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The Amazon, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1591

Five People in a Rowboat at Bowness Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1591

When I wrote about the Amazon statue back in December of last year, we felt we were hot on the trail of finding out what had happened to the statue. We were inspired by the article that Daniel Lindley had written for Stephen, the magazine put out by the Epcor Centre, to comb the City’s annual reports and the reports of the Parks Department to see if we could find any trace of what had happened to her. The statue was moved, as previously mentioned, to the South Mount Royal Park in 1934 but it disappeared some time before 1953. And the reason I know that is that Daniel was contacted by someone who lived in the area and who showed him pictures of the statue and also a picture of her dog on the vacant plinth in 1953. You can read the update in the latest issue of Stephen. So, we’re a little closer to narrowing down a date, but I can find no mention of the fate of the Amazon in any of the reports.

I did find some other interesting stuff, though. The Parks Department reports are fascinating reading. Most include lists of animals at the zoo, locations and sizes of the various parks, what was planted in the parks and on the boulevards, what it cost to do various tasks. I found two separate charges for the moving of the museum specimens from Coste house; one in 1941 “Moving museum to car barns” at $3.23 and again in 1943 : “Coste’s residence, moving museum specimens” at $73.22. This would have been the collection that included our buffalo (see my previous post.)

Something else I found is that there was a street car placed in Roxboro Park to serve as a shelter. In the 1940 report, Mr. Reader, the superintendent stated: “ The old street car that was placed on this park and converted into a shelter is abused to such an extent that it seems practically useless to make any more repairs. “ I think it was dismantled in 1942. I can’t find any other record of it, but I will certainly keep looking. Wink

PC 1138

Calgary Tigers Playing Football in Hillhurst Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1138

Beautiful Brick: The Heritage Trades Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

ch 2012 008

Parkdale house, developed by Alfred McKay and built with Crandell Pressed Brick

Century Homes Photographs, CH 2012-008

The second Heritage Trades Round Table is set to go on January 28. This one is particularly apropos given the decision recently taken by the CBE to demolish the lovely old Elbow Park School, as it is on the subject of beautiful brick.

Calgary has long been known as the "Sandstone City" due to the number of nearby sandstone quarries. Many people are unaware, however, that we had a good number of brickworks in the vicinity as well. The area around Cochrane had the silty hard clay that was great for making bricks and much of the production of the three brickyards operating there in the early 20th century was shipped to Calgary. Calgary had its own brickyards as well; the earliest of these being Peel’s brickyard which opened in 1886 in the area of what is now Roxboro. “Gravity” Watson’s yard was established in 1893 near the Edworthy Ranch in the Shaganappi area. This became known as Brickburn. The company was later sold to Edward Crandell, whose beautiful brick home still stands in Patterson Heights and is perhaps better known as the house where Stu Hart lived and trained his wrestlers.

Another entrepreneur who got into the brick business and whose imposing home still stands was William Nimmons. He started a small brickyard on the site of his quarry in the Bankview area. The quarry at Glenbow also had brickworks on the site. There were also small brickworks, run by home builders who provided bricks for their own construction. William Kempling was one such. His operation was located between Centre St. and 4 St. E.

If you are a brick aficionado and would like to learn more about the history of brick production and construction in Calgary, you need to come to the next Heritage Roundtable. You will meet some of the people who make the preservation and maintenance of the buildings and features we love possible. The evening will include:

•Historic brick production & industry in Alberta — Malcolm Sissons, president, I-XL Industries Ltd., a 4th generation family business founded in 1912 as the Redcliff Pressed Brick Co.

•Current brick masonry trade, traditional methods — Neil Puype, principal of a heritage building consulting company and 5th generation brick and stone mason

•Early brickyards & building with brick in Calgary — Marilyn Williams, Heritage Roundtables steering committee

This is going to be great, talking ‘bout brick in the Sandstone City, so join us. The event takes place Rideau Park School gymnasium, 829 Rideau Road SW and starts at 7:00 pm (doors will open at 6:30 pm). It is open to the public and free of charge. To register, click here.

