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Three New Heritage Sites

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1377

Suburban Calgary, Riverside ca. 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 933

At a well attended ceremony in Council Chambers on Monday January 24, three new heritage sites were ‘plaqued’ by the Calgary Heritage Authority. Plaques are given every two years to sites that are of historical significance to Calgary’s development based on criteria of architecture, history and context. Some of the sites that have been awarded plaques in the past are the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, St. Mary’s Parish Hall, Sunalta School, Alyth Lodge (Ogden Hotel) and the North West Travellers Building (to see pictures of any of these sites, you can visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library from the link on the left side of the page)

The three new sites named Monday are the Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden which is between 6 and 7A Streets NE; the Old North Trail (Spiller Road SE) and the Mission Bridge. Each site holds historical significance and each represents a different aspect of how we define heritage.

The Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden is the last of a number of similar gardens that were created by members of the Vacant Lot Garden Club as a way to beautify the city and put unused land to productive use. It was originally suggested by the aptly named Town Planning commissioner, James H. Garden and was started in 1914. Membership was $1.00 annually which entitled the holder to use one lot. Land owners such as Colonel Walker and J.C. Cockburn donated lots for use by the club. Calgarians were able to grow their own produce and reduce their reliance on “imported” food. Just as an aside, and a library tie-in, Alexander Calhoun, the first head librarian of the Calgary Public Library, was active in forming the club, as part of his role on the Town Planning Commission.

Spiller Road was a part of the Old North Trail that ran from the Yukon to New Mexico and was used by First Nations for thousands of years. According to Blackfoot Chief Brings-Down-the-Sun, the trail forked where Calgary now stands. “The right fork ran north into the Barren Lands as far as people live. The main trail ran south along the eastern side of the Rockies, at a uniform distance from the mountains, keeping clear of the forest and outside of the foothills. It ran close to where the city of Helena now stands and extended south into the country inhabited by a people with dark skins and long hair falling over their faces." (The Old North Trail by Walter McClintock, p434) When the NWMP built Fort Calgary, part of the trail became Macleod Trail, the main route to forts in the south such as Fort Macleod and Fort Benton in Montana.

The Mission Bridge was built at the place where travellers forded the Elbow River. Father Lacombe suggested that farmers coming into town from areas to the south would benefit from the building of a bridge to allow them easier access to markets. The first bridge was built in 1886 but soon became rotted and worn. In 1897 a new steel bridge was erected (see photo). In 1915 a concrete bridge (the first in Alberta) was erected. During construction, however, one of the worst floods to hit Calgary nearly destroyed the unfinished bridge and took the life of Quinton Campbell, a city worker. (This was the same flood that destroyed the original Centre Street Bridge, with the above mentioned Commissioner Garden, and the City Engineer, who planned and oversaw the construction of the Mission Bridge, G.W. Craig, aboard. They both survived the disaster.) Though this bridge has been renovated and rebuilt many times, elements of the 1915 bridge still remain.

PC 1377

Mission Bridge during flood, ca. 1923?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1377

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