Iconic Canadian art hidden in YYC office lobby!

By Richard White, December 28, 2013

It always amazes me what you can find in downtown Calgary if you just explore a little bit - get off the beaten path.  A few weeks back I shared with you some artworks that I found in the lobby and hallways at Bow Valley College.  The place is a friggn public art gallery with art everywhere. Learn more at: Flaneuring Bow Valley College 

Another day I was flaneuring the east end of Stephen Avenue and while not off the beaten path there was the one of downtown's more successful public artworks - the larger than live famous five ladies.  Learn more at Famous 5 at Olympic Plaza

Today I had an appointment at Eight Avenue Place (EAP) and discovered paintings by Jack, Jack, Ray, Jean, Jean-Paul and Marcelle - all members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.  It is not everyday you find in an office lobby with museum quality artworks. 

But then downtown Calgary is not your average downtown, with over 40 million square feet of office space, it is one of the top 10 downtowns for corporate headquarters in North America.  Every new office building has wonderful art in the lobby and on the plaza making the downtown a 40-block contemporary art gallery.  Learn More: "Downtown Calgary giant outdoor art gallery"

Someday someone is going to create an app that will be a self guided tour of YYC's Downtown Art gallery. 

Iconic Canadian Artists

In the meantime, EAP has created a brochure for six masterpiece contemporary artworks by iconic Canadian artists:

  • Jack Shadbolt
  • Ray Mead
  • Jean-Paul Riopelle
  • Jack Bush
  • Jean McEwen
  • Marcelle Ferron

While I have been critical of Calgary's downtown in the past for being too corporate, too conservative and too minimal in its urban design, EAP and others have certainly contributed to making our downtown more visually interesting with literally hundreds of artworks.  

EAP's Lobby Art & Design....

As you enter from Stephen Avenue you are immediately welcomed by Jack Shadbolt's, "Wild Grass Suite - Quintet" (1979).  I love the fact that you can grab a coffee next door and sit and enjoy the art.  

In this close-up of one of the panels you can see that the image looks as if was inspired by the Alberta prairie grasslands where they meet the foothills.  The piece has a wonderful sense of playfulness and certainly adds lots of warmth and colour to an other wise stark lobby.

The next piece you encounter is Ray Mead's "Totem" (1986) which hangs above the concierge desk. Again it adds lots of colour and have an aboriginal quality to them in the simple mark-making and flattened stylized images.  The title also suggest an affinity with First Nations sense of place. 

Tucked away in one of the three elevator lobbies is this unusual Jack Bush painting "New York 55" (1955).  Unusual in that most of us associate Bush with bright primary colours, yet this piece is mostly blacks, browns and pinks. The piece definitely conveys New York's sense of place as the world's leading skyscraper city with its collage of vertical blocks, interspersed with smaller marks for windows and swirls for window reflections. This is probably the most literal Bush piece I have ever seen and certainly is museum quality. 

Definitely a good choice for EAP as it is one of Canada's best skyscrapers.  Did you know that Downtown Calgary is built at the same density as Manhattan or Chicago? 

Any public art gallery in Canada would love to have this piece titled "Oliviers" by Jean-Paul Riopelle in their collection.  I wonder if the EAP tenants who pass by it everyday even realize that they get to enjoy a painting by one of Canada's iconic artists everyday.  While other office buildings in North America have modern art in their lobby; there are very few that have iconic works of art. 

Jean McEwan's "Le Climat Rouge" (1957) invites contemplation, I want to grab the bench that is underneath the painting and move it to the middle of the elevator lobby and just sit and study it.  

It is obvious that the six artworks have been carefully selected to complement each other with a focus on use of colour, brush and mark-making and abstracting from nature. 

Marcelle Ferron's "Chile" (1973) combines elements of Shadbolt, Mead, Riopelle, Bush and McEwan in her work.  

Signature Furniture 

EAP lobby also includes modern office furniture by Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen and Florence Knoll.  The huge south facing two story atrium or winter garden would make a wonderful sculpture garden. While there are plans for a major piece of public art, it is most likely to go outside on 9th Avenue.  

Currently the lobby features numerous "ice bursts" suspended from the ceiling that add an element of surprise and elegance to the minimalism of the lobby design. 

The lobby offers dramatic views of Calgary southern sky.  

The lobby has several inviting areas to sit and linger each authentic modern furniture.  And yes over the holidays they had the TVs turned to the Shaw's burning fireplace. 

EAP's has one of the most dramatic office lobbies in Canada, perhaps North America.  

These "ice bursts" were created by Stephen Stefanou of Venue Arts.  Each point of the bursts is individually created by slowly pushing a metal rod through the heated plastic-like material, so each is unique. There are several "bursts" hanging from the ceiling  in the central lobby as well as the lobbies of the two towers. Flood lights are used to slowly change the colour of the bursts adding yet another element of surprise. 

While under construction EAP had over 20 reproductions of artworks by senior Calgary artists covering the construction hoarding along the side of the road.  It was literally a who's who of Calgary art. I have never seen this done before. 

On the second floor (+15 level) SQCommons has been operating a "pop-up" contemporary gallery both in the public areas and in a 6,000+ square foot future retail space.  The space has also been used for several special events including Burst Calgary. 

The unique design for Eight Avenue Place was inspired by the Canadian Rockies with their jagged, angular, shard-like peaks. The building's facade reflects Calgary's abundant sunshine at several different angles during the day and seasons creating an ever-changing facade. 

Last Word

Eight Avenue Place was designed by Pickard Chilton an international architectural firm based in New Haven, Connecticut and Gibbs Gage Architects from Calgary.  It was the first pre-certified LEED Platinum high-rise building in North Americia.  The first tower is 49 floors and the second tower which will be completed and occupied in 2014 is 40floors.  Combined they provide 1,800,000 square feet of office space on 89 floors. 

Kudos to AIMCo, SITQ and Matco the co-owners of EAP for their innovative use of art (both locally and nationally) to differentiate themselves from other major office complexes.  I can't wait to see the outdoor sculpture piece they will commission.

If you like this blog, you might like:

FFQing in Downtown's Udderly Art Pasture

Flaneuring Bow Valley College

The Famous Five at Olympic Plaza 

Readers' comments:

RW writes: Great article. Most of us, myself included might notice these things but do not tie it all together because we are on a mission aka meeting/lunch/deadline.  The thought of having art all around us sure gives another dimension to our corporate downtown. Keep up the increased pace of writing...I find your “investigative” sleuthing makes me re-think and re-examine my urban environment.  I sometimes find myself in a situation re-examining a streetscape or a public space and wonder how Richard might interpret the situation as compared to how I am seeing it. A recent example occurred when I was describing Stampede Trail  and the activities/signage and buzz we hope to create with a new entertainment district and thought back to your signage article and how you might view our approach (I think you will get excited).

GB writes: When I was a young man, I worked for Manulife and we operated Calgary House at 550-6th Avenue. The lobby has a full wall bronze of "Pan and the Three Graces". In 1972 I had a plaque put up describing the piece, but I think it is gone now. The amount of great public art in Calgary is amazing, but much of it is seldome seen or identified. Good for you for bringing some of it to our attention.

JB writes:Thank you! Viewing this blog this morning brought a burst of warmth into my office! All that lovely color! This definitely warrants a trip downtown.

