Latest Posts

Off Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

Brewery Gardens

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 51-08

Disney Themed Display

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens, 1960

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 51-08

The days are getting longer. Thanks to a wonderful Chinook things are warming up. Now is the time to think about gardens. OK, so maybe it is a bit early to think about actually gardening in Calgary but I stumbled across this picture of Snow White in the Brewery Gardens and I thought now would be a great time to talk about those particular gardens and what they’ve meant to Calgarians over the years.

The gardens were originally developed in 1932 and were a project of James Cross, the son of A.E.Cross who had taken over management of the Brewery from his father. Originally the plan for the garden was a bit of a make-work effort. In keeping with the Cross family tradition of looking out for their employees and giving back to their community, the gardens were an idea designed to reduce the need for layoffs and to give employees something to do during the Depression. It was a simple design, stands of trees and shrubs and a few flower gardens.

This would all change with the introduction of the fish ponds. James Cross was interested in water. Calgary Brewing and Malting’s slogan for a time was “The water makes the difference, naturally.” Indeed, the brewery was founded where it was because of the presence of an artesian well on the property. Water was important to good beer, and James realized that fish, too, needed clear, clean water to thrive. The symbolism was not lost on James Cross. From 1938 to 1972 a fish hatchery would be operated on the Brewery site. Water, warmed in the brewing process, would be used to sustain the hatchlings and the fish raised at the hatchery were used to populate the ponds and streams in the garden. The hatchery was just the first step in a process that would make the Calgary Brewing and Malting site a community centerpiece. By 1960 the Cross family had opened a large aquarium on the site – the largest inland aquarium in Canada. The second floor was designed to house James’ collection of western memorabilia. This would become the Horseman’s Hall of Fame in 1963.

The gardens themselves would house artifacts. A cabin, believed to be the oldest building in Calgary, was rescued and moved to the gardens in 1933 (see the picture below). Streetcar 14, after completing its final run, was moved for preservation to the site. Its frame was used to build the replica streetcar that runs at Heritage Park.

AJ 21=14

Cabin in Brewery Gardens 1957

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 21-14

The gardens were open to the public and were a very popular spot. In the winter, decorations were put out to make the gardens a year-round attraction. The first photograph shows a Disney-themed display from 1960 as viewed by Alison Jackson, whose collection of photographs can be viewed in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

According to a 1997 Historical Resource Impact Assessment of the site by Ken Hutchinson Architect Ltd. (which is available in the Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library) the structure of the gardens were found to be intact “with the important exceptions that the pools no longer contain water and fish and that the gardens no longer have the floral displays”. The 1875 cabin was still on the site, as was a replica of the original buffalo mascot. The talk surrounding the Calgary Brewing and Malting site has included the possibility of bringing the gardens back to their original state. That would be an interesting development and one many residents of the area (and others) would like to see.

PC 1406

Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Gardens

Postcards from the Past, PC 1406

Christmas in Early Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1263

Horse and Buggy

Postcards from the Past PC 1263

Often, when I am fishing for a subject for the blog, I turn to the newspapers. I love to read the old papers because it gives you a very interesting perspective on the early denizens of this city. For example, here is what was going on the week of Christmas in 1889:

“Shortly after six last night the children of Knox church, to the number of nearly a hundred sat down to a sumptuous tea. After regaling themselves…all eyes turned to the next and no less interesting item of the program—the Xmas tree. A handsome evergreen had been procured and now looked doubly resplendent in its colored wax candles and rich freight.” (Calgary Herald December 21, 1889) This sounds like a recipe for disaster, to me, 100 children and open flames on a wooden structure, but there are no subsequent articles about a fire in Knox Church, so all must have gone well.

In the same paper Christmas goodies were advertised including cheeses, calves foot jelly, mock turtle soup, galantine of wild boar’s head pate and a variety of other delicacies, all available for the festive season at G.C. King and Co. in the Post Office Block.

Continuing my cruise of the Christmas newspapers (it is actually a great way to dodge real work – we call it research) I was also intrigued by an ad I found in The Albertan for Saturday December 21, 1901. We often think of our forebears as stolid, no-nonsense folk not given to frivolity. Then I found this ad:

Buy your Horse a Xmas Present

Few people stop to see if their horse appreciates a gift as much as their dearest friend


Give him a comfortable blanket for those chilly days, or perhaps a more comfortable collar to draw his load with. Then make him look well and fell well by dressing him in the latest styles – at the

Calgary Saddlery Co. Ltd.

So, now when I feel the need to buy my dog a Christmas sweater, I feel better knowing that I am following a long line of strange people who feel the need to dress their animals up for Christmas.

