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History and Kids: Have a Blast with the Past

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 620

Stoney (Nakoda) Children on a Travois, 1922

Postcards from the Past, PC 620

Part of our Heritage Weekend this year is a program for young people at the Nose Hill Library on Sunday October 27 from 12 to 3 p.m. We have folks coming in from Heritage Park, Fort Calgary, Military Museums, Archaeological Society of Alberta Calgary Centre, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Lougheed House, the Aerospace Museum, and the History Wrangler. There will be lots of stuff to see and do and it’s a great way to get our young people enthused about our history.

Getting young people interested in history can be somewhat challenging, although I find when we do school tours there are always a few students who think that a one hundred year old business directory is “sick” (for us oldsters, that means really cool) or who think the old maps are “killer” (also means good). I even had one young man tell his friend that, no, history wasn’t boring, it was “awesome”!

So, in many cases the interest is there, but sometimes isn’t tapped until they can get their hands on a buffalo skull, or an artifact from a museum, or until they hear the stories of the everyday people who made this province. That is what we are going to do at the Family Heritage Fair. So if you have a budding historian in your life or even if you’d just like to take the kids to see what’s neat at the library, pop in on Sunday and have a blast with the past.

 

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Children's Story Hour at the Library, 1912

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

More Heritage Weekend — Commerce and Sports

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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Looking to the North East from the top of the Grain Exchange Building, ca 1910

Postcards from the Past PC 954

Our annual Heritage Weekend kicks off on Friday October 25 at 5:30 p.m. with Heritage Matters: Calgary’s Commercial Heritage. Author and photographer Steve Speer will present images from his book Building on the Bow: Landmarks in Calgary Commercial Real Estate. The images in the book are the culmination of a year’s work documenting Calgary’s changing architectural landscape. With Calgary being a city that grows in fits and starts, many old buildings are changed or lost and many new buildings rise. Sometimes it happens so fast, we don’t even notice. Building on the Bow provides an important record of the city’s commercial properties both old and new. I’m going to be there with bells on.

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Hockey Player (Alex Griesak) 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 1596

The very next day, we have another program lined up that promises to be just as entertaining: an examination of Calgary’s Sports Heritage with Honoured Members from the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. This is an aspect of life in Calgary that we haven’t covered before and I am really looking forward to hearing this presentation. We have always been a sporting community; the Mounties played polo nearly as soon as they got here and, with our balmy Chinook winters, we even had baseball games played in January (with commentators noting that the balmy breeze kept the spectators from getting too hot!) There is a long heritage of sporting excellence in Calgary and we will be celebrating it at 11 a.m. on Saturday October 26.

Find out more about the programs by following this link. You can register for the Heritage Week programs in person, online or by telephone at 403-260-2620. It runs from Friday October 25 to Sunday October 27. This is our big heritage blow-out so we have packed the weekend with great presentations and events for the whole family. Come on down and have a blast with the past.

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Football Team (perhaps Calgary Collegiate Institute) 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 1131

Calgary's Aviation History

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

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The Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Postcards from the Past, PC 1122

In my last blog post I wrote about the Bay Building in downtown Calgary. It is an iconic building and its importance to the life of the city cannot be overstated. But what I found out while I was researching it was that it played many roles in the lives of Calgarians beyond just that of a place to buy stuff. One of the most interesting uses I read about was the RCAF No. 4 Training Command post on the top floor. The command centre for the west of Canada from Vancouver to Regina, 300 people staffed this post. They stayed there until the No. 4 Command was merged with the No. 2 Command and the staff and equipment were shipped to Winnipeg late in 1944.

