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Jane's Walks 2011

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 947

Cecil Hotel, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 947

It is hard to believe, but the season for Jane’s Walks is upon us (let’s just hope that the snow is gone, the birds are singing and the cherries are in bloom – oh, wait, that would be Vancouver – sorry). Let’s just hope for some of that famous Alberta blue sky, ok?

Anyway, weather aside, the Jane’s Walks are taking place on May 7 and 8 this year and we here at the Central Library are very excited that one of the walks will be starting at our library and touring our neighbourhood.

The East Village is one of Calgary’s oldest, newest, coolest communities (to steal a line from the walk description). It was where the Mounties established their fort. It was once the heart of the city’s commercial district – hence the presence of City Hall in this area. It was also the home to some of the more famous (and infamous) hotels, such as the Atlantic, the Cecil and the St. Louis. For a while it had fallen on hard times and was the target of the Calgary’s first urban renewal scheme which saw the demolition of many old buildings and the establishment of organizations like the school boards and the “new” Central Library.

The neighbourhood once known as Churchill Park is going through another phase of rejuvenation. With the opening of the River Walk and the development of any number of exciting new buildings either in the planning stages or nearing completion, it is an exciting time for us here in the Village. Check out this site for information on the East Village Jane’s Walk, which will also offer us the opportunity to visit one of our neighbours, the Drop-In Centre.

Also check the rest of the site for other interesting walks that will be going on. Some of the neighbourhoods you will be able to visit will be Bowness, Brentwood, Chinatown, Sunnyside, and South Calgary and Marda Loop just to name a few. This is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of Calgary’s communities. Join us.

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Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre

423 4th Avenue SE

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection, JU 021005-15

RMS Titanic

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)


On right now, until June, at the Calgary Science Centre, is a display of artifacts from the Titanic and re-creations of the some of the rooms on board. The story of the Titanic has held our imagination since the ship went down and the fascination continues. This exhibit strives to tell the story of the RMS Titanic and the people who sailed on her through items retrieved from the wreck.

Like many disaster stories, the story of the sinking of the “unsinkable” ship has grown over the years. More and more people are finding personal connections with those who sailed on the Titanic,often through evidence found while doing genealogical or local history research.

We have several subscriptions to historical newspapers in our E-Library (under History and Genealogy) and it is fascinating to read accounts of the sinking of the ship and the aftermath. Every aspect of the loss is covered including lists of those who survived, a discussion of the effect of the loss on the insurance industry and even questions about the financial liability of the White Star Line for the loss of life and goods. It is also interesting to read about the Carpathia. I suppose I should have known that following the sinking only limited information would have been available, but I didn’t realize that the Carpathia didn’t come into harbor for more than a week after rescuing the survivors. Until the ship docked, information was sketchy at best and rumour ran rampant.

I also found out some things I didn’t know. Did you know that the president of the Grand Trunk Railway was lost on the Titanic? Mr. Charles M. Hays had given an interview to the London Times just before he set sail regarding investment in Canada (he urged caution). Also, did you know that two of the survivors of the Titanic lived in Calgary? Mr. and Mrs. Albert Dick were on their honeymoon in England and also purchasing furniture for their magnificent new Mount Royal home. The furniture was lost but Albert and Vera survived. Bert was the owner of the Alexandra Hotel on 9th Avenue East. You can see photographs of the hotel in the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.

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Alexandra Hotel, 224 9th Avenue E, ca. 1931

Postcards from the Past, PC 1942

Old St. Patrick's Church

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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St. Patrick's Church

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0014

At the Heritage Roundtable on March 17, here at the Central Library in the Dutton theatre, we will be hearing an update on the fate of the old St. Patrick’s Church that stands so near its Anglican neighbor, St. Paul’s , out along Macleod Trail in what used to be the town of Midnapore. There couldn’t be a more stark contrast than the fates of the two nearly identical churches. St. Paul’s is in beautiful condition, with its cemetery intact and well maintained. It has been revived and tended for many years by the Midnapore Church of England Society. St. Patrick’s on the other hand, has been allowed to fall into disrepair, a kind of demolition by neglect. Recently scorch marks were seen on the building suggesting that someone had lit a fire that may have gotten out of control. This is heart breaking as St. Patrick’s has great historical significance to the city. Ironically, the situation was once reversed. In the early part of the 20th century, Patrick Burns used to send a crew out to maintain and paint St. Patrick’s Church. The story goes that he didn’t want St. Pat’s to outshine its near neighbour, which was looking a mite shabby, so he would have St. Paul’s painted by the same crew.

