordinates. This idea has kicked up a bit of controversy and lead to a bit of trepidation on the part of genealogists everywhere.

Genealogists love to find records and what is more solid and permanent than a grave marker? Genealogical societies the world over dedicate massive amounts of time and energy to transcribing markers. We have a very large collection of southern Alberta cemetery transcriptions in our Community Heritage and Family History collection here at Calgary Public Library. (If you’re curious, you can find them in the catalogue by typing “cemetery” in the search box and choosing “subject” from the drop-down menu). These are invaluable resources for people seeking their ancestors. But many of the transcriptions also include burial records so that those buried without markers or whose markers have disappeared can also be listed.

There are also, believe it or not, walking tour guides to cemeteries. To some this may sound ghoulish, but in reality, it is an excellent way to get to know the people and history of a place. By touring the graves, with a human guide or a guide book, you get a very personal view of who and what made a city or town what it is. A great one for Calgary is Calgary’s historic Union Cemetery: a walking guide by the inimitable Harry Sanders. Using the graves of Calgarians, both rich and poor, as a starting point, Harry examines every aspect of Calgary’s history.



Calgary's Historic Union Cementery by Harry M. Sanders

So, this new way of burying may have unintended effects, but it is an intriguing proposition. It may affect the way we do genealogy, but then, even stone grave markers don’t last forever. The plot where my earliest ancestors in Canada were laid to rest is a parking lot now. If your people were buried in a potter’s field, they were in an unmarked grave and all that exists is a record of burial. The same would be true if your ancestors were cremated and not placed in a columbarium. I think choice in these matters is a good thing. We are a diverse city and burial customs are very personal and tied to the culture and history of our families. The city’s proposition seems to allow for choice, and, personally, I think I might like to be the granny they had to find with a GPS.

Banff Town Warden

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Banff Town Warden

I am intrigued by the history of the Banff area. It was and is a very special place and we are privileged to live so close to Canada’s first National Park. Anthony Henday had visited the area in 1754 and David Thompson had explored the Bow Valley but it was the fall of 1883 when three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains that the Banff we know now was born.

The people responsible for the park and the town within it were the wardens. A warden was a jack-of-all-trades and his position involved long hours and a wide variety of duties. Walter Peyto was one of those wardens. He served from 1914 to 1948 and as part of his duties he was required to keep a journal of his activities. His grandson David Peyto has edited and published four volumes of these journals which he has called Banff Town Warden. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the activities of the men who fought fires, controlled nuisance animals, feed the zoo animals , maintained the telephone lines, controlled predators, and looked for lost hikers, among other duties. What must have been Walter’s most memorable duty had to have been the eleven days spent in a freight car with two buffalo bound for the Toronto Zoo. The life of a warden was not a boring one.

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Buffalo in Banff National Park, 1905

Postcards from the Past PC 1570

Know Alberta

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Cochrane Ranch House

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 60-14

There is now another way to access our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library., which is a doorway into the collections of a wide range of organizations such as museums, historical societies, government agencies and, of course, libraries, now includes the Alison Jackson Photograph collection, Postcards from the Past and the Judith Umbach Photograph collection.


York Hotel

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The collections at Glenbow and at the Lois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library are also accessible through this portal. Calgary Public Library’s digital collection is the only one from a public library accessible on Know Alberta, and the content of our digital library is larger than those of U of Lethbridge and Athabasca University. The site is an initiative of The Alberta Library (TAL), which is a consortium of over 290 libraries across Alberta that seeks to provide barrier-free access to information for all Albertans. There are some very interesting collections available through this initiative. Click on “Browse” for a link to the participating organizations and to see what collections are available. In addition to digitized photographs, Know Alberta provides a link to video collections, maps, audio collections, documents and other media.

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Central High School

Postcards From the Past, PC 1957

Genealogy Saturdays

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


It is time again for the start of the Family History Coaching program at the Central Library. This long-running program is very popular and we are happy to be able to offer it again. The Family History Coaching program is offered in conjunction with our partner, the Alberta Family Histories Society, which provides volunteer coaches on the last Saturday of the month. The coaches are very well versed in all things genealogical and will give you one-on-one assistance with your project. This kind of assistance can be very helpful for those who are just getting started, those who have hit a brick wall or for anyone who needs a fresh perspective on their research. We meet at the Central Library on the 4th floor from 10:00am to noon. This is a drop-in program so you do not need to register in advance.

We have introduced a second genealogy program on the last Saturday of the month to make it a truly genealogical day. In the afternoon we are offering a Genealogy Meet-Up. Participants will be able to chat with other researchers and share information about methods, resources and other genealogical interests. This program will take place in the meeting room on the fourth floor of the Central Library from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. You will have to register for this one. This can be done in person at your local branch, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online at (click on ‘Programs’ in the black bar at the top of the page, then search for ‘genealogy meet up’). If you’d like more information on either of these programs (or on any other matters genealogical or historical) you can contact us at 403-260-2785 or by email at

We’d love to see you at either or both of these programs. Come down for the day, there is a lot going on in and around the Central library on Saturdays and there are some really great eateries in the vicinity. Make it a day of genealogy. Hope to see you soon.

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Calgary Brewing and Malting - Follow-Up

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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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.

New Digital Collection

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

CHFH Digital Library

You may have noticed a new link in the Photos section on the left side of the page. We are pleased to launch our new Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection that will include Postcards from the Past, Virtual Tours of Historic Calgary and Calgary's Heritage Homes. These links will be taken down in the near future. The new collection will include lots more Alison Jackson photographs and a new set of photographs, from Judith Umbach, which highlights some of the major construction projects in the city (this is Calgary, after all, and our official bird is the construction crane!)

This new collection focuses on the built history of Calgary. The Alison Jackson photographs will be familiar to those of you who visited our Virtual Tours of Historic Calgary and Calgary's Heritage Homes. The Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection will contain information from both of these series but will add the rest of the Alison Jackson photographs.

The Judith Umbach collection is a relatively new addition. In 2005, Ms Umbach donated 800 photographs documenting the construction or renovation of well-known facilities in the downtown core and the Crescent Heights area. This is an important collection which will provide visual evidence of the development, architecture and construction taking place in this period our history.

Postcards from the Past includes nearly 2000 picture postcards of Calgary and Alberta. In addition to providing clues to the appearance of structures long since gone, the postcards provide an interesting insight into the history of the area and the people who settled here.

This is a very exciting time for us in the Community Heritage and Family History department. We have been preparing for the launch of this very important collection for a very long time. The new Digital Collection will allow us (and you, of course) to search across these three series and find pictures that cover different time spans. For example, you will be able to search for the Burns Mansion and find postcards from early in the 20th century when the house was built, a photograph from just prior to its demolition, pictures of the Colonel Belcher Hospital which stood nearby, and pictures of the Sheldon Chumir Centre that now stands on the site.

The link to the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection is on the left side of the page or follow the link below. Spend some time exploring this wonderful resource and let us know your thoughts. We'd love to hear your stories about Calgary.

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