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City Hall Celebrates its 100th Anniversary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

pc 1349

Calgary City Hall, ca. 1911

Postcards from the Past, PC 1349

Calgary’s Old City Hall turned 100 years old yesterday. It must have been a very exciting time in Calgary and although the newspaper coverage of the opening was somewhat lackluster, it did include the following message from Robert Borden, then leader of the Opposition. He wrote:

“Pray convey to the citizens of Calgary my warmest thanks for the most civil and generous reception which was accorded me today.”

He toured the new city hall and gave a speech that evening at Sherman’s Auditorium Rink. He believed, he said, that the number of people in the auditorium exceeded the entire population of the city at the time of his last visit in 1902. It was estimated that 6000 people attended his speech.

In 1911 Calgary was a city to be reckoned with. The economy was booming. Reports in the paper indicate that the city was going to triple the water supply with the addition of more gravity feed supply pipes. A group of businessmen, eager to have a street car line in their neighbourhood, had offered to build 11 miles of track, running from the Cushing Bridge to the edge of Hubalta and back again, and donate it to the city. Boosters from Spokane were on their way to promote their city in Calgary and to see this wonder of the west. The Calgary Auto Club was in full swing and preparing for their first trip through the Crowsnest Pass into the Kootenay Valley. In order to accomplish this, they would need to ship gasoline ahead to ensure there would be an adequate supply.

As the city grew, so too, did the speculation on land. Numerous ads were place looking for buyers for lots in the new areas, such as Sunalta and Capitol Hill. You could get 4 corner lots in Sunalta for $4800.00. Or, if you wanted to move up to the North Hill, a lot could be had in Capitol Hill for $260.00. However, if you felt flush and wanted to live on the same street as some of Calgary’s more illustrious families, you could by a 9 room house on 13th Avenue for $10,000. It did include a stable in the back and, the ad said, would make a great rooming house. This was not, obviously, the purchase for the everyday man. Wages for a bonded cashier were $100 per month (and you were required to post the $500 cash bond yourself).

While all of this was going on, the police in Edmonton were confronting bands of demonstrating socialists. They had had to quiet 7 demonstrations by these “rabble rousers” in the past month. The socialists went before a judge, claiming they were “less a nuisance than the Salvation Army” who was allowed to hold public meetings on the street with no problems from the police.

Of course, like all Calgary’s booms, this one would not last. We did come out of it, though, with a beautiful new City Hall. Happy birthday, old girl.

If you would like to see a tour of the beautiful old building, you can watch this video, hosted by Heritage Planner Clint Robertson.

And if you are interested in the clock, you can take a tour of the clock tower at this url:

AJ 30-08

Calgary City Hall, 1958

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 30-08

What's in a Name?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Entrance to the harbour

Entrance to the Harbour

"From Old Books" website

As mentioned before on this blog, your library card allows you in-branch access to Ancestry Library Edition. While this is a wonderful database for genealogy, Ancestry LE isn't just useful for family research. This database can also be used for researching the origins of items or documents. Do you have a signed painting or a cross-stitched sampler with a name on it? Or have you inherited an autograph book, or a photograph or postcard with writing on the back? With a little digging, you may be able to find out more about the item, and about its original owner. Ancestry LE can also be used for researching notable individuals if you are writing a book or a paper, or if you are just nosy like me. (Or "inquisitive", if you prefer). Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Charles Dickens, The Bronte’s, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde, and Charlie Chaplin all appear on census records available through the database. On the 1861 census for England, Queen Victoria appears as "Victoria R", and her household includes three and a half census pages of servants, including a "coffee room maid"!

But back to researching objects. We have a small book in our Local History collection; Solitary Hunter or Sporting Adventures on the Prairies by John Palliser, published in London in 1859. I picked up this book one day to see what it was about, and inside the book, in elegant handwriting, is the inscription:

Hubert Heath Sabben

with Papa's and Mama's Love,

April 25th, 1862

And at the top of the page, written in pencil by a child, it says Hart, 1895.

I came across this inscription purely by accident, but this small scrap of information in this little book piqued my interest.

Just who was Hubert Heath Sabben? Was he an early pioneer to Canada? Did he live in England, where the book was published? Did he come to Canada at a later date, bringing his book with him? We aren't sure when this book joined our collection, and there is no indication of how we came to have it, so I thought I'd have a look for him in the Library Edition database. I entered Hubert Heath Sabben's full name, and got several matches for him. According to birth records, Hubert Heath Sabben was born in the June quarter of 1853, at Portsea Island in Hampshire, England. (Some British records are organized in "quarters", or three month periods, so Hubert was born in April, May, or June of 1853.) The inscription April 25, 1862, indicates that the book could have been a gift for Hubert's ninth birthday. It is possible that the elegant handwriting in the book belonged to one of his parents, John or Elizabeth Sabben.

