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The Cecil Hotel

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 89 11Cecil Hotel before the paint job, 1965 Alison Jackson Collection

It’s in the news again, and the news ain’t good. It looks like we may be saying goodbye to the infamous, but decidedly colourful, Cecil Hotel. The city is in the process of selling the hotel to the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the organization that is responsible for the redevelopment of the East Village. The land the hotel sits on could be turned in to a short term parking lot. The argument against preserving the building is that over the years the distinguishing heritage characteristics of the hotel have been stripped away. On the other side of the argument is that the building is much more than a physical object. The value in many of our heritage properties also lies in the intangibles – the purpose and the people associated with the site. This may be what is plaguing the efforts to preserve the Cecil. In the last years of its life, it became a byword for murder and mayhem. The police were spending as much time there as the patrons. While a little scandal can often be a positive (think of the black sheep in your family) the level of crime and violence associated with the Cecil is proving to be detrimental to its preservation.

The Cecil wasn’t always a dive. Built in 1911, it was a working man’s hotel and included a dining room and bar, along with a billiard room and a barbershop. A quick search of the Henderson’s Directories shows that blacksmiths, mechanics, stablemen, and other tradesmen called the Cecil home. With a booming and transient population, these kinds of hotels provided short and long term residences for men working in and around Calgary. An article in The 100,000 Manufacturing, building and wholesale book stated that “be it stranger or Calgary citizen who enters the portals of the Hotel Cecil he is at once impressed with the atmosphere of good fellowship which permeates every nook and cranny of this popular hostelry.”

PC 947Cecil Hotel 1912 Postcards from the Past

The Calgary Public Market was next door and many of the storefronts of the Cecil were occupied by businesses that capitalized on this proximity. One of the businesses that operated from the hotel was Der Deutsch-Canadier, Western Canada’s largest German language newspaper. The proprietors of the hotel, who were German immigrants to the city, were also the publishers of the newspaper.

There is no trace of any of the other buildings that made up the area around the market. In fact, there are only 10 heritage buildings left in the whole East Village, a sad fact given that this end of the city was the hub of activity in the pre-WWI years. I’d be sorry to see the Cecil go. It would take with it one hundred years of human history in all of its grubby glory.

For an interesting perspective on the Cecil, you can visit the site “This is my Cecil” started as a part of the “This is my City” program.

Fall is the Season for Heritage Programs

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1590Four Soldiers in Uniform 1915?

With fall (or at least what passes for fall in this city) comes Heritage programs by the bushel. Things are gearing up and I thought I should let everyone know what to look out for.

Starting tomorrow, Wednesday September 24 and running until Thursday the 25th, The Military Museums is presenting a series of lectures under the banner Material Culture and The First World War: Western Canadian Narratives Noted speakers from across the country will be talking about a wide variety of topics relating to Canadian involvement in World War I, how the war was represented to Canadians on the home front, the stories of those affected by the war and life in Alberta after the war. This looks like it will be a fascinating series and I only wish I didn’t have to work. I’d be in there like a dirty shirt. The cost is $50 for the two days or $35 for just one day. You can find more information as well as a link to the registration page right here

Also kicking off this month is our Family History Coaching program. Coaches from the Alberta Histories Society will be on hand to help you, one on one, with your genealogy questions. Researchers at all levels of skill are welcome. We have three genealogy minds to set to your project, and three heads are always better than one. We meet on the last Saturday of the month (the 27th this month) from 10:00 to 12:00 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. There is no registration required, so you can just pack up your papers and drop in for a consult.

Breaking the Silence poster Breaking the Silence

In October, we will be welcoming a speaker from the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association and author Sandra Joyce to deliver the talk Breaking the Silence: British Home Children. Over 100,000 children were sent to Canada and often put to work as indentured servants. This program is in partnership with the Chinook Country Historic Society and will take place at the Central Library on Saturday October 18 at 1 pm. You can find more information here. No registration is required

And for those of you interested in learning AND eating, the Firefighter’s Museum is hosting Conversations in the Kitchen. This time, in honour of Fire Prevention Week, the subject will be Watch what you heat. CFD’s Public Information Officer Carol Henke will be talking about what can go wrong in the kitchen, linking back to artefacts from the museum’s collection. Afterwards, Carol will share her infamous fire hall pancake recipe. You can register for this program, which takes place on October 10 at 10:30 by contacting programs@firefightersmuseum.org. Admission is by donation. You can find out more on theirFacebook page

So, get out, steep yourself in history and have a good time! See you out there.

How to Find an Old Newspaper

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

CPL 238 05 04People reading newspapers on microfilm, CPL Archives

Genealogists and historians know how important newspapers are in any kind of historical research. Whether you’re looking for an obituary or trying to find out what was going on in your hometown, nothing captures the tenor of the times like a newspaper. How do you find those newspapers, though? If you’re not from a major urban centre, it can be tricky even finding out what the newspaper was called, especially since researching the various permutations of a newspaper’s names and its publication history can be a genealogical research project in itself.

