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How did we get here?

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

City Plan, Mawson Report

Preliminary Town Planning Scheme

From the Mawson Report

Did you know that the Calgary Public Library's Community History and Family Heritage Room has a collection of over 300 maps relating to Calgary, Alberta and Canada?

We no longer have to think about paper maps as often as we once did. Now we can program coordinates into a GPS, and a friendly voice will help us reach our destination. (And as a bonus, you never have to try to fold a GPS to make it fit in the glove compartment!) Or you can go to Google Maps, enter an address, and instantly get driving instructions. You can even use Google Street View to zoom right in on a building or street for a better look, without ever leaving your chair.

But paper maps still have stories to tell. Several of the maps in our collection are beautifully illustrated, and elegantly lettered by hand. Others are surrounded by vintage advertising for local businesses and attractions, and indicate the locations of buildings that are no longer standing. If you would like to find the location of an Alberta homestead, a railway, an old Calgary street or neighbourhood, or an Alberta town no longer in existence, our map collection may be able to help. This collection is also useful if you would like compare Calgary in different time frames to see how our city has grown, or if you are writing a historical story and want to establish the setting. (Where would your characters catch the train, and which towns would it pass?)

Some of the maps in our collection are of the earliest representations of Canada. Several explorers lead various expeditions to the wilds of this uncharted territory, creating maps as they travelled. I am always impressed by the bravery and fortitude of these trail-blazing individuals, men like John Palliser and Peter Pond, and by the assistance and wisdom of their First Nations guides. Some of these maps are now known to be quite inaccurate, but their creators didn't have the benefit of an aerial view to see if they were right! (Palliser Expedition - Map CAN 5) (Peter Pond - Map CAN 22)

We have many maps of Calgary in our collection, representing the city from her earliest days to the present. The earliest map for Calgary is a reproduction of an 1883 land map, and it shows the homesteads of some of Calgary's earliest pioneers, men like James Barwis, Louis Roussel, Felix McHugh, James Walker, Napoleon Mayett, and Baptiste Anouse (Map CALG 40). The most current map in our collection is a Calgary Transit route map for 2009-2010 (Map CALG 124). We have several maps of Calgary showing the former names of neighbourhoods, and of areas that were annexed and named but then not developed until MANY years later. (This city has always been in flux, with many boom-and-bust cycles over the years.) Do you know where the neighbourhoods of Grand Trunk, Harlem, Strathdoune, Claralta, Kitsilano, Balaclava Heights or Spring Garden were? Harrison & Ponton's Map of the City of Calgary for 1913 (Map CALG 7) shows all of these neighborhoods. (I am guessing that Balaclava Heights was named after one of the international cities with that moniker, and not for the headgear, but with Calgary's winters, who knows?)

Calgary districts such as Sunnyside, Bowness, Montgomery, Forest Lawn and Midnapore were once independent towns and villages, separate from Calgary. In earlier maps, there is often a gap between the city and these areas. One map (map CALG 10) shows Bowness in 1959, before it was annexed by the City of Calgary in 1964. Sunnyside was annexed in 1910, Midnapore and Forest Lawn were annexed in 1961, and Montgomery became part of the city in 1964. The hamlet of Shepard, east of the city, was annexed in 2007. Calgary continues to grow.

If you would like to see what’s UNDER Calgary, have a look at the Calgary Geoscape (map CALG 137). This map includes fascinating information on Calgary’s geography and geology, and has notes on this area’s aquifers, sandstone sources, petroleum resources, and glacial erratics.

If you are doing more current research on Calgary, we have a book containing aerial views of the city in 1995. (Call number Local History O/S 917. 12338 CAL 1995). We also have address and atlas books for Calgary for 1992, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2007.

The Calgary Public Library's collection of historical maps is located in the Community Heritage and Family History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We have several recent additions to our map collection, so if it has been awhile since you've had a look, come see what's new!

