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Our Cabinet of Curiosities: Rec Rooms

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Image from Canadian Forest Products Ltd catalogue

The Marine Room

from Six Master-Designed Recreation Rooms

Published by Canadian Forest Products, Ltd. 1961

One of the best things about working in the Local History collection is the thrill of discovering some of the weird and wacky items we have. Every day brings a new discovery and I thought it might be interesting to share some of these finds with you. To that end, I am going to write a semi-regular feature for the next little while called the Cabinet of Curiosities.

We happened upon this little gem when we were looking for items to take to a Heritage Roundtable display that would feature heritage architecture. The definition of heritage is broad enough to embrace the mid-century period; but, I must admit, having grown up with mid-century modern, I’m not sure I want to preserve it – it’s mostly just a painful reminder of my awkward youth. This may be especially true of the so-called “recreation rooms” that many of our parents developed in the basements of our suburban bungalows. These “rec rooms” were often the scenes of boy-girl parties and other naughty behavior when mom and dad weren’t home. I had often wondered where on earth people had come up with the themes for these “rec rooms” and now I’ve found out. We found the catalogue Six Master-Designed Recreation Rooms from Canadian Forest Products (which explains the surfeit of wood paneling) from 1961. In addition to the photographs and artists illustrations of the various themes it also includes templates for the brands and barrel ends (A quote: “In days gone by, an Old World inn-keeper was accustomed to take his stance before an array of spigoted barrels from which he dispensed in pewter tankards the specialty of his hospitable taproom. The spirit of this pleasant custom is recaptured in the décor of the Tavern. Chapter Nine contains instructions for making the realistic barrel-ends…)

image from Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Tavern

In addition to the Tavern theme, the catalogue includes a Western Room, complete with brands and lariats (see below) the Polynesian Room (perfect for the Polynesian luau recipes I found in my mom’s 1960s cookbook - Flaming Cabbage Head Weenies with Pu-Pu sauce anyone?) and The Marine Room (above), with knotty pine paneling. Neat-o!

Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Polynesian Room

Instructions for building the furniture, hiding the hot water tank, laying the floor tiles and a selection of finishes are all included, making this the perfect book for those wanting to capture those magic moments of their childhood. (You can find it in the local history room, call number 643.55 SIX)

Canadian Forest Products catalogue

The Western Room ("as Western as the Calgary Stampede")

The Bow is Officially Open

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach Collection

The Big Pour - The Bow Building, 2008

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The Bow officially opened last week. It is a magnificent structure that has changed the Calgary skyline. A few weeks ago I wrote about Elveden House, a skyscraper built in the late 50’s and rising to a staggering 20 storeys. Prior to the bylaw change that allowed the building of Elveden House, buildings were limited to twelve storeys. The building of Elveden House marked Calgary’s coming-of-age. The Bow is another milestone. It is the tallest building west of Toronto and certainly one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the country. I was able to watch its growth from a hole in the ground to its current glory. I must admit, having survived the recession of the 80s, as I passed the giant pit that was dug on the site of the old York Hotel, I was scared that this would be one of those vortices that constantly reminded us of our once great city. And as I understand from what I’ve read, this might have become a reality as we faced a similar economic downturn. But it didn’t and now we have The Bow.

The Bow is an appropriate symbol for our city. It is glitzy but functional, massive but beautiful. It is cutting edge architecture, as it is the first skyscraper in Canada to use a trussed tube construction. The building has already won an award, from the Canadian Institute of Steel Constructors for its innovative structure. The use of external rather than internal support allows for maximum floor space and the expanses of glass mean that nearly every office has a window and, more importantly, a view. Emporis included it, along with the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur on its list of “most impressive corporate structures.” This kind of attention affirms Calgary as a city on the rise on the international scene.

Judith Umbach Collection

Curvature in Steel - The Bow, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach, a talented photographer and former Calgary Public Library Board chair, has documented the evolution of this magnificent structure, from the first shovels in the ground to its completion. She has donated (and continues to donate) her collection of photographs to the Calgary Public Library and they are all visible on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. You can view her photos of The Bow by clicking on the link above and searching for “bow building.” Take time to check out her other collections as well. She is documenting the development of this city by recording buildings coming and going and her work provides an unparalleled record of the living city. Judith’s dedication to Calgary and her passion for the city have been documented in a Calgary Herald article (May 31, 2013). Read about this great Calgarian here.

North West Travellers' Building with The Bow, under construction, in the background, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Forgotten Landscapes: Heritage Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1325

Fort Calgary in 1881

Postcards from the Past, PC 1325


The next Community Heritage Roundtable will take place on Thursday, June 13 at Fort Calgary. A number of speakers are going to talk about heritage landscapes that have been lost or forgotten. Fort Calgary, itself, was one of those landscapes. For many years the site that had given rise to our city had been a railway yard. It wasn’t until 1974 that the value of this site was recognized and efforts made to reclaim it. Fort Calgary CEO Sarah Gruetzner will be speaking at the roundtable about the fort and the recovery of this historic landscape.

Another speaker will be archaeologist Brian Vivian who will talk about the Paskapoo Slopes area. This part of the city, which was actually the western edge of the city while I was growing up, has seen much development over the years. Many folks don’t know the rich history of the area which includes First Nations settlement, including a buffalo jump and processing camp. It is also significant as it is a unique landscape and important wildlife corridor.

Michelle Reid, a City of Calgary landscape architect, will talk about some forgotten streetscapes that have now been added to the Heritage Inventory. These include the Balmoral Circus, a circular park at the intersection of 19th Avenue and 2nd Street NW. The circus appears in the early development plans (you can see it on the detail from the 1907 map below – the whole map can be viewed in our Digital Library ) and is part of the legacy left by William Reader. Its twin, the Beaumont Circus in Renfrew, is also on the Heritage Inventory. These parks are unique in the city and are important in the history of green spaces in Calgary – a feature of the city that makes it such a desirable place to live.


map CALG 06

Balmoral Circus from 1907 McNaughton's Map of Calgary

Historical Maps of Calgary and Alberta, CALG 06

If you are interested in finding out more about our forgotten landscapes, join us at the Heritage Roundtable. The link to register is here. As usual, staff from the Community Heritage and Family History department will have a display at the event with items from the Local History collection. Pop by and say "hi".