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The Weir

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 229

Head Gates and Irrigation Canal, Calgary, ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 229

I seem to be obsessed with water these days. Or maybe it’s a normal reaction to betrayal by your rivers. Possibly not a healthy obsession, but I am going to write one more water-related post and then I will stop, promise. What caught my attention this week was the closure of the Harvie Passage, the man-made rapids designed to make the area around the weir safer for experienced paddlers (although they still strongly recommend that novices and folks in rubber rafts portage around the rapids) Harvie Passage is closed because the mighty Bow has rearranged the area and repairs need to be made before it is safe for use.

I remember going to a meeting where the plans for Harvie Passage were explained. It seemed like such an innovative way to deal with the “drowning machine” as the weir was known at the time. The building of two channels, designed to enhance the experience of the Bow, opened up that area of the river and allowed for enthusiasts to paddle without portage.

Growing up on the Bow, I knew the weir was there, but it wasn’t until much later in my life that I knew, first what a weir was exactly and second, why it was built. It may not seem like it this year, but the area in which we sit was considered by the early explorer John Palliser to be essentially a desert and not suitable for settlement unless irrigation could be provided. That section, still known as the Palliser Triangle, wasn’t even considered good enough to give away to homesteaders so it was taken out of the homestead scheme.

When the CPR came to claim their alternate sections of arable land as payment for building the railway, they also looked at the Palliser Triangle. They had just built a railway from coast to coast. Irrigating the prairie “desert” (the largest irrigation project in North America) would be a piece of cake by comparison and could increase their profits enormously. It was to this end that the weir was built, starting in 1904. This diversion would send water into a canal to send it on its way to the arid lands to the north and east. The Main Canal carried Bow River water to the Reservoir #1, or, as we call it today, Chestermere Lake (that was news to me too).

The weir was always a dangerous spot. A brief search through the old newspapers turns up many accounts of people drowning at that spot. Warning signs and buoys didn’t stop people from attempting to “shoot the rapids.” The idea of turning such a deadly, but necessary, area of the Bow into an attraction, was an inspired one, and I hope all will be well with Harvie Passage in the future.

We have some fascinating material on the history of the Western Irrigation District including Flow Beyond the Weir , which is the history of the Western Irrigation District, and some of the original reports and conference proceedings of the Western Canada Irrigation Association. Drop in to the Local History room at the Central Library and have a look.

PC 668

Canadian Pacific Irrigation Department Building, Calgary, 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 668

The Old Swimmin' Hole

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

PC 190

Swimming in Elbow Park, ca 1940s (?)

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Finally it is summer! Yay, just in time for fall. I was looking for a postcard to illustrate something about Elbow Park and I happened across this one that shows people swimming in the Elbow River. It was also posted as a nice summertime picture for Photo Fridays on our Facebook page. This got me to thinking about one of the best things about living at the confluence of two rivers – we have awesome swimming holes.

If any of you have heard Harry Sander’s list of 100 Awesome Things about Calgary, you will have heard about the rope swing on the Elbow River in what is now Lindsay Park. Well, back in the olden days, when I was a kid, there was no development in Lindsay Park, it was just waste ground owned by the city and the CNR. That made it a great hiding place for us to play hookey on a warm summer day (or a cold winter day, we didn’t need much of an excuse to duck school). We used to swing on the rope swing and drag our feet in the swimmin’ hole, sort of an inlet in the already shallow Elbow River. The more adventurous of us would drop in to the water and spend the rest of the afternoon lying on the bank in the sun trying to dry out our blue jeans. That was a really good excuse not to go back to class.

 

PC 960

Kiddies Pool at Bowness Park, ca 1920s

Postcards from the Past, PC 960

One of my other favourite places, and not just to swim, was Bowness Park. The company my dad worked for used to have a family picnic there every year. We got to ride on the rides and boat around the lagoon and swim in the kiddies pool. While not exactly a swimmin’ hole, it was a great place to spend a hot summer day.

The wading pond at Riley Park was a kind of swimming hole as well. Originally it was just a mud-bottomed slough (familiar to those of us who grew up on the prairies as the place where the cows drink and the ducks float). By the time I was old enough to paddle in the pool, it had been cemented and a lovely clump of willows planted in the middle. It is still a favourite with families in Calgary – my son loved to paddle in the pool when he was a baby.

Pool at Riley Park

Pool at Riley Park, prior to 1930

There were other excursions as well. When we were older we would ride our bikes out to Twin Bridges near the YMCA Camp and wander around in the silty river bottom. When we got our drivers’ licenses we’d pack up the car with towels and beer and dogs and spend the day and the evening hanging out and swimming in the river, until the RCMP whooshed us away and sent us all home.

