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House History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 5213th Avenue looking east

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

On Saturday May 12, we will be presenting a workshop, with an archivist from the City of Calgary Archives, on how to research the history of your house. We have done these before, but this time we are happy to be giving the presentation as part of an initiative called “Century Homes.” What we want to do is to encourage people to research the stories of their homes. Your house doesn't have to be 100 years old for you to attend, but we would like people who do have a home that was built in or before 1915 to look into the Century Homes initiative (http://www.centuryhomes.org/). Doing house research is kind of like doing genealogy, but much, much less complicated (houses don't move, change their names or hide from the law, for the most part). Between the members of the Heritage Triangle, we hold vast amounts of information about homes and the people who lived in them.

Calgary experienced a building boom in the early part of the 20th century and there are still plenty of houses around from that era. If you own one of them, you can get a kit from Century Homes to help you make a yard sign. You will be asked to put up the sign during Historic Calgary Week (Friday July 27 through to Monday August 6) The information you gather about your house will be archived here at the Calgary Public Library so we will have a record of your house. As I like to tell people, history is made by the people like you and me – the very people who lived in your house. (My colleagues will tell you I beat this topic like a rented mule) Your home doesn’t have to be a massive sandstone pile to have historic value. Cities are built by the folks in the three room cottages, the tiny bungalows and the once grand multi –stories converted to boarding houses. So, think about participating in this very exciting initiative. Researching your house is not an onerous job – there are lots of sources and there are people to help you use them. And I want to stress that, while your home has to be 100 years old or thereabouts, to be considered a Century Home, there is lots of information available for people whose houses are younger. Join us to find out how to get started with your own home's unique story.

Registration for the May 12 program will begin on April 23.

Century Homes Logo

Bridges

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 226

Centre Street Bridge, pre 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 226

Well, after much controversy, many delays and a healthy dose of skepticism, the Peace Bridge is scheduled to officially open this Saturday with a celebration including the blessing of the bridge by a First Nations elder – suitable, as the confluence of these rivers had long been a meeting spot for the people living in this part of the country.

The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava, the architect chosen to design the train station which will be part of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site in New York. He also designed two beautiful bridges that span the River Liffey in Dublin, one of my very favourite cities. Both are named for famous Irish authors (James Joyce and Samuel Beckett) and are beautiful additions to that city. But I digress. Our Calatrava bridge was faced with much nay saying and continual back and forth between proponents of the unique structure and those who felt the money could be better spent. Because I am a history buff, this called to mind the foofaraw over the Centre Street Bridge (of course there has to be a tie to something in the past, right?)

The part of the city north of the Bow had been settled long before it was part of the city. In fact, the area just beyond the Langevin was the red light district for Calgary because it actually fell outside of the jurisdiction of the city police. For people living on the north side of the Bow, it was imperative that they have a decent bridge to cross to the city. The developer of Crescent Heights had built a steel span bridge with wooden approaches. He sold shares in the company and used the bridge as a selling feature for the land that he was developing on the north side of the river. There were other crossings, but the closest bridge was at what is now Kensington, and it was a bit of a hike for people who were coming from Crescent Heights and area. When Crescent Heights was annexed by the city in 1908, many expected that the bridge would also fall under the care and maintenance of the city. The annexation meant that lots were opened up and houses were being built. Construction materials had to be hauled up to the hill, but the Centre Street Bridge Company was still the owner of the structure. The company wanted the city to pay $7,000 for the bridge, what it had cost them to build it. The city refused to pay even $5000. This back and forth went on between the city and the bridge company from 1908 to 1912 when the city finally agreed to buy the bridge for $300. Three years later, the structure would be washed out by one of our regular floods. What was left was sold to the provincial Department of Highways (for $200 more than the city paid the bridge company for it.) Construction had already begun on the new bridge that we all know and love. It was completed in 1916, again, with much controversy surrounding its design and the cost. Some things never change.

 

Centre Street Bridge Lion AJ

Eamon's Bungalow Camp

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Eamon

Eamon's Bungalow Camp, 10220 Crowchild Tr. NW

From "Discover Historic Calgary"

We had a great time at the Heritage Matters program on Thursday night. Our mayor gave a talk about the importance of heritage and then answered questions from the audience. What was most interesting was the mayor’s perspective on what heritage means. We have tended, in the past, to view heritage as a concern of those with the leisure to contemplate the value of 100 year old, sandstone edifices. What Mayor Nenshi suggested is that Calgary’s heritage is a much broader concept, concerning all Calgarians in their infinite variety and looking at all places with a view to their value, not just as architectural monuments, but as signifiers of the history of the people of this city.

