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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

The 1921 Census of Canada is Here!

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

 

Calgary in 1921 Census

Cover page for Calgary, District 4, 1921 Census of Canada

Courtesy Library and Archives Canada

 

Since we’re already on a census theme, I am overjoyed to announce that the 1921 Census for Canada was released by Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada earlier this month and the images are now available on Ancestry Library Edition. There is no name index as of yet, but Ancestry is hard at work trying to get all 8.8 million names indexed. This census has been eagerly awaited by genealogists. Given the wrangling required to get the 1911 census released, we weren’t sure we were ever going to see this one. For many genealogists, this may be the first census on which we can find our parents or grandparents. I know it is going to answer any number of questions for me once I can locate my mom’s mom and her family.

I had a boo ‘round Ancestry this afternoon and had a bit of a time finding where they had stashed the images. Because they are not indexed, the records don’t show up in a search or in the card catalogue. But nothing will stand in the way of a genealogist on a quest. The way I found them (thanks to my colleague for assisting) was to log into AncestryLE, hit the Search button at the top of the page and then choose Explore by location in the middle of the page. Then I selected ‘Canada and then Alberta. You can choose any province except for Newfoundland, which wasn’t a province in 1921. Once you’ve selected your province, you will see a list of record types. Census and Voters Lists are the first category but the 1921 is not listed. Select View other… and you will see the 1921 Census at the bottom of the list. You can monitor progress on indexing by looking at the number to the right of the heading. Right now, there is a zero beside it. As indexing is done, the numbers should increase.

Once you’ve clicked on the link for the 1921 census you will see a box to the right labeled Browse this collection (see below).

Select your province and go wild. You can actually do this from home—check out Library and Archives Canada’s information page for a link—but to use indexing, once it is done, you will need to have an Ancestry subscription or use your library card for free, in-library access to Ancestry Library Edition. The images are great, especially compared to those of the 1911 Census, and the names are very easy to read. Have fun!

1921 Census in Ancestry

The 1921 Census Navigation Page on AncestryLE


And here is a reminder for those of you with Heritage Homes which may have been damaged in the floods, there is another information session being held tomorrow night, August 15, at Christ Church, Elbow Park, 3602 8th Street SE. You may have seen one of the presenters, Eileen Fletcher, on the Global Morning News talking about these sessions. There will also be a drop in session from 4-8 p.m. at the same location. You can find out more about this at the City of Calgary’s website and at the Calgary Heritage Initiatives website.

 

PC 51

Elbow Park, Calgary, 1940s

Postcards from the Past, PC 190

It's Historic Calgary Week Again!

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

 

3207 Elbow Drive

One of last year's Century Homes, 3207 Elbow Drive SW

Century Homes Calgary 2012, Old Homes Tell Great Stories

Yay, it’s Historic Calgary Week again! It looked a bit nip and tuck, given that many of the venues were affected by the flood, but it looks like the very dedicated volunteers at Chinook Country Historical Society took a page from the Calgary Stampede’s handbook and “come hell or high water” this show will also go on.

As in every other year, there are some really great presentations scheduled. Subjects range from aircraft to oil production, Bankview to birds and Barrons and everything in between. The crossword puzzle has been published (Calgary Herald, July 26, page A20) and is also available on the Chinook Country Historical Society website – along with a complete listing of the programs.

Sadly, some programs have had to be cancelled. The walking tour of High River and the tour of the Museum of the Highwood, the tours of Rouleaville and Bowness and the programs at the City of Calgary Archives, for obvious reasons, will not be run. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park has stepped in and will be offering more tours. You do have to register for these walks and you can do so at their website.

Century Homes has also become a very important part of Historic Calgary week and especially this year, given the damage caused by the flooding in many of the heritage neighbourhoods in Calgary. In spite of the closure of two of the three points of the Heritage Triangle, loads of people are participating this year. Check out the map and find more information at the Century Homes website.

In addition to cancellations, a couple of programs have had to relocate. The two programs scheduled for the Central Library on Friday August 2, The 1913 Palestine Exhibition and The Germans From Russia have been moved to Memorial Park (with thanks to both the manager at Memorial Park and the Volunteer Resources Department for their juggling to accommodate us).

And while my colleague and I have had no access to our resources (due to the flooding at Central) we have still managed to pull together a Century Homes program about several of Calgary’s historic homes and their owners. If nothing else, this exercise has reinforced my belief that we cannot find everything on the internet. Join us on Wednesday July 31 at 7pm at the Memorial Park Library. At the very least, it will be entertaining.