The Right to Vote

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 0359

Nellie McClung House, 803 15th Avenue SW

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0359

Because I am a genealogist I have an interest in the creation of records of people. Things like birth and marriage records, census records and, appropriately enough during this mayoral election, lists of eligible voters. When I speak to young people and people just getting started in genealogy, I have to remind them that we can’t look for everyone in the voters’ lists. As strange as it may seem now, at one time in our history not everyone was entitled to vote. In earlier times, being a citizen, as we understand it now, was not enough to qualify you as a voter. Sometimes you had to be a landowner, of a particular race, or of a particular gender. Changes in law that brought us to where we are now, where every citizen has a right to a voice in the choice of government, were often hard won. Often it took a way of thinking that was outside of accepted beliefs. This was the case with women’s suffrage. It sometimes astonishes people to find out that women weren’t granted the absolute right to vote in Canada until 1940, when Quebec finally granted women the right to vote in provincial elections.

The right of women to vote in the Prairie Provinces has much to do with a woman called Nellie McClung. She was a social activist who was concerned about many causes, among them, the right of women to have a voice in government. Through the work of Nellie and other women, Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote in provincial elections and to hold run for provincial office, in January of 1916. Nellie and her family had moved to Edmonton by this time and she had continued her fight. Alberta granted women the vote shortly after Manitoba, in April, 1916.

We have come a long way since we had to fight for the right to vote. Now we need to make sure that we exercise that right.

Ballot Box

The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library has an excellent collection of material relating to the history of the political environment in Alberta and many of Nellie McClung’s works.

Calgary Board of Education Celebrates 125 Years

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 854

New Central School (later James Short School) 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 854

In the next few years we are going to see a plethora of anniversaries being celebrated. The years at the beginning of the 20th century were a boom time for Calgary. Between the 1901 census and the 1911 census, the population of Calgary grew from around 4000 to around 44, 000. With the population growth came the establishment of important and lasting institutions and the construction of many fine buildings. The Calgary Public Library was built in 1911 and officially opened on the first day of 1912. The beautiful sandstone City Hall building was completed. In 1912 we celebrated our first Stampede. The street railway, our first transit system, was built in 1909. The period between 1900 and 1912 was one of major importance in the building of our city.

One organization, however, was already celebrating a significant anniversary in 1910. By that year the Calgary Board of Education was already 25 years old. On March 2, 1885 the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 was formed by an order of the Executive Council of the North West Territories. A school had existed in Calgary before this time but it was funded through subscription, not through taxation. At the time of its formation, the Calgary Protestant Public School District No. 19 had 70 students and met in a small building on 9th Avenue and 5th Street SE. In no time the size of the student population had overwhelmed the school and space was rented on the second floor of a building on 8th Avenue E. owned by I.S. Freeze.

The student population continued to grow and the Board was forced to issue a debenture for the construction of a purpose-built school in 1887, which would become Central School, on 1st Street W north of 5th Avenue. By 1893, it, too, was overcrowded. Throughout these early years of its existence, the board was plagued by a shortage of classroom space necessitating the rental of rooms in various locations including the Alberta Hotel. In 1893 plans were put in place to build a new school, which would be called the South Ward School.

AJ 23-13

South Ward School, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 23 13

Growth continued to be matched by the growth of the student population and, therefore, a growth in the school system. Some of those magnificent sandstone schools were built to meet the demand of the burgeoning population. We have pictures of many of those schools in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, which can be accessed through the link on the left. We also have some very good histories of education in Calgary, such as From Slate Pencil to Instant Ink and From Slate to Computer by McLennan. We also have the 1906 annual report of the newly formed Province of Alberta, Department of Education. These are all available in the Community Heritage and Family History Room at the Central Library. The Calgary Board of Education has put up a really good PowerPoint presentation about some of their historic schools. You can see it at this link:

Happy Anniversary CBE. Here’s wishing you another 125 years.