St. Paul’s is actually the older building. It was built in 1885 on land that was donated by John Glenn, who, although a Catholic himself, felt compelled to give to his community. Twenty years later, his son donated the land on which St. Patrick’s was built. Money was raised for the church by the community and both Catholics and Anglicans worked to build it. There is no delineation between the cemeteries, even in death the two communities are as one. When a fire damaged St. Patrick’s, services were held in St. Paul’s until the church could be repaired. The communities, Anglican and Catholic, met and mingled and cooperated over the generations and for that reason alone, the two churches, in their cozy proximity, have heritage value.

Another aspect of the historic value of St. Patrick’s church is Father Lacombe was the parish priest at St. Patrick’s from 1906 (or 1909) until his death in 1916. Father Lacombe is a very important figure in the history of the province. In addition to his work with First Nations people, he also established the Lacombe Home for orphans, the elderly and the handicapped near to the church on land donated by Patrick Burns.

Little St. Pat’s has been declared a Provincial Historic Resource, after the land was sold to a memorial company with the proviso that the Catholic Diocese, which owns the building, either demolish it or move it. Little has been done to maintain the building, although the statue of St. Patrick has been removed and preserved as has the bell that was given to Father Lacombe for the bell tower by Archbishop Legal. There have been developments, though, and we will hear what is in store for the old church at the Heritage Roundtable on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, – quite apropos, I think. If you would like to register for this event, you can do so by calling 403-244-4111 or online at

Heritage Matters....or does it?

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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St. Patrick's Church, 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0016

Chances are if you are reading this blog, your answer to the above question would be “Yes.” If that is the case, you might be interested in attending a talk by Dr. Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. She will be talking about Heritage Futures for the City of Calgary: why we should care, what the preservation of heritage can contribute to the community, what success in heritage conservation looks like and what we can learn from failures. The program will be at the Central Library on the main floor on Friday March 11 at 5:15. You can register online, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or in person at your local branch. This program is offered in partnership with the Calgary Heritage Authority. We always have fun at the Heritage Matters programs (and you get to be in the library after-hours!)

There is another important, heritage-related event taking place at the Central Library on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. The Heritage Roundtable is coming to the Central Library with a line-up of really, really interesting speakers. First will be special guest Matthew Wangler who will give us an update on what is going on with the old St. Patrick’s Church in Midnapore. Father Lacombe was the priest at the church and remained there until his death in 1916. This historic building is on Heritage Canada’s top 10 endangered places list and is very close to ruin.

Also speaking will be Irena Karshenbaum, who will review the Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project which saw an historic synagogue from Sibbald moved to Heritage Park. Ray Lee of the Sien Lok Society will also relate some of the tactics used to save Calgary’s historic Chinatown from “urban renewal” and Laura Golebiowski from Project Brewery will discuss the ongoing fascination with the old Calgary Brewing and Malting site and what the future may hold for it.

Wrapping up the evening is our own Carolyn Ryder who will give us an update on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (which is the source of most of the pictures I use in this blog). As always there will be time for everyone to ask questions, chat and enjoy some refreshments. To register for the Heritage Roundtable, please call 403-244-4111 or register online at

It will be held in the John Dutton Theatre on the second floor of the Central Library – access either through the library or from the stairs under the +15 on Macleod Trail SE, east of the library doors. Doors open at 6:30 and the speakers get underway at 7:00. I cannot stress nearly enough how informative and valuable these roundtable sessions are to people who are interested in the heritage of their city. I always learn something new and I always meet the most interesting people at these events. I strongly urge you to attend.