Our national library, Library and Archives Canada, collects lots and lots of newspapers. They receive print copies of select Canadian current dailies, all Canadian ethnic newspapers, all Canadian Aboriginal newspapers, and student newspapers received from Canadian University Press. They also receive some international papers. While you can consult any of these newspapers at Library and Archives Canada in person, not all of us can make that trek. But do not despair – much of the library’s holdings are available on microfilm (200,000 reels of it!) and can be borrowed on inter-library loan. And to help us find those newspapers, Library and Archives Canada has launched a new database — well, actually an enhanced version of a much-loved and oft used database.

This site has always been an invaluable resource for the names and publication history of Canadian newspapers. What the upgrade has given us are links to digitized versions of the papers, where they exist. Sites such as Peel’s Prairie Provinces, Our Future Our Past, Google News, and various other digitization projects can be accessed from the LAC list. The site also includes a list of general indexes to Canadian newspapers, including online paid sources, free sources and print sources as well as a geographical listing of indexes for specific newspapers or places. Have a look at what is available for Alberta.

There is also a section of online sources for news and indexes to the news. It’s a one-stop shop for all things newspaper.

BTW, our Family History Coaching program kicks off its new season on September 27. Join us for one-on-one help with your family history project. Volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society will be on hand in the genealogy section of the Central Library from 10 a.m. to noon. 

The Newspapers Have Arrived!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

PC 841Newspaper Office in Daysland Alberta

After more than a year waiting patiently for our microfilmed newspapers to arrive, we are happy to be able to say that we finally have a mostly complete collection of the Calgary newspapers including the Albertan, the Sun, The Calgary Herald and some of the other, earlier newspapers such as The Eye-Opener. They are all living on the 4th floor, happy in their little cabinets alongside our brand new microfilm readers.

My colleagues are concerned about my joy surrounding these new arrivals, thinking that I’ve gone completely off the deep end into a chasm of nerdiness, but we have all felt the lack of this collection since we lost it in the flood last year. I can't tell you the number of times I have said “that would be in the newspaper” only to realize that we had no way to gain quick access to this resource. Yes, the Calgary Herald is on Google Newspapers, but it is incomplete. There are also early newspapers on Our Future Our Past, which has been our saving grace for the years prior to the 1940s, but past that we had nothing until 1988, when the Calgary Herald starts full text on Canadian Newsstand. And even then, the classifieds are not included, which means that obituaries and birth announcements are not included. We hadn’t realized how much we depended on the microfilms until we were without them.

So, nerdy or not, I am delighted that this collection is now available for all of us to use. Newspapers are unparalleled in the insight they can give about people and their times. When I am researching an event I often take a wander through the papers of the time to get a sense of how people reacted and what they found important. We used the newspapers extensively when looking for stories for our Flood Story website. Having the stories of individuals who were affected by the floods gives more substance to the statistics and dry descriptions found in official reports.

Linton Ad 1897Ad for Photos of the 1897 Flood from Calgary Herald

Flood Stories

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 611Elbow river at 25 Avenue Bridge, 1915

It will be the one year anniversary of the floods of 2013 on Friday. On Saturday, as part of the city-wide Neighbour Day celebrations, we will be launching our Flood Stories website at the Central Library. The website will be an online resource for people who are looking for information about the all of the floods we have seen in Calgary, and it will also be a place where we can keep all the stories of the people who lived through these floods.

Living at the confluence of two rivers, we are no strangers to flooding, and in the early days a really good rainstorm could knock out all access to the city and leave people stranded. Routes into and out of the city, road and rail, could be inundated or undermined and this would leave the citizens without necessary supplies. This meant milk shortages and even shortages of materials needed to rebuild the bridges.

Bridge washouts sometimes created a domino effect as the debris from one bridge knocked out the next bridge, which knocked out the next bridge and so on. Logs were a hazard as well. When we had major logging operations, such as Eau Claire Power and Lumber, on the Bow, careering logs could wreak endless havoc on bridges and other structures in the river.

The old gravity feed water supply system was often a victim of the floods, not that it was ever a great system, but high water would stir up the rivers and the silt and debris would be pulled in to our water supply. This created other crises, as these were the days before bottled water and even those with wells might find their water contaminated by the floods.

PC 1984Bow in flood, Louise Bridge, 1923

What I have noted, though, as I have been working on the information for this site is that Calgarians are a resilient lot. After each and every flood, the newspapers have stories about how neighbours helped one another, how people got together to fix the things that had been broken by the waters. We are citizens of a very special city, and I am looking forward to hearing the stories and keeping the stories of all of you great people. Tell us your story

InvitationInvitation

Oh, It's Lion Time Again....