The Plus 15 Walkway System

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach photograph

Plus 15 to Penny Lane, 5 St & 8 Ave SW

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Calgary’s Plus 15 System is synonymous with the downtown core. It is an extensive 16 kilometer public skywalk network of 57 bridges, designed to protect pedestrians from inclement weather and help reduce congestion on the streets. To get a better sense of how large the Plus 15 System really is, if you could rearrange all the skywalks into a straight line the walkway would be longer than 159 football fields placed end-to-end. Harold Hanen, who is “credited with being the father of Calgary’s plus-15 system” [“Striving for an affinity,” Calgary Herald, Sept 23, 1984], designed the network of 15 ft high walkways - hence the name Plus 15 - in the late 1960s.


The first official Plus 15 bridge, which connects the Westin Hotel to Calgary Place across 4th Avenue S.W [PAM FILE 388.41 CAL 1999], was built in 1970. However, this bridge was not the first pedestrian bridge built in Calgary. The first pedestrian bridge in Calgary is thought to be a bridge that connected the New Calgary Market (129 – 7th Avenue SW) to the Arcade on 8th Avenue [“Calgary Stock Exchange,”

If you are interested in learning more about the Plus 15 system, including the project’s architect Harold Hanen, the library has a wealth of resources for you to consult. We have a newspaper clippings file, local history books, pamphlet files, and historical maps of the Plus 15 system, as well as biography clippings file on Harold Hanen. In addition, we have historical photographs of the Plus 15 System in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. I found the map “1987 Calgary - Downtown Business Area” (Calg 34) to be particularly interesting as it shows what businesses were in the buildings connected by the Plus 15 system in 1987, as well as proposed Plus 15 & C-Train routes. For instance, did you know that there was a Plus 15 connecting a Dairy Queen to the Chevron Plaza on 5th Ave and 4th St S.W. in 1987?

(Photograph of the Arcade is from:

Shaganappi Golf Course

by Christine Hayes


Sometimes, when you see something every day, you actually stop seeing it in any real sense. Such, for me, is the Shaganappi golf course. I have passed it at least once a day nearly every day of my adult life. I grew up and still live in the west side of the city and I travel down Bow Trail nearly every day. I had stopped seeing the golf course. Now, of course, it is hidden behind the construction for the new leg of the LRT but it is still back there. I have had occasion recently, to gather some of my friends and neighbours around me to reminisce and my next door neighbor reminded me that she is a fifth generation Calgarian and told me the story of her grandfather, Joe Ferguson, who was the pro and the man responsible for the care of the Shaganappi golf course for many , many years. I was intrigued, especially when she told me that Joe actually lived on the golf course.

This picture is from Morris Barraclough's book and was given to him by Joe Ferguson. It shows the opening of the new municipal golf course in 1916:


From Prairie to Park, page 59

This, of course (and my friends are well aware that I am mining their conversations for blog inspiration) caught my fancy. Several years ago a donation was made to the Community Heritage and Family History collection. It consisted of notes and a manuscript of Morris Barraclough’s From Prairie to Park: Green Spaces in Calgary, which was part of the Century Calgary publications for the centennial of the founding of Calgary in 1975. I knew Morris had interviewed Joe and had documentation on the history of Shaganappi Park and golf course. It proved to be a treasure trove. Excerpts from the Superintendent’s report on Shaganappi from 1905 show that the 80 acres on the west side of the city, which were a gift from the Dominion Government, were considered unsuitable for park purposes but could be improved for field sports. In fact, in 1914, a 9 hole golf course was proposed, both for the purposes of enjoyment but also as a means to increase the revenue of the street railway, which ran out that way. By 1915 an 18 hole golf course built, sort of. 2,153 people teed off between August 7th (the date of its opening) and November 30 when it closed for the winter (really!) The following year it opened in March and some of the greens and tees were relocated on the advice of the players. William Reader, then parks superintendent “loaned a number of chairs and tables (my personal property) for use at the Club House, without expense to the city except for cleaning at their return.” That year 7582 people teed off at Shaganappi. In 1917, shortly after opening in March, the course burned over and the pro from the Banff golf course was called in to re-plan it. It became a very popular course and by 1920 it was seeing nearly 15,000 golfers a season. Golfers so loved it that on fair days in the winter, although the course was officially closed, golfers could come out to play.