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Commercial Buidlings in Chinatown, 1967

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AF 0509

March is hopping with heritage events

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Business District, Calgary, Alberta

Postcards from the Past, PC 1880

We attended an excellent Heritage Roundtable this month on the Heritage Trades. We heard presentations on stone work restoration, landscape restoration and the restoration of the rail cars at Heritage Park. We also had a chance to meet a lot of people involved with heritage in the city and show off some of the items from our collections. What I noticed was at the end when the announcements of upcoming events were made, is that there are a ton of heritage related events taking place at the Central Library in March, and all of them sound really interesting (and I’m not just saying that because I work here – honest).

First up is Heritage Matters on Friday the 11th. This is presented in partnership with the Calgary Heritage Authority and will be at 5:15 on the main floor of the Central Library. The last one we had here was great fun so put it on your calendars. Dr. Nancy Pollock-Ellwand will present “Heritage futures for the city of Calgary.” Dr. Pollock-Ellwand is a professor at the University of Adelaide who has an internation reputation for her study of the history and conservation of cultural landscapes. She will talk about why we should care about the city’s heritage, what we have learned from our past experiences, the value of heritage to the community and future trends. If you are interested in coming to this, please register in person, by telephone at 403-260-2620 or online through our website:

Next up is our program for World Storytelling Day – Share your stories of Calgary’s past. While we can glean a lot of history from books and other printed sources, we often lose information about the lives of everyday people. To address this, Calgarians are invited to record their memories of Calgary for inclusion in our local history collection. If you have stories to share about Calgary’s past, please register for this event. It takes place on the 4th floor of the Central Library on Friday March 18 at 2:00 PM

Then, on Sunday March 20, we are having a Jane’s Talk. While this isn’t strictly about heritage, it will be a discussion of what makes up a great city. This event is named for the great Jane Jacobs who advocated a human approach to urban planning and led many to re-evaluate what makes a city a great place to live. You will also hear about Jane’s Walks, an international event with a local focus that aims to reacquaint us with our neighbourhoods. You do not need to register for this program, just show up. It will be in John Dutton Theatre on the second floor of the Central Library at 2:00 PM

The following Saturday, the 26th, is our regular genealogy Saturday with Family History Coaching in the genealogy section on the 4th floor of the Central Library at 10:00 AM and Genealogy Meet-up, also on the 4th floor, at 2:00PM. Both of these programs are drop-in as well.

In addition to our programs, the Calgary Heritage Initiative is having another Heritage Roundtable on the 17th of March. I look forward to these events. The topics are always stimulating and the chance to meet other people concerned with heritage is invaluable. I’ll let you know more about the venue and topics early next month.

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Oil Brokers and Investors at the King George Hotel, 1914

Postcards from the Past, PC 938

Doors Open Calgary

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Crest on the wall of Lougheed House

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0358

Here is a novel way to explore your city. In October, Doors Open Calgary will invite you in to see what goes on behind the scenes in some of Calgary’s familiar landmarks. So those of us who are curious (or just plain nosy) will get to see behind the facades into the innards of buildings of historical, cultural, social or architectural significance. Participants can gain an intimate feel for a place – a kind of "warts and all" affection. This intimacy can work toward fostering a sense of caring and stewardship for heritage in our communities.

Doors Open was a concept launched in France in 1984. The idea was to give people a chance to see, for free, an inside view of significant buildings in their city, some of which might not normally be open to the public. It was take up by other European countries and in 1999 it came to Toronto, the first North American city to embrace the idea. From an idea for a millennium celebration, it has expanded to an annual event and has spread to other communities in Canada.

Doors Open Calgary started in 2003, with 10 venues on their list. Participants got to see behind the scenes at the Municipal Building, the Saddledome and Haultain School. The next year, 2004, had 32 venues for interested visitors to check out. They are currently looking for organizations that would like to make their sites available for Doors Open in October. On Saturday February 26 they are having a demo event at the magnificent Lougheed House (707 13th Avenue SW). You will be taken along “secret ways” and will be able to explore the archives. You can register for this preview at this site:

I can vouch for the feeling you get when you know a building’s intimate secrets. The Lougheed House has been doing a Doors Open-like event every year, the Ride Through Time. I have participated for several years and now feel that Lougheed House is like an old pal. I have seen her less glamorous side and love her all the more for it.