 

AJ 88 05

Mewata Armouries, entrance to the Drill Hall, ca 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 88-05

The Value of Old Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School

Elbow Park School

From the Elbow Park School Website

Elbow Park School is in the news again. The CBE is meeting to discuss what will be done with the school – should it be torn down and replaced or restored? Schools often present challenges for the people who want to save old buildings. They are large and occupy vast tracts of land, often in very desirable neighbourhoods. The people who hold Elbow Park’s fate in their hands are facing a real dilemma. Yes, a new school would have all the bells and whistles, enough plug ins for all the electronics (I work in an older building myself and understand this challenge especially), a better gym, and all the amenities that new buildings offer, but they will also lose a character building, in a sense they will lose the history of their school. The neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in the city, will lose more of its defining characteristics, the characteristics that make it such a wonderful place to live.

So what, you might say. This is a pointless discussion. An old building is an old building and the best way to deal with it is to replace it. That it is flood damaged is the perfect opportunity to look to the future and build something “better.” This is at the heart of much of what we do in the heritage community. What is the value of an old building? Is there more than monetary value to consider when we decide their fate? Is newer necessarily better?

There are lots of arguments to support both points of view. Reusing old buildings adds character to cities – remember when Mordecai Richler famously stated that Calgary would be a helluva city once it was uncrated? We’ve come a long way from there. We value our heritage and realize that preserving our old buildings gives a sense of the history to a city, something that we lose every time we knock one of them down. Old school buildings are especially important in the history of place. “Schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last a century. They represented community investments that inspired civic pride and participation in public life," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There is an excellent study on the fate of historic neighbourhood schools by the Trust called “Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl.”

There is also the practical value of restoration. It is a far greener option than dumping demolition rubble into a landfill. Restoration allows for the removal of any nasty stuff like asbestos and allows for a general buff-up. If Jane Jacobs is correct that new ideas require old buildings, sending our kids to school in a historic building could open the way for who knows what kind of engagement. If you don’t want your kids to go to school in an old building, then perhaps we should reconsider the value of Ivy League schools, or Oxford or Cambridge. Part of what makes the experience there so valuable is the history behind them, represented, not in the least, by their wonderful historic buildings.

I hope we get to keep that beautiful school. It would be a shame to lose another one.

PC 1998

St. Mary's School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1998

Out With the Old?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 CPL 103-26-01

Museum at Calgary Public Library, 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives, CPL 103-26-01

This year I thought I would resolve to follow my nose, just like Toucan Sam, and research the things that really caught my eye, no matter how bizarre. Appropriately, as I was reading Harry the Historian’s Twitter feed I saw an article he had posted dating from December 29, 1913 that announced that buffalo meat was available for the first time in many years, from P. Burns and Co. The meat had come from two buffalo culled from the government ranch herd at Wainwright. Even one hundred years ago the buffalo was a novelty on the prairies and animals were protected at the Wainwright ranch. These particular animals were on their way to be mounted and placed in the Calgary Public Library. Hmmm. Weird thing to have at the library, don’t you think? So, to follow through on my resolution, I am going to find out what became of these beasts and why they were headed to the library.

When the Calgary Public Library first opened its doors in 1912, it had extra space that was not being used — probably the first and last time that ever happened at a library — so when Dr. Euston Sisley and the Calgary Natural History Society looked to establish a museum, it was housed on the second floor of the new library. We have a picture of it in our archives (see above). There are no buffalo evident in that photo, but I am guessing that the beasties were actually headed to the museum, not the library. By 1914 the Library needed more space (surprise) so the museum collection was moved to the basement of the courthouse.

