Latest Posts

Off Line

The Heritage Triangle PDF link

Welcome Home, Soldier

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 965

Dinner time for 192nd Battalion, Sarcee Camp, 1916

Postcards from the Past, PC 965

We were delighted to be a part of the last Heritage Roundtable which examined community initiatives and really turned into a celebration of all the grass roots organizations that are dedicated to preserving our heritage. Our little part was to show a few of the resources that we have available at the Calgary Public Library for researching community history. One of the sources that I didn’t cover was land records and I was reminded of two land schemes that were very important to the development of the city and the province.

After each of the two world wars Canadian soldiers were offered some opportunities to help them adapt to post-war life. After World War I, the Soldier Settlement Act was introduced to help returning soldiers re-establish themselves and to pump up agricultural production, thereby aiding in the economic recovery of the country. Soldiers were encouraged to take up homesteads on the prairies, with government loans of $2500 to help with the purchase of equipment and livestock. Returning servicemen stampeded to take up this offer. This required the Settlement Board to find more land than that which was available for homesteads. They found this land by designating certain privately held parcels as settlement areas. The board was also given the right to acquire land on Indian Reserves, school lands and forest reserves. This venture was of mixed success and much has been written on this topic (two particularly good articles, one by E.C. Morgan in Saskatchewan History Spring 1968 and one by Sarah Carter in Manitoba History Spring/Summer 1999 – both available in the Local History Room)

In Alberta, one of the settlements was just east of Carbon, on land leased to the Pope Ranch. Even now, the area is still known as the Pope Lease. You can read about the Pope family (Rufus Henry Pope was a Member of Parliament and was named Senator by Sir Robert Borden) in the history of the Carbon area, Carbon: Our History, Our Heritage (available through Our Future Our Past).

After the end of the second war a similar scheme was enacted for the soldiers returning from that conflict. The Veterans’ Land Act sought to overcome some of the problems that were created by the Soldier Settlement Act and so gave the soldiers more latitude and more opportunity. With a small down-payment soldiers could get a government loan to help buy land. More money was available for equipment and livestock. The veterans were encouraged to settle on small holdings or in the suburbs of larger cities. Lots in several outlying areas of Calgary were set aside for the ex-servicemen including Mount View/Winston Heights and Bowness. Members of the Bowness Historical Society were at the Heritage Roundtable talking about their community initiative which was to produce a second volume of their community history. This volume contains stories of the “Settlement”, which was itself a tight-knit community within the tight knit community of Bowness. Forty-seven houses were built by Bennett and White on land purchased from John Lawrie. Lots were approximately one acre, allowing for small scale agriculture such as gardens, bee hives and chicken coops. In the map below, of Bowness in 1959, shows the larger lots of the Soldiers Settlement area. (This map is also available in the Local History Room).

There are lots of very interesting bits of information to be gleaned out there. At the Heritage Roundtables we are always finding out more about our city and, of course, here at the Central Library we have the wonderful treasure trove that is our Local History collection. Come and visit us, you never know what you'll find.

Map CALG 10

Veterans Land Act Lots in Bowness

Historic Map Collection, CALG 10

 

W.R. Brock and Company

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 901

W.R. Brock and Co. Ltd, 8th Avenue and 2nd Street SW, ca. 1912?

Postcards from the Past, PC 219

This most beautiful building was the Calgary home of W.R. Brock Company Ltd. It was a western branch of an established Toronto firm, owned by William Rees Brock, a native of Eramosa Township and brother to the founder of Great-West Insurance, Jeffry Brock.

When this building was erected, in 1905/06, it was out in the boonies. The location had been decided by the company’s traveler, W.H. Berkinshaw, who liked the prospects in Calgary so much that he made a deal with W.R. Brock. Brock wanted to open the western branch of the store in Winnipeg, but Berkinshaw, promised the manager-ship of the western branch, championed Calgary and so this beautiful building was built on the corner of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street W. According to Elsie Morrison (Calgary, 1875-1950), the only other business out that way was a livery stable. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, as the 1906 map shows a number of businesses in the area, including Frontier Livery, but also including R.C. Thomas’s businesses, a tailor and a ladies shop as well as a drug store.