This year, Doors Open Calgary will take place on October 15th and 16th so mark your calendars. If you want to find out more or would like to participate, all that information is on their website at

Of course, if you’d like to do some exploring of the lovely outsides of Calgary’s landmarks, you can always visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library (link at the left). It’s a good way to start your exploration of the city’s heritage.

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Beaulieu (Lougheed House), 1956

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 0001

Three New Heritage Sites

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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Suburban Calgary, Riverside ca. 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 933

At a well attended ceremony in Council Chambers on Monday January 24, three new heritage sites were ‘plaqued’ by the Calgary Heritage Authority. Plaques are given every two years to sites that are of historical significance to Calgary’s development based on criteria of architecture, history and context. Some of the sites that have been awarded plaques in the past are the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, St. Mary’s Parish Hall, Sunalta School, Alyth Lodge (Ogden Hotel) and the North West Travellers Building (to see pictures of any of these sites, you can visit our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library from the link on the left side of the page)

The three new sites named Monday are the Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden which is between 6 and 7A Streets NE; the Old North Trail (Spiller Road SE) and the Mission Bridge. Each site holds historical significance and each represents a different aspect of how we define heritage.

The Bridgeland-Riverside Vacant Lot Garden is the last of a number of similar gardens that were created by members of the Vacant Lot Garden Club as a way to beautify the city and put unused land to productive use. It was originally suggested by the aptly named Town Planning commissioner, James H. Garden and was started in 1914. Membership was $1.00 annually which entitled the holder to use one lot. Land owners such as Colonel Walker and J.C. Cockburn donated lots for use by the club. Calgarians were able to grow their own produce and reduce their reliance on “imported” food. Just as an aside, and a library tie-in, Alexander Calhoun, the first head librarian of the Calgary Public Library, was active in forming the club, as part of his role on the Town Planning Commission.

Spiller Road was a part of the Old North Trail that ran from the Yukon to New Mexico and was used by First Nations for thousands of years. According to Blackfoot Chief Brings-Down-the-Sun, the trail forked where Calgary now stands. “The right fork ran north into the Barren Lands as far as people live. The main trail ran south along the eastern side of the Rockies, at a uniform distance from the mountains, keeping clear of the forest and outside of the foothills. It ran close to where the city of Helena now stands and extended south into the country inhabited by a people with dark skins and long hair falling over their faces." (The Old North Trail by Walter McClintock, p434) When the NWMP built Fort Calgary, part of the trail became Macleod Trail, the main route to forts in the south such as Fort Macleod and Fort Benton in Montana.

The Mission Bridge was built at the place where travellers forded the Elbow River. Father Lacombe suggested that farmers coming into town from areas to the south would benefit from the building of a bridge to allow them easier access to markets. The first bridge was built in 1886 but soon became rotted and worn. In 1897 a new steel bridge was erected (see photo). In 1915 a concrete bridge (the first in Alberta) was erected. During construction, however, one of the worst floods to hit Calgary nearly destroyed the unfinished bridge and took the life of Quinton Campbell, a city worker. (This was the same flood that destroyed the original Centre Street Bridge, with the above mentioned Commissioner Garden, and the City Engineer, who planned and oversaw the construction of the Mission Bridge, G.W. Craig, aboard. They both survived the disaster.) Though this bridge has been renovated and rebuilt many times, elements of the 1915 bridge still remain.

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Mission Bridge during flood, ca. 1923?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1377

Heritage Round Table - Heritage Trades

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

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Entrance to Reader Rock Garden, ca 1960s

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1256

That we are very keen on the preservation of Calgary’s heritage sites goes without saying (this is the Community Heritage blog, after all). We have a deep admiration for people who work on behalf of these goals, groups like Calgary Heritage Initiative, the Heritage Planning Department at the City, the historical societies, and the legions of volunteers who work tirelessly inventorying, advocating, lobbying, writing, touring, to get heritage resources recognized and protected.

What we often overlook is what happens to heritage sites once they are legally protected. The conservation and restoration of heritage buildings requires different skills than building a new building or even renovating an older building. Work on heritage sites and artifacts require that the craftsman have an understanding of traditional materials and methods of construction.