Flaneuring Fun in Maple Creek SK!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season. Thanks for all the support in 2013 and looking forward to some interesting dialogue in 2014.

Thought I'd share with you some vintage Christmas decorations we found in downtown Maple Creek SK. outside their thrift store.  

If you are driving past Maple Creek on the Trans Canada Highway this Holiday Season (or anytime for that matter), Maple Creek is definitely worth getting off the beaten highway.  

Happy Travelling Everyone Everyday!

Found these fun lawn ornaments lined up on the wall outside the Maple Creek thrift store.  We had to stop and check it out.

Don't you just want to take these guys home with you?  Love the shape of the shadows.  

The classic Santa Claus!  

Sorry, can't stop now!  

Looking at the photos taken while flaneuring Maple Creek, thought some of you might like to see more  fun finds. 

We found this totem piece with the little buckaroo very fun!

Great welcoming entrance to the historic Jasper Colonial Hotel bar...

Howard's  Bakery was chosen as best bakery in Saskatchewan in 2013...loved the apple fritters and the maple glazed cinnamon buns.  

BC Cafe is the classic prairie restaurant - Chinese Western menu.  Definitely worth a try - grilled cheese and soup recommended. 

Yes they love their football?  

The new prairie sentinel! Brutalist architecture at its best? worst? 

For flaneurs there are lots of flashbacks to the past in Maple Creek!

Happy and safe holidays everyone!


If you liked this blog, click on these blogs:  

Ten Commandments of a Flaneur

Flaneuring Uptown Plaza  

Tale of Two Donuts!


The Bee's Knees Experience

By Richard White, December 15, 2013

Spent last Wednesday night at 'in lovely downtown De Winton, Alberta listening to local musicians jamming.  It was a true grass roots experience, no egos here?

Perhaps it is the prairie version of an east coast “Kitchen Party” - instead of everyone gathering in someone’s kitchen and playing tunes, people gather at the neighbourhood café or bar and take turns playing for others.

Everyone is invited to participate at the Bees Knees Experience and stay as long as you want.  The lead cycles to whomever wants to play a song.  There is no sound system, no mics and no electric guitars - everything is unplugged.

A blast from the past

One can certainly picture nights and afternoons like this in kitchens of Canada's Maritime provinces or porches in the Mississippi Delta. Musicians playing for the pure enjoyment of it...any skill level is welcomed to join in.  The song selection is all encompassing - country, blues, rock or island music - anything goes. 

You don’t read about these jams in the newspapers or the magazines…they aren't all over social media….yet it is vital to creating a vibrant music scene.

Too often we think of culture as something that only happens downtown… in formal cultural spaces…but in reality much of it is happens in the churches, schools, cafes and bars in the ‘burbs. 

The big city jams are more orchestrate with a full stage and sound system. The performances are more polished as often the musicians have played together for years. Also, there is a formula, you get your three or four songs before its time for the next musicians.  There is lots of fun, often accompanied by dancing and a good bar room buzz.  

A "music city" needs both grass root and professional jams. 

Upon arrival we find Jay, Tina, Ron, Ron and Paul (from left to right) have started without us.  

Upon arrival we find Jay, Tina, Ron, Ron and Paul (from left to right) have started without us.  

Paul's trombone adds a unique sound to the Bees Knees experience. 

It doesn't take long before Merv (Smilie) joins in. 

The Bees Knees Experience

When a buddy suggested we check out the Wednesday jam at Bees Knees Café just off Highway 2 in De Winton I was skeptical, but the “flaneur” in me said “Why Not!”   Back story – for past 20 months three buddies (two play guitars, one gets beer i.e. me) had been getting together to jam in their respective houses and regularly attending jams at Mikey’s, Blues Can and other pubs. 

It was time for a pre-Christmas house jam at GG’s who happen to live in the De Winton area, so why not kick it up a notch by combining our jam and dinner with the Bees Knees jam. 

As we arrived the “OPEN” sign was flashing, but it didn’t look like there was anyone inside and there were few cars around.  But, as we got closer we could see one guitar player…opening the door, we were surprise to find four guitar players and a trombone player jamm’n away.  What was missing was the audience?  Was this a private jam? 

We were quickly welcomed to sit and listen or join in - there was even an extra guitar if we wanted to use it.  We sat back enjoyed the music and our bottle of wine for a few songs. The trombone added a nice rich element to the jam that was unique. 

Jay takes the lead on this one...

Smilie loves to let others take the lead. He is life long learner! Take it away Ron and Ron.

GG finally joins in....he loves to pick...

Angry River

Soon Merv couldn’t resist the temptation! He grabbed the extra guitar and joined in. He was quickly assimilated into the group…singing and playing as if he was a BFF.  He was even encourage to play his “Angry River” song he had written about the flood – his first attempt at song writing.  Later GG joined in…the first time he has played in public!!!

As we left we found out the group wasn’t locals from the De Winton area but from Ogden to Okotoks.  Turns out the owner of Bees Knees Café lets them and anyone else who wants to join in use the space to jam Wednesday nights – 6 to 9 pm. There is even a small stage for more formal music events.


It is just me or does it seem there has been an explosion of live music events in Calgary over the past few years.  Seems like every café and neighbourhood pub has some live music one or two nights a week.

Jay's guitar string art...

Tina's artifacts or Bees Knees Still Life

Last Word:

If Calgary is going to evolve into a vibrant music city, the development of places like Bees Knees Café is just as important as the multi-million dollar projects like National Music Centre and cSPACE.  

I encourage all of us to get out and support the local jams, open mic nights and other performances.   

I you like this blog you might like:

Cowtown's Budding Music Scene 

Are we too downtowncentric?

Cafe: Montreal vs Calgary 

Calgary North America's new "music city."

The Bees Knees Experience

Working together to make Calgary better!

By: Richard White, November 5, 2013

Is it just me who hates all those the curved maze-like street design in the new suburbs with street names that are impossible to distinguish because they all sound the same? I think GPS was invented so we could navigate new communities.

Recently I attended a presentation organized by Brookfield Residential, Danube Farming Ltd., Ollerenshaw Ranch Ltd., and Trafford Family where three design teams (two from Vancouver and one from Salt Lake) presented their ideas on how to transform 1,800 acres in Calgary’s southeast next to Seton Town Centre and was SHOCKED that all three proposed a grid-like pattern for the streets. Yahoooo! 

This aerial image show the agricultural quarter section grid that has been used in the area for over 100 years. that served as the inspiration for proposed grid structure for the new Ranchview community. 

You can also see the numerous ponds and creeks which will be integrated into the open spaces and sustainability features.  

The inspiration for the renaissance of the grid was the existing quarter section grid pattern. All three groups went to great lengths to express how they were captivated with the site’s prairie mountains vista. They all talked about respecting the existing prairie patchwork quilt, the sense of agriculture and one group even talked about how to make the community “horse friendly.”  All three wanted to preserve the “rural” sense of place as part the new community tentatively called Rangeview.

ICC: Innovation/Competition/Co-operation

Kudos to the four owners for taking the initiative to organize this “design co-opetition” for the development of Rangeview. The process is a competition in that three urban design groups were asked to independently produce ideas for the development of the land. At the same time is it a co-operative process as the four landowners, the City, Calgary’s design community and public and the design teams will work together to combine the best of all the ideas into one shared vision.  