The first manned flight Calgarians actually saw was a hot-air balloon stunt at the Calgary Agricultural and Industrial Fair in 1906. ‘Professor’ Williams (apparently all hot-air balloonists called themselves professor) parachuted from a trapeze hanging from his hot-air balloon and landed in the Elbow River. This stunt did not seem to make much of an impression on the jaded citizens of Calgary. While I can give details of the winners and their prizes from every variety of livestock, and the winners of all the horse races, there is only passing mention of the balloonist. Maybe the Morning Albertan journalist was right, that “a Calgary crowd is a quiet crowd…[that] takes its pleasure without boisterousness” (until someone blocks their view of the finish line).

A dirigible was the highlight of the 1908 Exhibition, making flights around the grounds twice a day. It’s first flight was a bit of a disappointment as the pilot, Jack Dallas, couldn’t yet maneuver the ship in high winds and it was off course for most of its maiden voyage. It calmed down later in the week, but eventually a windstorm caused the dirigible to hit a mooring tower and burst into flames. Hydrogen does that.

Planes were often part of the grandstand show at the Calgary Exhibitions. Howard Le Van, a very young pilot, flew his plane (another Strobel machine) at the Exhibition until it crashed into a fence when it caught a strut in a gopher hole. Been there!

Katherine Stinson, one of the first female pilots, made several visits to the Calgary Exhibition, performing stunts and even making western Canada’s first airmail flight, taking off from a flat spot near Stanley Jones School in Renfrew to take mail to Edmonton. This area would become Calgary’s first municipal airport, and would have the first illuminated runway in the country. The hangar built by Rutledge Air Services, still stands and currently houses the Boys and Girls Club.

Calgarians continued to be fascinated with flight. The flat lands surrounding the city were perfect for pilots to launch their homemade planes. And they did so with a passion. The papers are filled with accounts of flight attempts. Some were successful, such as an attempt by two teenaged boys, Earle Young and Alf Lauder, to build a glider powered by a motorcycle engine which eventually got off the ground with the help of a tow from Dad’s Buick.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to aviation history in Calgary. To find out more you can join us at our annual Heritage Weekend to take in the new documentary Wings of Change presented by Doug Wilson. This excellent documentary celebrates history of aviation in Calgary from the first flights at the beginning of the 20th century to the newest developments at YYC. This will take place, as I mentioned, during our Heritage Weekend on October 25 to 27. The film will be screened on October 25 at noon in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library. You can register online, in person, or by telephone (403-260-2620). Check out the other Heritage Weekend programs while you’re at it. We’ve got some great stuff.

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Calgary--As seen from an Aeroplane, ca 1924

Postcards from the Past, PC 699

Happy Birthday to an Iconic Building

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

 

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The Hudson's Bay Company's New Departmental Store in Calgary, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 1665

 

The Hudson’s Bay building downtown has turned 100 years old. It has been a part of the lives of Calgarians for a very long time. It has certainly been an important part of my life, even though I’m slightly younger than 100 (and my Nan worked at Eaton’s so I could get a discount). Still, I used to shop the bargain basement for my stockings when I was a candy bar girl (complete with red mini-dress) at the Palace Theatre across the street. I used to skip school to eat French fries and drink iced tea in the Chinook Room (because I didn’t want to run into my Nan at Eaton’s)

Now, while the building is 100, the company itself is much, much older. The Hudson’s Bay Company was established in the 17th century to take advantage of the fur trading opportunities. The first post was established in Calgary in 1876, hot on the heels of the NWMP establishment of Fort Calgary. It has always been a part of this city. Its growth was an indicator of the health of the city — kind of an indicator species, if you will. When the decision was made to run the transcontinental railway through Calgary, thus shifting the focus of settlement from the confluence of the Bow and Elbow to the west side of the Elbow River, the Bay followed suit, opening a small store at Centre Street and Stephen Avenue. But the city continued to boom and soon this little store became inadequate so a newer, more elegant store was built on the same site.

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8th Avenue looking East, (you can see the old Hudson's Bay Store at the end of the block on the left)

Postcards from the Past, PC 587

You can still see this building at 102 8th Avenue SW. As the city continued to grow, this store was added to and expanded but by the beginning of the 20th century, Calgary was booming again. The Bay needed to evolve to meet the needs of this new, sophisticated (and moneyed) town. The site they chose was on the corner of 1st Street and 8th Avenue, physically not too far from where they were, but the store the company would build was miles beyond the Victorian structure they left behind.