We have the opportunity to hear from some of the trades people who work on heritage buildings, landscapes and artifacts at the next Heritage Roundtable on Thursday January 27 at 7:00 PM at Beaulieu, the historic Lougheed House. Speakers from various heritage trades will be there to give us insight into their work. Ken Armstrong, a mason and stone carver, will talk about tradition versus modern stone carving techniques; Janet Jones, a horticulturalist, will give us insight into the rehabilitation of the Reader Rock Garden; Steve Ramsey, the Manager of Facilities and Maintenance for heritage Park will give us a general overview of the park’s processes of heritage preservation and maintenance, while discussing the restoration of the 1885 Morrisey, Fernie & Michel passenger cars. There will also be time for questions and discussion and, of course, the all important networking with others interested in Calgary’s Heritage. You can register for this event online at or by telephone at 403-244-4111. These roundtable events are always interesting and you get to meet some of the neatest people. I hope to see you there.

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Crest on the wall of Beaulieu

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 44-09

Dictionary of Canadian Biography

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

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"Rosscarrock" William J. Tregillus Residence

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 14-06

I’ve written before about the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (you can see the previous entry by clicking here) It is a resource that we library folk have always relied on to provide authoritative biographical information about Canadians. For years we used it in its paper form so we were overjoyed when it went online. In almost all of my genealogy presentations I point out the value of national biographies for genealogists and historians. They contain well-researched articles about notable people in a country’s history. The ability to search such a resource online is a great advantage. Online searching provides access to all the names in the entry, not just that of the principal subject. Anyone mentioned in an article will come up in a search. You can access the Dictionary of Canadian Biography through the “E-Library” link on the Calgary Public Library homepage. Just click on “History and Genealogy” to see the menu.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography turned 50 last year. The Supervisory Editor, Willadean Leo, will be at the University of Calgary, in the History Department, Social Sciences Building room 623 at 12:30 on Wednesday November 24th to give a talk about this venerable resource, its history and plans for the future. She will present examples of completed biographies, talk about some of Western Canada’s famous and infamous DCB subjects and talk about some of the biographies that are underway.

This will be a most informative lecture, one I’m sure many genealogists, biographers and historians will be interested to hear. Come and share your ideas for DCB s next half century. I hope to see you all there.

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Headstone of Sam Livingston, at Heritage Park

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, AJ 0848

Cow Town/Punk Town

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

Album Cover

The Golden Calgarians - It's Fun to Be Alive

From the Author's Collection

I may be showing my age here, but punk rock meant a lot to me. I had the misfortune to have missed golden era of counter-culture rock, I was still a pup when The Beatles broke up and the Rolling Stones had gone all “Emotional Rescue” on us. We were mired in glittering lights and Saturday Night Fever. But then my brother came home from university with a bootleg Ramones tape and my life gained new meaning.

I was lucky that I lived in Calgary. Young people are often shocked to learn that conservative old Calgary was once a hotbed of punk music. We saw the best bands and we produced some of the great Canadian punk rock bands. Do you remember The Golden Calgarians? The keyboardist from that band will be coming to talk about this city’s punk rock past. With him will be Lori Hahnel, local author and founding member of the all-girl band The Virgins. She will read from her novel, Nothing Sacred, which draws on her punk rock background and evokes very vivid memories of that time and place.

Because punk was a new kind of music, perceived to be violent and anti-establishment, a lot of the venues available for shows were the older, seedier hotels such as The Calgarian, The New Noble and The National. Kids with Mohawks and multiple piercings would invade the space occupied by the old fellers and good ole boys. I gained an appreciation for the old hotels and their gloomy bars and probably spent more time in them than was healthy. Maybe it was this that led to my interest in old buildings? (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Cow Town/Punk Town is just one of the many programs we are offering on our Heritage Weekend, November 6 and 7, at the Central Library. Check it out on our website - just type ‘heritage weekend’ into the keywords search and you will pull up all the programs we are offering. You can also register in person at your local library branch or by telephone at 403-260-2620. Hope to see you there.

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Calgarian Hotel

Alison Jackson Photography Collection, detail from AJ 1326

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