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Black History Month, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Black History Month

February is Black History month in Canada. This is a fairly new recognition despite the fact that people of African descent have been playing a role in Canadian history since the time of Samuel de Champlain. Black History Month began as Black History Week in the 1970s. By 1976 it had become Black History Month. It was officially recognized by the House of Commons in 1995 and in 2008 the Senate unanimously passed a motion to recognize the event.

Albertans are often unaware of the history of black people in our province. Most of us know about John Ware, a former slave, who became a legendary cowboy and rancher in Southern Alberta. But many of us do not know of the settlers who came and established towns such as Breton, Campsie, Wildwood and Amber Valley. Many came from Oklahoma, which became a state in 1907. The government there made it quite clear that black people would be segregated and treated differently from the white settlers who were rushing in to homestead. Many of the state’s black residents fled to Canada, about 1000 to Alberta and Saskatchewan. They did not have an easy time of it. They faced prejudice. Canadians were alarmed by the influx of these immigrants and tried various measures to keep them out. In 1911 an Order in Council would be passed which deemed African Americans unsuitable for the climate in Canada and prohibit their immigration. They also faced the difficult reality of the land north of Edmonton. Their homesteads were in heavy bush which had to be cleared by hand. The land was not overly productive and many men had to work in Edmonton to support their families. In spite of this they stayed and Amber Valley, alone among the other primarily black settlements, survived into the middle of the 20th century.

The history of the immigration of African Americans into the Prairie Provinces is a story of determination and courage. You can find out more about it in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. We have The Window of our Memories volumes 1 and 2, by Velma Carter, which is the story of Black pioneers in Alberta and includes the stories of those pioneers and their descendants. Another very interesting book is Deemed Unsuitable by R. Bruce Shepard which looks at the problem of racism on both sides of the border and how it affected the immigration of African-Americans into the Canadian Prairies. And, for those of you who would like to try out an old-school format, we also have a thesis on microfiche by Judith Hill, “Alberta’s Black Settlers: a Study of Canadian Immigration Policy and Practice”. (You can find other works by searching the library catalogue using the subject terms “Black Canadians History”). These works tell us a lot about the immigration of black people into Canada, but they also have a lot to tell us about ourselves and how Canada came to be. It is not always easy to read, but it is crucial to our understanding of our history and our future.

Vital Conversations, 2010

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Mawson City Plan

City Plan, 1914

Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the City by Thomas Mawson

On Friday, in the John Dutton Theatre at the Central Library, The Calgary Foundation and the Calgary Public Library, with support from the City of Calgary’s Office of Sustainability are hosting a discussion based on issues raised by the 2009 Vital Signs Report. You are invited to come and add your voice to help shape our rapidly changing city. We are interested in building a sustainable city and need your input. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to The Calgary Foundation either through their website http://www.thecalgaryfoundation.org/ or by telephone at 403-802-7719.

This discussion will embrace many topics and certainly one that we must consider, and one that is dear to my heart (this is a heritage focused blog, right) is the importance of sustaining the built heritage of our city. The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library is integral to that goal. The mandate of this collection is to preserve and make accessible items relating to the history of Calgary. We have a wide range of resources for people interested in finding out more about their homes, their communities and the way our city has developed.

The collection, itself, is something of an historical artifact. It is as old as the Calgary Public Library. Our first Head Librarian was Alexander Calhoun, a man whose innovative ideas, including tailoring the library collection to the needs of the community, made the Calgary Public Library a dynamic and responsive organization from the day it opened its doors on January 2, 1912. Calhoun was very involved in his community and was very interested in making Calgary a great place to live. The city was facing then, as it is now, unprecedented expansion that saw the city grow from 12,000 people in 1906 to 44,000 in 1912.