In established communities the planning process often consisted of the landowner and developer engaging their team of site planners (landscape architects, environmentalist, engineers, planners, urban designers et. al.) to produce a concept plan. This plan is then circulated to the city departments for comments and revisions made.

At the end of the presentation all of the members of the three design teams were invited up to the stage for questions.  This is just half of the brain power that was applied to identifying ways to best develop the raw land that will become Rangeview.  I couldn't help but notice it was all male and all middle-age to older.   I have heard it said that one of the issues facing city building is that there is not enough diversity in the urban planning and design profession.  

Only after spending thousands of hours and millions of dollars and having the city on-side does the developer go public with the proposal. I have heard more than one person call it the “design and defend” model because the plan is pretty much complete by the time they conduct an open house.   This means they are reluctant to make any major changes based on community input i.e. they will defend it as the best possible plan.  This is why you get all of the controversy over new developments in places like Brentwood transit station development and Shawnee Slopes golf course.

However, in new communities the City’s Engage Policy means the City, the landowners and the neighbours collaborate to create the concept plan that then forms the Area Structure Plan (ASP), which will govern any new development.  What is new is that in the Rangeview engagement process and ASP development the landowners are paying for all of the costs including the salaries of city staff.  


Extraordinary Community Engagement  


Brookfield Residential’s Doug Leighton, VP Planning and Sustainability along with the other owners decided to take a different route with Rangeview by selecting from a list of nine respected international firms, Design Workshop (Salt Lake City), Perry + Associates (Vancouver) and CIVITAS (Vancouver) to help them determine how best to develop the land.  Each out-of-town design team was first asked to pair up with a local firm to provide a local prespective before coming to Calgary to meet with the landowners and the city, as well as tour the site in mid September. The teams were then asked to generate ideas on how to best develop the Rangeview lands based best urban design practices.

Six weeks later, each of the groups were back in Calgary to present their visions not only to Brookfield Residential and the landowners, but to the City, Calgary’s urban design community and at a weekend public open house in Auburn Bay.  At each of the presentations the audience was given an evaluation sheet to share what they ideas they thought were best. It was all very open and transparent!

As I understand it Brookfield Residential and the landowners now own all of the collateral material from each team and can pick the best ideas from each, as well as ideas from the greater Calgary urban design community and the public to create their vision for Rangeview. 

This shows one of the linear parks with the retail activity area at the end with space for farmer's market and a village square. Diversity of uses and activities is critical to successful public spaces. And you can see the GRID! Yahoooo!


Calgary is innovative!


Indeed, this is community engagement at its best.  Calgary Municipal Land Corporation undertook a similar process to develop the master plan for East Village. “Community engagement first” is also the mantra of James Robertson, President and CEO of the West Campus Development Trust who is leading the transformation of 205 acres on the west side of the University of Calgary into a new inner city “live, work, play, learn” community.  However, both of these projects are in established neighbourhoods where community engagement is a must.  Brookfield Residential is the first to my knowledge who is doing it for a green field development on the edge of the city. 

Calgary is too often criticized for not being innovative when it comes to new community development. In fact Calgary’s development community has been one of the most innovated in North America over the past 25 years. Projects like McKenzie Towne, Garrison Woods, Quarry Park, Seton, East Village and now Rangeview are all benchmarks for new urban development.

Another team designed this linear park that they called Vista Park as they wanted to preserve a space that would celebrate the current vista of prairie and mountains.  Again you can see how they have incorporated existing ponds, connected them with storm water creeks and added several activity amenities. Again you can see the grid! Yahoo!


Key ideas for Rangeview



Wetlands/ Linear Park



All of the presentations looked at how the preservation of existing wetlands could be integrated into valuable open space and create as unique sense of place for each of the distinct neighborhoods which will comprise the larger Rangeview community.

Similarly each vision prosed a linear park running roughly east to west that would maintain the prairie/mountain vista that currently exists by taking advantage of an existing high spot in the middle of the property. The linear park would be used to create connectivity - connect the wetlands, connect the neighbourhoods and connect to the region pathway system. 

One proposal included an urban beach, skating ring, adventure playground, small farm or large community garden and retail node as a means of animating the park year-round.  Another proposal had a spreadsheet with dozen of activities that should be accommodated in the public spaces year round.

To me the parks and open spaces proposed would combine some of the best attributes of Prince’s Island, Confederation Park, Shouldice Park, Glenmore Park and the new St. Patrick’s Park.  

Here you can see how CIVITAS has proposed the creation of four villages each with their own charm and each with their own density which can be seen by the density of roads with the Hamlet being the least dense. Here you can see the grid of Rangeview vs the maze-like street design of the community north of Seton.  Yahooo for the grid!


Community Retail Hub


All of the plans developed several retail nodes strategically located so everyone is within 400 meters or 5-minute walk to a High Street with a grocery store and 10+ shops.   Think Britannia Plaza with its Sunterra Market, bistro, bookstore, wine merchant, café and hardware and small apartments and condos surround it.




All three presentations had a mix of housing types.   In fact one presentation listed 17 different housing products, everything from single family to laneway housing.  I didn’t see any high-rise (over 20 floors). Most of the medium density was clustered near the new Seton Town Center, the hospital, the BRT (future LRT) transit routes and retail hubs, as you would expect.  

Wouldn't it be great if Rangeview could have several of these one block angled parking Main Streets that we so popular in the early 20th century in small towns across the prairies.  That fact that Britannia is still viable 50 years later tells me that it can work in today's market place. 

Last Word

Rangeview reeks of innovation, collaboration and cooperation on many levels. This is great to see after years of developer/city friction. I hope this community planning process is evidence of a new willingness “to work together to make a great city better.”

A public open house in Auburn Bay was organized to give the public, especially those in the neighbouring communities a chance to respond to the ideas being presented and to share their ideas on what a new 21st century community should look like.  Public engagement first, then vision and master planning. 

Louis L'Amour: Education of a Wandering Man

By Richard White, October 26, 2013

One of the things I love about browsing the bookshelves of thrift stores is that you never know what you will find.  Recently, I picked up Louis L’Amour’s “Education of a Wandering Man.”  I’m not sure why I picked it up, as I have never read a L’Amour book and I am not a big fan of the western novel, thinking they are the male version of a Harlequin Romance novel.  I am looking for something more thought provoking.  I am not against novels. I spent my 20s reading everything from Camus, Satre, Hemingway, Maugham and Steinbeck et al.

It is only recently I have started to read biographies, mostly as a result of my recent interest in blues music and trying to understand that culture as it relates to the beat and existentialism cultures I am more familiar with.  This has lead me to become more interested in the pioneer and frontier culture of early North American. It is fascinating how one’s interests evolve (another blog).

When locating a book in a thrift store or used bookstore that might have some interest, I often find myself thinking “why not it’s only a buck or two,” so the barrier to buying is low.  Sure the library is cheaper, but you have to know what you are looking for. Also I love to write in my books.  I would never have thought to check-out L’Amour’s biography.  

Photo of Louis L'Amour c. 1939

That is one of the great things about thrift store book collecting you get exposed to lots of different genres and authors you would never look at if you went to a bookstore or to a library.   Often when Brenda says I need another 15 minutes, I will wander back to the book shelves and did even deeper to see if I have missed something during my first look - that is often when I take a look at something different.

