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  • Sep 30 - The Cecil Hotel - The Cecil Hotel is in the news again and its not looking good for the old fella
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Something's Happening at the Zoo

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 1510

Prehistoric Animals in the Natural History Park at the Calgary Zoo, 1941

Postcards from the Past, PC 1510

The Calgary Zoo recently released its 20 year plan and it really looks ambitious. The President /CEO has said that “twenty years from now, the Calgary Zoo will bear little resemblance to the zoo today.” The prospect is exciting although not without controversy. The function of zoos has changed over the years. When I was a child the animals were kept in cages. In a major redevelopment, the Calgary Zoo built more natural habitats. The Calgary Zoo has changed and adapted over its entire 84 year history and I’m glad to see the tradition continue.

I have mixed feelings, though, about the loss of the dinosaur park. When I was little, the dinosaurs were the most memorable feature (possibly because they frightened the wits out of me).

The dinosaurs have been a fixture at the Calgary Zoo since the 1930s when the Zoological Society’s director returned from Europe filled with enthusiasm about the dinosaur park in Hamburg. A man on a mission, he decided to create a similar natural history park in Calgary. It made complete sense, of course, because we had rich fossil beds and lots of evidence of prehistoric life (barrels of which would come gushing out of the ground at Leduc about 10 years later). To that end, experts were consulted — these models were not going to be horror show beasts — they would be accurate representations of prehistoric life.

A number of sculptors were involved in the realization of these models, with John Kanerva being the most prolific, eventually turning out a large proportion of the park's 56 dinos. The Natural History Park opened officially in 1937, once Dinny, the life sized brontosaurus was completed. The Calgary Daily Herald praised the zoo, in attempting to replicate the “grotesque creatures of the reptilian age which monopolized the world aeons ago” (Aug. 21, 1937). The Natural History Park also incorporated actual fossil specimens as well, which were housed in the Fossil House (see photo below).

While I will be sorry to see the prehistoric park go, I do understand the reasoning behind it. We have a great resource right on our doorstep, at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller and while I have fond memories of the dinosaurs and the fossil houses, I look forward to the future of the Calgary Zoo, still one of the best in the world.

If you are interested in finding out more about the dinosaurs of Calgary, the spring 2013 issue of Alberta History, includes an excellent article by Calgary’s Historian Laureate emeritus, Harry Sanders. You can find the magazine (and lots more besides) in the Local History room at the Central Library.

PC 2013

Fossil House a the Calgary Zoo, ca. 1940s?

Postcards from the Past, PC 2013

Century Homes, 2013

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Magnus Brown Residence, 1906 8th Avenue SE in 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 80-10

It is time again for Century Homes. Last year’s project was wildly successful and we’re hoping to see even greater response this year. We have launched the legacy database, which you can view in our Digital Library. This database is a gold mine of information about heritage domestic architecture, typically one of the hardest heritage resources to document and preserve. Large, luxurious old homes, like the McHugh house, attract a lot of attention when they are threatened with demolition, but what of the small homes of everyday people? That is what I found so exciting about the Century Homes project. Calgarians jumped in with both feet to celebrate the everyday history of their communities and it is a wonderful thing. I never tire of telling people that history is not a list of facts and dates, it is the day-to-day life of the average person that is the important history.

We will be joined by experts from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library to offer our program on researching the history of houses again on May 25th at 2:00 pm. (Register here, in person at your branch or by phone 403+260-2620) This program will be great for anyone wanting to participate in Century Homes, for anyone who is just interested in the history of their house or community or for people who are researching houses as an adjunct to genealogical research. Old houses tell great stories and we will help you coax a story out of yours.

Here is a little story about a house that is no longer with us. This house, at 1306 8th Avenue SE, across from the A.E. Cross house, belonged to Magnus Brown. Magnus was born in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1850. He participated in the Red River Rebellion, fighting against Riel in 1869. He was captured by the Metis but managed to escape. In June 1873 Brown married Letitia Cook from Winnipeg. Brown moved to the Red Deer River District around 1882 where he raised stock. In 1885 the Brown’s relocated to Calgary and Magnus secured contract work with Canadian Pacific Railway for railroad and irrigation construction. He was in charge of the ditch built by the Calgary Irrigation Company. Brown served on city council from 1910 to 1912. He was a devoted member of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association.

The house was well known for its rhubarb patch, cultivated first by Brown but then by the next owner of the property, a Mr. Laurendeau. He in turn sold it to Mr. Servonnet, who continued to cultivate the patch, but eventually sold the property in 1969. The land was then sold to the city in 1970 and a senior’s residence, called the Rhubarb Patch, stands there.

Elveden House, or, A little bit of Ireland

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

AJ 43 06

Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 4306

 

I pass it every day on my way to work. It was part of my childhood, being fairly close to where my father worked, and I never knew anything about it. But as I was glancing out of the C-Train window, I noticed the beautiful green panels on the exterior of the building and then checked out the names, Elveden, Guinness and Iveagh. I thought I’d seen Iveagh House in Dublin. What was the connection with the Guinness family, whose products I enjoy every time I travel to visit our family in the Emerald Isle? Seemed like something I should know so I poked around a bit to find out just what was going on.