Calhoun was a member of the first city planning commission in 1911. It is possible that he heard the presentation by Thomas Mawson, “The city on the plain and how to make it beautiful” which he delivered to the Canadian Club of Canada. The city planners engaged Mawson to make a plan which would see Calgary into its future. They believed the city would reach a population of 1 million by the year 1914. (We never see those "busts" coming, do we?) Mawson’s Plan, called Calgary: a preliminary scheme for controlling the economic growth of the city, is available, along with transcripts of the two speeches he gave in Calgary, in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Central Library. If you have never seen it, you must come down and have a look. Our downtown would have looked very different had the planning commission been able to affect any of the changes he suggested. Mawson was very concerned with the way people lived in cities. He was influenced by the City Beautiful movement and the Garden City movement and his plan reflects those influences. It was a very beautiful vision of the future of Calgary. Here is a picture of what he envisoned for the market area of the city.

Market area, Mawson Plan

Mawson’s report is only one of the resources relating to city planning that we have in our collection. We are on the 4th floor of the Central Library (616 Macleod Trail SE). Drop in for a visit.

Banff Town Warden

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Banff Town Warden

I am intrigued by the history of the Banff area. It was and is a very special place and we are privileged to live so close to Canada’s first National Park. Anthony Henday had visited the area in 1754 and David Thompson had explored the Bow Valley but it was the fall of 1883 when three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains that the Banff we know now was born.

The people responsible for the park and the town within it were the wardens. A warden was a jack-of-all-trades and his position involved long hours and a wide variety of duties. Walter Peyto was one of those wardens. He served from 1914 to 1948 and as part of his duties he was required to keep a journal of his activities. His grandson David Peyto has edited and published four volumes of these journals which he has called Banff Town Warden. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the activities of the men who fought fires, controlled nuisance animals, feed the zoo animals , maintained the telephone lines, controlled predators, and looked for lost hikers, among other duties. What must have been Walter’s most memorable duty had to have been the eleven days spent in a freight car with two buffalo bound for the Toronto Zoo. The life of a warden was not a boring one.

PC 1570

Buffalo in Banff National Park, 1905

Postcards from the Past PC 1570

Calgary Brewing and Malting

by Christine Hayes - 3 Comment(s)

PC 1376

Calgary Brewing and Malting Co.

Postcards from the Past, PC 1376

Another historic Calgary site has been in the news recently. The owner of the Calgary Brewing and Malting site in Inglewood has applied for demolition permits for some of the buildings on the site. Although it is a Class A heritage site, this designation does not legally block the owner from demolishing the buildings. A Historic Resource Impact Assessment has been ordered.

The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company was really one of the very first Calgary industries. It was founded in 1892 by A.E. Cross, one of the Big Four, on a site which was, at the time, just outside of the city limits. It had two key elements important to a brewery; its proximity to the rail line and an artesian well nearby (because we all know, "the water makes the difference, naturally.") Some of the buildings on that site date to the original founding of the company. There are also buildings on the site that hold historic significance because of their architecture. For example, the administration office was designed by Hodgson and Bates in 1907 and maintains some of the original detail including a sandstone carving of a buffalo head and horseshoe, the logo of the company and a familiar symbol to anyone who grew up quaffing the company’s products (which did include soft drinks!) Calgary Brewing and Malting was the first industry in Calgary to use natural gas in 1908. The gas came from a well drilled by Archie Dingman's Calgary Natural Gas Company on Colonel Walker's estate.

The site also bears historic importance because of the role of the company in the life of this city. The area around was known as Brewery Flats because of the importance of the industry as an employer to the people who lived there. The Cross family employed people in good times and in bad. During the Depression, rather than lay off employees, they were put to work creating the Brewery Gardens, trout ponds and fish hatchery. They held the jobs for those who had gone to serve in World War II. The grounds also housed the largest salt water aquarium west of Vancouver and the Horseman’s Hall of Fame. There is an excellent discussion of the site and its importance to the city on the Calgary Heritage Initiative’s website:

http://www.calgaryheritage.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=1678

The Community Heritage Roundtable and the Inglewood Community Association are hosting a meeting regarding this site on July 16, 7 pm at the Inglewood Community Hall, 1740 – 24th Avenue SE. RSVP your intention to attend at the following website by July 14: http://www.calgarycommunities.com/events.php

or you can telephone 403-244-4111.