Sometimes these “off the beaten shelf” books sit on my shelves at home for years and end up in our next garage sale unread. But for some reason, as soon as we got back from our Washington, Idaho and Montana road trip the first thing I did was pick up the L’Amour bio and start reading.

Boy was I wrong.  Almost immediately the book had captured by attention. L’Amour was a kindred spirit with his life long commitment to self-learning and the role books played in his life.  The format of the book is to share with the reader his experiences and philosophy on life and living through the thousands of books he has read. In 1939, he read 115 books and plays, my best year was 52 books in 52 weeks in 2005. 

Partial list of books and plays read in 1934, in author's own handwriting.

By page three he got me hooked:

“If I were asked what education should give, I would say it should offer breadth of view, ease of understanding, tolerance for others, and a background from which the mind can explore in any direction.  Education should provide the tools for a widening and deepening of life, for increased appreciation of all one sees or experiences. It should equip a person to live life well, to understand what is happening about him, for to live life well one must live with awareness.”

Near the end he shares my sentiments exactly:

“A wander I had been through most of my early years, and now that I had my own home, my wandering continued, but among books. No longer could I find most of the books I wanted in libraries. I had to seek them out in foreign secondhand bookstores, which was a pleasure in itself. When seeking books, one always some upon unexpected treasures or books on subjects that one has never heard of, or heard mentioned on in passing.”

The memoir touches on many fascinating reoccurring themes and travels back in time, as well as around the world to tell his story.  Louis L’Amour was indeed an “everyday tourist.”  I will definitely be looking out for more of his work when flaneuring book shelves in the future.

The memoir is full of insights into the early 20th century frontier culture that is very relevant to our current society. The following are various quotes organized into some of his reoccurring themes. 

Artist at typewriter in Los Angeles apartment 1953

Frontier Life

“To properly understand the situation in America before the Depression, one must realize there was a great demand for seasonal labor, and much of this was supplied by men called hoboes.  Over the years the terms applied to wanderers have been confused until all meaning has been lost. To begin with a bum was a local man who did not want to work. A tramp was a wanderer of the same kind, but a hobo was a wandering worker and essential to the nation’s economy.”

Later he talks about the prairie pioneer culture as distinct from that of the east and west coast.  When asked in a TV interview “what one quality distinguished pioneer life?” he didn’t have an answer but later it came to him. Dignity. They all had dignity, a certain serenity and pride that was their completely.

L’Amour shares with us his thoughts on frontier life based on first-hand research and his extensive reading: “cowboys came for everywhere, and the West was a great melting pot of drifters, soldiers of fortune…adventurers..”

I believe that all that has gone before has been but preliminary, that our real history began with that voyage to the moon. Progress at first may be slow, but man will not be held back. There will always be those few who wish to push back the frontiers, to see what lies beyond.

Western pioneers were select people…each one was expected to stand on his own feet…on his own support system…no one told him where to go.  He simply packed his what goods he could carry and headed west, looking for what chance might offer.

So much has been written about the individual that many have forgotten that our country was settled by families.

Page from 1932 diary that shows stories and poems Louis submitted and whether they were accepted for publication or refused. 

Contemporary Life

Ours has been called a materialistic society. The Europeans love saying that of us, but I have never found a society that was not materialistic.  Man seeks a means to exist; then strives to improve that situation. At first he wants something to eat; then he tries to store food against times of famine he tries to find warmer furs, a better cave, a more secure life. He creates better weapons with which to defend himself, to form alliances that will assist in his protection. It is a normal, natural thing and has existed forever.

All young men and women owe it to themselves to be able to write a letter on not more than one page, to set forth an idea or possible plan. That same young person should, in a few brief spoken words, be able to deliver that idea orally.

The world with which we are now familiar (book published in 1989) will have largely disappeared within twenty years, probably fewer. Business machines are changing the face of the world. When I started my knockabout years (a term he uses often to reference his early years of wandering the world educating himself reading, observing and listening to stories), there was much a man could do who was simply strong. That is no longer true. Those young people of whatever race or nationality who loiter along the streets or gather in gangs are going nowhere without education and training, but education is there for them now, as it was for me…all that is needed is the will, and the idea.

I believe that man has been living and is living in a Neanderthal state of mind. Mentally, we are still flacking rocks for scraping stones or chipping them for arrowheads (fracking for oil and natural gas). The life that lies before us will no longer permit such wastefulness or neglect. We are moving into outer space, where the problems will be infinitely greater…

Violence / Criminals

We hear a lot of talk these days of violence, but we forget the many generations that have grown up on stories of violence.  The bloodiest of all, perhaps, were the so-called fairy tales…yet I see little difference between Jack killing the fabled giant and Waytt Erp shooting it out with an outlaw.

What people do not understand is that a child in growing up repeats within his early years much of the life history of a man upon earth, and it is necessary that he or she do this to become a human being. At first a baby is simply a small animal that east and sleeps…eventually the child plays capture games (hide and seek), wants a bow and arrow or perhaps a spear or other weapons. By acting out those early years of mankind’s history, children put that history behind them.

Most violent criminals are cases of arrested development, for one reason or another, they never grow out of that period.

In Batz-sur-Mer, France, in the spring of 1985, in the footsteps of "The Walking Drum's" Kerbouchard. (photo Susan Williams).


It is not uncommon today to find no one working in a bookstore who reads anything but the current best sellers, if that much.  In the days I speak of, bookstores were usually operated by book lovers. Now they are run by anyone who can ring up a sale.

Native Culture

In most cases, when a chief signed a treaty, he was signing for himself. He had no authority to force other Indians to abide by it. This most white men never understood.

In most cases the only way for a young Indian to become a man and a warrior was to take the scalp or to count coup, which meant to strike a living, enemy warrior.  Until he had done so, he could not get a bride and he could not speak in council. He was literally a nobody. This is why Indians often said they could not live without war.

Jesus on the Cross

 When Jesus was suffering on the Cross, a Roman soldier offered him vinegar to drink, and this has been considered by many to have been an unkind act. As a matter of fact, vinegar was what the Roman legions drank, believing it a better thrist-quencher than plain water.  We often put lemon in water for the same purpose. In any event, that Roman legionnaire was simply trying to share his own drink with Jesus.


Due to the narrow vision in many of our schools, few of our people have any knowledge of or appreciation for the culture of Asiatic nations. There has been a slight change for the better in recent years, but our people are still relatively uniformed. Too many believe nothing was known of China until Maro Polo returned with his stories.


Nations are born, they mature, grow old, and almost die, but after some years they rise again, and we in this country, as in all nations, need leaders with vision. Too few can see further than the next election and will agree to spend any amount of money as long as some of it is spent in the area they represent. H.G. Wells wisely said that “Men who think in lifetimes are of no use to statesmanship.”  We must begin to think in generations and centuries rather than in years.

Politics is the art of making civilization work. To make democracy work, we must have a nation of participants, not simply observers.


I am not writing about sex, which is a leisure activity; I am writing about men and women who were settling a new country, finding their way through a maze of difficulties and learning to survive despite them.

Sex before WW1 was a private concern, and there were supposedly, only two places for it; in the bedrooms of married people and in whorehouses.

Louis and Kathy near the old Roman theatre in Arles, France, 1985 (Photo Susan Williams).

Great Quotes:

A great book begins with an idea; a great life, with a determination.”