We have the photo, above, of Elveden house under construction. This is from the Alison Jackson collection (which can be viewed on our digital library). This is usually my first stop when I am looking for building information, as we have put information from the various newspaper articles we have published over the years, as well as other information we have gleaned from various sources. What I found out was that Elveden house was the first skyscraper in Calgary, built in 1959-60 at a cost of 5 million dollars and rising to 20 storeys. Until that time, buildings had been limited by law to 12 storeys in height. The owner of the building was a Guinness subsidiary, British Pacific Building Ltd, which partly explains the Irish allusions. The company built extensively in Canada, one of its projects was the Lions Gate Bridge.

On October 14, 1960, Viscount Elveden (Arthur Francis Benjamin Guinness, the grandson of the Earl of Iveagh – there are all my answers regarding names) officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the main tower. Mayor Hays placed a box of records in the stone which included the Guinness Book of Records, an architect's drawing of Elveden House, pictures of Calgary, coins, local newspapers and magazines and a couple of bottles of Guinness. Hays called the building a landmark that would be “distinctly visible mark on Calgary’s skyline.” Motifs of the hexagon, which I noticed on the panels on the façade of the building, are repeated throughout the building as are harps and angels, which represent the Irish source of the Guinness fortune. Rumours were flying when the Earl of Iveagh visited Canada in 1949 that the building project they would undertake would be a Guinness brewery, which would have been great. But instead they chose to put up office towers. I found some newspaper clippings in our files which were written as construction was underway. The descriptions of the amenities of the building sound very cutting edge for the time. For example, workspaces were flexible and the glass on the south side was tinted, to allow natural light into all the offices. In addition, 70% of the materials used to build the structure were Canadian made.

Two other towers were built over the next few years; Iveagh House (called the British American Oil Building for its tenant) which went up in 1960-61 and Guinness House, which was built in 1964. Among the clippings was the information I was dying to learn – what is the correct pronunciation of Elveden? An equally curious reader posed this question to the Calgary Herald in 1962 and their sleuthing turned up the pronunciation “Elden” in one of those weird quirks of pronunciation, the likes of which have given us “wustershire” sauce. Apparently, the pronunciation “elvden” is OK but “elVEEden” is just not on. Who knew?

AJ 62 15

Calgary Skyscrapers, with Elveden House in the background, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, 1962

 

Hospitals in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Mountview home for girls

Mountview Home For Girls, 1958

From The Calgary Herald, March 8, 1958

I was doing a bit of research for a customer on a hospital in Calgary that I had no idea had existed. A little digging turned up the bit of information the customer needed, but in the process I discovered a whole whack of hospitals that had existed in Calgary that I had not heard of. The big hospitals are well documented; we have tons of information on the General and the Holy Cross as well as the newer hospitals such as the Foothills and the Lougheed. But what I didn’t realize was that there were smaller hospitals and hospital units scattered throughout the city.

I suppose it’s a bit of a cliché to say that things were different at the turn of the 20th century, but sometimes I’m not sure I realize just how different. I am sometimes shocked as I go through early newspapers at the things I find.

One that I find particularly unsettling is the advertising of children for adoption – I still can’t wrap my head around that one. The other is the prevalence of disease. I suppose we know, intellectually, that the city would not have been a clean place, that there were no antibiotics and that water wasn’t always clean. In many cases, the response to illness was to isolate the infectious person – that was the case with smallpox, tuberculosis and typhoid, for example. As late as 1912, hospitals had to turn away people with contagious diseases, as there wasn’t sufficient isolation space for them.

The hospital I was looking at was built in response to the need for more isolation units. The land was purchased in 1913 with plans to build a smallpox isolation hospital and a typhoid and/or tuberculosis hospital. The Mount View Hospital and its neighbour, the smallpox hospital, were built on 16th Avenue NE in 1914. Shortly after it opened, a fire broke out in the linen room. The intrepid “lady superintendent” immediately responded, only to have the fire pump break. Not to be so easily defeated, she organized a bucket brigade and had the flames doused by the time the firemen arrived.

By 1916 Mount View was housing returned soldiers who were suffering from TB. There was a bit of a scandal in 1917 when the number of eggs given to the patients was cut back. Apparently the treatment for TB was as much milk and eggs (often raw) that a patient could hold. The reduction provoked an outcry and sparked some very interesting letters to the editor. To get to the nub of the matter, the Calgary Daily Herald launched an investigation and found that the treatment of patients in the hospital was up to and even surpassed treatment in other sanitaria. The patients were fed very well, but since more recent research had proved that an unlimited diet of milk and eggs was not necessarily the best, the cut to the diet was reasonable. The reporter also found that several patients were being accommodated on the newly built porch (this was November, and part of the treatment for TB was exposure to cold, fresh air) and others were accommodated in tents on the site. There were also three padded rooms in the basement for “mentally deranged” patients. (CDH Nov 3 1917, p12)

By the 20s Mount View had become a home for delinquent girls, run by the United Church. I'm not sure what constituted delinquency, but the home stayed open until 1958.