Our junior high school used to hold its summer field day at Glenmore Park, and when we could shake off the chaperones (our moms and teachers) we would sneak a dip in the reservoir. Swimming in the city’s drinking water was not, apparently, limited to sneaky kids. Before the Glenmore Reservoir was built, there was a city reservoir roughly where Richmond Green is now. Militia units trained in the surrounding park and the soldiers were known to cool off after a long day of training in the reservoir, much to the dismay of the medical officers.

With the recent uprising of our peaceful rivers, it would be best to check on conditions before you try to take a dip in any of Calgary’s swimmin’ holes. But while you’re reminiscing, why not post your swimmin’ hole story in the comments section? We’d love to hear it.

The 1921 Census of Canada is Here!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

 

Calgary in 1921 Census

Cover page for Calgary, District 4, 1921 Census of Canada

Courtesy Library and Archives Canada

 

Since we’re already on a census theme, I am overjoyed to announce that the 1921 Census for Canada was released by Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada earlier this month and the images are now available on Ancestry Library Edition. There is no name index as of yet, but Ancestry is hard at work trying to get all 8.8 million names indexed. This census has been eagerly awaited by genealogists. Given the wrangling required to get the 1911 census released, we weren’t sure we were ever going to see this one. For many genealogists, this may be the first census on which we can find our parents or grandparents. I know it is going to answer any number of questions for me once I can locate my mom’s mom and her family.

I had a boo ‘round Ancestry this afternoon and had a bit of a time finding where they had stashed the images. Because they are not indexed, the records don’t show up in a search or in the card catalogue. But nothing will stand in the way of a genealogist on a quest. The way I found them (thanks to my colleague for assisting) was to log into AncestryLE, hit the Search button at the top of the page and then choose Explore by location in the middle of the page. Then I selected ‘Canada and then Alberta. You can choose any province except for Newfoundland, which wasn’t a province in 1921. Once you’ve selected your province, you will see a list of record types. Census and Voters Lists are the first category but the 1921 is not listed. Select View other… and you will see the 1921 Census at the bottom of the list. You can monitor progress on indexing by looking at the number to the right of the heading. Right now, there is a zero beside it. As indexing is done, the numbers should increase.

Once you’ve clicked on the link for the 1921 census you will see a box to the right labeled Browse this collection (see below).

Select your province and go wild. You can actually do this from home—check out Library and Archives Canada’s information page for a link—but to use indexing, once it is done, you will need to have an Ancestry subscription or use your library card for free, in-library access to Ancestry Library Edition. The images are great, especially compared to those of the 1911 Census, and the names are very easy to read. Have fun!

1921 Census in Ancestry

The 1921 Census Navigation Page on AncestryLE


And here is a reminder for those of you with Heritage Homes which may have been damaged in the floods, there is another information session being held tomorrow night, August 15, at Christ Church, Elbow Park, 3602 8th Street SE. You may have seen one of the presenters, Eileen Fletcher, on the Global Morning News talking about these sessions. There will also be a drop in session from 4-8 p.m. at the same location. You can find out more about this at the City of Calgary’s website and at the Calgary Heritage Initiatives website.

 

PC 51

Elbow Park, Calgary, 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

They've taken leave of their census!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

From the National Archives

I don’t want to talk about flooding anymore. I’m still feeling blue about being displaced and all the havoc that my once gentle rivers wreaked on my beautiful city so I am going to concentrate on genealogy for a while. One thing you can count on when you do genealogy, there is always something worse to discover.

I have a specific topic in mind and that has to do with a kind of ‘did you know thing” relating to finding your female ancestors in the UK. Deciding that if they were not to be considered as citizens when it came to voting, suffragettes, led by women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, declared that they would not participate in the census being taken on April 2, 1911. The census asked that the householders list everyone present in the dwelling on census night. To avoid being enumerated, suffragettes took one of two approaches: Either they defaced the form, writing such things as "I will not supply these particulars until I have my rights as a citizen. Votes for Women” or they arranged to be out of the house on census night. To facilitate that many events were organized across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This was not as frivolous as it seems as refusing to participate in the census could land one in prison.

The papers carried wonderful stories of the evening’s events. One enterprising woman was discovered in the crypt of the House of Commons on the Monday following census night. She had concealed herself there to avoid being enumerated but was “duly returned” on a census form provided by the police for that purpose. Another woman had hidden herself in a broom closet for 46 hours. Edinburgh protesters spent the night in a vegetarian restaurant and in an abandoned store. Some women slept in vans in parks. The biggest event, however, was an evening rally in Trafalgar Square that was broken up by police. The suffragettes had rented the Aldwych Skating Rink (roller skating, not ice-skating) and retired there to listen to speeches and skate until morning.