“I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble.”

“ I have know hunger of the belly kind many times over, but I have known a worse hunger: the need to know and to learn.”

“Writing is a learn process. One never knows enough, and one is never good enough.”

“A book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think.”

“History to me is the story of people and how they lived, not just endless story of dynasties and wars.

“Every written word is an effort to understand man’s place in the universe. What is he? What is he becoming?”

“We are, finally all wanders in search of knowledge. Most of us hold the dream of becoming something better than we are.”

Understanding Calgary's DNA

By Richard White, October 16, 2013

Recently, a neighbour lent me an old, tattered book titled “Calgary,” thinking I might enjoy reading it.  There was no date or author’s name in the book, just the name of the general editor, S. L. Bensusan.  However, a bit of web research turned up that the book was published in 1912 and that Samuel Levy Bensusan (born in London, 1872 to 1958) was probably the author too given he had written similar books on life in Spain, Paris and Morocco.  The cover has a foreshadowing illustration (no credit given) of Calgary complete with high-rises, smoke stacks, railway bridge and street-car that paints a picture of Calgary as a modern, industrial commercial city.  At the bottom of the cover is a reference to “Twentieth Century Cities” so I am thinking this book was part of a series on different cities at the turn of the century.  However, I was unable to find out if this is true.

I quickly found this book to be a fascinating read about what Calgary was like 100 years ago, from the perceptive of an outsider.  The book is written I suspect as a propaganda piece to entice Brits to immigrate to Calgary.  It is not unlike what Tourism Calgary and Calgary Economic Development are producing today to attract tourists and workers to Calgary.  However, recent monikers like “Calgary: The New West” and “Calgary: Be Part of the Energy” pale in comparison to the bold statement “Calgary The Phenomenal” which is how the 1912 book brands Calgary.

Though full of interesting factoids, what makes it really interesting is that many of the characteristics that define Calgary today existed or were being ingrained into our collective psyche a hundred years ago.  For example, there are constant references to Calgary being a place where a strong work ethic and individuality prevail, a sense of freedom exists for everyone and opportunities are abundant.  Comments like “all are free”, “captain of his own fate” and “master of his own soul” are found throughout the text.

As well, comments similar to former Mayor Klein’s infamous 1982 “creep and bums” comments are present in the book.  “He who will not work shall not eat, and he whose favourite task is to watch the toil of others will look in vain for a job, until he feels the contagion of endeavor and enter the ranks of the men who matter.”  Or the observation, “for the shirker, the idler and the man who was born tired, there is no place…”  

Cover photograph shows downtown Calgary in 1912 as a bustling place with street car, passenger train, smoke stakes and high-rises.  

This is an early postcard of the First Baptist Church and an early 20th century mansion on 13th Ave. SW. 


Stephen Avenue: Piccadilly Circus on the Prairies

Even 100 years ago, Calgary was being touted as “the city most progressive and up-to-date of the Western Canadian Plains.”  There are several references to Calgary’s multi-cultural population; “streets are full of Englishmen, Yankee, Hindu, Indian, Chinese and Japanese.  There is even an observation that the “Eighth Avenue shopping street is as congested as Piccadilly Circus on Saturdays.”  Further on, Stephen Avenue is described as an “ever-changing kaleidoscope throng of human beings from all over the world.” I am not making this stuff up!

Bensusan is quick to point out Calgary boasts “more automobiles in proportion to its population than any other city on the continent,” as evidence of the city’s prosperity and modernity.  He says he was “astonished at the sight of so many smart and luxurious private cars, ” noting that 1,000 cars were registered in Calgary on January 1, 1912.

He also states Calgary is a very cosmopolitan modern city with police and fire departments, schools, hospitals, shops, a great public library, as well as excellent waterworks and lighted streets.  Calgary with its four theatres and eleven motion picture houses, “insures to Calgary the opportunity of seeing the best class of theatrical entertainments…there shall be no lack of variety.”

Particular note is made of Calgary having 40 places of worship, obviously seen as a key to attracting new immigrants back then.  “Religious animosities are unknown, and nobody asks what a man believes in or fails to believe in, nor even what he has been, or who his father was. If he be a good citizen, the rest does not matter.” He goes on to say “the countries that have welcomed good citizens of whatever faith have lived and thrived, while those that have indulged in violent religious persecutions have failed signally to progress.”  Sounds a lot like Richard Florida’s observation that prosperous cities are tolerant places, welcoming creative young people from all walks of life.  It has always struck me when flaneuring our city centre how many churches there are; I had no idea there were 40.

Bensusan also tells readers Calgary is “not a winter city” as the warm Pacific Ocean winds called “Chinooks” moderate the temperature and keep the snow away. There are also many many references to the fact that Calgary gets over 300 days of sun, deemed I suspect very appealing to those living in Britain with its cool, damp and drab winters.  No mention is made that the temperature can get down to -30 degrees or that spring blizzards are very common.  But why let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Today Stephen Avenue is a pedestrian mall by day and a narrow one way street by night.  It is home to some of Calgary's tallest buildings and links the Financial District with the Cultural District.  It is one of North America's best restaurant rows.  

Stephen Avenue at night in the winter is a special place with lighting effects like this on the block with The Core shopping centre, Bankers Hall and TD Square complex and Devonian Gardens.  With over 200+ floors of offices and 200+ stores and restaurants it is one of the most dense mixed-use blocks in North America. 


Mansion Mania

Even in the early 20th century, Calgarians already loved their big homes.  One of the photographs shows 20th Ave SW in Mount Royal with a parade of large homes all sitting high above the road with a rock wall.  There is not a tree in sight.  It looks very much like a scene from a new estate community in today’s suburbs – think Aspen Woods or Riverstone.  As I have said before, don’t judge a community before the trees are taller than the houses.  It is amazing the effect larger trees can have on softening and enriching the streetscape over time.  

This is an image of the Lougheed House the first grand mansion built in Calgary and the beginning of the southwest quadrant as the preferred home to Calgary's rich and famous. 

Bushels to Barrels

From an economic development perspective, “bushels to the acre” was the benchmark of prosperity in early 20th century, similar to how barrels of oil serve as a key benchmark today. The development of the Western Irrigation project was the “oil sands” of its time, with CPR being the corporate giant investing millions in the city with their new Natural Resources building on 9th Avenue and new locomotive repair shop in Ogden which was touted as going to employ 5,000 people. It is interesting to note that CPR eventually moved its headquarters to downtown Calgary in the ‘90s, with plans now to relocate it to soon to be complete building in at its Ogden yards.  

The grain elevators along the CPR tracks were to downtown Calgary 100 years ago as the office towers are today.  Calgary companies controlled practically all of the elevators in Alberta says Bensusan.  Indeed, Calgary was already well on its way to becoming a corporate headquarters city, citing it being ranked fifth in Canada as a commercial centre.

There is even reference to the fact the City purchased most of the land around the CPR railway to develop a manufacturing and industrial district.  This was the beginning of the City of Calgary being a land developer, a role which continues today. 

However, one thing has changed, in 1912, labour was well organized with 90% of Alberta’s workers being members of trade unions (today, only about 20% of Calgarians belong to a union).  Bensusan notes in Calgary labourers often start their own businesses and become employers, which in turn make demand for labour almost always exceed supply.  Sound familiar? Calgary, it appears, has been fostering entrepreneurs for over 100 years.


