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Vital Conversations, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Mawson City Plan

City Plan, 1914

Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the City by Thomas Mawson

On Friday, in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library, The Calgary Foundation and the Calgary Public Library, with support from the City of Calgary’s Office of Sustainability are hosting a discussion based on issues raised by the 2009 Vital Signs Report. You are invited to come and add your voice to help shape our rapidly changing city. We are interested in building a sustainable city and need your input. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to The Calgary Foundation either through their website or by telephone at 403-802-7719.

This discussion will embrace many topics and certainly one that we must consider, and one that is dear to my heart (this is a heritage focused blog, right) is the importance of sustaining the built heritage of our city. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library is integral to that goal. The mandate of this collection is to preserve and make accessible items relating to the history of Calgary. We have a wide range of resources for people interested in finding out more about their homes, their communities and the way our city has developed.

The collection, itself, is something of an historical artifact. It is as old as the Calgary Public Library. Our first Head Librarian was Alexander Calhoun, a man whose innovative ideas, including tailoring the library collection to the needs of the community, made the Calgary Public Library a dynamic and responsive organization from the day it opened its doors on January 2, 1912. Calhoun was very involved in his community and was very interested in making Calgary a great place to live. The city was facing then, as it is now, unprecedented expansion that saw the city grow from 12,000 people in 1906 to 44,000 in 1912.

Calhoun was a member of the first city planning commission in 1911. It is possible that he heard the presentation by Thomas Mawson, “The city on the plain and how to make it beautiful” which he delivered to the Canadian Club of Canada. The city planners engaged Mawson to make a plan which would see Calgary into its future. They believed the city would reach a population of 1 million by the year 1914. (We never see those "busts" coming, do we?) Mawson’s Plan, called Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the city, is available, along with transcripts of the two speeches he gave in Calgary, in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. If you have never seen it, you must come down and have a look. Our downtown would have looked very different had the planning commission been able to affect any of the changes he suggested. Mawson was very concerned with the way people lived in cities. He was influenced by the City Beautiful movement and the Garden City movement and his plan reflects those influences. It was a very beautiful vision of the future of Calgary. Here is a picture of what he envisoned for the market area of the city.

Market area, Mawson Plan

Mawson’s report is only one of the resources relating to city planning that we have in our collection. We are on the 4th floor of the Central Library (616 Macleod Trail SE). Drop in for a visit.

Brewery Gardens

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 51-08

Disney Themed Display

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 51-08

The days are getting longer. Thanks to a wonderful Chinook things are warming up. Now is the time to think about gardens. OK, so maybe it is a bit early to think about actually gardening in Calgary but I stumbled across this picture of Snow White in the Brewery Gardens and I thought now would be a great time to talk about those particular gardens and what they’ve meant to Calgarians over the years.

The gardens were originally developed in 1932 and were a project of James Cross, the son of A.E.Cross who had taken over management of the Brewery from his father. Originally the plan for the garden was a bit of a make-work effort. In keeping with the Cross family tradition of looking out for their employees and giving back to their community, the gardens were an idea designed to reduce the need for layoffs and to give employees something to do during the Depression. It was a simple design, stands of trees and shrubs and a few flower gardens.

This would all change with the introduction of the fish ponds. James Cross was interested in water. Calgary Brewing and Malting’s slogan for a time was “The water makes the difference, naturally.” Indeed, the brewery was founded where it was because of the presence of an artesian well on the property. Water was important to good beer, and James realized that fish, too, needed clear, clean water to thrive. The symbolism was not lost on James Cross. From 1938 to 1972 a fish hatchery would be operated on the Brewery site. Water, warmed in the brewing process, would be used to sustain the hatchlings and the fish raised at the hatchery were used to populate the ponds and streams in the garden. The hatchery was just the first step in a process that would make the Calgary Brewing and Malting site a community centerpiece. By 1960 the Cross family had opened a large aquarium on the site – the largest inland aquarium in Canada. The second floor was designed to house James’ collection of western memorabilia. This would become the Horseman’s Hall of Fame in 1963.