 

PC 1259

Courthouse, ca 1906

Postcards from the Past, PC 1259

The collection continued to grow, especially after the museum was given to the City of Calgary. It became the Calgary Public Museum in 1928 and the collections were moved to the North West Travellers building. Long before the Tyrell museum, our own municipal museum housed one of the few specimens of duck billed dinosaurs in the world. The collection grew and became quite impressive. A 1932 article from the Herald lists some of the finest collections including trilobites, an outstanding coin and medal collection and Oliver Cromwell’s spectacles. A slightly later article (December 15, 1934) includes a photo of the natural exhibits including deer and a very large moose. There is a buffalo hiding at the back. By all accounts this was an excellent museum, somewhat lacking in focus, perhaps, but its collection of 8,000 items was a credit to the city. So what happened? Well, the depression happened. As was the case with many of the jewels in this city’s crown, the financial strain became too much and the museum closed its doors in 1935.

From there the story of Calgary’s museum and its specimens, including the buffalo, takes a sorry turn. The collections were put in the basement of the Coste House, which was another victim of the depression. The city had taken ownership of the house due to unpaid taxes. The collections were stowed there with no measures taken to ensure their safety or condition. Over the years some of the items were moved, including one of the buffalo, which was given to the Stampede and used outside the NWMP hut during Stampede week. The other two, likely the ones mentioned in Harry’s clipping, were stored in the street railway barns and finally burned in 1946. Sigh.

Albertan article

"Into the Incinterator"

The Albertan, October 2, 1946

Sorry for the downer New Year’s post but here’s to a happy and heritage 2014. It will only get better!

What did you get from Santa?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 868

Parade along 8th Avenue (handwriting indicating "Papa's store" with arrow pointing to Linton Bros.), 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

I no longer have little ones to buy presents for at Christmas, which is a shame because I love toys. I reminisce about my Mrs. Beasley doll and my Easy-Bake oven, or the little French telephone set and my Kenner Knit-O-Matic, all of which I see now advertised as vintage antiques. Sigh.

I know that this year kids will be asking for all kinds of electronics (although I’m heartened to see that one of the hottest toys this year is the Kendama, which doesn’t require batteries, a plug-in or any high-tech savvy.) And, as is my wont, I get to wondering about the history of it all. What kinds of things did kids in Calgary a hundred years ago get from Santa? I went rooting through my resources in the Local History room and found a wonderful resource at the Calgary Public Library for just this kind of browsing: the Eaton’s Catalogues on microfilm (which I am told is kind of an antique in itself). When I was a kid I got all of the items on my Santa list from the Eaton’s wish book. And it appears it was always thus.

Long before there was the internet, there was mail-order. The catalogues would arrive by mail, you would send your orders by mail (or later, you could order by telephone) and your stuff would be sent by mail. That could take some time, but you could also get things that weren’t easily available in your local community. That was especially important in remote areas, which was most of Western Canada back in the late 19th century. In fact, according to Collections Canada, the Eaton’s catalogue was sometimes called the Prairie Bible. You can access a great digitized collection of mail order catalogues at the Collections Canada site.

Train set

A page from the toy section of the 1913 Fall/Winter Eaton's Catalogue

So what did kids get for Christmas? There were some really cool things on offer. In the 1915 winter catalogue there were toy grocery store items, a submarine game, a big-game hunter set with a target bear, dollies, tea sets, cowboy outfits, a clothes washing set, complete with washboard and wringer and even a Ouija board!

What about earlier, though. Kids in 1897 might wish for a tricycle or a toy wheelbarrow. In 1886 the list of toys in the Eaton’s catalogue include dolls and accessories for them, dominoes and other games, a whistling steam engine, magic lanterns, musical instruments and riding, driving and dog whips (really!). Skates seem to have been a very popular item. There were sleighs and wagons and rocking horses to be had closer to home, however, as Linton’s had a Toyland on the second floor. Treats such as oranges, candy, figs, nuts and raisins, were also brought in by retailers for the season.

Whatever the gifts, Christmas has always been a time for family. Have a wonderful time with yours.

How To Set a Christmas Table

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 814

Christmas wished from Calgary Milling Co. Limited. 191?