W.R. Brock was a dry goods supplier who specialized in carpets, woolens, tailors’ trimmings and fabrics, men’s furnishings, women’s clothing, including dainties, and ran a mail order business. By 1912, the business was doing so well a third storey was added, overseen by William Stanley Bates. The plans and specifications are in the Glenbow Archives.

The building was very much on the cutting edge of design. It had a sprinkler system and a commercial alarm hooked into the fire department (Morrison reports that in 1950 it was still No. 1 on the Fire Department’s alarm list). This may have something to do with the fire in the business district of Toronto in 1904 that consumed many businesses, Brock’s among them (even though that building, too, had a fire sprinkler system). It also boasted the first concrete sidewalk and passenger elevator.

When the Great War started, the company saw its share of men enlist. You can view the Honour Roll online. One of the Calgary men who enlisted was Edwin Lyle Berkinshaw, the son of W.H. Berkinshaw. He died in the Ypres Salient in 1916.

W.R. Brock and Co. lasted on the Calgary site until 1952. At that time the listings in the Henderson’s Directories change to Robinson, Little and Company, another dry goods store. It appears that the building was demolished some time before 1956 (or was it just reclad, as suggested by one of our readers, see comment below) and in 1957 the Empire Building is shown as occupying the spot. A restaurant called Bennett’s was on the main floor of the building. I have been unable to find out exactly what happened to the Brock business. For a time the building was occupied by a company called Robinson, Little and Co. which traded in the same kinds of goods as W.R. Brock. A little more research and I'm sure I'll turn up something.

PC 901

Interior, W.R. Brock Company Limited, Calgary, ca 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 901

The Amazon, Again

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1591

Five People in a Rowboat at Bowness Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1591

When I wrote about the Amazon statue back in December of last year, we felt we were hot on the trail of finding out what had happened to the statue. We were inspired by the article that Daniel Lindley had written for Stephen, the magazine put out by the Epcor Centre, to comb the City’s annual reports and the reports of the Parks Department to see if we could find any trace of what had happened to her. The statue was moved, as previously mentioned, to the South Mount Royal Park in 1934 but it disappeared some time before 1953. And the reason I know that is that Daniel was contacted by someone who lived in the area and who showed him pictures of the statue and also a picture of her dog on the vacant plinth in 1953. You can read the update in the latest issue of Stephen. So, we’re a little closer to narrowing down a date, but I can find no mention of the fate of the Amazon in any of the reports.

I did find some other interesting stuff, though. The Parks Department reports are fascinating reading. Most include lists of animals at the zoo, locations and sizes of the various parks, what was planted in the parks and on the boulevards, what it cost to do various tasks. I found two separate charges for the moving of the museum specimens from Coste house; one in 1941 “Moving museum to car barns” at $3.23 and again in 1943 : “Coste’s residence, moving museum specimens” at $73.22. This would have been the collection that included our buffalo (see my previous post.)

Something else I found is that there was a street car placed in Roxboro Park to serve as a shelter. In the 1940 report, Mr. Reader, the superintendent stated: “ The old street car that was placed on this park and converted into a shelter is abused to such an extent that it seems practically useless to make any more repairs. “ I think it was dismantled in 1942. I can’t find any other record of it, but I will certainly keep looking. Wink

PC 1138

Calgary Tigers Playing Football in Hillhurst Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1138

They've taken leave of their census!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

Annie Kenny and Christabel Pankhurst

From the National Archives

I don’t want to talk about flooding anymore. I’m still feeling blue about being displaced and all the havoc that my once gentle rivers wreaked on my beautiful city so I am going to concentrate on genealogy for a while. One thing you can count on when you do genealogy, there is always something worse to discover.

I have a specific topic in mind and that has to do with a kind of ‘did you know thing” relating to finding your female ancestors in the UK. Deciding that if they were not to be considered as citizens when it came to voting, suffragettes, led by women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, declared that they would not participate in the census being taken on April 2, 1911. The census asked that the householders list everyone present in the dwelling on census night. To avoid being enumerated, suffragettes took one of two approaches: Either they defaced the form, writing such things as "I will not supply these particulars until I have my rights as a citizen. Votes for Women” or they arranged to be out of the house on census night. To facilitate that many events were organized across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. This was not as frivolous as it seems as refusing to participate in the census could land one in prison.