The Shaganappi municipal golf course will celebrate its 100th anniversary very soon. It is very satifying to see that he course is still in use. Many of us who grew up near Shaganappi remember wheeling off on our bikes with two or three clubs slung across our backs to hack away on the municipal course. Many of my friends became life-long golfers and now take their kids to Shaganappi to knock around a few balls.

Morris Barraclough's great history of parks in Calgary is available at the Calgary Public Library. It is called From Prairie to Park: Green Spaces in Calgary and is included in the Centennial Calgary volume At Your Service Part 1. The items so kindly donated by his family are in the process of being added to the collection.

I am always looking for ideas for this blog. Do you have any historical or genealogical subjects you would like to see written about? Pop your suggestion into the comments at the bottom of this page and we'll do our best to round up a photo and write a short article.

Calgary's Military Heritage

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1660

Mewata Armoury ca. 1934

Postcards from the Past, PC 1660

Last Saturday we enjoyed a march past of the Calgary Highlanders and the King’s Own Calgary Regiment. Both were celebrating their 100th anniversaries. The Queen’s Own Rifles was also celebrating their anniversary of 150 years, which makes them the longest serving infantry regiment in Canada. For several years, first and second battalions of the Queen’s Own were stationed at Currie Barracks here in Calgary. To celebrate this momentous occasion, Princess Alexandra, the Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, was supposed to come to Calgary. The volcanic eruption in Iceland put the kibosh on that plan but the veterans who assembled, though somewhat disappointed, were glad to have the chance to celebrate and connect with other veterans.

The King’s Own and the Highlanders can both trace their origins back to the 103rd Calgary Regiment, Calgary Rifles. The regiment was formed on April 1, 1910. The 103rd formed several battalions during the First World War. The King’s Own Calgary Regiment grew out of the 50 Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In World War II they were reorganized and had several names, among them the 14th Armoured Regiment (Calgary) commonly called the Calgary Tanks. The King’s Own have been an infantry, machine gun and tank regiment but are currently a reconnaissance unit. They are based at Mewata Armoury.

The Calgary Highlanders also grew from the 103rd Regiment. In 1921 they became a highland regiment, known from then on as the Calgary Highlanders. They were a volunteer regiment with members holding regular jobs. They trained on weekends and in the evenings. They were mobilized for the first time on September 1, 1939. Twenty-two of the Highlanders landed on Dieppe in August of 1942. All returned safely to England. Today the Highlanders are once again a regiment of “citizen soldiers” who train Wednesday evenings and one weekend a month.


Postcard describing the history of the Calgary Highlanders including insignia, ca. 1940

Postcards from the Past, PC 768

These regiments are a part of Calgary’s proud military heritage. If you are interested in researching more about the military in Calgary, we have a great collection of information in the Community Heritage and Family History Collection here at the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library. We are also very lucky to have the Military Museums located right beside the Currie Barracks site which is also rich with the history of Calgary’s military.

Stanley Park District

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1248

Elbo [sic] River

Postcards from the Past, PC 1248

I was reading the old newspapers, again, when I stumbled on the announcement of the winner of the “name that district” contest on April 15, 1909. J.R.C. Smith, of 1811 Centre Street, Calgary, suggested the name Stanley Park for the new subdivision adjoining Elbow Park. For his prize, he was awarded a fifty-foot corner lot in the subdivision. Over seven-hundred people entered and this, according to promoters, was an indication of a potential rush of buyers for the new lots. I have no idea why the name Stanley Park was chosen over all the others and I have no indication of the significance of the name (although I am still looking). I am very curious so if anyone out there knows, please let me in on the tale.