Postcards from the Past, PC 814

(Flour companies often published cookbooks)

I love my old cookbooks. Not that I cook that much, but having a collection of cookbooks from my family members is like having those family members with me. I still use my mom’s Purity cookbook to make the foods I remember from my childhood like banana bread and dream squares (and a horrible concoction of caramel syrup and dough gobs that my sister christened “death balls”). I look upon cookbooks as historical documents that not only tell us what our ancestors were eating, but how they conducted their lives. I mean, do we still have Bridge Teas? Doesn’t the very fact of a bridge tea speak to a different way of life?

The Local History room at the Central Library has an interesting collection of cookbooks, all with a relevance to the history of Calgary. It was in the Royal Purple Lodge No. 7 cookbook that I found the suggested menu for a Bridge Tea, complete with ribbon sandwiches and American Beauty salad. What really caught my eye, though, was the suggested menu for Christmas dinner in the Blue Bird Cook Book by the Domestic Science Department of the American Women’s Club of Calgary. The Christmas menu contains nothing, besides the turkey, that I recognize (or would eat, really). The starter is Oyster Cocktails and Salted Wafers. The soup course is consommé with toasted bread rings (made with day old bread and a doughnut cutter). The turkey was stuffed with a mixture of milk and cracker crumbs and served with cranberry mold, potato baskets and Christmas salad (grapefruit and orange sections laid out in a wreath shape with red pepper and garnished with a pickled cherry). Dessert was a choice of pineapple sherbet or Christmas cake, with a holly garnish made from candied peel and cinnamon candies. Yummy.

This would all be served on a table laid out as below. Note that this was for a family dinner, without the service of a maid. One hopes the maid would be given the day off to be with her family. This suggested setting comes from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, 17th edition. The book also gives advice about serving protocol and admonishes against the use of intoxicating liquors. (The recipes in the book substitute fruit juice for booze and, in the case of brandy for the fruit cake, two tablespoons of molasses are said to be an excellent substitute).

 

How to set a table

How to set a table, from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, ca 1930s?

Whatever Happened to the Amazon Statue?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther, by August Kiss

Altes Museum, Berlin

Here at the library, we are sometimes asked questions for which we can’t find answers. Generally we are happy that we have given it our best shot, exhausted all of our resources and, usually, referred the customer on to someone who may be able to find more information. Because we are the kinds of people who work in libraries (read: nerds) sometimes we can’t let a question go and we continue to keep our eye out for anything relating to this elusive quest. One such question that has plagued me since I started here back in the cardaceous period (when card catalogs roamed the earth) is the question of what happened to the Amazon statue that once stood in front of the Memorial Park Library. We have been asked about this statue innumerable times and we were especially driven to find an answer when Brian Brennan was writing our official centennial history. We still have no definitive answer, but we feel we may be close.

There was an excellent article written about the Amazon sculpture by Daniel Lindley for the May issue of the magazine Stephen (page 28), which is put out by the Epcor Centre. In it he quotes from the Parks Department reports of Superintendent Richard Iverson in which he lays out his plans for the development of Central Park, proposing elevation changes, mass plantings, the building of a bandstand and summer houses and the incorporation of two statues, the Boer War Memorial and an “Amazon Group”. Many of Iverson’s plans were executed and we know that there was a statue of an Amazon, riding a horse which was being attacked by a panther, installed in the flower bed in front of the library. You can see the rear view of the statue on the far right of this postcard of the library.