The papers carried wonderful stories of the evening’s events. One enterprising woman was discovered in the crypt of the House of Commons on the Monday following census night. She had concealed herself there to avoid being enumerated but was “duly returned” on a census form provided by the police for that purpose. Another woman had hidden herself in a broom closet for 46 hours. Edinburgh protesters spent the night in a vegetarian restaurant and in an abandoned store. Some women slept in vans in parks. The biggest event, however, was an evening rally in Trafalgar Square that was broken up by police. The suffragettes had rented the Aldwych Skating Rink (roller skating, not ice-skating) and retired there to listen to speeches and skate until morning.

The London Times reported that the suffragettes efforts were largely useless as the women were counted by police, however, their particulars were not recorded and this has an impact on researchers looking for female ancestors in the United Kingdom (as if finding female ancestors was not hard enough). If your ancestor was a suffragette, she may not show up in the 1911 UK Census. I can find no indication that suffragettes in Canada and the US attempted the same strategy in any organized way but this doesn’t mean that there weren’t some dedicated women who staged their own census boycott. So, if you’re looking for a female ancestor around that time, keep the boycott in mind and also keep in mind that there may be records elsewhere (such as police rosters, Votes for Women organization lists, newspapers accounts of the boycott, lists of contributors to the cause and other documents. ) As always, be inventive and think outside the page (the census page, that is).

Census

Century Homes, 2013

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 80 10

Magnus Brown Residence, 1906 8th Avenue SE in 1963

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 80-10

It is time again for Century Homes. Last year’s project was wildly successful and we’re hoping to see even greater response this year. We have launched the legacy database, which you can view in our Digital Library. This database is a gold mine of information about heritage domestic architecture, typically one of the hardest heritage resources to document and preserve. Large, luxurious old homes, like the McHugh house, attract a lot of attention when they are threatened with demolition, but what of the small homes of everyday people? That is what I found so exciting about the Century Homes project. Calgarians jumped in with both feet to celebrate the everyday history of their communities and it is a wonderful thing. I never tire of telling people that history is not a list of facts and dates, it is the day-to-day life of the average person that is the important history.

We will be joined by experts from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library to offer our program on researching the history of houses again on May 25th at 2:00 pm. (Register here, in person at your branch or by phone 403+260-2620) This program will be great for anyone wanting to participate in Century Homes, for anyone who is just interested in the history of their house or community or for people who are researching houses as an adjunct to genealogical research. Old houses tell great stories and we will help you coax a story out of yours.

Here is a little story about a house that is no longer with us. This house, at 1306 8th Avenue SE, across from the A.E. Cross house, belonged to Magnus Brown. Magnus was born in Selkirk, Manitoba in 1850. He participated in the Red River Rebellion, fighting against Riel in 1869. He was captured by the Metis but managed to escape. In June 1873 Brown married Letitia Cook from Winnipeg. Brown moved to the Red Deer River District around 1882 where he raised stock. In 1885 the Brown’s relocated to Calgary and Magnus secured contract work with Canadian Pacific Railway for railroad and irrigation construction. He was in charge of the ditch built by the Calgary Irrigation Company. Brown served on city council from 1910 to 1912. He was a devoted member of the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Oldtimers’ Association.

The house was well known for its rhubarb patch, cultivated first by Brown but then by the next owner of the property, a Mr. Laurendeau. He in turn sold it to Mr. Servonnet, who continued to cultivate the patch, but eventually sold the property in 1969. The land was then sold to the city in 1970 and a senior’s residence, called the Rhubarb Patch, stands there.

Elveden House, or, A little bit of Ireland

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

AJ 43 06

Elveden House under construction, 1960

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection AJ 4306

 

I pass it every day on my way to work. It was part of my childhood, being fairly close to where my father worked, and I never knew anything about it. But as I was glancing out of the C-Train window, I noticed the beautiful green panels on the exterior of the building and then checked out the names, Elveden, Guinness and Iveagh. I thought I’d seen Iveagh House in Dublin. What was the connection with the Guinness family, whose products I enjoy every time I travel to visit our family in the Emerald Isle? Seemed like something I should know so I poked around a bit to find out just what was going on.

