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Modern Architecture in Calgary

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 43-06

Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 43-06

We were at the Heritage Roundtable last week where the subject was Calgary’s architectural history. I learned a lot from the presenters, about historic building styles, the amazing resources available at the Canadian Architectural Archives at the U of C and about historic building research. But the talk that really opened my eyes was David Down’s presentation about Calgary’s Modernist architecture. In the course of my research I often see that magnificent old buildings were torn down, especially in the urban renewal schemes of the 1960s and I wonder what could have possessed the planners of the day to allow the destruction of such historic properties. However, I sometimes look at buildings like the Calgary Board of Education across the street from us or the Centennial Planetarium and wonder “how could the planners of the day have allowed those concrete bunkers to be built?” I should really be ashamed of myself, I guess. We often don’t appreciate the things of our day. It is only when we look back, with the advantage of hindsight, that we can see the elegance and beauty of contemporary architecture.

I was exercising my newfound eyes as I rode to work through the West LRT construction. I have watched as the overpass for the train was built, using that very cool mobile crane and the process certainly fascinated me. But looking at the structure itself, I see a kind of elegance and lightness in the fluted pillars and the sculpted concrete of the overpass itself. The pillars, with their delicate reeding, remind me a little of some columns seen in Egypt (like these at Edfu - or maybe I’m just dreaming?) Edfu pillars from iStock

The question was raised about what we will consider “heritage” in the next century. Will we look at the new City Water Services building or the Bow building and see a historic site worth saving or will we ask ourselves: “What on earth were they thinking?” In any case, I am going to find out more about Calgary’s modern architecture by having a look at some of the books we have here on the subject. I think I’ll start with Calgary Modern, 1947-1967 by Geoffrey Simmins and Calgary Architecture: the Boom Years, 1972-1982 by Pierre Guimond. Both are available in the CHFH collection on the 4th floor at the Central Library as well as in the regular collection.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 14-06

"Rosscarrock" William J. Tregillus Residence

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 14-06

I’ve written before about the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (you can see the previous entry by clicking here) It is a resource that we library folk have always relied on to provide authoritative biographical information about Canadians. For years we used it in its paper form so we were overjoyed when it went online. In almost all of my genealogy presentations I point out the value of national biographies for genealogists and historians. They contain well-researched articles about notable people in a country’s history. The ability to search such a resource online is a great advantage. Online searching provides access to all the names in the entry, not just that of the principal subject. Anyone mentioned in an article will come up in a search. You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography through the “E-Library” link on the Calgary Public Library homepage. Just click on “History and Genealogy” to see the menu.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography turned 50 last year. The Supervisory Editor, Willadean Leo, will be at the University of Calgary, in the History Department, Social Sciences Building room 623 at 12:30 on Wednesday November 24th to give a talk about this venerable resource, its history and plans for the future. She will present examples of completed biographies, talk about some of Western Canada’s famous and infamous DCB subjects and talk about some of the biographies that are underway.

This will be a most informative lecture, one I’m sure many genealogists, biographers and historians will be interested to hear. Come and share your ideas for DCB s next half century. I hope to see you all there.

AJ 0848

Headstone of Sam Livingston, at Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0848

John Snow

by Christine L Hayes

John Snow House

John Snow was a man of many accomplishments. He was born in Vancouver in 1911 but moved with his family to England where they rode out World War I. His family returned when he was eight and moved to Olds. At seventeen he joined the Royal Bank of Canada, where he would work until his retirement in 1971, with time taken out for service in the RCAF and RAF during World War II. These stints in the air force gave him the opportunity to see the world and its great museums. This would nourish and influence John’s artistic side and this is why we know John Snow.

In addition to his accomplishments as a banker and a soldier, he was a great artist. He had absorbed the European modernist approaches, and his desire to see art accessible to all people led him to printmaking. He was great friends with the architect Maxwell Bates, with whom he had studied life drawing after the war. They salvaged a couple of lithograph presses and began experimenting with printmaking. They essentially taught themselves an art form that was stagnant at best and breathed new life into the medium.

Snow’s work would apply his European influences to prairie subjects and express them in a new and contemporary way. The studio he established in his basement was, at one time, the only facility of its kind outside of educational institutions in Western Canada.

In addition to his own work, Snow printed images for other artists in including Bates and Illingworth Kerr. Due in no small part to John Snow, Alberta is regarded internationally as a centre of printmaking. In addition to his talents as a printmaker, John was an accomplished painter and sculptor. He also helped form the Calgary Film Society in the 1940s. John Snow was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1996. He passed away in 2004.

His spirit, however, lives on. His house, which was built in 1912 and purchased by John in 1951, was purchased after his death by Jackie Flanagan, who used it to house artists of another medium, those involved in the Markin Flanagan Distinguished Writers Program. In 2008 the house was offered to The New Gallery. They successfully lobbied for zoning changes to allow them to house their Resource Centre, offices and a multi-use cultural space. The official opening of the John Snow House is this Friday at 7:00. Check out their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=10805587592822)The house itself was named a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003. You can find out more about the building at Calgary Heritage Initiative (http://www.calgaryheritage.org/documents/JohnSnowHouse.pdf)

Cow Town/Punk Town

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Album Cover

The Golden Calgarians - It's Fun to Be Alive

From the Author's Collection

I may be showing my age here, but punk rock meant a lot to me. I had the misfortune to have missed golden era of counter-culture rock, I was still a pup when The Beatles broke up and the Rolling Stones had gone all “Emotional Rescue” on us. We were mired in glittering lights and Saturday Night Fever. But then my brother came home from university with a bootleg Ramones tape and my life gained new meaning.

I was lucky that I lived in Calgary. Young people are often shocked to learn that conservative old Calgary was once a hotbed of punk music. We saw the best bands and we produced some of the great Canadian punk rock bands. Do you remember The Golden Calgarians? The keyboardist from that band will be coming to talk about this city’s punk rock past. With him will be Lori Hahnel, local author and founding member of the all-girl band The Virgins. She will read from her novel, Nothing Sacred, which draws on her punk rock background and evokes very vivid memories of that time and place.

Because punk was a new kind of music, perceived to be violent and anti-establishment, a lot of the venues available for shows were the older, seedier hotels such as The Calgarian, The New Noble and The National. Kids with Mohawks and multiple piercings would invade the space occupied by the old fellers and good ole boys. I gained an appreciation for the old hotels and their gloomy bars and probably spent more time in them than was healthy. Maybe it was this that led to my interest in old buildings? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Cow Town/Punk Town is just one of the many programs we are offering on our Heritage Weekend, November 6 and 7, at the Central Library. Check it out on our website http://calgarypubliclibrary.com/programs.aspx - just type ‘heritage weekend’ into the keywords search and you will pull up all the programs we are offering. You can also register in person at your local library branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620. Hope to see you there.

AJ 1326

Calgarian Hotel

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, detail from AJ 1326