We also have resources available here at the Calgary Public Library. Of particular interest is the four volume Historical resource impact assessment done by Ken Hutchinson Architect Limited for Molson’s in 1997. This is in the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library, along with other information about the company.

The Stampede Parade

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 868

Parade on Stephen Avenue, ca 1900s

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

Did everyone see the parade? We are strategically placed here at the Central Library. We have windows that look right over 6th Avenue E, right at the beginning of the parade route. We were able to catch a little of the action on Friday morning. Mike Holmes was the Grand Marshal and in good cowboy style, he was proudly astride a horse. No buggy rides for him.

The parades haven’t changed too much in the many years I have been watching them. There are always lots of horses (and the attendant street sweepers) lots of bands, plenty of colourful costumes and our First Nations neighbours in traditional dress. The Native bands around Calgary were among the first people that Guy Weadick approached when he was putting together the first Stampede in 1912 and they have been a part of the parades and, really, every aspect of the Stampede since then.

Our first Stampede parade was led by the fire chief Cappy Smart. Of course, parades were a part of city celebrations long before the Stampede. There was a great parade for the Dominion Exhibition in 1908. The postcard image in this entry is of a Roman chariot being driven through the streets of Calgary for that parade. I don’t know why I’m always surprised to realize that the streets in Calgary were dirt at that time, but they were. We have lots of postcard images of parades in Calgary. You can search the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Collection (the link is on the left side of this page) for “parade” and turn up some interesting ones. If you’re interested in Stampede history, we have a very fine collection of postcards of the original Stampede along with cards from other events, including the 1908 Exhibition. Use the search term ‘stampede’ or ‘dominion exhibition’ to see those. We also have a good collection of material such as programs, livestock catalogues, lists of prize winners and even planning documents from when the Stampede was proposing to move to Lincoln Park. Come on down and see us!

Where, Exactly, is Balaclava Heights?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Map, 1907

Detail from a 1907 map of Calgary

Community Heritage and Family History Collection

Maps are very useful tools for navigation but they can also speak volumes about the history of a city. The Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library has a great collection of historical maps. I love to use the maps to illustrate our stories of the history of Calgary's development. You can see times of extreme optimism as in the map that accompanied the 1913 Henderson's directory. The city looks enormous. New subdivisions have sprung up all around the perimeter of the city. Districts like The Bronx, Harvetta Heights, The Nimmons Subdivision and Balaclava Heights. What is fascinating is that none of these places actually existed. The map, however, shows residential lots and roads and other fascinating features. What this map represents are the dreams and aspirations of Calgary's boosters and its real estate developers. The reality was that Calgary was facing one of its infamous busts and though the city's promoters would have liked to create these wonderful neighbourhoods, the economy would just not support it (doesn't sound familiar, does it?)

To highlight some of the interesting maps in our collection, we have mounted a display in the windows of the Local History Room on the 4th floor of the Central Library. Next time you're walking by have a peek in and see some of this cartographic history of our fair city.

Vanishing Sentinels

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 842

Slim Moorehouse at Vulcan Grain Elevator

Postcards from the Past, PC 842

It is not difficult to wax poetic about the grain elevator. My earliest interest in built history was in these sentinels of the prairie. As I drove the backroads of Southern Alberta I would stop and photograph elevator after elevator and marvel at the simple elegance of their structure. They were often the hub of the community, a meeting place as well as a place of business. I remember, very dimly, a visit to the "coop" elevator in Shipman, Saskatchewan with my great-uncle (I could almost spell, and to me it looked like coop, who knew co-op at 4?) It was a scary place with noise and dust but it was a fun place, too, with the farmers "chewing the fat" and catching up on news of the town.

But the world is changing, and these giants are disappearing. Jim Pearson, in his book Vanishing Sentinels: The Remaining Grain Elevators of Alberta and British Columbia, has documented the ones that still stand. He will be visiting the Calgary Public Library on Wednesday March 18 at 6 PM in the meeting room on the 4th Floor of the Central Library. Jim's presentation includes photographs of grain elevators and information about their history and how they work. You can also visit Jim's website to find information about his book and other projects.

