Latest Posts

  • Oct 15 - The Empress of Ireland - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. Her legacy in Canadian immigration lives on
  • Oct 7 - World War I Remembered - Calgary Public Library is offering some great programs to commemorate the start of WWI
  • Sep 30 - The Cecil Hotel - The Cecil Hotel is in the news again and its not looking good for the old fella
  • Sep 23 - Fall is the Season for Heritage Programs - There are a lot of very cool heritage events taking place over the next few weeks
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The Heritage Triangle PDF link

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) ...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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

Forgotten Landscapes: Heritage Roundtable

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1325

Fort Calgary in 1881

Postcards from the Past, PC 1325

 

The next Community Heritage Roundtable will take place on Thursday, June 13 at Fort Calgary. A number of speakers are going to talk about heritage landscapes that have been lost or forgotten. Fort Calgary, itself, was one of those landscapes. For many years the site that had given rise to our city had been a railway yard. It wasn’t until 1974 that the value of this site was recognized and efforts made to reclaim it. Fort Calgary CEO Sarah Gruetzner will be speaking at the roundtable about the fort and the recovery of this historic landscape.

Another speaker will be archaeologist Brian Vivian who will talk about the Paskapoo Slopes area. This part of the city, which was actually the western edge of the city while I was growing up, has seen much development over the years. Many folks don’t know the rich history of the area which includes First Nations settlement, including a buffalo jump and processing camp. It is also significant as it is a unique landscape and important wildlife corridor.

Michelle Reid, a City of Calgary landscape architect, will talk about some forgotten streetscapes that have now been added to the Heritage Inventory. These include the Balmoral Circus, a circular park at the intersection of 19th Avenue and 2nd Street NW. The circus appears in the early development plans (you can see it on the detail from the 1907 map below – the whole map can be viewed in our Digital Library ) and is part of the legacy left by William Reader. Its twin, the Beaumont Circus in Renfrew, is also on the Heritage Inventory. These parks are unique in the city and are important in the history of green spaces in Calgary – a feature of the city that makes it such a desirable place to live.

 

map CALG 06

Balmoral Circus from 1907 McNaughton's Map of Calgary

Historical Maps of Calgary and Alberta, CALG 06

If you are interested in finding out more about our forgotten landscapes, join us at the Heritage Roundtable. The link to register is here. As usual, staff from the Community Heritage and Family History department will have a display at the event with items from the Local History collection. Pop by and say "hi".

Something's Happening at the Zoo

by Christine H - 4 Comment(s)

PC 1510

Prehistoric Animals in the Natural History Park at the Calgary Zoo, 1941

Postcards from the Past, PC 1510

The Calgary Zoo recently released its 20 year plan and it really looks ambitious. The President /CEO has said that “twenty years from now, the Calgary Zoo will bear little resemblance to the zoo today.” The prospect is exciting although not without controversy. The function of zoos has changed over the years. When I was a child the animals were kept in cages. In a major redevelopment, the Calgary Zoo built more natural habitats. The Calgary Zoo has changed and adapted over its entire 84 year history and I’m glad to see the tradition continue.

I have mixed feelings, though, about the loss of the dinosaur park. When I was little, the dinosaurs were the most memorable feature (possibly because they frightened the wits out of me).

The dinosaurs have been a fixture at the Calgary Zoo since the 1930s when the Zoological Society’s director returned from Europe filled with enthusiasm about the dinosaur park in Hamburg. A man on a mission, he decided to create a similar natural history park in Calgary. It made complete sense, of course, because we had rich fossil beds and lots of evidence of prehistoric life (barrels of which would come gushing out of the ground at Leduc about 10 years later). To that end, experts were consulted — these models were not going to be horror show beasts — they would be accurate representations of prehistoric life.

A number of sculptors were involved in the realization of these models, with John Kanerva being the most prolific, eventually turning out a large proportion of the park's 56 dinos. The Natural History Park opened officially in 1937, once Dinny, the life sized brontosaurus was completed. The Calgary Daily Herald praised the zoo, in attempting to replicate the “grotesque creatures of the reptilian age which monopolized the world aeons ago” (Aug. 21, 1937). The Natural History Park also incorporated actual fossil specimens as well, which were housed in the Fossil House (see photo below).