PC 1989

Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1920?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1989

This statue was reportedly a copy of a famous statue by August Kiss, made for the entrance of the Altes Museum in Berlin. A copy was made from the original for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Other copies appeared in various places. Our Amazon was a smaller, slightly altered, copy of the original. As described to the board by Superintendent Iverson, the statue was of an “Amazonian lady mounted on her trusty cayuse when a panther or some such animal started to chew the pony’s head off about the neck, whereupon the lady deftly inserted a spear into a section of his anatomy where it was likely to do the most harm. The board thought this was very fine but James Marr, with a twinkle in his eye, suggested the lady should be shown ‘wi’ a kilt. But it is likely that the lady’s chief adornment will be bronze.” (CH Mar 12, 1912)

The fate of our Amazon was sealed in 1922 when the I.O.D.E. received permission to place a memorial stature by Coeur-de-Lion McCarthy in the park. William Reader, the Superintendent at the time, suggested that it be installed near where the Amazon stood. He proposed that the Amazon be moved to Tompkins Park. By 1924, the Amazon and her “incongruous” perch were gone. As you may notice in the postcard below, a cannon was installed on the front lawn as well. This cannon (and its companions) had been captured from the German army. There were several in the city including one at the gates of Riley Park. It seems as though the ethos of the time preferred arms to bosoms.

PC 943

Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1933

Postcards from the Past, PC 943

So what of the Amazon? The recommendation was to move it to Tompkins Park, but somehow it ended up in storage. In 1934 it was mounted on a piece of Tindall stone left over from the building of the Post Office and then placed in South Mount Royal Park where it was subsequently “mutilated and disfigured beyond repair by vandals.” This does not bode well for our Amazon. Did she end up in a landfill? Was she sold for scrap? We hope to find some more information about her fate so if you know anything please get in touch.

Xmas Gifts for the History Buff on Your List

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian

There is nothing like a blizzard to get me started thinking about Christmas shopping. In particular, how much I don’t want to be out shopping in weather like this. So, with that in mind I thought I would pull together a little list of books and some other suggestions for gifts for the history lover in our lives.

This was a really good publishing year for local history. Many of our favourite historians released books that would be great presents not just for local history buffs, but for family or friends who don’t know our city, but should.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Development Derailed: Calgary and the CPR, 1962-1964by Max Foran. In June of 1962, the Canadian Pacific Railway announced a proposal to redevelop part of its reserved land in the heart of downtown Calgary. In an effort to bolster its waning revenues and to redefine its urban presence, the CPR proposed a multimillion dollar development project that included retail, office, and convention facilities, along with a major transportation centre.

The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers in Southern Alberta by the Calgary Herald; foreword by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Flood of 2013 chronicles an unforgettable summer of angry rivers, unprecedented flooding and undeniable human spirit. This gift is a “double give” as a portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Calgary Foundation’s Flood Rebuilding fund.

Calgary LRT Walks: South Stations and Northwest Stations by David Peyto (available from Peyto Lake Books. One of the best ways to learn more about Calgary, to appreciate and enjoy the city, is on foot. Calgary LRT Walks describes many walks from LRT stations and include information on routes, buses, bathrooms and eateries.

River throws a tantrum by Rona Altrows; illustrated by Sarah-Joy Geddes is about one boy’s perception of the flood and evacuation. It was published by Pages Bookstore and read at one of their story times by Mayor Nenshi.

Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator by Scott Jolliffe looks at the history and demolition of the old Government elevator in Ogden. It is richly illustrated with the author’s photographs. Concrete Centenarian is available at many of the bookstores mentioned below. It is also available directly from the Calgary Heritage Authority for $30. For the CHA, email elevatorbookinfo@gmail.com

Marion Nicoll: Silence and Alchemy by Ann Davis, Elizabeth Herbert, Jennifer Salahub. Marion Nicoll is a widely acknowledged founder of Alberta art and certainly one of a dedicated few that brought abstraction into practice in the province. Her life and career is a story of determination, of dedication to her vision regardless of professional or personal challenges. She was the first female instructor hired by the school that is now ACAD.

Unbuilt Calgary: A History of the City That Might Have Been by Stephanie White. There have always been great plans afoot for Calgary. Stephanie White looks at some of the plans and what they would have meant for the city.

