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Calgary Board of Education Celebrates 125 Years

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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New Central School (later James Short School) 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 854

In the next few years we are going to see a plethora of anniversaries being celebrated. The years at the beginning of the 20th century were a boom time for Calgary. Between the 1901 census and the 1911 census, the population of Calgary grew from around 4000 to around 44, 000. With the population growth came the establishment of important and lasting institutions and the construction of many fine buildings. The Calgary Public Library was built in 1911 and officially opened on the first day of 1912. The beautiful sandstone City Hall building was completed. In 1912 we celebrated our first Stampede. The street railway, our first transit system, was built in 1909. The period between 1900 and 1912 was one of major importance in the building of our city.

One organization, however, was already celebrating a significant anniversary in 1910. By that year the Calgary Board of Education was already 25 years old. On March 2, 1885 the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 was formed by an order of the Executive Council of the North West Territories. A school had existed in Calgary before this time but it was funded through subscription, not through taxation. At the time of its formation, the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 had 70 students and met in a small building on 9th Avenue and 5th Street SE. In no time the size of the student population had overwhelmed the school and space was rented on the second floor of a building on 8th Avenue E. owned by I.S. Freeze.

The student population continued to grow and the Board was forced to issue a debenture for the construction of a purpose-built school in 1887, which would become Central School, on 1st Street W north of 5th Avenue. By 1893, it, too, was overcrowded. Throughout these early years of its existence, the board was plagued by a shortage of classroom space necessitating the rental of rooms in various locations including the Alberta Hotel. In 1893 plans were put in place to build a new school, which would be called the South Ward School.

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South Ward School, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 23 13

Growth continued to be matched by the growth of the student population and, therefore, a growth in the school system. Some of those magnificent sandstone schools were built to meet the demand of the burgeoning population. We have pictures of many of those schools in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, which can be accessed through the link on the left. We also have some very good histories of education in Calgary, such as From Slate Pencil to Instant Ink and From Slate to Computer by McLennan. We also have the 1906 annual report of the newly formed Province of Alberta, Department of Education. These are all available in the Community Heritage and Family History Room at the Central Library. The Calgary Board of Education has put up a really good PowerPoint presentation about some of their historic schools. You can see it at this link:

Happy Anniversary CBE. Here’s wishing you another 125 years.

Celebrating the Bow

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Light up the Bow

River of Light, by D. Hayes

August 21, 2010

This summer, Calgarians have been invited to celebrate the beautiful river that runs through our city. As part of the City’s commitment to protect and sustain our natural resources, including our rivers, an innovative public art project was launched that involved six artists each directing a project to allow citizens and visitors to reflect on the beauty and significance of the Bow River. One of the projects, River of Light, wrapped up on Saturday with a unique show, as hundreds of lighted spheres were released to float down the river from Edworthy Park to the lagoon at Prince’s Island. I watched this water-borne procession from the Bow River pathway, near the osprey nest in Broadview Park. The display was beautiful and I was happy to be a part of a very large crowd of people who had gathered to pay homage to the river that has been described as “the spine” of our city. If you want to read more about this project, which was designed by Createmosphere, you can visit the blog at

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View from Mount Pleasant, ca. 191_

Postcards from the Past, PC 267

As the Celebration of the Bow has revealed, when people look at the Bow, they see different things. For example, “when lumberman Isaac Kerr looked at the river, he saw a city” (The River Returns by Armstrong, Evenden and Nelles). Watching the spheres float, and noticing the speed of their travel and the efforts by the kayakers to keep the flow going, I was reminded of the log drives that, every spring, brought trees from west of the city to the sawmill of the Eau Claire Lumber Company, founded by Kerr and Peter Prince. While log drives are not as artistically pleasing as a flotilla of lighted orbs, they are beautiful in their own way. (I loved the song “Log Driver’s Waltz” as recorded by the McGarrigles and animated by John Weldon for the NFB.)

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Log Jam on the Bow River, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past, PC 141

I was always astonished that we had a lumber industry here in Calgary. There are very few trees in this city that were not planted by the inhabitants but because of the rich forests that lay to the west and the mighty Bow River, which provided the perfect transportation system, Calgary was the lumber supplier to the area, and Eau Claire Lumber was the major player. You can see photos of the Eau Claire Lumber Company and its companion company, the Calgary Water Power Company, in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. There is an excellent chapter on the lumber industry in Calgary called “The Wooden River” in the book The River Returns, which is available at many of the branches of the Calgary Public Library. There is also a history of the Eau Clair Lumber Company written by T. M. Schulte based on the reminiscences of an employee of the company, Theodore Strom. It is in the Local History room, call Lumber 333.7932 SCH.

Documents from the Eau Claire Lumber Company are at the Glenbow. You can view the timber surveys online from this finding aid:

I have always lived within walking distance of the Bow and I am delighted by this initiative to celebrate its importance to the city. Please feel free to share your comments about your feelings for the Bow by clicking on the Comments link, then on “Click here to join”. You will become a member of our online community and will be able to post comments on anything you read here.

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.

The Plus 15 Walkway System

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach photograph

Plus 15 to Penny Lane, 5 St & 8 Ave SW

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Calgary’s Plus 15 System is synonymous with the downtown core. It is an extensive 16 kilometer public skywalk network of 57 bridges, designed to protect pedestrians from inclement weather and help reduce congestion on the streets. To get a better sense of how large the Plus 15 System really is, if you could rearrange all the skywalks into a straight line the walkway would be longer than 159 football fields placed end-to-end. Harold Hanen, who is “credited with being the father of Calgary’s plus-15 system” [“Striving for an affinity,” Calgary Herald, Sept 23, 1984], designed the network of 15 ft high walkways - hence the name Plus 15 - in the late 1960s.


The first official Plus 15 bridge, which connects the Westin Hotel to Calgary Place across 4th Avenue S.W [PAM FILE 388.41 CAL 1999], was built in 1970. However, this bridge was not the first pedestrian bridge built in Calgary. The first pedestrian bridge in Calgary is thought to be a bridge that connected the New Calgary Market (129 – 7th Avenue SW) to the Arcade on 8th Avenue [“Calgary Stock Exchange,”

If you are interested in learning more about the Plus 15 system, including the project’s architect Harold Hanen, the library has a wealth of resources for you to consult. We have a newspaper clippings file, local history books, pamphlet files, and historical maps of the Plus 15 system, as well as biography clippings file on Harold Hanen. In addition, we have historical photographs of the Plus 15 System in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. I found the map “1987 Calgary - Downtown Business Area” (Calg 34) to be particularly interesting as it shows what businesses were in the buildings connected by the Plus 15 system in 1987, as well as proposed Plus 15 & C-Train routes. For instance, did you know that there was a Plus 15 connecting a Dairy Queen to the Chevron Plaza on 5th Ave and 4th St S.W. in 1987?

(Photograph of the Arcade is from:

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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