While I will be sorry to see the prehistoric park go, I do understand the reasoning behind it. We have a great resource right on our doorstep, at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller and while I have fond memories of the dinosaurs and the fossil houses, I look forward to the future of the Calgary Zoo, still one of the best in the world.

If you are interested in finding out more about the dinosaurs of Calgary, the spring 2013 issue of Alberta History, includes an excellent article by Calgary’s Historian Laureate emeritus, Harry Sanders. You can find the magazine (and lots more besides) in the Local History room at the Central Library.

PC 2013

Fossil House a the Calgary Zoo, ca. 1940s?

Postcards from the Past, PC 2013

A Farewell Party for a Sunnyside Street

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

 

 

PC 1936

819 5th Avenue NW, ca 1914

Postcards from the Past, PC_1935

I never like to see old houses demolished. I was especially sad to see that one of the Sunnyside homes on 5th Avenue slated for demolition is one we are very familiar with, number 819. We have images of that house and of a family that lived there in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library. We were so attracted to the postcards that we created a presentation designed to highlight just how much information can be found with only a few little clues. We called it “Ancestors and Their Attics” and presented it during Historic Calgary Week. We started with the postcard above which had the names Felix, Jo and Eva and “taken in July 1914 at Calgary” written on the back. With that little bit of information we were able to track down another card with the last name of the family, who lived at 819 5 Avenue NW for a brief time between 1914 and 1915.

We were able to spin that information into a bit of a family narrative. Felix was a railway man. At the time the family lived in Calgary, he was working at the powerhouse behind the new Palliser Hotel. The way we found that was by searching for photos to use to illustrate the CPR, where Felix said he worked in the 1916 census. In searching, we found the picture of the powerhouse with “Where Felix Worked” written in the same hand as on the other postcard. The cards had been acquired years apart. Using this we followed the family to North Carolina, where Felix continued to work on the railroad, moving through the ranks to brakeman (as listed on his 1917 US draft registration card) eventually becoming an locomotive engineer. Jo and Eva were both born in Kansas, but Felix’s place of birth remains an enigma to us. That he was registered to vote in Calgary (we found his name in a municipal voters list) suggests he was Canadian but some documents say he was born in France. The family had lived in the States, they were there for the 1910 census, moved to Calgary for a brief time, and then back to the States by 1917, when Felix was required to register for the draft.

 

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"Where Felix Worked" (CPR Powerhouse)

Postcards from the Past, PC_694

The family was renting the house. We know this because the owner of the house is listed in the tax assessment records for 1911 (the year the house was built) as David Hambly, who was a contractor. He also appears in the 1911 census at 819 with his wife Isabella, his son Harry and daughter Kathleen as well as his father James, who was also a contractor. In 1911 their neighbours were Robert Wilkinson and his family in 817, William Edward (?) and his wife in 817a (the back of the house) and then Hugh McPherson, all the way down the street at 827. It looks like 823 and 825 were not yet completed or weren’t occupied.

Sunnyside was a growing community back in 1911 and in a way, these houses are providing a home, albeit on the verge of their demise, for another community. Wreck City is a project that has devised a way to say a glorious farewell to these old homes. By installing artists in each of the houses, the final days of these old dears will be marked with beauty and invention. As I say, we never want to say goodbye to these old homes, but if we must, let it be with a party. Check out the Wreck City website for information about the houses and their artists and join in the farewell party.

819 Kayla

819 as it is today

Photo courtesy Kayla McAlister

Heritage Matters: Concrete Centenarian

by Christine H - 2 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian book cover

The next Heritage Matters program will take place at Memorial Park Library on April 3rd at 7 PM. Calgary Heritage Authority Chair Scott Jolliffe is going to launch his book Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator. The elevator was torn down in 2011 but before it went, the Calgary Heritage Authority was given the opportunity to photograph inside and out and also to record the demolition process. The result is a wonderful book, a testament to a one-hundred year old landmark. The author is an entertaining speaker who is passionate about the heritage of our city and works hard to ensure we will still have some heritage left for future Calgarians. Please join us. This promises to be a great event.