The staff in the Humanities Department wish you the best of the season.

PC 152

Carnegie Library (now Memorial Park) Christmas Postcard ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past PC 152

My Favourite "Winter Weather Event"

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 799

Winter Scene, Elbow River

Postcards from the Past, PC 799

It looks like winter might actually be here, for a while anyway. Over the years we have noticed a very distinct trend. When the weather first turns, we start to get a lot of questions at the reference desk about notable 'weather events' (as in, blizzards) throughout Calgary's history. It may be our way of convincing ourselves that, though this winter may be bad, it can always be worse. These questions always lead to the staff here reminiscing about our own blizzard memories. We all seem to have our favourite. Mine is the blizzard of 1975. I had a part-time job as a candy bar girl (yes, that was my job title) at the Palace Theatre. When the blizzard started, there was a very real possibility that we wouldn’t be able to get home if we stayed at work, and the prospect of spending the night in the old theatre was not a welcoming one, so we all got to go home early.

I found a newspaper article, as I was going through the weather related clippings in the Local History Room here at the Central Library that showed a photo of the Palace Theatre behind metre high snow drifts. The clipping was from 1932 and the headline says it all “Anxiety felt for occupants of stranded vehicles while city estimates storm damage”. Teams of unemployed men (it was the Depression) had been put to work clearing the snow. The paper pointed out that this was a pointless exercise as the shovellers could not keep up with the snowfall. So even back in 1932, they were complaining about the city’s ploughing policy!

The winter that gets the most press, though is the Killing Winter of 1906/07. Cattle died by the thousands, unable to forage for grass beneath the ice and snow. People died and their bodies were not discovered until the spring. It was the final nail in the coffin of the old way of ranching. Many ranchers could not recover from their losses and the practice of turning out herds onto open range to fend for themselves for the winter was ended.

While our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library does not include photographs of major blizzards, since they’re not the best way to promote our beautiful city, it does include some lovely winter photographs of Calgary. I've included a couple of those, as a reminder that winter can be a great season here. As a colleague remarked when, exhausted after poring through the clippings of “winter weather events” I asked, “Why do we live here” – at least we don’t get tsunamis.

AJ 07-17

Winter Scene in Memorial Park, Showing Central Library, 1955

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 07-17


by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1224

Lethbridge Viaduct

Postcards from the Past, PC 1224

I’ve just gotten back from my vacation during which I indulged my passion for all things railroad. I walked part of the Trans Canada Trail on Vancouver Island to the magnificent Kinsol Trestle. The railroad holds a special place in my heart – my family came out west to B.C. to work for the railways; working first as labourers in the building of the Kettle Valley railway, then as trainmen, driving those same rails.

So, when I was casting about for a suitable topic for this blog I thought about trains. We have a lot of very lovely postcards of trains, stations, tunnels, bridges, even train wrecks. The one in this entry is of a train crossing the Lethbridge Viaduct Bridge (or High Level Bridge). If you would like to read about this bridge, we have a book in our collection about it: The C.P. Rail High Level Bridge at Lethbridge.

The railroad was very important to the settlement of the west. The transcontinental railway made access to the lands of what would become Alberta and Saskatchewan much easier. The Canadian Pacific Railway, granted 25 million acres of prairie land as part of the deal to build the railway, encouraged settlers to come out and purchase some of that land. They also realized that tourism to the scenic Rocky Mountains was another way to generate revenue and they began a campaign to promote the travel to the Banff area. They sent photographers to capture the wonders of the area, and many of these photos were turned into postcards, some of which can be viewed in the Community Heritage and Family History digital library. (Use ‘banff’ as the search term.)

PC 976

Banff Springs Hotel

Postcards from the Past, PC 976


by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 1375

Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street SE

Postcards from the Past, PC 1375

We are having a Senior's Summer Market at the Central Library on June 5 from 11-3. A number of exhibitors will be here and we will have some of the treasures from our Community Heritage and Family History collection on display in the Local History room on the 4th floor. This market and my recent visit to Heritage Park as part of the Historical Society of Alberta's annual conference this weekend, got me thinking about markets in Calgary.

There had been a public market in Calgary as early as 1885 when a bylaw was enacted to establish a public market and weigh scales. It was generally an open air affair, with no permanent structures until 1903, when a shed was erected.

The building in the above photo is the Public Market which stood at on 3rd Street E. between 3rd and 4th Avenues. This market was conceived by the Women's Consumers' League, which was formed to relieve the financial pressure caused by rising food prices. Annie Gale, who would later become Calgary's first female city council member, was one of the most vocal members of this group. She was appalled at the cost of produce that, in her opinion, would have been fed to the cows in the old country.