We have the photo, above, of Elveden house under construction. This is from the Alison Jackson collection (which can be viewed on our digital library). This is usually my first stop when I am looking for building information, as we have put information from the various newspaper articles we have published over the years, as well as other information we have gleaned from various sources. What I found out was that Elveden house was the first skyscraper in Calgary, built in 1959-60 at a cost of 5 million dollars and rising to 20 storeys. Until that time, buildings had been limited by law to 12 storeys in height. The owner of the building was a Guinness subsidiary, British Pacific Building Ltd, which partly explains the Irish allusions. The company built extensively in Canada, one of its projects was the Lions Gate Bridge.

On October 14, 1960, Viscount Elveden (Arthur Francis Benjamin Guinness, the grandson of the Earl of Iveagh – there are all my answers regarding names) officiated at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the main tower. Mayor Hays placed a box of records in the stone which included the Guinness Book of Records, an architect's drawing of Elveden House, pictures of Calgary, coins, local newspapers and magazines and a couple of bottles of Guinness. Hays called the building a landmark that would be “distinctly visible mark on Calgary’s skyline.” Motifs of the hexagon, which I noticed on the panels on the façade of the building, are repeated throughout the building as are harps and angels, which represent the Irish source of the Guinness fortune. Rumours were flying when the Earl of Iveagh visited Canada in 1949 that the building project they would undertake would be a Guinness brewery, which would have been great. But instead they chose to put up office towers. I found some newspaper clippings in our files which were written as construction was underway. The descriptions of the amenities of the building sound very cutting edge for the time. For example, workspaces were flexible and the glass on the south side was tinted, to allow natural light into all the offices. In addition, 70% of the materials used to build the structure were Canadian made.

Two other towers were built over the next few years; Iveagh House (called the British American Oil Building for its tenant) which went up in 1960-61 and Guinness House, which was built in 1964. Among the clippings was the information I was dying to learn – what is the correct pronunciation of Elveden? An equally curious reader posed this question to the Calgary Herald in 1962 and their sleuthing turned up the pronunciation “Elden” in one of those weird quirks of pronunciation, the likes of which have given us “wustershire” sauce. Apparently, the pronunciation “elvden” is OK but “elVEEden” is just not on. Who knew?

AJ 62 15

Calgary Skyscrapers, with Elveden House in the background, 1962

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, 1962

 

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

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

AJ 25 08


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

Houses Tell Great Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 7520

Fred McCall Home

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 7520


Your house holds many secrets. Some we probably don’t want to know about and only surface if we start removing walls. Other secrets can be interesting, even fun and you won’t even have to swing a sledge hammer to find them. There are scads of resources available at the Calgary Public Library, the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. Staff from those three Heritage Triangle members will be at the Central Library on Saturday to introduce some of the resources that we have, all within walking distance of one another, that can help you tell your home’s story. Register here.

Maybe your home is an elder statesman – one of the many houses built during the big building boom in the early 20th century. If that is the case, you might want to consider joining the Century Homes project. This project was a great success last summer with over 500 homes on the list. The photos of those homes and the information signs that the owners created to share their stories are now in our Century Homes database, the newest member of our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Check it out to see the kinds of stories other owners have uncovered.

You don’t have to own a century home to join us at this program, though. Maybe you have a fabulous 50s bungalow in one of the suburbs built during yet another of Calgary’s booms. What did the land look like before the ‘dozers moved in? Who was the first person to live in this house out in the boonies and what did they do? There is always an interesting story to be told. Just look at this one:


