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Oh, It's Lion Time Again....

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1255One of the Magnificent Beasts for whom the Awards were Named

Alison Jackson Collection, 1255

Two weeks! That’s all the time we have left to nominate our people and groups for the Lion Awards. What are the Lion Awards, you ask? Well, every two years the Calgary Heritage Authority, those valiant defenders of our city’s history, honours the people and projects that preserve our city’s heritage. This can be restoring a heritage building or landscape, promoting awareness of heritage issues, revitalizing a neighbourhood or being involved in a heritage trade or craft.

This year, since we are just a year out from the floods which devastated many of our historic neighbourhoods, so an award category has been created that recognizes the effort many people have put in to protect and restore buildings and neighbourhoods in flood prone areas.

The Lion Awards are a big deal for the heritage community. For many years promoters of heritage in Calgary were viewed with the same kind of sideways glance that your crazy uncle Bill was, when he started talking about his youth. Heritage activists were nutty old ladies who were stuck in the past, unable to see the bright shiny new buildings that were being built to replace the tired old eyesores that sat on very expensive land. Now, we have come to an understanding that to move ahead and build a great city, we need to keep the past alive.

So, if you know of a project or a person who is working to that goal, why not nominate them for a Lion Award? You can nominate yourself if you are that person or you are involved in a heritage project. We have a Lion Award. We got it for this blog and we still brag about it.

Lion AwardOur Lion Award for Advocacy and Awareness

(See, here’s the picture of our award) It was a great recognition from a great organization (and the gala where the awards are given out is excellent) So, check out the criteria and get your nomination in. You’ve got two weeks. (And register for the party as well. It's at the Grand this year.)

To find out more about the awards, you can watch Terry MacKenzie, a member of the Heritage Authority, on Shaw TV or read about it on the City of Calgary's news channel

Heritage Matters: From Discovery Well to Provincial Historic Site

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 658Dingman 1 and 2 1913, Postcards from the Past

May 14, 1914 was possibly the most significant date in the development of the province of Alberta. On that day, a spume of petroleum gushed from the Calgary Petroleum Products’ well in Turner Valley and Western Canada’s first commercial oilfield was born. The discovery and subsequent discoveries has made this province what it is.

Archie Dingman, an innovator and general all-round enthusiast, was the General Manager of Calgary Petroleum Products and was a great pitchman for the potential of Western Canada’s oil industry. Calgarians, therefore, knew the well as the Dingman well. The Turner Valley Gas Plant, which was built to refine the petroleum from the well was the first plant of its kind west of Ontario and would remain in use until 1985. The heritage value of the Gas Plant was evaluated and in 1988 Alberta Culture acquired the site, which had been deemed to be of significant historic value to the province and the country. In 1995 it was made a provincial historic resource. It is now celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Dingman strike.

On Friday, May 23, at 5:30 we will be welcoming the director of the Turner Valley Gas Plant Provincial Historic Site, Ian Clarke, to the Central Library for our next Heritage Matters program. He will give us his insider perspective on the never-ending saga of the 100 years since Dingman No.1. You can register for this program in person, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online.

PC 1340Turner Valley Oil Fields, Postcards from the Past

Research the History of Your House, World War I Edition

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 758East Calgary, Alberta

 

It is that time of year again. With Historic Calgary Week fast approaching folks may be thinking ahead to the Century Homes project. We are offering a revised version of our program on researching house history, focusing on a house on Memorial Drive that was home to a soldier who served in World War I. This will give us the opportunity to explore some military resources for genealogists and house historians. In fact, we were able to find this solider because of the research that someone had done on their heritage home. They mentioned in their sign that the original owner had been on active service in 1915 so using a bit of reverse research we were able to find the house and the owner (and a whole lot more).

We are working again with our Heritage Triangle partners and we have managed to pull up a ton of information. I don’t want to give away too much, but even if you don’t have a house to research, you may just want to drop in to hear the story of this house and its fascinating tenants. You can register for this program in person at any library branch, online or by calling 403-260-2620.

I would also like to give a nod of appreciation to all of the organizers and participants of the Heritage Fair that was held over the weekend. It does my heart good to see all the students and the hard work they’ve put in to their projects. Also, a big thanks goes out to the staff and soldiers at Mewata Amoury for hosting the event. It was great.