I checked the Henderson’s directories to see if I could find out more information about Mr. Smith (suspecting, I must admit, that he was made up and this was all a publicity ploy) and what I was able to find was that there was a Smith living at 1811 Centre Street Calgary. Crispin Smith, who was a city magistrate, was the householder at that address. Could J.R.C. Smith have been his son? I don’t know and I haven’t been able to find any more information. No addresses turn up in Stanley Park in the five succeeding years of Henderson’s directories. Even though Stanley Park was named and lots were designated, little development took place until the 1950s. The park itself, was designated a park in 1924, but most of the development of the park took place when landscaping began in the 1960s. My resources are obviously incomplete on the subject of Stanley Park, so I would be most delighted to hear from anyone who can add to my information.

Even the photo I’ve put into this entry is not of the area of Stanley Park but of a lovely vista of the Elbo (sic) River.

East Village

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1375

Calgary Public Market, 3rd Street between 3rd and 4th Avenue SE

Postcards from the Past, PC 1375

I was recently asked by the publisher of the East Village View to write an article about the site on which Booker’s B.B.Q. is standing. I was happy to do this as the East Village is my second home. I have worked in this neighbourhood for all of my adult life and I love this place. It has changed so much, but there are still stories to be told about the residents and the buildings. The East Village View is our community newsletter and part of its mandate is to bring these stories to the residents. We have copies of the newsletter in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library, if you would like to have a look at them.

Writing about the Booker’s site allowed me to tell the stories of a bunch of interesting people who made their mark down here. Booker’s stands at 316 3 Street SE just across the street from the Cecil Hotel. The current building was built in 1956, following a massive Christmas Eve fire in 1954 that destroyed the original Calgary Public Market building that was on the site.

The Calgary Public Market had been built in 1914 in response to consumer concerns over poor quality and lack of competition. It was a pet project of Annie Gale, who was the first woman “alderperson” in the British Empire. The building to house the market was built in 1915 (see the picture above) and it was immediately filled with vendors. It was a public utility until 1925. Even after that it continued to function as a market. It was purchased in 1946 by Sam Sheinin, who had been manager of the public market and had bought the building as a home for his businesses. He had operated various businesses on the site, Home-Del Foods, Calgary Cold Storage and Sheinin’s Live and Dressed Poultry. Sheinin rebuilt and operated his businesses until 1959. By 1960 the Alberta Poultry Marketers Co-Operative had moved in. They operated from the site until 1960.

By 1972 the chickens were out and the “chicks” moved in. The Betty Shop, which seemed to be in every mall in the city when I was growing up, had its warehouse there. The Betty Shop was owned and managed by Lena Hanen. She was the daughter of a Rabbi, the wife of a successful businessman and the mother of Harry Hanen, the man who gave us the +15 system. She was also a very astute businesswoman and, by all accounts, a great boss. By the time of her death in 1979 she employed over 1000 people in 40 stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Lena’s family seems to have owned the building until 1985 when the Kingfisher restaurant opened its doors. The Kingfisher was famous for its owner, Sandy Cruikshank, and his “Tuesdays with Webster” discussions. In the late 1990s it changed hands again and became Booker’s.

This part of the city has a fascinating heritage, one which I am very proud to be a part of. If you are interested in researching your corner of the city, come down to the Community Heritage and Family History room in the Central Library. We’d be glad to see you.

Skiing in Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

PC 963

Ski Jump on the Roof of the Grandstand,

Built for the Calgary Winter Festival, 1921

Postcards from the Past, PC 963

Because Calgary is so close to the mountains, a ski hill within the city may seem unnecessary. What we need to remember is that at one time, getting to Banff and the surrounding area was not a simple drive up the highway. It could be a journey fraught with peril along the Banff Coach Road (so called, I believe, because it was designed for coaches not cars!) For a devoted skier, this was not an acceptable situation so over the years ski hills have been developed in and near Calgary.