As they described it themselves in the announcement of the opening of the new store, their old place was “work — worn, wearied and the dear, faithful old walls “weren’t up to the challenge of the new century. It sounded more like they were describing someone’s grandma. They would be “winging their way to premises more dignified and capacious — befitting the aspirations of this progressive institution” and the aspirations of the progressive city which it served. The opening of this store, one of the grandest in the country, was a nod to the optimism and potential of Calgary.

The ad announcing the grand opening of the new location waxed eloquent about the sun setting on the old ideals and hopes and rising again on the renewed ambition and the new “life fluid coursing through [the] veins” of the new Hudson’s Bay; this could have been a metaphor for the new life blood that would be gushing through Calgary in the near future (sorry, couldn’t resist). The opening was a gala affair, kicking off on 14th Avenue east, winding its way to the Braemar lodge to pick up the Lieutenant Governor and then on to the store. There were bands and honour guards, a luncheon with speeches and toasts and band concert, held in The Rendezvous.

The Hudson’s Bay would become more than just a store for Calgarians. It was a meeting spot, a cultural centre and it even had a library for its customers. The Elizabethan Room promised an elegant dining experience and the children could be entertained on the rooftop playground. During the war its top floor housed the RCAF No. 4 Training Command, possibly because the store already had a beacon on its roof to guide pilots toward the airport. It was one of the grandest stores the Hudson’s Bay had ever opened and remains, to this day, one of the most beautiful buildings in the core. It is the Bay, what more needs to be said.

For those of you interested in Calgary's commercial heritage, our next Heritage Matters program - the launch for our Heritage Weekend - will be on just that subject. It will feature author Steve Speer speaking about his photographic vision of Calgary's skyline through his book, Building on the Bow. Landmarks of Downtown Calgary. For more information and to register check out our program guide.

PF 786.2078 PIA

Programme for a recital at the Hudson's Bay Green Room by Gordon Bryan, visiting examiner

from the Royal Academy of Music, 1933

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.

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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)

 

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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.

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High River Flood, May 11, 1942

Postcards from the Past, PC 1627

Gardens, Historic and Not

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

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Residential View, Calgary

Postcards from the Past, PC 1498

I saw Janet Melrose on the morning news today. She's Calgary's Cottage Gardener, and Garden Animator at the Calgary Horticultural Society and she was saying that it is too early to go out and start mucking about in the garden. (Not that we’d want to today; I see snow out the window).

But if you are interested in gardens and would like a little taste of what our ancestors contrived to grow, you can join Janet May 7 at Central for a look at some of Calgary’s historic gardens. While it is hard to believe that we can even grow grass in this climate, Calgarians have always been garden lovers and have been willing to brave the disappointments and disasters that come with our weather, in order to celebrate the hard-won successes.

I love gardens and have written before about the Brewery Gardens which started as a project to make work for A.E. Cross’s employees during the Depression, and ended up as a beautiful park, complete with aquarium. It is one of my earliest memories of a garden but that may have had more to do with the fish ponds than the plants.

There was also a garden next to the old train station on 9th Avenue. It would have been about where the Calgary Tower stands now. The railroad was actually responsible for a great many gardens across the prairies. They had land to sell and a good way to encourage people to settle in what might have seemed an inhospitable climate, was to cultivate gardens beside the stations to exhibit just what could be accomplished. The CPR garden in Calgary was more like a park, possibly designed to give travelers a little bit of air on the long journey west (like the dog walking area at the airport, maybe) It was the city’s first public park, opened in 1891. We have a strange little postcard of a lady and her dog at the fountain in the park. It had been hand tinted by someone with a very sketchy sense of colour (see below). Edwinna Von Baeyer’s indispensable history of gardening in Canada, Rhetoric and Roses includes information about the railway garden movement. We have a copy in the Local History room.