The London Times reported that the suffragettes efforts were largely useless as the women were counted by police, however, their particulars were not recorded and this has an impact on researchers looking for female ancestors in the United Kingdom (as if finding female ancestors was not hard enough). If your ancestor was a suffragette, she may not show up in the 1911 UK Census. I can find no indication that suffragettes in Canada and the US attempted the same strategy in any organized way but this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some dedicated women who staged their own census boycott. So, if you’re looking for a female ancestor around that time, keep the boycott in mind and also keep in mind that there may be records elsewhere (such as police rosters, Votes for Women organization lists, newspapers accounts of the boycott, lists of contributors to the cause and other documents. ) As always, be inventive and think outside the page (the census page, that is).

Census

It's Historic Calgary Week Again!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

 

3207 Elbow Drive

One of last year's Century Homes, 3207 Elbow Drive SW

Century Homes Calgary 2012, Old Homes Tell Great Stories

Yay, it’s Historic Calgary Week again! It looked a bit nip and tuck, given that many of the venues were affected by the flood, but it looks like the very dedicated volunteers at Chinook Country Historical Society took a page from the Calgary Stampede’s handbook and “come hell or high water” this show will also go on.

As in every other year, there are some really great presentations scheduled. Subjects range from aircraft to oil production, Bankview to birds and Barrons and everything in between. The crossword puzzle has been published (Calgary Herald, July 26, page A20) and is also available on the Chinook Country Historical Society website – along with a complete listing of the programs.

Sadly, some programs have had to be cancelled. The walking tour of High River and the tour of the Museum of the Highwood, the tours of Rouleaville and Bowness and the programs at the City of Calgary Archives, for obvious reasons, will not be run. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park has stepped in and will be offering more tours. You do have to register for these walks and you can do so at their website.

Century Homes has also become a very important part of Historic Calgary week and especially this year, given the damage caused by the flooding in many of the heritage neighbourhoods in Calgary. In spite of the closure of two of the three points of the Heritage Triangle, loads of people are participating this year. Check out the map and find more information at the Century Homes website.

In addition to cancellations, a couple of programs have had to relocate. The two programs scheduled for the Central Library on Friday August 2, The 1913 Palestine Exhibition and The Germans From Russia have been moved to Memorial Park (with thanks to both the manager at Memorial Park and the Volunteer Resources Department for their juggling to accommodate us).

And while my colleague and I have had no access to our resources (due to the flooding at Central) we have still managed to pull together a Century Homes program about several of Calgary’s historic homes and their owners. If nothing else, this exercise has reinforced my belief that we cannot find everything on the internet. Join us on Wednesday July 31 at 7pm at the Memorial Park Library. At the very least, it will be entertaining.

PC 1340

Turner Valley Oilfields

Postcards from the Past, PC 1340

 

 

Elbow Park School

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School from website

Elbow Park School

From the School Website

The beautiful old Elbow Park School has been in the news recently. It looks like damage to the building was quite extensive and there is some question as to its future. Right now, it appears that the wings on either side of the main building have been undermined and are sinking. They are pulling away from the main part of the building and causing cracks and other structural issues. The CBE is currently deciding whether to repair the school or build a new one. The Minister of Education has pledged to do as much as possible to save as much of the historic school as possible. For the next two years, students from the Elbow Park will be in a modular school being set up on the grounds of Earl Grey School.

Elbow Park School was originally a cottage school, which was a two storey building as opposed to the bungalow schools of four rooms in a single storey. In 1917 the cottage building was moved to 3640 7 Street and in 1919 two more rooms were added. In 1960 the building was still in use for shop and home economics classes for Rideau Park students. In 1962 this enhanced cottage school became the home of Tweedsmuir School for Girls.

In 1925 a bylaw was approved by an overwhelming majority to spend 100,000 dollars on a new school in Elbow Park. The Parents Association lobbied hard as they felt their existing school was too small, badly ventilated, poorly heated and a firetrap due to its open central staircase.

William Branton, Calgary School Board architect and building superintendent, with consulting architect R.P Blakey, designed the school. The cornerstone was laid on March 27, 1926, by F.S. Selwood, Liberal MLA and D.S. Moffat, City Solicitor. To mark the opening on November 26, 1926, a bridge and whist tournament was held, followed by refreshments.

Elbow Park was the first brick school in Calgary. The assembly hall, once the gym, and currently in use as the library, resembled a typical Old Country chapel. The papers said: "The walls are being artistically finished with a dappled light brown tint. The building is ultra-modern in every respect. "

Our fingers are crossed that this old beauty can be saved. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society will have updates on their forums, which can be accessed here.

