An Historic look at Hounsfield Heights by Marg McCready
Hounsfield Heights is the NE ¼ of Sec. 20, Township 24, Range 1, West of the 5th meridian. A Canada Territories Certificate of Ownership for this piece was issued on 7 Oct. 1889 to Eva MacKay Sutherland, wife of Robert. She sold it to George Alexander, Barrister and Henry B. Alexander, rancher on 12 July, 1890. It was purchased by Georgiana Jane Hounsfield Riley on 8 July 1902 and annexed by the city in 1910.
When Georgiana died Jan. 4, 1907 she left this property to her sons. According to the 1912 tax roles the property was owned by Newcombe Limited, Real Estate, FarmLands, and City Property. Presumably the lot plan for the area was laid out by them.
In 1912 the land between 16 Street and 19 Street in Hillhurst was prairie. The trails across the prairie converged on 17 St as this was the only road up the hill to the farm houses beyond. Once up the hill there was nothing but rolling prairie. The wind must have been terrific at times. Wind breaks would have been a must.
On June 10, 1910 ‘The Morning Albertan’ featured the headline “HounsfieldHeights; all view lots – an ideal location for an ideal home. Prices quoted were $800 to $1000 for a 50 foot lot – very high prices for the time.
You could go up the hill on Morleyville Trail (10 Street) or 17 Street. The road on 14 Street only went as far as 10th Avenue. Seventeenth St. and 14St. had board sidewalks. Obviously access was very limited and that partially explains the lull in development after the initial 11 houses were built. Another part of the explanation would have been the “bust” which began in 1912 and the economy really didn’t recover until after the second world war. There was one house built in 1920 and only a few over the next 20 years. By the late 40’s development was quite rapid. I don’t imagine there were many cars in the area in 1912 but you will see evidence that possibly horses were kept by some people. Many of the residents such as Alexander Calhoun were great walkers. For many years Ralph McCready walked from 16A St. toMount RoyalCollege at 7 Ave. & 11St. West.
After WW2 the City ofCalgary, to help ease the housing shortage and protect servicemen from speculators, introduced a plan to sell individual lots for half price providing a start was made on a dwelling with a year. This may have been the impetuous for building to start again in HounsfieldHeights. I know of several families who took advantage of this help.
As late as 1951 when I moved into Hounsfield Heights 19 Street did not go down the hill. The only public transportation was on 10 Street or 5th Avenue. The nearest grocery store was Jenkins on the corner of 14 St and 20 Ave. The local children went to theUniversity Demonstration School which was at SAIT and every spring there was a regular creek running down the east side of 14 St. Some father would go out and put boards across so the kids could cross safely on their way to and from school. I did not go to UDS because classes sizes were limited, I went to Hillhurst Junior High. Some of the neighbours would pick me up on the way home for lunch which I greatly appreciated. It was quite difficult hiking up the hill twice a day in the winter. Going down was easy. Winter driving got quite exciting at times. I remember once the only way my Dad could get home was up Center Street and then across 16 Ave.
Between 15 St and 16 St, north of 13 Avenue there was a natural slough which the Dads of the area decided would make a good skating rink. The city co-operated with a street light, power and water for flooding. The Dads also built a hut where we could put our skates on. In February of 1952 we had a skating carnival with prizes for best costume and hot dogs. It was a wonderful day.
In 1951 improvements like curbs and gutters, sidewalks, grading and gravelling of roads began. The assessment charge for a 62.5 foot lot was: curb and gutter $19.90 / year, concrete sidewalk $33.48 per year, Grading and gravelling $12.00 per year. The tax bill in 1952 was city and school taxes $53.75, local improvement and special tax $88.41 per year for a total of $242.16.
I am amazed that across the street from my home, virtually the centre of the city, there is virgin prairie. The hillside has many underground springs. Many years ago a basement was dug on 17A St part way up the hill and it immediately filled with water. As children this provided us with endless fun, catching tadpoles etc. and in the winter it made tobogganing pretty exciting if you didn’t steer properly. Crocuses and shooting stars were abundant. Some people kept horses in the field during the clement months. The community has guarded this area zealously over the years and it is now dedicated parkland. My grandchildren are the 3rd generation of McCreadys to hike through this prairie to go to Queen Elizabeth School.
The nearest library in 1951 was on Kensington Road where Pages Book Store is. A favourite Saturday activity was to go as a group to exchange our books. We roamed the prairie trapping gophers and making up all sorts of imaginative games. We played Kick the Can, Hide and Seek and anything else that kept us active from sunup to sundown. No worries about obese children in those days.
The Polio epidemics in the 50’s were very trying times. Movie theatres were closed, swimming pools were closed but we had the prairie isolated from the crowds. Dr. Willard Allen and Dr. Huxley Johnson Jr. both contracted the terrible disease. Sadly Dr. Johnson did not recover.
The Hounsfield Heights Community Association was founded in 1949. In 1952 it joined with an interested group from Briar Hill to form the Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill Community Association which was incorporated in 1953. A community hall was built in 1956.