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Towns that Moved

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1834

In my last entry I talked about the coming of the railway into the Prairie Provinces and the effect that had on settlement. As I was researching some of the small towns in Alberta for our presentation for Historic Calgary Week, “Wish you were here,” I discovered that the coming of the railway had a very profound effect on some settlements. In fact, the announcement of the route of the railway caused the denizens of quite a few towns to pack up and move, buildings and all.

One such town was Castor Alberta. It was started one mile from where it is now and was known as Williston. The site of the town was sold and homes and businesses were moved to the rail line. It’s new location at the railhead for the district east almost to the Saskatchewan border led to booming enterprise. A postcard which dates to around 1910-1914 says it all: “More business is done in Castor in one day sometimes than in Waterford in a week. It supplies a country one hundred miles east, forty miles south, twenty miles north and five west. More than Boston city?” Castor was the distribution centre for building materials for towns such as Coronation and Hanna. Sandstone was plentiful in the area and the town boasted many fine sandstone buildings.

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National Hotel, Castor

Postcards from the Past, PC 488

Another town that moved was Wainwright. It started its life when an ex-policeman from Winnipeg, J. H. Dawson, invested $50,000 in land and other concerns in the area in 1906. He built a stable and a rooming house and soon other buildings sprang up. In 1908, however, the Grand Trunk Railway surveyed a town site 2 ½ miles west and named it Wainwright after William Wainwright, the second Vice President of the Company. The buildings were all moved to the new site, including the hotel which was pulled along the railway grade by a team of horses. By 1909 Wainwright was incorporated as a village. An indication of the effect the coming of the railway had on this little town, was that the first new building built was an Immigration Hall to handle the influx of settlers. You can see the old Wainwright Hotel at Heritage Park in Calgary.

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Wainwright Hotel, Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1289

Possibly the most famous town that moved was Bankhead. The town was founded in 1903 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, to provide homes for the miners who worked in the nearby Pacific Coal mines. C.P.R. needed coal from the area to drive its steam locomotives but the coal was of an inferior quality and the mines were wracked by labour unrest. They closed in 1922 and many of the residents chose to move, house and all, to Banff, seven kilometers down the road. What was left behind is still visited by tourists who want to see the remains of the most famous “Town that moved”.

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Bankhead Coal Mines

Postcards from the Past, PC 1348

Information on these and many other towns in Alberta can be found in the library. The Community Heritage and Family History collection houses a vast collection of local histories, but copies can often be found in the borrowing collection as well. And if you'd like to see pictures of these towns, you can access them through the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library by clicking on the link in the left hand column of this page.


by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1224

Lethbridge Viaduct

Postcards from the Past, PC 1224

I’ve just gotten back from my vacation during which I indulged my passion for all things railroad. I walked part of the Trans Canada Trail on Vancouver Island to the magnificent Kinsol Trestle. The railroad holds a special place in my heart – my family came out west to B.C. to work for the railways; working first as labourers in the building of the Kettle Valley railway, then as trainmen, driving those same rails.

So, when I was casting about for a suitable topic for this blog I thought about trains. We have a lot of very lovely postcards of trains, stations, tunnels, bridges, even train wrecks. The one in this entry is of a train crossing the Lethbridge Viaduct Bridge (or High Level Bridge). If you would like to read about this bridge, we have a book in our collection about it: The C.P. Rail High Level Bridge at Lethbridge.

The railroad was very important to the settlement of the west. The transcontinental railway made access to the lands of what would become Alberta and Saskatchewan much easier. The Canadian Pacific Railway, granted 25 million acres of prairie land as part of the deal to build the railway, encouraged settlers to come out and purchase some of that land. They also realized that tourism to the scenic Rocky Mountains was another way to generate revenue and they began a campaign to promote the travel to the Banff area. They sent photographers to capture the wonders of the area, and many of these photos were turned into postcards, some of which can be viewed in the Community Heritage and Family History digital library. (Use ‘banff’ as the search term.)

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Banff Springs Hotel

Postcards from the Past, PC 976

Kolb's Restaurant

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Kolb's Restaurant (Western Canada's Most Sanitary Building)

Postcards from the Past, PC 987

This year, once again, we were thrilled to be asked to prepare a presentation for Historic Calgary Week. We love to be a part of this great celebration of our city’s history for many reasons, not the least of which is the chance we get to use some of our great photo collections to tell stories of the history of the city and province. This year we presented a history of immigration and settlement in Alberta and we included a brief history of postcards in that presentation.