The Consumers' League brought in food from local producers to compete with suppliers who brought in their produce from out of province. By 1915, in response to pressure from the Consumers' League and Annie Gale, the Public Market was incorporated as a city utility. Once she was elected to council in 1918, the public market became Mrs. Gale's pet project. The concept of the city being involved in the direct sale of produce at the market was contrary to the beliefs of many members of city council, however, and the proposal for more municipal participation was defeated. By 1920 the public market was a dead issue and, although it languished for a few more years, it was no longer listed as a city utility in the 1925 Municipal Manual. The building was used as a marketplace, housing various vendors through the years. It was purchased by Sam Sheinin and was the location of three of his businesses until it was destroyed by fire on Christmas eve, 1954.

The new Heritage Town Square at Heritage Park recreates the facade of this building.

A City on Two Rivers

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 610

Elbow River in Flood, 25th Avenue W Bridge, 1923

Postcards from the Past, PC 610

I don’t want to bring this up, really, but flood season will soon be upon us. Since the founding of the city, where the Bow River meets the Elbow, flooding has been a reality for Calgarians. The first major flood occurred in 1884 but caused little damage because of the limited population and structures in the settlement. But floods occurred regularly and in both winter (usually caused by ice jams) and summer. Many of us, over many generations, have been the victims of Mother Nature. A flood in 1923 washed out the gas line near High River that supplied Calgary with gas. The Albertan of June 2 said: “Ham and eggs were at a premium in local restaurants last night. There was no gas to cook them.” Water flooded the basement of the city power house and there was no power to the city. The flood was caused by a heavy rainstorm in the mountains. The Elbow was yet to be controlled by the Glenmore Dam, which wasn’t built until 1931, and rose nearly five feet. The Bow also rose to within inches of the high water mark of the 1915 flood.

What is really interesting in all of this is that there are postcards showing the rivers in full flood. Most of the postcards in our collection were created to show off the city to friends and relatives back home. We often joke that very few postcards show Calgary in the winter. But there is a series of postcards showing bridges and homes threatened by the floods of the city’s two rivers. The two I’ve used to illustrate this entry are from the flood of 1923. Is this akin to the t-shirts we wore bragging that we survived the blizzard of 1999?

PC 613

Flooded Residential Street in Calgary, 1928?

Postcards from the Past, PC 613

To find out more about the city and its relationship with the rivers that run through it you can check out the chapter on floods in Calgary: Spirit of the West by Hugh Dempsey (971.2338 DEM) or our newspaper clippings file (there are actually 3 files) called “Floods – Calgary” in the Community Heritage and Family History room. You can also search our library catalogue for books and other items about the two rivers that make our lives here wonderful and difficult. And, as always, if you’d like to see more pictures of floods in Calgary and Southern Alberta, just search our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link on the left) with the term ‘flood’.

Calgary Hotels

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 947

Cecil Hotel, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 947

Calgary's historic hotels are in the news again. This time it is the Cecil Hotel, built in 1912 to cater to the needs of the working man. It was described in a 1914 Albertan publication as "a cosy resort permeated with fellowship." A hotel down the street, the King Edward, catering to the same clientele, was called "the ideal home of the working man."

Hotels played an important part in the early history of this city. To see more pictures, visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in the history of hotels in Calgary, come down to the local history room of the Central Library and have a look at The Role of Hotels in Early Calgary by Harry Sanders and Bed and Breakfast by William M McLennan.

Calgary Courthouses

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


This is Calgary's first courthouse, built in 1888-1889. Before this building was constructed, court was held in an immigration shed. When a second courthouse was built in 1915, this building served as the NWMP facilities and jail. The building was demolished in 1958 to make way for Calgary's third courthouse, the Court of Queen's Bench, completed in 1962.

Check out the link on your left for other postcards. If you have any stories about this building, please post your comments.


by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

WhiskyIn 1892 two-year-old whisky was $1.25 a gallon and “old” whiskey was $2.00 a gallon. The most popular drink at Calgary’s exclusive Ranchmen’s Club in 1892 was Glen

Grant Scotch whiskey shipped directly from Edinburgh in 40 gallon barrels.

To read more about it, check out Hugh Dempsey's book, Calgary : spirit of the west : a history / by Dempsey, Hugh Aylmer, 1929- (Is it a coincidence that this is found in a book called Spirit of the West?)
Interested in reading more? Try James H. Gray's classic book Booze : the impact of whisky on the prairie west / by Gray, James H., 1906-1998 and the follow up title,

Bacchanalia revisited : Western Canada's boozy skid to social disaster / by Gray, James H., 1906-1998.

12Showing 11 - 19 of 19 Record(s)