Heritage Day, 2009

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1082

CNR Station, formerly St. Mary's Parish Hall

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1082

The theme of this year’s Heritage day (Monday February 16) is Heritage and the Environment: Saving Places Built to Last. It is an opportunity for Canadian communities to celebrate the numerous environmental benefits achieved from the rehabilitation of heritage properties. These are issues that Calgarians are facing right now, as we look at the two working man’s hotels, the Cecil and the King Eddy, and contemplate the future of these two old-timers.
While it sometimes seems that we are a city of “razers” we actually have quite a few outstanding examples of buildings that have been rehabilitated and repurposed. The photo in this posting is of the old Canadian Northern Railway station. It has been repurposed twice in its lifetime. It started its life as the parish hall for St. Mary’s Cathedral. It was then sold and renovated to become the CNR railway station. In its third incarnation it is the Nat Christie Centre, the home of Alberta Ballet.
You can see photos of other historic buildings, including some like the Lougheed Grand, the Clarence Block (which was McNally Robinson booksellers) and the Dominion Bank (now Teatro Restaurant) in our databases Postcards from the Past, A Virtual Tour of Historic Calgary and Calgary’s Heritage Homes.
In addition to information about historic buildings in Calgary, the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Central Library also houses items which may be of interest to those of you looking to restore a vintage home. In addition to books of the nitty gritty how-to variety, we also have catalogues from hardware stores that include paint samples and pictures of various fittings. We also have resources for those of you interested in researching the history of your home. Come and see us on the fourth floor of the Central Library and we would be delighted to show you the resources we have.

Black History Month

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1485

Main Street, Pincher Creek, 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 1485

February is Black History month and it is the perfect time for an examination of the people who settled this lovely province of ours. Because I am a family historian, my focus has always been on the stories of "regular" folks - not the kings and politicians that make up the official record but people like me and you and our families, the real builders of this country.

People of African descent have settled in Alberta since the middle part of the 19th century. Many were escaping slavery or racial discrimination and all were looking for a better life. People like John Ware, a legendary rancher who was born into slavery in South Carolina and whose skills as a cowboy made him famous. Or people like the Lewis family who settled near Calgary and moved into the bustling town to work in the construction trade during one of Calgary's many booms. Or Annie Saunders, a nanny and domestic to Colonel Macleod's family who set herself up in business in Pincher Creek.

Black History month is our chance to celebrate those pioneers and their descendents. Check the Community Heritage and Family History collection for books like John Ware's Cow Country, Blacks in Deep Snow: Black Pioneers in Canada or the magazine Alberta Views which contains a fascinating article on Annie Saunders by local author Cheryl Foggo in the January/February 2009 issue.

Someone's in the Kitchen

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 843

Cowboys' Kitchen on the Prairie, Western Canada, ca 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 843

I was taught to make bread by my grandmother. She told me to stop kneading when the dough "felt right." For generations of women, this was the way we learned to cook - a mother, grandmother, auntie or other female family member passed on her techniques and her secrets of the kitchen. The only time they ever used cookbooks was when they were trying something fancy. But they did have cookbooks. They had cookbooks prepared by the ladies organizations they belonged to, or from a company that sold spices or other food products, they had cookbooks from the gas company. I have inherited some of these - stained and written in though they may be ("these are not good" beside a muffin recipe that called for wheat germ).

So it is no surprise that for me, one of the highlights in the Community Heritage and Family History room at the Calgary Public Library is the great collection we have of cookbooks. We have items like the Watkins Cook Book (1936) and the United Farm Women of Alberta Cook Book (several editions). We have cookbooks from community organizations like the Troup 89 (Calgary) of the Boys Scouts of America and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Ladies Aid. These often include more than just recipes. They have household tips and dietary advice They could also include tips on etiquette and on cooking in special circumstances (for example for large groups or for the sick).

It is in books like this that we can discover the day to day existence of our mothers and grandmothers. Cookbooks provide a little window onto the lives of women and families that we often can’t find in other resources. So, please come down and visit us at the Central Library, in the Community Heritage and Family History Room. We’ve got lots of interesting stuff to see.

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