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Calgary's First Fire

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 540

Fire Hall #1, built 1887 demolished 1913

Postcards from the Past, PC 540

The first major fire in Calgary occurred on January 8 1885 in J.L. Bowen's house on Atlantic Avenue (now 9th Avenue). The house, valued at $575, which would have made it one of the finer homes in the city, was completely destroyed. Bystanders were unable to stop the fire mainly because there was no nearby source of water. Snowballs were hurled at the blaze and a bucket brigade was started to bring water from a town water tank, but to no avail. The best they could accomplish was to save some of the furniture and to drag the nearby henhouse, with its occupants, to safety.

It may have been this fire that spurred the approval for the digging of eight wells around the city. It also led to the development of the Calgary Hook, Ladder and Bucket Corps in August of 1885. James Smart, who would become Chief in 1898, was "hookman" on that brigade, .

The photograph above shows the Calgary Fire Hall built in 1887 on what is now 7th Avenue between Centre Street and 1st Street E. It comes from our postcard collection which is accessible through our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. Information about the history of the Calgary Fire Department can be found in our Local History room on the 4th floor of the Central Library.

January 2, 1912

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

pc 596

Public Library and Central Park, ca. 1915

Postcards from the Past

On January 2nd, 1912 Calgarians celebrated the official opening of Calgary Public Library in Central Park. The building still stands and houses the Memorial Park Library.

This was Alberta's first public library and was the first Carnegie library in the province, so called because it was partially financed by wealthy American steel industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. The library opened with 5000 volumes on its shelves; 1000 fiction titles, 1000 in biography and history, 1000 in travel, 1000 children's books and 1000 reference books. T.A.P. Frost was the first of over seventy citizens to register as borrowers that first day which was remarkable considering that though the books were on the shelves, they were not available for borrowing.

This postcard, from our Postcards From the Past section of the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library, shows the bandstand and the South African War memorial statue by Louis Hebert.

For more information on this beautiful library visit our Virtual Tours of Historic Calgary .

There are a number of books which discuss the history of the library and the people behind it. Esther Gorosh's Calgary's Temple of Knowledge: A History of Calgary Public Library (027.47123 GOR) outlines the early history of the library system. Alexander Calhoun by Donna Lohnes and Barbara Nicholson (020.924 CAL L) is a brief biography of the fascinating man who became the Chief Librarian of the new library and whose vision gave shape to the library for generations to come.

Christmas at the Grand Union Hotel

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 696

The Grand Union Hotel, designed by noted architect William Dodd, was built in 1905 on Atlantic Avenue (or Whisky Row, as it was affectionately known). It was operated by A. Moodie, who also owned the Royal Hotel. The horse-drawn bus, seen in the picture, ferried travellers to and from the train station, four blocks away. The balconies could be seen from the station and offered views of the activity along Atlantic Avenue as well as views of the mountains. In 1906, just a year after it opened, it offered a sumptuous menu for Christmas dinner. The menu included familiar favourites such as creamed potatoes, corn on the cob, mince pie and French fries. It also included the more sophisticated fare:

Canape of Caviar, Clear Green Turtle Soup, Cream of Oysters

Planked White Fish de Hanover Sauce

Sweet Breads Braized [sic] a la Rothchild

Domestic Duck with Boston Clam Dressing

Saddle of Venison, Black Currant Jelly

Lobster Salad au Cresson

For dessert you could choose between Plum Pudding with Brandy sauce, three kinds of pie and pineapple trifle, ice cream, Oka cheese and jelly.

The Local History Collection in the Central Library includes many menus from Calgary establishments. You can find them in the library catalogue by typing the name of the establishment and the word 'menu' in the search box on the Calgary Public Library homepage (http://calgarypubliclibrary.com/)

Grand Union Menu coverMenu

Merry Christmas

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

PC 152

Carnegie Library, Calgary, Alberta, ca. 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 152

Anyone who has read this blog knows about the very cool postcard collection that we have here in the Local History room. Many images on the blog are pulled from that collection, which can be viewed from the Community Heritage and Family History site by clicking on the link Postcards from the Past on the left side of the page. In that collection are quite a number of Christmas postcards – generally consisting of a vignette of a building or a scene from Calgary in an embossed card with a Christmas greeting in red around the picture. The card in this entry is a view of what is now Memorial Park Library.

These cards mostly date from the ‘teens, a time when the craze for picture postcards was at its highest. All kinds of innovative cards were produced, such as “diamond dust” cards on which the picture was outlined in a kind of sparkle. These cards wreaked havoc with the electric stamping machines and were, for a short time, banned.

Though Christmas cards were invented in 1843, the postcard craze at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century reduced their popularity. Postcards were less expensive to send and were a quick and easy way of sending greetings to family back home.

To see more examples of Christmas postcards from the Calgary Public Library collection, visit the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library and search the site using the term “Christmas”.

City Hall - Centennial of the Laying of the Cornerstone

by Christine L Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

City Hall

September 15 marked the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the "new" city hall. In 1908 dignitaries, including Mayor Arthur Cameron, R.B. Bennett and Colonel James Walker, were on hand to celebrate this momentous event.

The cornerstone is embedded outside of City Hall on the northwest side of the main entrance. It is a red granite plaque engraved with the names of the mayor and aldermen, the City Clerk and the architect, William Dodd. Dodd was dismissed in 1909 and replaced by architects Gilbert Hodgson and Ernest Butler.

A sealed copper box was placed under the cornerstone. Inside were financial reports, bylaws of the city, and a copy of the New Testament.

For more information on City Hall, visit our Virtual Tours of Historic Calgary by clicking on the link on the left side of the page.

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