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The Times (and our Website) They are a' Changin'

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Cecil Hotel, 1912

Postcards from the Past PC 947

You’ve probably noticed by now that we have changed our website. Moving to a new website is very similar to moving to a new house. Stuff gets moved around. If you’re here, you have already found where the blogs are living. The new website puts the newest blog entries, no matter which blog they are from, at the top of the list. For the others you can click on the “Blogs” heading and you will see a list of all of them.

Another thing that has changed is the location of our digital library link. It used to be on the Calgary Public Library front page and was available from the Community Heritage and FamilyHistory blog as well. Now to find it you need to click on the link Books and More, where we’re listed in the main menu and in the menu along the left side of the page. As well, if you’re checking out some databases in the E-Library, there is a link to Community Heritage and Family History on the left hand side. The link will take you to the digital library and the blog.

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Burns Block, 1964

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 83-14

Once you go the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library you will see that we have changed that a bit, too. You can still find all the great pictures from the Alison Jackson and Judith Umbach collections and Postcards from the Past, but the interface is a little easier to use and offers some options that we didn’t have before. You will see that you can browse thumbnails of each set of pictures without having to leave the landing page. Click on the arrows to advance the images and get an idea of what is in each collection. You can view larger images by clicking on the name of the collection you want to view and using the arrows to roll the pictures back and forth. You will also see a list of new additions to the collection, on the right side of the page. (You can also subscribe to the RSS feeds and be notified of any updates. )

When you’re in the home page for each collection, you can perform a search which will limit your results to that set of pictures only. Also notice that if you want to narrow your search, there is the capacity to search within your results. If at this point, you want to change your search, though, you will have to change the drop-down menu beside the search box to “New Search.” (I found that one out by accidentJ)

The advanced search has also been upgraded to allow a lot more search parameters to be entered such as date, format or photographer just to name a few. This is a vast improvement and allows you to home in on the image you are looking for. This makes our wonderful pictures much more accessible and now you have no excuse not to look at the great stuff we have in our digital collection. Give it a whirl!

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York Hotel, before the removal of the facade, 2006

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Update on St. Patrick’s Church

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

St. Patrick

St. Patrick's Church, 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 08-16

I was thrilled to receive an email from a colleague who is involved with the St. John Chrysostom Russian Orthodox Church. This is a relatively new parish, which was founded in 2008. The partner church of St. Patrick’s, the Anglican St. Paul’s, offered the parish a home in their restored little church but the St. John’s parish kept growing and has outgrown the little church. The very good news is that the Catholic diocese has given the members of St. John’s permission to rehabilitate the church and use it for an extended period. This is very good news. They have been in contact with the Historic Places Research and Designation Program and are very keen to get to work on restoring the church.

St. Patrick’s was the cause of much despair in the heritage community. It has been neglected for many years and was at very high risk of falling into “demolition by neglect” or of being burned down by vandals. The little church had the dubious distinction of being on Canada’s 10 most endangered buildings list in 2008 in spite of the fact that it had been designated a provincial historic resource. There were many heroic efforts made to do something to save the building, which had been the parish of Father Lacombe from 1909 (or 1906 in some accounts) until his death in 1916. As recently as March, concerns were being raised about the future of the building (see our previous posting at

With the news from the Russian Orthodox community we can all breathe a little easier. If you are interested in finding our more about this project, you can contact the parish at (403) 257-4899 with your questions or to offer your support. There is also a Facebook page ( and a YouTube video ( with more pictures and information.

Grafitti on the interior walls of St. Patrick

Cleaning St. Patrick

Parish members removing grafitti from the interior of St. Patrick's Church

Courtesy the Parish of St. John Chrysostom

RETROactive - a New Heritage Blog

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Barnhart Apartments, 1121 6th Street SW

Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1996

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Alberta’s Historic Places Stewardship Program has a new blog. It is called RETROactive: Blogging Alberta’s Historic Places and covers all the activities of the Historic Places Program including the research and designation program, the Alberta Main Street program, the conservation advisory program and the geographical names program, among others. These are the folks who evaluate and designate sites for historic significance. Their blog can help us understand the process of evaluation, answer questions about conservation and make us aware of some very neat places in our province. It’s a great blog for anyone interested in history, owners of historic properties, and explorers of this great province of ours. Some recent postings have been about three new historic designations, (McDonald Stopping House in Smoky Lake County, the Red Brick School in Didsbury and the West Canadian Collieries site in Crowsnest) including information about their significance to Alberta History, an entry about place names in Alberta, and an article about the village of Holden. Of course, because this is a blog, you can post your own stories about the sites they cover, or add your comments to the discussion of heritage in the province. They also have a link to their photographs (and they are quite beautiful) on Flickr so you can see what some of these places look like.

You can visit this blog at and sign up for an email subscription or click on the link to their Facebook page and follow them that way. However you do it, this is a valuable resource for people who have an interest in Alberta’s history.

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Charles Ora Card Home, 337 Main Street, Cardston

Designated a Provincial Historic Resource in 1978

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0153

Heritage Matters

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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CNR Station Decorated for Queen's Visit, July 1959

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 34-04

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

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

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

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Paget Hall, 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 1045

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

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