A pioneering organization in the development of local ski hills was the Calgary Ski Club which was founded, originally, early in the 20th century by a handful of Scandinavian immigrants interested in ski jumping. The presence of this group led to the strangest sight ever in Calgary winter history, the ski jump on top of the grandstand at the Exhibition Grounds (see the postcard above).

In its second incarnation, founded in the 1930s, The Calgary Ski Club looked for a suitable venue in or near the city so that avid skiers could ski during the week. Golf courses provided some possibilities. They were unused during the winter and some, like Shaganappi, were owned by the city. So it was to Shaganappi that the Ski Club turned in 1938. A perennial problem in Calgary, of course, is the chinook wind and that, coupled with the drought of the 1930s made skiing in the city a sporadic affair. The Ski Club experimented with farm equipment and eventually started using a grain blower to blow snow from areas where it was abundant onto the hill. Despite its great location (on a bus route), the installation of a rope tow and its popularity, Shaganappi ski hill lasted only until 1951. It wasn't until some 20 years later that the City invited a private operator to re-develop the runs, exactly where they had been when the ski club had them.

Asked to move from the municipal course the club sought another hill, and found what it thought was a good choice, on the north side of what is now Coach Hill, just above Bowness. It was not a unanimously popular choice and the development of Paskapoo in 1961 kind of put an end to that idea.

Happy Valley

View of the Chalet at Happy Valley Ski Hill, 1960s?

Happy Valley Calgary's Year 'Round Playground

Paskapoo remained a public hill and many of us learned to ski there. It would later become Canada Olympic Park. Just down the road a bit (advertised as being 5 miles from the city limits) was Happy Valley, “Calgary’s year ‘round playground,” which included a ski hill with a chalet and two poma lifts. The photograph of the beautiful chalet comes from a brochure dating from the 60s that we have in the Community Heritage and Family History collection here at the Central Library. Also in that collection is the book I used to find out about the Calgary Ski Club, Calgary Goes Skiing: a history of the Calgary Ski Club by David Mittelstadt. If you are interested in finding out more about skiing in and around Calgary, we have some great resources in the Local History Room and we would be happy to show you the ropes (rope tows,perhaps ).Laughing

Not Just Ancestry LE : More Online Resources for Genealogists

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

PC 503

R.B. Bennett Receiving Nomination Convention of Conservatives, Winnipeg 1927

Postcards from the Past PC 503

This is the second of my installments about some of the subscription databases (other than Ancestry LE) that genealogists should try. This week I want to introduce you to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

In my introductions to the genealogy collection here at the Central Library, I always like to mention National Biographies as a potential resource. Many countries have them and they are the semi-official records of the people who played a role in the formation of their respective countries. The grand-daddy of these is the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB – I warned you about libraries and acronyms!) DNB is the national biography of Great Britain. Calgary Public Library owns the original 22 volume set and the 15 volumes of supplements. Sources such as these can be very useful especially if you have ancestors who were notable in some way. In Canada, sometimes being notable just meant being here early so the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, in addition to politicians and industrialists, includes, pioneers, fur traders, and First Nations leaders. The articles are written by many different, reputable authors and include extensive bibliographies of primary and secondary source material. The DCB (again with the acronyms!) covers people who died between 1000 and 1930 (it is traditional in national biographies to include only dead people and to indicate coverage by date of death)

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography was started in 1959 as a joint project of the University of Toronto and the Université Laval. It is available in English and French and has been a staple reference source, in its paper incarnation, on reference shelves in libraries across Canada for decades. Now that it is available online it is much easier to use and the full text searching pulls up names of people mentioned in articles but not necessarily the subject of an entire article themselves.

You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through our E-Library accessible through the catalogue or via the link at the top of our homepage. In the E-Library you can click on either “Canadian” or “History and Genealogy” and scroll down to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. You will be asked to sign in using your library card number and PIN. Choose your language, and off you go. You can browse the collection by name, by category or by geographic location.

You can also search the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online through the site at Library and Archives Canada.

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