One of the aspects of postcards that we looked at was their use as advertising tools. We picked the one in this entry because we thought it was kind of funny that a restaurant would advertise itself as having the most “sanitary restaurant building.” What we didn’t know at the time was the fascinating history of the man who owned that restaurant, Eddie Kolb.

Edward William “Eddie” Kolb was born in 1880 in Cincinnati. He was a baseball fanatic but his team, the Cleveland Spiders, was widely acknowledged to be the worst team in baseball (a title they still hold.)

The story goes that the last game of the season, the 2nd game of a doubleheader after a season where they had lost 134 games, a hotel cigar boy named Eddie Kolb was given a shot at pitching for his team in exchange for a box of cigars. He gave up 19 runs. Thus began and ended the major league baseball career of Eddie Kolb.

It didn’t dampen his enthusiasm, however, and he continued his involvement in baseball. Eventually, though, Eddie ended up in Calgary and opened a successful restaurant two doors down from the Palace Theatre. He ran this restaurant for 22 years until the Great Depression. Jeffrey Williams, in his book Far From Home: A Memoir of a 20th Century Soldier“ tells the rest of the story:

“The staff at Eaton’s included several who would not have been there but for the Depression. To me at the time, the most tragic was Mr. Kolb. When I was a small boy, I w as taken to his elegant restaurant for dinner with my mother, but in the 1930s people could no longer afford to eat in places like his and it had closed. Now, in his fifties, he was working as a salesman in the shoe department.

One morning I went into the cafeteria in the basement for coffee. Mr. Kolb was behind the counter, peering into urns, sniffing at Danish pastries and tasting the cream in a dispenser. Here was a different man from the quiet shoe salesman.

Eaton’s cafeteria had been losing in popularity to Picardy’s across the street and Mr. Swann had asked Kolb to advise. Within a week, a remarkable change had taken place. At the end of the month the cafeteria was making a useful profit and Mr. Kolb was back to the shoe department. I knew that Eaton’s were not exploiting him…His salary as a shoe salesman was higher than that of the manageress of the cafeteria. Even if it had not been, I doubt that he could ever have reconciled the clatter and breezy service of the coffee shop with the memory of the crystal-chandeliered restaurant which had once been his” (p. 102)

Mr. Kolb would eventually become involved in the development of the Turner Valley oilfields and became the first secretary of the Alberta Petroleum Association. He died in Calgary in 1949.

The Burns Building - A Success Story

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Burns Building, ca. 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 453

Sometimes it feels like we want to knock down anything that isn’t shiny and new in this city. But there have been some notable success stories, of buildings that have survived the wrecker's ball. One that I get to look at every day is the Burns Building.

Patrick Burns, Alberta’s Cattle King, engaged the firm Hodgson, Bates and Beattie (incidentally, Hodgson and Bates designed the administration building on the Calgary Brewing and Malting site) to design a building for a piece of land that he had owned since 1909. The beautiful terra cotta clad building was completed in early 1913 and hailed as “Calgary’s finest business block.” Burns’ meat market occupied the ground floor and the upper floors housed a veritable “Who’s who” of Calgary businessmen.

However by the late 1970s the Burns Building was in the paper again, but without the same accolades. Mayor Rod Sykes was nearly beaned by a piece of terra cotta falling from the old, neglected building. The city took it over as part of the site for the new Civic Arts Complex. Eventually the building was deemed a fire hazard and its demolition seemed a foregone conclusion. Concerned citizens and a few aldermen fought for preservation but it was believed that the rehabilitation of the building would be too expensive. Others felt that the constraints placed on the Civic Arts Centre by the necessity of maintaining the both old Public Building and the Burns Building were too restrictive. Mayor Ross Alger lobbied hard for demolition, but lost by a single vote in 1980. Extensive restoration and renovations were done between 1981 and 1984 and the building was declared a Provincial Heritage Resource in 1987.

I can’t imagine the streetscape down here without that jewel of a building.

For information on the history of the Burns Building, you can visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you search for the postcard of the Burns Building, you will find a "Cornerstones" article written by our staff which includes more information about the building and its history. We also have a clippings file on "Buildings - Conservation and Restoration" that includes newspaper articles about the controversy over the building. You can also look for information on Pat Burns himself in our library catalogue. From the homepage, click on "Catalogue" in the black bar at the top of our webpage and then click on "Power Search". Type"Burns, Patrick" (without the quotation marks) into the text box and use the drop down menu to select "Subject". Click on Search and you are on your way.