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

AJ 1255One of the Magnificent Beasts for whom the Awards were Named

Alison Jackson Collection, 1255

Two weeks! That’s all the time we have left to nominate our people and groups for the Lion Awards. What are the Lion Awards, you ask? Well, every two years the Calgary Heritage Authority, those valiant defenders of our city’s history, honours the people and projects that preserve our city’s heritage. This can be restoring a heritage building or landscape, promoting awareness of heritage issues, revitalizing a neighbourhood or being involved in a heritage trade or craft.

This year, since we are just a year out from the floods which devastated many of our historic neighbourhoods, so an award category has been created that recognizes the effort many people have put in to protect and restore buildings and neighbourhoods in flood prone areas.

The Lion Awards are a big deal for the heritage community. For many years promoters of heritage in Calgary were viewed with the same kind of sideways glance that your crazy uncle Bill was, when he started talking about his youth. Heritage activists were nutty old ladies who were stuck in the past, unable to see the bright shiny new buildings that were being built to replace the tired old eyesores that sat on very expensive land. Now, we have come to an understanding that to move ahead and build a great city, we need to keep the past alive.

So, if you know of a project or a person who is working to that goal, why not nominate them for a Lion Award? You can nominate yourself if you are that person or you are involved in a heritage project. We have a Lion Award. We got it for this blog and we still brag about it.

Lion AwardOur Lion Award for Advocacy and Awareness

(See, here’s the picture of our award) It was a great recognition from a great organization (and the gala where the awards are given out is excellent) So, check out the criteria and get your nomination in. You’ve got two weeks. (And register for the party as well. It's at the Grand this year.)

To find out more about the awards, you can watch Terry MacKenzie, a member of the Heritage Authority, on Shaw TV or read about it on the City of Calgary's news channel

Viva the Village

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

PC 1690

Looking East from the Grain Exchange Building, 1911

Postcards from the Past, PC 1690

I’ve just had a look at the animation of the master plan for the East Village. You can see it on the CMLC website. It’s a very exciting vision and the I'm excited that the library is going to continue to be an important part of the life down here.

In a way, this is a rebirth for the East Village. It’s hard to believe, looking at it now with its unending vistas of parking lots, but the east end of the city was once the centre of this bustling metropolis. I was reminded of this once more, by a question from a customer about what was on the site of the current Central Library before it was built. And as luck would have it, while I was looking into this question I ran into one of my favourite local historians who was able to tell me alot about what was on the site before the library was built, including a gas station and Nagler's Department Story. I don’t know how I missed this important detail, but it got me thinking about the new library site and what was on it before its redevelopment (read “parking lot-ization”).

I consulted some of my favourite resources, in addition to my local historian, including the fire insurance plans for Calgary (available on the Library and Archives Canada site) and the Henderson's directories (available in the local history room at the Central Library and online at Peel's Prairie Provinces)

The strip along 9th Avenue SE was home to many of our early hotels, of which only the King Edward (until recently) survived. The Imperial, Grand Union, and Oxford, along with the Maple Leaf Boarding House, lined the street, a natural outgrowth of the proximity of the train station. Serving these hotels were livery stables and there were two still active on 9th Avenue E. in 1911, the Atlantic and Brandon and Young. There were two livery stables on or near the site of the present Central Library as well, Elk Livery and Palace Livery. The New Central Library site is just to the west of the Oxford Hotel and Atlantic Livery, sitting on the back part of the Calgary Iron Works site and blacksmith John R. Grayshon’s shop.

On what would have been the Eighth Avenue side of the site (back when Eighth Avenue was continuous) there were several shops, including Chicago Outfitting and McLeod and Co. There were also several grocers, the Sunnyland Café, the Excelsior Block, a furniture store and McLeod’s Men’s Furnishings. The Seventh Avenue end of the site was residential, with homeowners Mrs. Peter Ronn, saddler Frank Carson and plumber Maxime Longuet all living there. On the same street, though not on the site of the New Central Library, there was a cigar factory and a Moravian Church.

The East end of the city was a bustling and vibrant place back in 1911. The plans for its revitalization are exciting and promise to bring back the vitality and vigor that was present before we paved it.

You can find out more information about the New Central Library by following the link on our website

AJ 1294

Moravian Church, 7th Avenue and 3rd Street East, ca 1964

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1294

The Value of Old Buildings

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Elbow Park School

Elbow Park School

From the Elbow Park School Website

Elbow Park School is in the news again. The CBE is meeting to discuss what will be done with the school – should it be torn down and replaced or restored? Schools often present challenges for the people who want to save old buildings. They are large and occupy vast tracts of land, often in very desirable neighbourhoods. The people who hold Elbow Park’s fate in their hands are facing a real dilemma. Yes, a new school would have all the bells and whistles, enough plug ins for all the electronics (I work in an older building myself and understand this challenge especially), a better gym, and all the amenities that new buildings offer, but they will also lose a character building, in a sense they will lose the history of their school. The neighbourhood, which is one of the oldest in the city, will lose more of its defining characteristics, the characteristics that make it such a wonderful place to live.