I have written about the elevator before (see earlier post) and how we feel about these behemoths. Sad as it was to see it go, there really is very little that can be done to repurpose something like this (although some things have been tried, just check out this article on The Atlantic Cities) but not many condo developments or after-hours clubs would want to have a wastewater treatment plant as a neighbour. Documenting these concrete beauties is certainly one way to retain the memory of them and Concrete Centenarian is an excellent example of how best to go about it. The author talks not just about the structure itself, but also its purpose, the impact it had on the economy of the area and the impact it had on the people who worked there. It is a great all-round celebration of “The Government” and its people. There will be copies of Concrete Centenarian available for purchase ($30 – cash or cheque only please) and since the author will be there, you can have them signed as well.

You can register for the program online, in person or by calling 403-260-2620. Refreshments will be available and there will be an opportunity to hang out and chat with other heritage buffs.

Upcoming Heritage Programs in Calgary

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Baintunnur Mosque Calgary

Baitunnur Mosque, Calgary

Courtesty the Baitunnur Mosque

Heritage Matters: Designing the Baitunnur Mosque in Calgary with Architect Manu Chugh

The Calgary Heritage Authority invites you to the first Heritage Matters of 2013, featuring Architect Manu Chugh. Learn about the design of the Baitunnur Mosque in Northeast Calgary. This event is being held at the Central Library on the south side of the main floor on February 22 at 5:30. There is no charge but we’d like you to register for the program.

Chinook Country Historical Society monthly program: The History of the Calgary Local Council of Women with noted author Marjorie Norris

The Calgary Local Council of Women was an important lobby group, tackling social and political issues at the beginning of the 20th century, a time when women were starting to assert their political power. Ms Norris will also talk about the role of nursing sisters in the First World War. It is a free program and will be held in the Burnswest Theatre at Fort Calgary on February 26 at 7:30 pm. You can find a more detailed description as well as see the upcoming programs at the Chinook Country website.

Research the History of Your House

In preparation for the next round of Century Homes displays we will be offering Research the History of Your House on March 9 at 10:30 on the 4th floor of the Central Library. We will be joined by our colleagues from the City Archives and the Glenbow Museum Library. Our presentation will present resources from all three institutions to help you uncover the history of your house, whether a hundred years old or younger. This will be great for Century Homes participants but also for anyone who is interested in the history of their house, the people who lived in it or their community. This was a very popular program last year, so register early.

Historical Gardens of Calgary

Following our presentation on March 9 we will be hosting Janet Melrose, Calgary’s Cottage Gardener, who will present a slide show and information about the Historical Gardens of Calgary. This program begins at 1 and will be held in Meeting Room 1 on the lower level of the Central Library. This program is filling up fast, so register soon.

Planning with Heritage in Mind

The Federation of Calgary Communities and The City of Calgary have collaborated to present “Planning With Heritage in Mind ", part of their “Partners In Planning" courses. These free workshops educate community members and the public about the planning process. This program will talk cover Heritage Planning. The Municipal Development Plan and the Calgary Heritage Strategy present a new vision where the City works with a range of stakeholders including communities to build a culture of preservation. It will include an introduction to the preservation principles of “identification, protection and management” which will be illustrated with local case studies. The program takes place on March 16, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Thorncliffe/Greenview Community Association: 5600 Centre Street North. Please register for this program at the Federation of Calgary Communities website.


In May 4 and 5 we will have another series of Jane’s Walks – more on that in the future, but check out The Calgary Foundation website if you’d like more information or to volunteer to be a leader.

Also, starting June 2 and running until October 27 (Saturday or Sunday, 2 pm) the cemetery tours of Union, Burnsland and St. Mary’s start up again. For more information check the 2013 Parks Program Guide.

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CPR Station Gardens, Calgary, ca 1915?

Postcards from the Past, PC 256

Thanks to Bob van Wegen for the information. If you have a heritage related program you would like us to include in our blog postings, please contact me via the comments section below.

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