The gardens themselves would house artifacts. A cabin, believed to be the oldest building in Calgary, was rescued and moved to the gardens in 1933 (see the picture below). Streetcar 14, after completing its final run, was moved for preservation to the site. Its frame was used to build the replica streetcar that runs at Heritage Park.

AJ 21=14

Cabin in Brewery Gardens 1957

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 21-14

The gardens were open to the public and were a very popular spot. In the winter, decorations were put out to make the gardens a year-round attraction. The first photograph shows a Disney-themed display from 1960 as viewed by Alison Jackson, whose collection of photographs can be viewed in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

According to a 1997 Historical Resource Impact Assessment of the site by Ken Hutchinson Architect Ltd. (which is available in the Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library) the structure of the gardens were found to be intact “with the important exceptions that the pools no longer contain water and fish and that the gardens no longer have the floral displays”. The 1875 cabin was still on the site, as was a replica of the original buffalo mascot. The talk surrounding the Calgary Brewing and Malting site has included the possibility of bringing the gardens back to their original state. That would be an interesting development and one many residents of the area (and others) would like to see.

PC 1406

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens

Postcards from the Past, PC 1406

A New Year in a (soon to be) New Country

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 841

Interior of a Newspaper Printing Office, Daysland, Alberta, ca. 1914

Postcards from the Past, 841

Facing another decade in the new millennium, I was pondering, as I often do, the doings of our forebears as they entered a new year and, really, a new era at the beginning of the year that would see the formation of our country. New Year’s Day in 1867 was a Tuesday. The papers were published (at least the Globe and Mail was published) so I was able to read about the goings on in Toronto, Canada West, for that day. What were those hard working, decent people, those solid citizens, up to as they prepared to meet the new year? Well….from the front page of the Globe:


Monday Dec. 31

"…As usual on a Monday morning a considerable number of drunk and disorderly persons came before his Worship.

Michael Blake, 47, drunk, not known to police, was fined $2 and costs, in default 20 days in gaol. …It appeared that he had been found drunk on Church Street, with a considerable amount of money in his pocket, and his Worship thought that it was worth something to him, under the circumstances, to be taken care of by the constables, and so he was made to disgorge.

Margaret Kennedy, 31, vagrant, known to the police, was sent to gaol for 20 days. She …has been going round, book-in-hand, begging, ostensibly for an apocryphal widow named Sophia Shaw. Among others, she bled his Worship to the amount of a couple of dollars. She entered volubly into a history of herself, Sophia Shaw, and their affairs, which narrative was stopped with some difficulty, by the time she had succeeded in mystifying the Court and all present."

Not everyone was whoopin’ it up. The various churches held celebrations in fitting with their “dispositions”. Members of the Methodist congregation prayed out the old year and in the new. St. John’s Church held a midnight service, the bells at St. James were rung from 11:30 PM and military and other bands played.

I can read these articles because the library has a subscription to “Globe and Mail: Canada’s Heritage from 1844” in the E-Library. This is a searchable database and is just one of three historic newspaper subscriptions that we have. We also have “Toronto Star: Pages from the Past” which dates from 1894 and the “Times of London Digital Archive 1785-1985”. These can be of great interest to genealogists researching in the area because they are searchable. I ran a search on one of my family names through the Globe and Mail and found an article about a boy from Norwood who had been kicked in the mouth by a horse. Not necessarily a nice article, but one that contained information about a possible ancestor (yes, weird information but that’s what makes genealogy so interesting.)

You can also use these databases to find details about the life and times of people in the past. Because we don’t have a good index for the Calgary Herald, we often use the Toronto papers when we are looking for dates of significant events, especially in the area of military history. When we find the date of a particular battle, or of the death of a soldier, we can go to the right date of the Herald and look for local coverage.

Newspapers can be gold mines of information for genealogists and historians. Check out our historic newspapers in the E-Library section of the Calgary Public Library homepage. The link is in the black bar at the top of the page. Once you’ve entered the E-Library, choose History and Genealogy from the menu and then, from the menu that comes up, select your newspaper. You will need to enter your Calgary Public Library barcode from the back of your card and your PIN.