Pittsburg of Canada

Bensusan predicted Calgary would become the “Pittsburg of Canada” because of its abundance of natural gas, coal and electricity nearby and the strong network of 20 railway lines.  He envisaged the population west of the Great Lakes would equal that of Great Britain and Ireland someday, with Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver becoming the three greatest cities of the continent.  (Note: In 1911, Winnipeg’s population was 136,000, Vancouver’s 121,000 and Calgary’s 44,000.)

He points out Calgary enjoys three postal deliveries a day, has 5,000 telephone subscribers who have unlimited calls for $30/yr  – something even London the capital of the British Empire, cannot compete with.  Calgary was also said to have 50 miles of street railway track accommodating 8,838,057 passengers per year and making a $100,000 profit (this is not a typo).  He goes on to say the expectation is that, in time, “public services will cover civic expenses and that a general tax levy will become a thing of the past.” We wish!

The early 20th century was a time when the British Empire was still strong and many young men left to seek their fortune in one of the many countries controlled by Britain.  Bensusan notes that, in the case of Calgary, “people move there to make money and establish homes, not abandon it “as they do in South Africa where new immigrants make what they can and get out.”

In many ways, that remains true today.  Young people flock to Calgary from across Canada and around the world, often thinking they will take advantage of the career opportunities the city presents and then return home or move on.  However, more often than not, newcomers stay, raise a family and retire here.  Bensusan observes,  “Calgary’s charm must be felt to be appreciated, and once felt, you become a Calgary enthusiast like those who live there.” So true!

Already in 1912 Calgary is referred to as a business centre, industrial centre, agricultural centre, sporting centre and rapidly becoming an educational centre.  Plans were already in place for the establishment of a university with a McGill College affiliation.  

While this photo is older it captures the tremendous growth of Calgary as one of North America's economic engines with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the world.  It also captures the city's beauty, its parks, trees and beautiful blue sky.  Calgary has come a long way from a being bald-ass prairie land. 

This photo juxtapositions the old and the new. The downtown Hudson Bay store was the icon of Calgary's position as a major commercial center in the early 20th century.  The Scotia Tower represents the late 20th and early 21st century economic engine that includes banking, oil & gas and other office tower based businesses. 



While Bensusan didn’t use the current popular moniker “live, work and play” in the book, these three elements of urban life were the focus of his discussion.  Banff and the Rockies are referred to as “Calgary’s Sunset Playground.” He notes Canada’s Alpine Club was very important to the “pleasure-seekers” of the time and that Calgary’s proximity to the Rockies was a huge asset. 

“Calgary has an added claim, for no city is quite so pleasant to work in as that which can offer, in return for a few hours’ journey, access to one of the finest health resorts known to mankind.”

He chronicles the development of Calgary as an urban playground, beginning in 1908 with the $50,000 Carnegie’s donation to build the Memorial Park Library at a cost of $70,000.  At the time, Calgary also had 10 parks totally 500 acres.  The city was home to the Turf Club (horse racing), Hunt Club (coyote hunting), Calgary Golf and Country Club and the Calgary Amateur Athletic Association with 50 clubs and several thousand members. 

This is the 2012 Blues Festival in Shaw Millennium Park. Today Calgary offers one of the most comprehensive festival schedules of any city of its size in North America.  


Calgary the phenomenal

Bensusan concludes it is ultimately the hopes, enthusiasm and ideals of its people and the fact that every man/woman/child has a fair chance that is the “vital matter of measuring a city.”  While these benchmarks are hard to measure, I think most intuitively figure this out when we visit or move to a new city.  Ultimately, these are the reasons we stay or move on!

One of the most touching stories Bensusan tells is about Calgary’s strong sense of community, specifically how Calgarians support the YMCA. The YMCA functioned in the early 20th century much like United Way does today, helping those who are less fortunate.  Calgary’s YMCA fundraising goal was 7,000 pounds, which the community raised in one day. At the same time in London, England, the YMCA’s goal was 100,000 pounds, but after two weeks the city with 100 times the population of Calgary, had only raised half of that.  Fast forward 100 years - today, Calgarians donate more money per capita to United Way than any other Canadian city.  Clearly, Calgary’s sense of community has had a long history! 


Last Word

The book ends with “For we can but regard Calgary as one of the most significant cities of our twentieth century, and its triumphant endeavor as one of the most hopeful signs of the old order changes, giving place to the new.  It is with good and sufficient reason that it has chosen for title the proud name of ‘CALGARY THE PHENOMENAL’.”  Guess that says it all!

An edited version of this blog was published in the Calgary Herald's Condo Living section as a two part column.  Part one was titled "Calgary's attitudes have century old roots" on September 28, 2013 and part two titled  "Calgary's Work/Play culture part of the City's DNA" on October 5, 2013. This is the unedited version with my own photos to illustrate some of the ideas discussed. 

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Meeting Creek: Ghost Town Meets Art Town

By Richard White, 

Recently we were travelling the back roads of Alberta from Calgary to Lac La Biche and needed a place to stop and stretch our legs.  We came upon Meeting Creek in a picturesque valley and Miss B thought this would be a good place to stop.  But I wasn't convinced as it didn't look like much, however Miss B insisted and I am glad she did.  

We saw a relatively new looking church and thought it would be a good place to stop and check out.  Soon we were headed over to an strange looking abandoned industrial building that had lots of character.  Here we discovered a strange patio with domed roof and old picnic tables and an auction notice - entire building for sale, minimum bid $100,000.  

Then we noticed the quaint train station next to the two grain elevators all looking as if they were still operational.  It was eerie as there was nobody around, yet the train station was in good shape, grass cut and the grain elevators also looked as if they could operate.  We wandered over and yes there are tours if somebody is available. It was July 1st, Canada Day so I guest everyone was off celebrating.  

Found out Meeting Creek is an Alberta Heritage Site and there was enough Information that we could piece together some of the history. 

The Meeting Creek depot was built by the Canadian Northern Railway in 1913 to a "Standard Third Class" plan issued by the company. The building provided passenger, freight and telegraph services on the main floor and living quarters for the company representative and his family above.  


Meeting Creek Train depot

Detail image of Train Station 

This typical branch line operated until 1977 when the last elevators between Stettler and Camrose were closed and the line was abandoned. A short section of the original railway line remains preserved, along with the board walk, the Depot and two grain elevators.  

In 1915, there were 15 grain elevators on this branch line with a capacity to handle 505,000 bushels of grain. By 1930, 51 elevators were located at 22 points between Vegreville and Drumheller and were handling 2.1 million bushel and by 1954, grain elevators grew in size enabling the line to handle 3.1 million bushels.   

The number of grain elevators was a benchmark of a town's economic importance, much like a skyscraper is for a city, or a big box retailer for a smaller city or town.  An area had to produce 35,000 bushels to be considered as a site for an elevator.  

The train track disappears into the grassland in both directions. 

This 40,000 bushel elevator was constructed by the Alberta Pacific Grain Company in 1917 or 1918 depending on what didactic panel you believe. It was subsequently acquired by the Alberta Wheat Pool and operated until 1984.  In 1989, it when it was donated to the Canadian Northern Railway Society.  It has been refurbished and opened for public display.   