Two sites were mentioned that have garnered some press in the last little while, Eamon’s Bungalow Camp and the Barron Building. I have written a blog on the Barron Building, which is an example of a site which has significance beyond its structure. Eamon’s Camp is one of those sites which to many of us, who grew up in the middle part of the last century, seem merely “old fashioned” as they were once a common sight. There was a Royalite station in the neighbourhood I grew up in that looked much the same. These are the buildings that are most at risk – they are a part of my childhood, how can they be heritage?! But Eamon’s is one of the last examples still standing of the mid-century commercial architecture that was once ubiquitous. The city owns the site it is on and needs to build a C-Train station and parking there. While the sign is going to be preserved, many have expressed concern about the building itself. Because of citizen concern, plans for the site may be revisited.

The story of Roy Eamon and his “one –stop tourist service centre” is fascinating. Eamon was an entrepreneur of the real Calgary type – he had businesses galore and an ability to bounce back from disaster. It is rumoured that he made and lost several fortunes. But for many years, his drive-in, service station, motel was the place to stop on the way to Banff. You could buy gas, eat lunch (in the restaurant or in the car from a tray hooked to the window – does anyone remember that?) and have your car washed all at the same place. It was a beacon to travelers until the new Trans-Canada highway came through. If you’re interested in Eamon’s you can find a very detailed history on the City of Calgary database “Discover Historic Calgary”. It has also been discussed on the Calgary Heritage Initiative website as well as in the Calgary Herald (which you can read through Newspaper Direct Press Display in our e-library - under Newspapers and Magazines)

Spring Heritage Events in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Heritage in Calgary

Spring will come – I have it on good authority. And when it does it is going to bring with it a schwack of Heritage programming. I sometimes can’t believe the amount of stuff that the heritage community gets up to in this city. Quite a change from my youth, when a city official (who shall remain nameless) insisted that a building be torn down because it had tried to kill him (think Burns Building). Now, our mayor is coming to speak to us and talk with us about heritage in Calgary. That is going to be the kick-off for our spring heritage season. The meeting will take place in the John Dutton theatre at the Central Library on Thursday, March 8. Doors open at 5:00, with the talk starting at around 5:30. We will be serving refreshments, so join us and get your heritage spring started. Just show up, no registration is required.

On St. Patrick’s Day, there is a free course in the “Partners in Planning” program put on by the City and the Federation of Calgary Communities. This series is aimed at community members and the general public to introduce them to planning issues within the city. Urban planning in Calgary is at an exciting stage, where stakeholders and communities work with heritage organizations and concerned members of the public to build a culture of preservation. The program on March 17 is called “Planning with Heritage in Mind” and will include an introduction to preservation principles, illustrated with local case studies. You can register at www.calgarycommunities.com > Workshops and Events or phone 403-244-4111. It takes place on Saturday, March 17 from 9:00am to 12:00pm at Bankview Community Association, 2418 - 17 Street SW.

On March 22, Matco Investments is hosting "More Than Just Beer - An Historic Presentation" a talk about the Inglewood Brewery site by conservation architect Lorne Simpson. He will examine the economic and social history of the brewery. The event is free but you will need to register. You can do so at this website:

http://calgarybrewing-eivtefrnd.eventbrite.com/

Chinook Country Historical Society offers very interesting programs every month. March is the month for their Annual General Meeting which takes place on the 27th at the Varsity Community Centre. It is a dinner event so you will have to purchase tickets, but the speaker that evening will be Harry ‘The Historian' Sanders who will talk about a subject near and dear to his heart, the history of hotels in Alberta. Check out their website for further information www.chinookcountry.org

Cecil Hotel

Cecil Hotel, 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 947

April 19 will bring the next Heritage Roundtable. The topic isn’t set yet, but these events are always well attended and one of my faves (see the posting about the last Roundtable) You can find up-to-date info on the Roundtables – and other events-- at www.calgaryheritage.org

At the end of April, CHI – the Calgary Heritage Initiative- will have its annual general meeting on the 26th at 7 pm at the Lougheed House. The speaker that night will be another one of my favourite historians, Max Foran. For those who don’t know about CHI, the work they do in the Heritage Community is valiant. A visit to their website is a must for anyone concerned with heritage and history. The website holds information about upcoming events, about buildings, threatened and success-stories, it keeps an eye on developments that may have an impact on the built heritage of our city, just to list a few highlights. Have a peek.

May will bring flowers and Jane’s Walks which celebrate our neighbourhoods and the legacy of Jane Jacobs, urbanist and heritage advocate. (www.calgaryfoundation.org) It looks like you can still volunteer to lead a walk in your neighbourhood.

On the 12th of May, we will be conducting a repeat of our program “Research the History of your House” in association with Century Homes Calgary. You don’t need to have a century home to research the history of your house, so join us at 10:30 at the Central Library for some pointers on how to find out the secrets of your home. Registration opens on April 23.

Those are just a few of the programs that are coming up. Everything is listed at www.calgaryheritage.org and we will try to keep posting information here about the programs coming in the summer. Try to come to some of these programs – the heritage community in Calgary is energetic and exciting and is about so much more than buildings. Hope to see you there.

Burns Home

Burns Residence, built 1901, demolished 1956

Postcards from the Past, PC 581