I then checked the census records for Hubert Heath Sabben, and found him in 1861 with his parents and brother, Frederick, in Portsmouth, Hampshire, a naval city on England's south coast.

On the 1871 census, Hubert was 18 years old, and was a navigating midshipman on the ship "Basilisk".

On the 1881 census, Hubert was a navigating lieutenant a ship called the "Crocodile". He is one of a crew of 95 men on that ship.

On the 1891 census, Hubert was a navigating lieutenant on a ship called the "Wye". It was very interesting to note the different ranks and sheer number of men on this ship!

I found a marriage record for Hubert Heath Sabben to Mary Rebecca Hart in the December quarter of 1884, and a record for their son, Hubert Hart Sabben, born in 1885. This is likely the "Hart" whose name is written in the book. Perhaps the book was given to him in 1895 for his tenth birthday.

In the database I was also able to find other records of Hubert Hart Sabben's life, including his name on naval medal rolls and the index for his will in 1904. Ancestry LE also has records for son Hubert Hart Sabben's service in World War I.

Both Sabben men died in England, so I still don't know how this book made its way to the library's collection, but from the information that I was able to find, it appears that Hubert Heath Sabben and his son H. Hart Sabben followed James Palliser's lead, and became adventurers!

Calgary in 1962

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


Locomotive 5934 in Mewata Park, 1962

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0197

I have been in Calgary all of my life. When I was born my parents lived in Killarney and we moved to Glendale when I was 2. For all of my adult life, I have lived within one mile of where I started. I have seen a lot of change in my community. When we first moved to Glendale, the community hall where I would later attend kindergarten had just been built in a ravine which had once been a slough and an active breeding ground for mosquitoes. Now there is a gorgeous community centre and the drainage problem has mostly been taken care of.

It is still a lovely community, though where horses used to graze is now houses and the pile of dirt from the West LRT construction. I am waxing nostalgic for a reason, though. At the Annual General Meeting of the Calgary Heritage Initiative on Wednesday night, we saw a very interesting video. It was “The Living West” a 1962 production of the Calgary Tourist and Convention Association. It shows Calgary as I remember it as a child (for better or for worse, I guess). It was a very young boom town back in ’62. If you’re feeling nostalgic, or are just curious about our city’s roots, check out the video on YouTube:

(The rope swing was out behind St. Mary’s School, in the waste ground that later housed the Talisman Centre – it provided many afternoons of entertainment back in the day.)

And if you are truly in a mood to punish yourself with history, try out Calgary’s official song from the 80s (which admittedly is my least favourite decade). Neighbours of the World was released in 1986 following a national competition. The City of Calgary has recently digitized and made available this interesting piece of our history:

If you remember the old Calgary (or even Calgary in the 80s), keep in mind that the Federation of Calgary Communities is collecting stories of community associations for its 50th Anniversary Magazine. See my earlier posting at for more information about how to get involved.


Highlander Hotel, ca. 1961

Postcards from the Past, PC 1580

Islands in the Stream - Heritage Roundtable

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1603

Calgary Auto Club Camping Grounds on St. Patrick's Island
Postcards from the Past, PC 1603

The Heritage Roundtable on the 23rd of this month is called “Islands in the stream.” Historians Donna Zwicker and John Gilpin and archaeologist Brian Vivian will talk about the islands that dot the Bow River. Donna has been researching Archer’s Island, which I had never heard of before this. You haven’t either? You should join us at Eau Claire Market Community Room on June 23rd at 7:00.

There are lots of little islands in the Bow. Some have become well known, St. George’s, for example, houses the zoo. Prince’s Island started out as being more of an isthmus until Peter Prince blew a channel in the river to allow for easier passage of logs to his mill. St. Patrick’s island, once well used as a tree farm and then a campground, is undergoing a restoration to its original use as parkland, as part of the revitalization of the East Village. There was also a third “Saint” island, St. Andrew’s (the three islands in the Bow were named for the patron saints of the then United Kingdom, St. George of England, St. Patrick of Ireland and St. Andrew of Scotland. A fourth island, St. David’s for Wales was mentioned but no other evidence can be found of its existence. St. Andrew’s island has since disappeared – the lagoon between it and St. Patrick’s was filled in, effectively making them one island.)

Something I learned in my research on islands is that islands belong to the Federal government (or Dominion government, as it was called at the time of Calgary’s founding). The Calgary had to ask the Dominion government for the right to use these islands. The city was deeded the islands for use as parks.

There is a lot to be learned about the islands in our “stream” so I am looking forward to the Heritage Roundtable event. I hope to see you there. To register for the event by calling 403-244-4111 or online at (just select “Roundtables - Islands in the Stream” from the drop-down menu)

PC 1701

St. George's Island

Postcards from the Past, PC 1701