The grain elevator was the cathedral of the prairies. There were like sentinel on the horizon, landmarks for the early pioneers.  The grain elevator was the proud architectural icon of the prairies, which was the "bread basket "of the world in the early 20th century.  While there was once thousands of elevators dotting the landscape there are only a few left today.  A reminder that nothing stays the same.  

Meeting Creek is a visual artist's paradise.  It would make for a great artist's colony.  I could see the abandoned industrial building transformed into studios for sculptors, painters, ceramic artists and photographers.  It would be a great spot for a music festival.  I couldn't resist trying my hand at some creative photography. 

This is close up of the garage door to the industrial building.  I loved the rich blue blurred reflected images like a colourfield painting with the strong grey lines. The juxtaposition of the hard-edge with the Rothko like background was intriguing.   

The area around the industrial building was like a found art park with hidden gems everywhere.  This cluster of metal pieces reminded me of the Edmonton metal sculptors of the late 20th Century. 

Another found sculpture, an assemblage of cut pieces of a plastic tank piled randomly in the junk yard.  

I have not idea what this large piece of metal was originally but it could provide endless inspiration for photography, painting and drawing.  A metal sculptor would be in heaven. 

I loved the rhythm of these pieces of metal and the shadows.  It has a musical quality that seemed to ring out visually.  There is also a  bit of an optical illusion if you stare at it long enough.  What is material and what is shadow?

There are several of these domed objects in the yard, looking something from outer space...definitely a UO..unidentified object.  I loved the composition of shapes, colours and textures in this photograph. 

Found this patio that was so cool it could be in South Miami Beach or it could be a David Hockney painting. 

The roof of the patio is extraterrestrial or cosmic in nature and enhances the eerie ghost town sense of place that is Meeting Creek. 

There is an infinite number of light, textures and patterns for artists to explore in Meeting Creek.

Imagine, I didn't want to stop at Meeting Creek? Upon getting home I found out that the name "Meeting Creek" is attributed to the fact that during buffalo hunts the nearby creek was once a meeting place for the Cree to the north and the Blackfoot- speaking people to the south.  Perhaps in the future it will be a meeting place for artists from the northern and southern Alberta.  

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Calgary: History Capital of Canada

Calgary is the history capital of Canada.  I know you think I am crazy, but read on and you may change your mind. Or maybe at least think of me as a little less crazy than you thought at first. And, hopefully, you with think of Calgary in an entirely new light!

Sure, Winnipeg has the impressive new Human Rights Museum and the historic Exchange District. Toronto has the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario with their history collections. And yes, Ottawa has the National Gallery, Museum of Civilization and War Museum.  Montreal has its Old Town and Vancouver Gastown. However, I think after you read my top 10 reasons for saying Calgary is the history capital of Canada you will have a different perspective on Calgary! 

#10  Harry The Historian  

Did you know that Calgary has its own official Historian Laureate in 2012 - Harry M. Sanders? Sanders is a wealth of knowledge tweeting some historical fact about the city's past everyday to followers and giving talks and tours.  A story I love is about a quiet street in Calgary's south downtown Beltline community with an unassuming Tudor Revival house that today is the Laurier Lounge.  Built in 1908, the house was the birthplace of George Stanley, designer of the Canadian Flag.  He would also tell you that Sir Wilfred Laurier was the Prime Minister who, in 1905, oversaw Alberta's entry into Confederation as a province.  Oh, and he might even tell you the poutine at the Laurier Lounge is tasty. 

#9  Atlantic Avenue: The Original Main Street

Did you know that Calgary has two historic “main” streets? The original Main Street is on the east side of the Elbow River. Still intact with its many two story brick turn-of-the-century buildings it is now called 9th Avenue SE (formerly Atlantic Avenue, it was the main street for a struggling frontier town). There are still two old barns standing on two different side streets. Today, this Inglewood community street is one of the coolest BoBo (bohemian / bourgeois) streets in Canada with a great mix of retail, restaurants, pubs and music venues.  Atlantic Avenue was a pilot project for Heritage Canada's Urban Historic Area Demonstration project and also a signature project for the Alberta Main Street Programme. These programs helped fund the refurbishment of the heritage buildings in the ‘90s. 

#8  Stephen Avenue: The Current Main Street 

Calgary's other “main street” is Stephen Avenue Walk (or 8th Avenue Pedestrian Mall).  It links Calgary's Cultural District to its Financial and Shopping Districts.  The three blocks from Centre Street to 2nd Street SW have been recognized by the Federal government as a National Historic District for the number and quality of preserved turn-of-the-century buildings.  The street is named after Lord Mount Stephen, the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  At one time, all of the downtown streets and avenues had names of CPR railway executives and its real estate subsidiary, the Canada Northwest Land Company, which subdivided the Calgary townsite in 1884.

#7  Royal Canadian Pacific Vintage Trains

Speaking of trains (and so we should given they are integral to the city’s history), bet you didn't know that Calgary is home to one of the world's best collection of vintage train cars (1916 to 1931).  And yes, you can even book a tour through the Rocky Mountain on The Royal Canadian Pacific train pulled by first generation diesel locomotives.  Not only do you get to enjoy the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, but you might be sitting in the seat as Princess Elizabeth who road one of the vintage cars shortly before her coronation, or maybe the same seat of Sir Winston Churchill. These vintage rail cars ooze history.  The vintage train cars are housed in a special shed located right downtown, along with the CPR Pavilion, which is a 12-meter high glass rotunda with marble floors attached to the historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel for special events. 

#6  Fort Calgary

On the eastern edge of downtown is Fort Calgary, originally built in 1875 by the North West Mounted Police and originally named Fort Brisebois, but quickly changed to Fort Calgary.   The original palisade and barracks building have been reconstructed to create exhibition areas, theatre and gift shop.   Plans for an ambitious expansion have been approved and fundraising is underway.

Just across the Elbow River from the Fort is the Deane House. Built in 1906 for the Superintendent of Fort Calgary, Captain Richard Dean, it has had several lives, including a boarding house, an art gallery and today a restaurant.  It too is a designated Registered Historic Resource.

#6  Sandstone City 

After the fire in 1886, Calgary turned to the local Paskapoo Sandstone, as the material of choice for its new buildings. As a result, Calgary has numerous outstanding sandstone buildings including Alberta's first library (the Memorial Park Library, in historic Memorial Park), numerous old schools including the 1884 Haultain School (currently home to the Parks Foundation Calgary) and 1908 McDougall School (the Southern Alberta Governments offices) and the elegant 1911 City Hall with its 70 foot central clock tower (still home to Mayor and Alderman).  

Interesting to note there is still one wood building that predates the fire. Built in 1885, originally known at the T.C. Power & Bros. Block, today it is best know as The Pain Block on Stephen Avenue. It gets it name from Pain Furriers who occupied the building from 1935 to 1965.  Who says Calgary doesn’t preserve its history?

#5  Canadian Sports Hall of Fame

Calgary houses many of Canada's most interesting sports artifacts at the new Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Gallery exhibits have cleverly been organized into the following categories: Ride Gallery, Motion Gallery, Contact Gallery, Bounce Gallery, Hockey Gallery, Glide Gallery, Blade Gallery, Olympic and Paralympic Gallery, Locker Room and Media Room. They’re also several interactive exhibitions: Be A Sports Journalist, Be A Broadcaster, Ask The Athlete and Hero Station. Since 1955 Canada's Sports Hall of Fame has been collecting sports memorabilia from all aspects of Canadian sports history including Terry Fox's iconic single running shoe. The collection currently stands at 95,000 artifacts and continues to grow.  