The Rotary Club Celebrates 100 Years of Service

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

Programme

Racy Daze Programme

Rotary Club of Calgary, 1934

One hundred years ago, while the world was about to find out just how ugly war could be, a group of sixty four men met in the Elizabethan Room of the Hudson’s Bay Company to start an organization that would bring good to the city (and the rest of the world). The Calgary chapter of the Rotary Club was born under the leadership of James S. Ryan and Douglas Howland. They were the first men’s service club to be formed in the city.

Of course we all know about the Rotary Club, they are the people who give us dreams of luxury living with their Stampede Dream Home. More precisely, it is the Rotary Clubs of Calgary who offer us the dream home – there are now thirteen clubs in Calgary. Over the years they have done an amazing amount of good in Calgary. They are major contributors to my favourite organization, the Calgary Public Library, sponsoring It’s a Crime Not to Read, a brilliant program that partners Calgary Police Service volunteers with staff from the Library to promote reading and literacy among grade 2 and 3 students. The Rotary Club was also behind the refurbishment of the cupola from James Short School, providing funds and hunting down the clock from the demolished Burns Block to finally give it the timepiece it had been designed for.

 

AJ 1258

Cupola from James Short School before the Restoration funded by the Rotary Club of Calgary

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1258

To honour the years of service to the community, Mayor Nenshi has declared April 28 to May 3 to be Rotary Week. There will be Service Before Self displays at each of the 18 library branches as well as celebrations at City Hall on Thursday (bring your fork, there’s cake).

Until I started looking into this, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the Rotary Clubs’ charitable work. I had visited a few chapters to talk about genealogy and of course knew about the Dream Home, but I wasn’t aware that among some of their first projects were vacant lots gardening, lights along the Elbow River for skaters and tree planting campaigns. They did all kinds of wonderful things to help those in need, such as furnishing rooms for returning soldiers at the Ogden Home, hampers for the widows of soldiers, boots sent to needy people in Belgium, ambulance service during the ‘flu epidemic, a Boys Town, skates sent to Northern Metis communities and picnics and parties for seniors. They also threw a picnic for 14,000 family members of soldiers serving overseas in 1918. As part of the celebration they took 2000 feet of movies of the families to send to the soldiers. This is just a sample of the projects that this club has sponsored over the years. They still continue to be active worldwide providing operations to restore sight, polio vaccinations, clean water projects and micro-credit loans, just to name a few.

Early members included Dr. George Kerby, Frank Freeze, F.E. Osborne, Fred Shouldice, and James Fowler. Few records were kept of the early years but an interesting tidbit from the 50th Anniversary publication was that “it is believed that amongst other things, the Club donated a kangaroo to the zoo. (Tradition has it that the animal bit a Rotarian and died).”

To raise money the Rotarians put on entertainments, such as a Minstrel Show and Parade and, curiously, in 1924, a Potlatch in the hole left by the demolition of the first post office. They raised nearly $15, 000, an impressive sum even by today’s standards.

We have memorabilia from a number of these fundraisers in the Local History collection (including the programme of the “Sunset Revue: Racy Daze” of 1934, seen above) and a 1924 roster, including photographs.

Rotary Banner

The Bowness Flying Field

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Fred McCall

Captain Fred McCall, founder of the Bowness Flying Field, June 1919

Calgary Herald, June 30, 1919

I’m always learning new things at the heritage events I attend. What I learned recently was that Calgary’s first commercial airfield was actually in Bowness, started by Fred McCall, a former RAF pilot on fallow land near the Calgary Electric Railway tracks just after the end of the First World War. According to Bernd Martens, writing in the Bowness history book Our Village in the Valley, “the airplane hangars associated with the Bowness Flying Field were located just east of present-day Bowness Road. The runway extended eastward in a large empty block of farmer’s field, likely between the present 47 Avenue and 44 Avenue and eastward to the present high school field.”

The Bowness Aerodrome (as it was sometimes called, a rather lofty name for a farmer’s field) saw its first flight in May 1919 when Frank Donnelly flew his Curtiss from Bowness to the HBC company building in downtown Calgary to drop streamers advertising the company’s 249th birthday. “1670 – A Message From Mars – 1919” was what the streamers read. “Calgary celebrates the greatest event of the year, the 249th birthday of the Hudson’s Bay Company. So unusual are the values that we’ve chosen an unusual way to tell of them….Keep this streamer as a memento of the first literature ever dropped in Calgary from an aeroplane." Tappy Frost was one of the first to get his streamer, chasing it down in his little Ford car and clambering up on a roof when the elusive little thing tried to hide from him.