PC 1340

Turner Valley Oilfields

Postcards from the Past, PC 1340

 

 

Oh, the water....

by Christine H - 5 Comment(s)

 

PC 611

25th Avenue Bridge during the floods of 1915

Postcards from the past, pc 611

It has been a trying time, hasn’t it? Our beautiful rivers turned ugly on us. We knew they were fickle – we’d seen evidence of it in the past (see above) but somehow living through it and seeing the aftermath makes it different. We were particularly hard hit here at the Central Library. As I write this, we are still without power, which means our IT centre is without power, which means we have no computers. I started at the library before there were computers, when dinosaurs were still roaming the earth, but I realize I have become very reliant on the availability of online resources.

In the old days we had a Recordak machine – this would take a photo of the book card and the library card together and this would be developed as microfilm. By the time I was doing circulation we actually had a computer system in place, but there was no online card catalog – we were still using the same old card catalogue and a new, updated version on microfiche. We were unable to find out if a book was on the shelf or not. If it was there, great, if not, well...

CPL 105 35 08

Circulating books using a Recordak Machine, Georgina Thomson Branch, 1965

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures, CPL 105 35 08

Then we launched the S.S. OPAC (online public access catalogue). We got t-shirts and had big parties because this was a revolutionary development for us. We could find out if books were in our system, if they were checked in or signed out and we could also place holds that would be caught the instant a book was returned. It made using the library so much more convenient. For the first little while, we couldn’t use the catalogue from home, but that didn’t matter much, because so few of us had internet access and what we had was glacially slow. But we kept developing our technology to make life for library customers simpler and quicker.

CPL 209 16 08

Gerry Meek launches the S.S. Opac at Village Square, 1992

Calgary Public Library, Our Story in Pictures CPL 209-16-08

Now, we are back to square one – maybe even further back. I would have liked a Recordak machine this week. It would have been far easier than recording each transaction manually. That aside, sitting here, in the branch named for our first Head Librarian, I have come to realize that the library is still the same place that he envisioned. It is safe and welcoming. Customers have come in with needs as diverse as a place to wash their hands after mucking out basements in Elbow Park and the need to find some diversion. We have provided a place for people whose homes are still without power to charging their telephones and laptops and a place for folks just needing to see a smiling face and an indication that some things are still OK. Alexander would be proud.

CPL 103 03 01

Mr. Alexander Calhoun, 1912

Calgary Public Library, Our Story In Pictures CPL 103-03-01

The Bow is Officially Open

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Judith Umbach Collection

The Big Pour - The Bow Building, 2008

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

The Bow officially opened last week. It is a magnificent structure that has changed the Calgary skyline. A few weeks ago I wrote about Elveden House, a skyscraper built in the late 50’s and rising to a staggering 20 storeys. Prior to the bylaw change that allowed the building of Elveden House, buildings were limited to twelve storeys. The building of Elveden House marked Calgary’s coming-of-age. The Bow is another milestone. It is the tallest building west of Toronto and certainly one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in the country. I was able to watch its growth from a hole in the ground to its current glory. I must admit, having survived the recession of the 80s, as I passed the giant pit that was dug on the site of the old York Hotel, I was scared that this would be one of those vortices that constantly reminded us of our once great city. And as I understand from what I’ve read, this might have become a reality as we faced a similar economic downturn. But it didn’t and now we have The Bow.

The Bow is an appropriate symbol for our city. It is glitzy but functional, massive but beautiful. It is cutting edge architecture, as it is the first skyscraper in Canada to use a trussed tube construction. The building has already won an award, from the Canadian Institute of Steel Constructors for its innovative structure. The use of external rather than internal support allows for maximum floor space and the expanses of glass mean that nearly every office has a window and, more importantly, a view. Emporis included it, along with the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur on its list of “most impressive corporate structures.” This kind of attention affirms Calgary as a city on the rise on the international scene.

Judith Umbach Collection

Curvature in Steel - The Bow, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach, a talented photographer and former Calgary Public Library Board chair, has documented the evolution of this magnificent structure, from the first shovels in the ground to its completion. She has donated (and continues to donate) her collection of photographs to the Calgary Public Library and they are all visible on the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. You can view her photos of The Bow by clicking on the link above and searching for “bow building.” Take time to check out her other collections as well. She is documenting the development of this city by recording buildings coming and going and her work provides an unparalleled record of the living city. Judith’s dedication to Calgary and her passion for the city have been documented in a Calgary Herald article (May 31, 2013). Read about this great Calgarian here.

North West Travellers' Building with The Bow, under construction, in the background, 2009

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

Judith Umbach Photograph Collection

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