 

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CPR Park, Calgary ca. 1907

Postcards from the Past, PC 658

The picture at the top of this post shows a view of a beautiful Japanese style garden somewhere in Mount Royal. I think this may have been John Burns’ garden, behind his home on Prospect Avenue. Burns had the garden developed some time after he moved in to the home in 1928.

Some more modern gardens are in the news. I am thinking particularly of Century Gardens, developed to celebrate the city’s centennial in 1975 and built in a brutalist style. On May 4 at 4 p.m. there will be a Jane’s Walk of Century Gardens which will include a parkour demonstration. The garden seems built for this kind of pursuit and the tour and demo will be great, I’m sure. For more information check out the website.

To register for Janet’s program on Tuesday May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library you can contact us at 403-260-2620, register online or in person at your local branch.

 

Heritage Matters: Invisible People and Places 50s and 60s Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

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Alberta Block, 1958

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 25-08

The telling of Calgary’s history tends to focus on the ranchers and oilmen, and establishments that they represented. A lot of history gets overlooked and very often these hidden histories tell us more about ourselves than mainstream history does. Lucky for us, historians are nosy folk, and what was hidden is increasingly being exposed.

Our next Heritage Matters program will do just that. Kevin Allen, who is part of the Gay Calgary Research Project, will present Invisible People and Places in 1950s and 1960s Calgary May 3rd at the Central Library, uncovering the history of Calgary’s gay and lesbian community as it struggled to find its place in the post-war city.

Young people today may be shocked to learn that until 1969 it was actually illegal to “engage in homosexual activity.” Doing so could land a person in prison. Even when the government changed the laws, people with “different” sexual orientations were still the victims of harassment and violence. For these reasons, among others, the history of this segment of our society has been driven underground. Kevin and his colleagues are working to change that. You can see more of the project on their website.

Heritage Matters is presented by the Calgary Heritage Authority, The City of Calgary Land Use Planning and Policy and the Calgary Public Library. It is going to be a very popular presentation, so make sure you register either online, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or in person at your local library branch.

Kevin is also going to be hosting a Jane’s Walk the very next day, May 4. He will be conducting a tour of the Beltline area, looking at sites that were significant to the gay and lesbian community in the 1960s and 70s.

CHACPL LogoLand Use

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

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819 5th Avenue NW, ca 1914

Postcards from the Past, PC_1935

I never like to see old houses demolished. I was especially sad to see that one of the Sunnyside homes on 5th Avenue slated for demolition is one we are very familiar with, number 819. We have images of that house and of a family that lived there in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. We were so attracted to the postcards that we created a presentation designed to highlight just how much information can be found with only a few little clues. We called it “Ancestors and Their Attics” and presented it during Historic Calgary Week. We started with the postcard above which had the names Felix, Jo and Eva and “taken in July 1914 at Calgary” written on the back. With that little bit of information we were able to track down another card with the last name of the family, who lived at 819 5 Avenue NW for a brief time between 1914 and 1915.

We were able to spin that information into a bit of a family narrative. Felix was a railway man. At the time the family lived in Calgary, he was working at the powerhouse behind the new Palliser Hotel. The way we found that was by searching for photos to use to illustrate the CPR, where Felix said he worked in the 1916 census. In searching, we found the picture of the powerhouse with “Where Felix Worked” written in the same hand as on the other postcard. The cards had been acquired years apart. Using this we followed the family to North Carolina, where Felix continued to work on the railroad, moving through the ranks to brakeman (as listed on his 1917 US draft registration card) eventually becoming an locomotive engineer. Jo and Eva were both born in Kansas, but Felix’s place of birth remains an enigma to us. That he was registered to vote in Calgary (we found his name in a municipal voters list) suggests he was Canadian but some documents say he was born in France. The family had lived in the States, they were there for the 1910 census, moved to Calgary for a brief time, and then back to the States by 1917, when Felix was required to register for the draft.