Power was taken from the electric railway lines to service the hangar but there were no runway lights so when Capt. McCall was flying at night, he would buzz his house so his wife would know to bring the car to light the runway with its headlamps. Car lights provided illumination for the landing of Capt. Ernest C. Hoy from Vancouver, the first flight over the Canadian Rockies, which touched down in Bowness on August 7, 1919.

The Bowness Flying Field was also the place from which the plane carrying W.J. (Bill) Oliver, Calgary Herald photographer, took off. Oliver would take the first air photos of the city which were published in the Herald. Below is the photo published in the June 30, 1919 edition:

Calgary Herald June 30, 1919

Aerial Photograph of Calgary taken by W.J. Oliver from Fred McCall's Plane, June 1919

Calgary Herald, June 30 1919

What I Learned from Dave Obee, Part 2

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1851 Census LAC

1851 Census page

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the privilege of attending the Dave Obee seminar put on by the Alberta Family Histories Society last Saturday. I learned a lot about sources and records and where to find them but the most important lessons were about the goals of doing family history (which I wrote about last week) and about research techniques to maximize results.

Good research skills do not come naturally. We aren’t born with an instinct to find records (food, yes, data, not so much). Research skills are a tool, just like your genealogy software and your laptop. They are the most important tools however, because if your goal is to find your ancestors and tell their stories you must become a sleuth and to do that effectively, you need to learn how to look, not just where to look.

It helps, when you are looking at a record, to know what it is you are looking it. Is it an index, a transcription or an original document? Our goal as outstanding researchers is to track back to the original source, so indexes and transcriptions are just “maps” to help us uncover those documents. In many cases, those maps are just like the ones drawn by the gas station attendant on the back road in Italy when you find yourself lost. There may be language barriers, varying levels of local knowledge and drafting skill, and even changes in the landscape such as washouts and road works.

What this means in purely practical terms (and to not stretch a metaphor too far) is that you should use every index and transcription available. For example, there are several different indexes available for Canadian census records. Automated Genealogy has an index created by an army of volunteers. This is a particularly good index to the census records because it is done by people who are familiar with local names and places. FamilySearch also has indexes done by volunteers. Ancestry (available at Calgary Public Library branches) has all of the census records for Canada indexed and available on their site. Their indexing is done commercially, often by off shore companies, and this can sometimes cause problems.

So, what would you do if you couldn’t find your ancestor in the census in one index? Would you stop there and assume they weren’t in Canada at the time? What we should do, if we want to be the Sherlock Holmes of genealogy researchers, is check every index and transcription available (and sometimes this means paper — oh the horror!)

What if they still don’t show up, but you know they were there? Library and Archives Canada has a number of censuses scanned on their site. There are no indexes but you can look at the original documents without having to touch microfilm. Sometimes this is the only way to find your folk. You will recognize a family name when someone who isn’t familiar with the name doesn’t.

Dave has written a book on how to get the most from Canadian census records, Counting Canada, which includes lots of other pointers for squeezing every last drop of information from a census record.

Happy hunting.

What I Learned from Dave Obee

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

CPL 103 15 01

Students at the Central Library, ca 1914

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 103-15-01

I was as happy as a pig eating rhubarb on Saturday — I was at a genealogy conference given by the Alberta Family Histories Society featuring the Canadian genealogy guru, Dave Obee. Dave is the author of a large number of reference works relating to Canadian genealogical records, including Destination Canada, and Counting Canada, as well as a bunch of great guides to things like directories, voters’ lists, and citizenship indexes. In addition he is the proprietor of the best (in my opinion) website for Canadian genealogy research, CanGenealogy. Dave is also a library supporter, and has written the history of library service in British Columbia, The Library Book. In his other life, he is also a working journalist so his insights into the study of people (which, really, genealogy is at its heart) are particularly valuable.

So, the most important thing I learned from my day-long participation in this genealogy conference is not about a particular kind of record or a really snazzy website to check. No, the most important lesson that I took away from Dave’s lectures, was that we have a duty to our ancestors to tell their stories. We have to look beyond the census and vital statistics and research the time and the place of our people who went before. For this we use the secondary sources such as local histories, general histories, ephemera, maps and any other number of cool, non-traditional sources (like those found in our Local History Collection). I was delighted to hear this affirmation of my own belief from someone whose work I admire. I, too, believe genealogy is not just the process of collecting names and dates. The true value of genealogy lies in the history of the people and the building of their story.

