This article was written prior to the floods to draw attention to this annual celebration of historic sites in the city. It will be the first in a series where we look at these areas and trace their development. This piece has been left as it was originally written, to offer added insights.
The community of Inglewood feels wonderfully eerie and is still somewhat isolated, despite new developments and the developing East Village nearby. It has kept its charm of long ago with its mix of old and new, where the old is still very much present. Even Inglewood’s newer buildings have been incorporated smartly into a sea of older, heritage-like buildings. The Atlantic Avenue Art Block, for example, is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever walked in. And yet, right across, we still have the Hose & Hound, “Calgary’s only Fire Hall pub,” which creates balanced contrast with the new. There is a street that loops behind Bite Groceteria on Ninth Avenue where an old farmhouse-like structure stands. Across from it is an empty lot of tall grass. There is no sign of life or business; only parked cars line the street. The complete quietness is absolutely fantastic for the mind to wander. Not too far away, Fort Calgary marks the birthplace of our city along with its iconic Deane House. For history buffs and heritage supporters, Inglewood is the place to be.
I’m waiting at Inglewood’s Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar for Cynthia Klaassen, the President of The Calgary Heritage Initiative and the Visitor Services Manager at Fort Calgary, to discuss Historic Calgary Week, which runs from July 26 to August 5. There are over 70 events, including walking tours and talks that are meant to bring Calgarians together and educate them on the heritage and historic past of the city along with the city’s surrounding communities such as High River, Olds and Cochrane. The Chinook Country Historical Society is the organization responsible for bringing Historic Week to life with the extraordinary support and contribution of their many partners.
“[Chinook] partners with pretty much all of the heritage organizations in the city in order to run this event,” confirms Klaassen. “They are sort of the umbrella organization. Every other group is responsible for running a tour or doing their little bits and pieces underneath of that and we’re one of the bits and pieces,” she says of The Calgary Heritage Initiative’s contribution.
Klaassen, along with Calgary Heritage Authority’s Sarah Meilleur, will be running one of the walks. Their walk is called “Mid-Century Modern-West Downtown Walk” with the iconic Barron Building as the starting point. The Barron Building housed the Uptown Screen & Stage and beloved Marquee Room, once a pillar of Calgary’s independent art and music scene. “We’re going to talk about [its] history and the impact that it had on the development of Calgary at the time. We’ll be walking west from there to look at some of the other mid-century buildings [which are buildings] built in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. We’ll also feature the Century Gardens, which is the park at Eighth and Eighth, right by the University there and next to the the C-Train station, “ she says. The Barron Building is on The Calgary Heritage Initiative watch list and while there are redevelopment plans to incorporate the existing building, Klaassen says she isn’t completely convinced it will be “heritage-friendly,” hence her choice to feature it.
There are an unbelievable number of exciting tours throughout historic week with titles such as “The First Alberta Highway,” “Calgary’s Musical Venues” to “Brentwood Community Walk: 50 years of Construction, Destruction and Change.” There are cemetery tours, church tours and full hour-and-a-half neighbourhood tours. Events are free and family-friendly.
I went to volunteer Roberta Ryckman, who is an Administrative Assistant for the Glenbow Library and Archives, for some tips on how to approach the week. According to her, 3,000 people attend Calgary Historic Week and some even take the week off from work. When I ask whose tours I should check out, she mentions Harry Sanders, Calgary Heritage Authority 2012’s Historian Laureate: “Sanders is a very good tour guide leader because he has wonderful stories and he’s very relaxed and off the cuff,” she says. Sanders will run a short talk on the “Calgary Jewish Academy” and present “100 Awesome Things about Calgary’s Past” and “the 1913 Palestine Exhibition.”
Century Homes is also back this year for Historic Calgary Week and it’s another project Klaassen is involved with. Five hundred homes participated last year and, so far, over 200 homes have already signed up. “Part of the idea of the Century Homes is that you’ve got interpretive panels with different neighbourhoods and you can just walk around your own neighbourhood and learn about the people who used to live in [these houses],” she says. Participants get to do their own research and have access to free resources and can get support from The Heritage Triangle which consists of The Glenbow Library and Archives, The Calgary Public Library and The City of Calgary. Anybody can register their house on centuryhomes.org and returning participants are welcomed. This year, Century Homes is accepting houses up until the 1930s and is encouraging nonresidential sites to sign up.
When I ask Century Homes volunteer Linda Stokes if she had a favourite “century” house, she smiles and tells me it’s like asking her if she had a favourite child. She says there are so many unique stories that came out of this project. “For example, one story this person told was from the point of view of the claw foot tub in that house and it really was quite creative. It was a cast-iron enamel tub. There was only one manufacturer in Canada that made this kind of tub. It came from out east, took the train and it had to get into the house and essentially they had to build the bathroom around it because it was so big. It’s just so beautiful and it’s always been loved. One time, when the house was being sold, the sale fell through because the owner wanted to take the tub and the person wanting to buy the house didn’t want the house unless it had the tub in it,” she shares.
Stokes says Century Homes was able to connect communities together in a unique way. “People disconnect too much now. We encourage [people] to create their own walking tours and have fun with it. That’s really what it’s all about, it’s not meant to be a homework assignment,” she says. Regarding the preservation of heritage buildings in the city, Stokes adds: “I know that we don’t have a lot of time in today’s world but I think people forget the power of sending off notes to your Alderman or Mayor. I know there’s a lot of issues out there but I think this is something really critical to Calgary.”
Historic Calgary Week runs from July 26 to August 5. For a full guide of Historic Calgary Week 2013, go to chinookcountry.org.
By Claire Miglionico
Photo (middle): Scott Richards