 

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"Where Felix Worked" (CPR Powerhouse)

Postcards from the Past, PC_694

The family was renting the house. We know this because the owner of the house is listed in the tax assessment records for 1911 (the year the house was built) as David Hambly, who was a contractor. He also appears in the 1911 census at 819 with his wife Isabella, his son Harry and daughter Kathleen as well as his father James, who was also a contractor. In 1911 their neighbours were Robert Wilkinson and his family in 817, William Edward (?) and his wife in 817a (the back of the house) and then Hugh McPherson, all the way down the street at 827. It looks like 823 and 825 were not yet completed or weren’t occupied.

Sunnyside was a growing community back in 1911 and in a way, these houses are providing a home, albeit on the verge of their demise, for another community. Wreck City is a project that has devised a way to say a glorious farewell to these old homes. By installing artists in each of the houses, the final days of these old dears will be marked with beauty and invention. As I say, we never want to say goodbye to these old homes, but if we must, let it be with a party. Check out the Wreck City website for information about the houses and their artists and join in the farewell party.

819 Kayla

819 as it is today

Photo courtesy Kayla McAlister

McHugh House

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

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McHugh House, 110 18 Avenue SW, taken in 1966

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 94-01

You know how it is – when you see something every day, you don’t necessarily “see” it anymore. This was true for me of the McHugh house (which I never knew by that name, we always called it the Nun’s House because there seemed to be a lot of nun’s coming and going) I looked at that house nearly every day for the three years I went to high school. What I knew about it was it was surrounded by trees and you didn’t dare park in the driveway. That was it. Now I see that it is coming under threat of demolition. That makes me sad. This beautiful little house is one of the oldest residences in the city. It is a beautiful example of the Queen Anne Revival style (the turret gives it away) a style which is quite rare here. And its history is deeply entrenched in the history of the Mission area and the Catholics who settled there.

The house was built by Frank McHugh, in 1896, on land that Father Lacombe acquired to establish a Catholic mission. The two quarter sections Lacombe was given are bounded by what is now 17th Avenue on the north and 4th Street to the west. Because the language of most of the population (Oblates from Quebec) and the traders (Métis) was French, that was the language of the settlers that were drawn to the area. Most prominent were the Rouleau brothers, a doctor and a lawyer. In 1899, the area was incorporated as the village of Rouleauville. In 1907 the city annexed Rouleaville and it was rechristened Mission.

The Mission area is still dominated by the Catholic presence. The Cathedral and Convent, the Old Holy Cross Hospital, which was once run by the Grey Nuns, the Catholic Schools, St. Mary’s, St Monica and St Martin des Porres and the old church hall, which was turned into a railway station, are all reminders of the role of the Church in the development of early Calgary. Heck, they were here before the railway. They met the Mounties as they arrived in the area.

The McHugh’s sold the house in the 20s and it remained a residence until the Congregation of the Brothers of our Lady of Lourdes purchased it in the 1960s and ran it as one of the city’s first homes for troubled youth. It has served as the Don Bosco Home, the Religious Education Centre, the home of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and as the Elizabeth House, a home for young expectant mothers. The house is in need of major renovations but the Catholic Church is morally opposed to taking money raised by gaming, as would be the case if they were to apply for heritage resource assistance. The City and Province are both talking to the Diocese to find a solution that fits everyone’s needs so, although the application for demolition has been filed, it is not a done deal yet.

You can read about the history of Rouleaville/Mission and the McHugh family in our Local History room and on the City of Calgary’s Discover Historic Calgary website. You can keep track of the developments in the McHugh house story by following the Calgary Heritage Initiative Society’s Blog and Watch List

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Dr Edouard Rouleau House, 114 18th Avenue SW, taken in 1974

House has been moved south of the old St. Mary's Parish Hall/CN Station

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1142

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