PC 109

Elbow Park, Swimming in the Elbow

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

Addressing Flood Damage to Calgary’s Heritage Places

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

 

pc612

Fortieth Avenue, SW, Elbow Park Flooded,June 1923

Postcards from the Past, PC 612

Sadly, many of the neighbourhoods which were hardest hit by the floods of late June were the old neighbourhoods, where many of the city’s century homes are located. The Calgary Heritage Initiative Society (CHI) has put together a Heritage Roundtable to address the issue of flood damage to these heritage places. The evening’s topical discussion will be on the extent and severity of damage to historic resources in Calgary, including heritage sites, and older buildings and neighbourhoods. Even if you aren't a heritage homeowner, we all have a stake in the heritage of our city and this discussion will be of great interest.

The panel members will also offer advice on reclaiming and restoring heritage properties. Fixing up a century home with a brick or sandstone foundation is somewhat different from mucking out the basement of a 1950s bungalow with a poured concrete foundation. Horsehair insulation and plaster walls react differently to water than do drywall and fiberglass. The panel members have years of expertise and they are willing to share.

Presenters will also cover potential sources of government aid and other help and provide advice to affected property owners.

The Roundtable will be at Fort Calgary on July 25 starting at 6:30 pm. The event is free and everyone, whether a heritage homeowner or just a person with an interest in heritage, will find this evening to be very informative. You are asked to register at the Calgary Communities website.

The evening’s speakers will be:

Eileen Fletcher, Heritage Conservation Advisor, Alberta Culture: Historic Resources Management Branch;

Darryl Cariou, Senior Heritage Planner, City Wide Planning and Design, City of Calgary;

Alexandra Hatcher, Executive Director/CEO, Alberta Museums Association;

Halyna Skala Tataryn, Heritage Housing Specialist, Real Estate Representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

If you are dealing with a flood-damaged historic property, the CHI website has valuable section on their forum that includes links to resources such as Canadian Conservation Institutes “Resources for Salvaging Personal Valuables” and “After the Flood” by Eileen Fletcher on the Alberta’s Historic Places blog, RETROactive The Calgary Public Library has also put together a resource list for all homeowners dealing with flood damage. You can pick up a copy at your local branch or find it online here.

PC 1627


High River Flood, May 11, 1942

Postcards from the Past, PC 1627

Oh, the water....

by Christine H - 5 Comment(s)

 

PC 611

25th Avenue Bridge during the floods of 1915

Postcards from the past, pc 611

It has been a trying time, hasn’t it? Our beautiful rivers turned ugly on us. We knew they were fickle – we’d seen evidence of it in the past (see above) but somehow living through it and seeing the aftermath makes it different. We were particularly hard hit here at the Central Library. As I write this, we are still without power, which means our IT centre is without power, which means we have no computers. I started at the library before there were computers, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, but I realize I have become very reliant on the availability of online resources.

In the old days we had a Recordak machine – this would take a photo of the book card and the library card together and this would be developed as microfilm. By the time I was doing circulation we actually had a computer system in place, but there was no online card catalog – we were still using the same old card catalogue and a new, updated version on microfiche. We were unable to find out if a book was on the shelf or not. If it was there, great, if not, well...

CPL 105 35 08

Circulating books using a Recordak Machine, Georgina Thomson Branch, 1965

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 105 35 08

Then we launched the S.S. OPAC (online public access catalogue). We got t-shirts and had big parties because this was a revolutionary development for us. We could find out if books were in our system, if they were checked in or signed out and we could also place holds that would be caught the instant a book was returned. It made using the library so much more convenient. For the first little while, we couldn’t use the catalogue from home, but that didn’t matter much, because so few of us had internet access and what we had was glacially slow. But we kept developing our technology to make life for library customers simpler and quicker.

CPL 209 16 08

Gerry Meek launches the S.S. Opac at Village Square, 1992

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures CPL 209-16-08

Now, we are back to square one – maybe even further back. I would have liked a Recordak machine this week. It would have been far easier than recording each transaction manually. That aside, sitting here, in the branch named for our first Head Librarian, I have come to realize that the library is still the same place that he envisioned. It is safe and welcoming. Customers have come in with needs as diverse as a place to wash their hands after mucking out basements in Elbow Park and the need to find some diversion. We have provided a place for people whose homes are still without power to charging their telephones and laptops and a place for folks just needing to see a smiling face and an indication that some things are still OK. Alexander would be proud.

CPL 103 03 01

Mr. Alexander Calhoun, 1912

Calgary Public Library, Our Story In Pictures CPL 103-03-01

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

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