Sunalta HouseSign for Sunalta House

The original land title from 1910 states that C. Montrose and Florence B. Wright purchased the lot from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company for $200, as well as the lot to the east. Although it is not certain if they lived in the house, they were definitely an intriguing couple.
Clare Montrose Wright studied divinity at Victoria College in Toronto.
Florence (Kinrade) Wright had been an aspiring vaudeville stage performer in Hamilton, ON until February 25, 1909 when her sister, Ethel Kinrade, was murdered n the family home. Florence and Ethel had been the only ones home at the time and Florence claimed that a “tramp” had come to the door demanding money. When Florence went to get the money, the tramp shot Ethel. When Florence returned , she quickly handed him the money and fled out the back door. A man that met Florence’svague description was never found and eventually suspicion landed on Florence herself. Florence stood trial, an event that made the news clear across North America, but there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.
Following in trail, the couple married on June 28, 1909 in New York and moved to Calgary. Montrose gave up his plans to pursue the ministry and ended up practicing law.
Montrose died in 1918. After Montrose’s death, Florence returned to the stage, gaining moderate success, and eventually moved to California where she died in 1977.
The life and trial of Florence was immortalized in a book titled “Beautiful Lies” by Edward Byrne and a play in 2007 titled “Beautiful Lady, Tell Me” written by Shirley Barrie.

Your home may have an equally compelling tale (although perhaps without the murder). Join us and find out how to uncover it.

Can't make it to the event on Saturday? Watch the Livestream here: http://www.livestream.com/virtuallibrary

Library and Archives Canada Launches New Census Databases

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

1891 Canada Census

Page from the 1891 Canada Census

With all the kerfuffle over the changes to collection access and services at Library and Archives Canada, I haven’t been paying much attention to what they are actually doing out there in Ottawa. I was directed to a great database at their site, the Veterans’ Death Cards records, by a member of the AFHS. Because it fit in very well with my work on the Lest We Forget Project, I was very excited that I had more information on the soldiers that the students in the Project were working on. It turned out that the Veterans’ Cards were just the beginning.

I went on to do a bit more exploring of the databases that LAC has put up. A great place to find out about these digitized records is through the Library and Archives Canada Blog. Anyone who has ancestors in Canada should subscribe to this one, because it turns out, they have been digitizing all kinds of records. For example, they have just put up a new “edition” of the 1906 census of the Northwest Provinces that now includes the ability to search by name and ages. In December, they began a process to launch 15 census databases including very early returns from New France. While many of these haven’t been indexed they can be viewed page by page (and the really early ones aren’t that long anyhow.) The blog also includes information about the release of the next Canadian census (1921 – Yay)

The Ancestors Search on the LAC website will catch a lot of the databases. You can see what is available and which databases are part of the search here Included are passenger lists, border entry records, land records and military records.

Another way to search the digitized holdings of Library and Archives Canada is to use the Archives Advanced Search and select “Yes “the drop-down menu beside Online. I used the search term census and found censuses of various First Nations as well as the Federal census records.

Another link you should try is the listing of Microform Digitizations That list includes the recently digitized War of 1812 records So, although it can be a bit of a struggle to find the records, they are there and are well worth looking for, especially now that we can’t get the microfilm from Library and Archives Canada anymore.

Have you got a suggestion for a really great website that you’d like all the other genealogists out there to know? Let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Century Homes Database Launched!

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Century Home

One of the beautiful residences in the Century Homes database

Photograph courtesy James McMenamin,

Have you ever wandered past an old house and wondered when it was built, who used to live there, and what stories it contains? I know I do this all the time and, because I work in the Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library, I have resources at my fingertips that allow me to do a little house genealogy in my spare time. But today, we have launched a new database that will make information about the Century Homes in our city available online to anyone who cares to look.

If you read this blog regularly you will have read about the Century Homes Project. Most recently I posted that Century Homes had won a Governor General’s History Award for Community Programming. It was, and still is, a great initiative that got people involved in documenting their own century homes and sharing that information on signs posted in their yards. As part of the legacy of Century Homes (and because we don’t like to lose any information at all about the history of our beautiful city) Calgary Public Library is hosting the database that was created using the photographs and documentation that were created. It was launched this morning at City Hall and boy, are we chuffed. (You can see the Mayor's presentation to the proud Century Homes folks here) We’ve been working away at transcribing and uploading and doing all the things that are involved in getting a major project like this off the ground and we are delighted with the results. As of today we have all the photographs loaded and have about 100 of the yard signs transcribed. We will continue with the transcription until we have every bit of information in the database and accessible to everyone.

We invite you to have a look at this newest addition to our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. If you are interested in having your century home included in the 2013 tour (and in our database), check out the Century Homes website.

1234Showing 1 - 10 of 31 Record(s)