So what, you might say. This is a pointless discussion. An old building is an old building and the best way to deal with it is to replace it. That it is flood damaged is the perfect opportunity to look to the future and build something “better.” This is at the heart of much of what we do in the heritage community. What is the value of an old building? Is there more than monetary value to consider when we decide their fate? Is newer necessarily better?

There are lots of arguments to support both points of view. Reusing old buildings adds character to cities – remember when Mordecai Richler famously stated that Calgary would be a helluva city once it was uncrated? We’ve come a long way from there. We value our heritage and realize that preserving our old buildings gives a sense of the history to a city, something that we lose every time we knock one of them down. Old school buildings are especially important in the history of place. “Schools were once thought of as important civic landmarks built to last a century. They represented community investments that inspired civic pride and participation in public life," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There is an excellent study on the fate of historic neighbourhood schools by the Trust called “Why Johnny Can’t Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl.”

There is also the practical value of restoration. It is a far greener option than dumping demolition rubble into a landfill. Restoration allows for the removal of any nasty stuff like asbestos and allows for a general buff-up. If Jane Jacobs is correct that new ideas require old buildings, sending our kids to school in a historic building could open the way for who knows what kind of engagement. If you don’t want your kids to go to school in an old building, then perhaps we should reconsider the value of Ivy League schools, or Oxford or Cambridge. Part of what makes the experience there so valuable is the history behind them, represented, not in the least, by their wonderful historic buildings.

I hope we get to keep that beautiful school. It would be a shame to lose another one.

PC 1998

St. Mary's School

Postcards from the Past, PC 1998

More Heritage Weekend — Commerce and Sports

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 954

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.

PC 1596

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.

PC 1131

Football Team (perhaps Calgary Collegiate Institute) 1912

Postcards from the Past, PC 1131

We're Back!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

cpl 104-03-01

Circulation Department, Central Library, 1963

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 104-03-01

The Central Library officially re-opens today after the floods closed us down for more than two months. It is good to be back. We opened quietly to shake out some of the new procedures last week and it was so good to see many of our old customers return to welcome us.

Our old building took quite a beating but just like its staff, it has proved to be resilient (mostly, we’re still not 100%). In the 50+ years this building has stood, even before it was built, it has faced all kinds of adversity. A citizen challenged the legality of the city borrowing money for the new Central Library without requiring a vote on a money bylaw. A judge ruled that because the library would be built using funds held in reserve, council could proceed without a vote. That was in 1962. At this time the Memorial Park branch was so crowded that administrative offices, the technical services department and the reference and technical library were moved to building on 6th Street and 9th Avenue, more than 6 blocks from the main library.

The building of the new central library was long overdue, according the Mr. Castell, the head librarian at the time. The location of the new branch was to be next to the new police building and across from city hall. That raised some eyebrows as well, as the “East End” as this area was known in the 60s, was kind of a shady area. But council stuck to their guns, claiming that a new central library would be the starting point for a regeneration of the east end of the city. It was, in fact, said Mayor Hays, the safest place in the city, what with all those policemen all over the place. The plans went ahead and the new library was officially opened in June of 1963. It was a very different place from what it is now. The children’s department was in the basement (I’d always wondered why the fixtures in the staff bathroom down there were so low) ...

cpl 104 05 01

Children's Department in the New Central Library, 1963

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures CPL 104-05-01

...and there was enough extra space that the Glenbow had a gallery on the 3rd floor. There was a bindery, administration offices, an auditorium on the 6th floor and a sweeping staircase to get customers to the reference library on the second floor.

CPL 104 09 01

Glenbow Gallery, 3rd Floor of the New Central Library, 1963

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures CPL 104-09-01

Over the years the library has been extended, with an entire new building added to the north side in the 1970s, and renovated and rejigged to keep up with changes in the way we use the library and to make room for innovations like photocopiers, online catalogue and circulation systems, public access computers, coffee shops and the like. Though it seems that libraries are staid and conservative and have remained unchanged since the library at Alexandria, they are actually constantly in flux and continually change to meet the needs of the customers. We will look on this latest “reconfiguration” as just another opportunity to adapt, since we are so good at it.

Check out our archives photos if you want to see the Central Library in its original state. And drop by to say hi – we’re delighted to be back and would like to see you all again. We missed you.

CPL 10419 01

New Central Library under Construction in 1963

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, CPL 104-19-01

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