Wild Horses, Wild Wolves: Legends at risk at the foot of the Canadian Rockies by Maureen Enns. Ghost River Wilderness Area, located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, is one of only three provincially designated wilderness areas in the province. It is in this beautiful, threatened and geographically remote area that Maureen Enns, a well-known artist, author, educator and conservationist, has come to discover an incredible world inhabited by wild horses, one of the region’s most elusive and iconic creatures.

Any one of these titles would make a great gift. Many of these books can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo but also check our local booksellers such as the Glenbow Museum Shop, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books and Owl’s Nest.

Do you have a suggestion for a great local history book to give as a present? Please put your title in the comments and we'll add it to our list.

We're on Youtube

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

YouTube

We may be over 100 years old, but we’re not antiques yet. We have a new collection of Local History materials, not in a physical format, per se, but a wonderful collection all the same. On Calgary Public Library’s YouTube channel (yes, we do have a YouTube channel) we have uploaded a number of local history talks by some of our favourite local historians. We have just uploaded the series “Calgary Stories” recorded during our Heritage Weekend and featuring Harry Sanders, John Gilpin and David Finch each talking about a different aspect of Calgary’s history.

We have also uploaded our instructional program Research the History of Your House presented as part of the Century Homes project by members of Calgary Public Library’s Community Heritage and Family History department, an archivist from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and a librarian from the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. It is a great resource for anyone interested in researching buildings or the people who lived in them. Check it out.

We are very excited to be able to have these available for our customers and anyone else who is interested in the history of the city. But the YouTube collection is not just about history, there are other videos available as well, including the wonderful talk given by Lawrence Hill for the launch of One Book One Calgary and talks by other authors who have visited Calgary Public Library. If you missed Jo Nesbo or Guy Gavriel Kay you can check out their presentations as well. We are constantly adding recordings, so visit early and visit often!

Pets in Your Family Tree

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Dad and Peggy the dog

My Dad and his dog Peggy, 1931

Some people love their pets to the point of distraction. I may fall into that category (well, not quite) but I was tickled by some of the recent information I’ve found in my genealogical travels. What triggered this (no pun intended) was a search in findmypast.ie (this is a private, fee-based). I turned up tons of Sheridans and on further examination found that they were listed because they had licensed their dogs. Yes, dog license registrations for parts of Ireland are on Find My Past!

One might wonder what could possibly be gained by knowing that great uncle James owned several sheep dogs and a mastiff. Well, the first thing we would know is that great uncle James was a sheep farmer (granted, not a huge leap of imagination given that the man lived in Donegal, but still.) However, we have found the place where great uncle James lived and in Ireland, where any record is a good record, that is a very important piece of information.

Once I’d found these registers, I had to explore further. Most of the licenses are for working dogs like sheep dogs and terriers, some are for racing dogs—which is what I was hoping to find for the Sheridans who raised great racing dogs—but some are a little harder to fathom, like Mr. Coll in Rathmullen who owned two black poodles. Yes I know poodles are actually a sporting dog, but in a sea of terriers and sheepdogs, the poodles do say something about the man, don’t you think?

Another indication of the importance of pets in our lives is their inclusion in the census records. I was reading one of the many blogs that I regularly peruse and came across the story of Bobs, the black cat, who was enumerated in the 1911 British Census. It appears that in Britain, the householder filled out the census form, unlike in Canada, where people were enumerated and their names put on a list. I had to pursue this further and came across another posting, this time for a dog that listed not only her name but that she was a “faithful Irish terrier”—hence the name Biddy, the fact that she was a “demon on cats and vermin” and that she was 11 years old.

Again, this says as much about the person who owned her as it does about Biddy and it reminded me of visiting my husband’s aunt who kept a small Parson’s terrier on her farm in Cavan. He was a charmer and my husband mentioned this fact to his aunt who said “Aye, and he’s a great ratter” driving home the vast difference between her rural life and our, more sheltered, urban one.

So, scoff as you may about the keeping of seemingly useless records—there is no such thing in genealogical research.

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