This is the approach we have been taking with the Lest We Forget project. The students we visit take documents, facts, and statistics and turn them into a life story. Perhaps they may even be interested in looking beyond their soldier, to the families left behind. This is certainly a more challenging assignment, but it is one that has immeasurable value in the understanding and the remembrance of those who went before.

So, this is the most important thing I learned from Dave Obee, but it wasn’t the only thing so in my next posting, I will mention some of the other great tips I gleaned from my day with the expert.

Who Was Lindsay?

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

1907 Map of Calgary

1907 Map of Calgary showing Lindsay's Estate

From Historic Maps of Calgary and Alberta CALG 6

With the snow still pelting down and the arrival of spring weather seeming less and less likely, I thought I would write about Dr. Lindsay. Now this is a convoluted path of reasoning, but quite logical (to me, anyway). One of my fondest summertime memories is of the rope swing near my school. We would skip class and watch the bravest souls swing out over the Elbow and drop, fully clothed, into the river. Though we said we were going to go back for the last class, we knew that once we were soaked, there was no going back. “I fell in the river and I couldn’t go to class all muddy and wet!” Rarely worked, but it was worth it.

The swing and the tree it was attached to were in the waste ground behind St. Mary’s school. We knew then that it had some kind of railroad connection as the school’s next door neighbour was the old CNR station. There was no development to speak of in the area, until after we were out of school, when Lindsay Park was developed. So who was Lindsay?

Dr. Neville James Lindsay was an Ontario born physician who came out to Calgary when it was still essentially a tent city. His office in 1883 was little more than a sheet strung across four poles. He took to the fledgling town and was quickly elected to the first town council and founded a Masonic Lodge. His medical practice grew and he was soon appointed the physician to the nearby First Nations reserves. He was also the CPR surgeon for the area.

He was a bit of an adventurer (I suppose anyone who came to Calgary in 1883 must have been something of an adventurer) and by the turn of the century, he was seeking his fortune in the Yukon, along with hundreds of other adventurers. Because of his medical knowledge and his experience with the First Nations people, he was able to find gold and copper deposits that others didn’t.

This wasn’t enough for Neville, though. Returning to Calgary he turned his hand to real estate investment. Calgary was booming prior to the First World War and adventurers found another thrill ride in the city’s economy. This was when the good doctor procured the land on the edge of the city that would become first “Lindsay Estate” and then Parkview. Although he subdivided the land for development, he never followed through. He sold the land to the Canadian Northern Railway. He then purchased the Knox Presbyterian Church on Centre Street. This was close to Lindsay’s old stomping grounds as his office and home were at 503 Centre Street. His plans for the church did not include taking up residence there, however. He was going to build a commercial development on the site, but he was going to take the sandstone of the church and build himself a beautiful mansion overlooking the Elbow River.

Dr. Neville James Lindsay

Dr. Neville J. Lindsay

From A History of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae

He got as far as building the foundations and some of the walls when something happened. Stories vary; one has him losing his shirt in the economic downturn caused by the advent of World War I, another story is that the house started to sink as soon as walls were erected. The least plausible is that in grief over the death of his wife, he could not continue with their dream home. This one is patently wrong because his wife Florence outlived him by a number of years. It was Florence who had to surrender the property to the city because she could not pay the taxes. The walls of the house stayed mostly intact until the 1950s. The site, sometimes called “Lindsay’s folly” became a popular trysting place, providing shelter for necking teens and young knights and ladies playing castle.

Herald Photo March 31 1950

Lindsay's Folly

Taken from the Calgary Herald, March 31, 1950

Dr. Lindsay was a very interesting man and there is quite a bit of information available about him. The portrait is taken from A History of the Province of Alberta by Archibald MacCrae, which can be viewed in the Local History room (in all its engraved glory) or online through Our Future Our Past. There is also an excellent collection of newspaper clippings and a research article by Harry Sanders in the clippings files in Local History. Drop in to see us.

Welcome Home, Soldier

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 965

Dinner time for 192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

We were delighted to be a part of the last Heritage Roundtable which examined community initiatives and really turned into a celebration of all the grass roots organizations that are dedicated to preserving our heritage. Our little part was to show a few of the resources that we have available at the Calgary Public Library for researching community history. One of the sources that I didn’t cover was land records and I was reminded of two land schemes that were very important to the development of the city and the province.

After each of the two world wars Canadian soldiers were offered some opportunities to help them adapt to post-war life. After World War I, the Soldier Settlement Act was introduced to help returning soldiers re-establish themselves and to pump up agricultural production, thereby aiding in the economic recovery of the country. Soldiers were encouraged to take up homesteads on the prairies, with government loans of $2500 to help with the purchase of equipment and livestock. Returning servicemen stampeded to take up this offer. This required the Settlement Board to find more land than that which was available for homesteads. They found this land by designating certain privately held parcels as settlement areas. The board was also given the right to acquire land on Indian Reserves, school lands and forest reserves. This venture was of mixed success and much has been written on this topic (two particularly good articles, one by E.C. Morgan in Saskatchewan History Spring 1968 and one by Sarah Carter in Manitoba History Spring/Summer 1999 – both available in the Local History Room)

In Alberta, one of the settlements was just east of Carbon, on land leased to the Pope Ranch. Even now, the area is still known as the Pope Lease. You can read about the Pope family (Rufus Henry Pope was a Member of Parliament and was named Senator by Sir Robert Borden) in the history of the Carbon area, Carbon: Our History, Our Heritage (available through Our Future Our Past).

After the end of the second war a similar scheme was enacted for the soldiers returning from that conflict. The Veterans’ Land Act sought to overcome some of the problems that were created by the Soldier Settlement Act and so gave the soldiers more latitude and more opportunity. With a small down-payment soldiers could get a government loan to help buy land. More money was available for equipment and livestock. The veterans were encouraged to settle on small holdings or in the suburbs of larger cities. Lots in several outlying areas of Calgary were set aside for the ex-servicemen including Mount View/Winston Heights and Bowness. Members of the Bowness Historical Society were at the Heritage Roundtable talking about their community initiative which was to produce a second volume of their community history. This volume contains stories of the “Settlement”, which was itself a tight-knit community within the tight knit community of Bowness. Forty-seven houses were built by Bennett and White on land purchased from John Lawrie. Lots were approximately one acre, allowing for small scale agriculture such as gardens, bee hives and chicken coops. In the map below, of Bowness in 1959, shows the larger lots of the Soldiers Settlement area. (This map is also available in the Local History Room).

There are lots of very interesting bits of information to be gleaned out there. At the Heritage Roundtables we are always finding out more about our city and, of course, here at the Central Library we have the wonderful treasure trove that is our Local History collection. Come and visit us, you never know what you'll find.

Map CALG 10

Veterans Land Act Lots in Bowness

Historic Map Collection, CALG 10

 

Snowdon Building: A Success Story

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

JU

C.C. Snowdon Building, 2010 11 Street SE, a diamond in the rough

Judith Umbach Collection

Sometimes we in the heritage community get to hear about something not being torn down. These are the stories that make our day. I read a tweet the other day about just one such success story. Heritage Property Corporation, a development company noted (and appreciated) for its restoration and adaptation of historic buildings, has undertaken a massive project in Ramsay. They are restoring and redeveloping the Snowdon building on 11th Street SE. It was particularly heartening because this was exactly the kind of building that could have been razed with no one complaining. It is an industrial site, once the home of C.C. Snowdon Company, a wholesaler, refiner and importer of oil and gas products. The building is, quite frankly, an “ugly duckling.” But the developer saw the value and the potential in this building and is in the process of turning it into a red-brick beauty.

C.C. Snowdon (Campbell Camillus – don’t you love that name?) was born on May 16, 1881 in Montreal, the son of Cornelius Camillus Snowdon and Maria Peck. He graduated from Westmount school and worked for Imperial Oil before coming out to the west with the Canadian Oil Company. He formed his own company, C.C. Snowdon Co. in 1907. The first building on the site in Ramsay was a simple wooden shack. Around 1911 he built a red brick building, complete with an arched doorway. It was quite elegant for an industrial building. Over the next three years, more building was done on the site. His venture was very successful and eventually the company expanded into Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton. C.C. Snowdon was an important part of the fabric of the Ramsay area, providing employment for many.

At the time of his death he was living in Mount Royal on Durham Avenue. He was a member of the Glencoe club and was very active in the community. According to the article in the Calgary Herald that was written following his death in 1935, he gave extensively to charity, but preferred his donations remained anonymous. His family continued to run the company after his death until 1960, when the shares were sold and the company was developed into Turbo Resources. The Ramsay warehouse was in operation until 1983. In 1988 a fire destroyed part of the building and it was left unrepaired until the current developer purchased the site in 2008. As part of the redevelopment, a two story addition will be built in the area that was damaged by the fire.

I love to hear stories about buildings that are saved from the brink by the foresight and inventiveness of dedicated people. Especially when they are ugly ducklings.

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