#4 Heritage Park 

Calgary is home to Canada's largest living history park-Heritage Park!  The Park encompasses 127 acres and includes four distinct areas: Western Canadian history (circa 1864), Pre-Railway Village (circa 1880), Railway Prairie Town (circa 1910) and Heritage Town Square (circa 1930) to 1950.  It also includes Gasoline Alley with is extensive collection of antique vehicles a 1950s service station and retro drive in movie theatre.  There is also not only a steam train ride from the parking lot to the entry gate, but once inside, you can take a ride on the S.S. Moyie paddle wheel boat on the Glenmore Reservoir.   

#3  National Music Centre 

The National Music Centre (NMC) boasts one of the world's largest collection of keyboard instruments, 400 in total.  Furhermore, NMC has over 2,000 artifacts including Elton John's songwriting piano (which he used to compose his first five albums) and the Rolling Stone's 1968 Mobile Studio, which has also been used by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley.  The oldest artifact is a 1560 Virginal, a keyboard instrument that predates the piano.  The collection will soon be housed soon in the new iconic, purpose-built National Music Centre building currently under construction.    

#2  History Museums / Parks / Plazas

The Glenbow Museum, founded by Eric Harvie, a Calgary petroleum entrepreneur, is one of the largest museums in Canada.  In its possession are over one million artifacts and 28,000 works of art.  Its extensive collection includes historical artifacts and art from Western Canadian, as well as Asia, West Africa, South America and the various islands of the Pacific. 

Calgary is also home to the Military Museums of Calgary, the second largest war museum in the country.  Its four galleries showcase an extensive collection of material from all three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy, Army and Air Force) and an extensive library housed at the University of Calgary.

In addition, Calgary is home to the 100+ year old Memorial Park with its numerous monuments to different wars Canadians have fought in.  And, Calgary's Memorial Drive is also dedicated to Canada's military history with its Memorial Plaza, trees and monuments.

#1  The Calgary Stampede

Calgary is home to Canada's oldest agricultural fair, one that has evolved over the past 101 years into Canada's biggest Canadian cultural festival. The Stampede annually celebrates our First Nations culture, our agricultural culture, our music culture, our youth culture, as well as two unique prairie sports cultures - rodeo competition and chuckwagon races. 

The Stampede is not an imported myth from the U.S. frontier, but started as a tribute to the authentic ranching culture of Southern Alberta and continues to celebrate that culture today.  The Ranchmen's Club established in downtown Calgary in 1892 and still operating in its historic Renaissance Revival building is evidence of the City's long history as ranching agricultural centre.

Last Word 

YES, little old Cowtown, often cited as having no history and just a bunch of corporate cowboys, offers up a lot more local and Canadian history than you think.   Next time you are in town, stay awhile and enjoy our western hospitality.  

AND, if these “top ten” aren’t enough to convince you…how about a bonus reason!

#11 Honouring Its First Nations History Everyday

In Calgary, the names of most major roads are linked to celebrating our First Nations neighbours and their leaders, with names like Sarcee and Blackfoot recognizing nations and Deerfoot and Crowchild being leaders. In addition, these roads are not called highways or freeways, but Trails a further “nod” to our historical routes - Edmonton Trail follows the original trail from Calgary to Edmonton and Macleod Trail the route south to Fort Macleod.

Still not convinced? Need another factoid?

#12 Calgary Celebrates its Prairie Town Roots Everyday

In what other major city in Canada - maybe in the world - do cars stop and let pedestrians cross the roads at unmarked intersections mid-block.  Yes, in true prairie small town tradition, in Calgary if you stand at the edge of the sidewalk, cars stop and let you cross; just like they did when cars were first introduced and pedestrians had the right-of-way100 years ago.  

I stand by my claim: Calgary is the history capital of Canada.

Laurier Lounge which was  George Stanley's the designer of the Canadian Flag's home. 

Atlantic Avenue, Main Street Inglewood was Calgary's original Main Street before the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived.

Downtown Calgary's signature Hudson Bay department store on Stephen Avenue aka Main Street.  

Glass Rotundra that links historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel to vintage train shed in downtown Calgary.

Fort Calgary baracks building on the eastern edge of downtown Calgary. 

Sandstone City - Calgary's historic city hall is still home to the Mayor and Aldermen's offices. 

The Sports Hall of Fame located at Canada Olympic Park has an incredibly diverse collection of artifacts from hockey to rowing, from figure skating to lacrosse.  There are many hands-on activities and a captivating movies about Canada's sports history.  (photo courtesy of Canadian Sports Hall of Fame)

Heritage Park Canada's largest living history museum. (photo courtesy of Heritage Park)

The National Music Centre's oldest keyboard instrument a Virginal from 1560 - it predates the piano.  photo courtesy of the National Music Centre. 

Glenbow Museum one of North America's finest museums and the largest in Western Canada. 

Every Remembrance Day in Calgary along Memorial Drive. Other Remembrance Day ceremonies take place at Memorial Park and Military Museums.

The Indian Village has been an important part of Stampede since the very beginning. And, I am told that they like the name "Indian" village and don't want it changed to aboriginal or first nation. A new location for the village is in the works along the Elbow River as part of the new Stampede Park master plan for the 21st century. 

Aerial photo of the Calgary Stampede with all of its colour and pageantry. Truly one of the greatest festivals in the world appealing to people of all ages and backgrounds. (photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede).

Memorial / Central Park early 20th century postcard.  Park has been updated but still looks very much like this today.

First Baptist Church at corner of 13th Ave and 4th Street. 13th Ave is wonderful Heritage Trail with Calgary's first school, Alberta's first library, Lougheed House and Gardens and Ranchmen's Club all from the late 19th early 20th centuries. The area is rich with history. 

Beautiful Downtown Bowness

One of my favourite things to do is to explore other parts of the city I live in.  Bowness for example was an independent town until 1963 when it was amalgamated with Calgary.  Consequently it has its own Main Street, which has seen very little changes over the past 50 years. It has the quintessential 20th century North American town Main Street - extra wide to allow for diagonal parking and eclectic mix of one and two store shops in all shapes and styles.  No architectural guidelines here!

Bowness is an authentic prairie town, situated in the middle of one of North America's fastest growing and most contemporary cities.  It is like time has stood still.  There is a car wash and lawn mower repair right out of the '50s.  Cadence Cafe is a wonderful meeting place but today rather than farmers you are more likely to see cyclist or artisan having a chai tea.  The library has recently moved to Main Street into what once was an iconic motor cycle shop building that still has the neon spinning wheel on top. 

Bowness has a rich history.  It was home to Calgary's first airport and it has one of Caglary's signature parks - Bowness Park on the south shore of the mighty Bow River. In the winter the park is home to a wonderful outdoor skating rink that is one of the best in Canada, maybe the world. 

The anchor tennant for the street is Bow Cycle - mega bike shop with literally thosands of bikes. This is where Miss B got her Black Beauty bike that she rarely uses - that is a different blog. Bowness' Main Street is also home to a WINS thrift store, which is the busiest of their four stores. 

Bowness is a great mix of mega million dollar homes along the river to quaint mid-century bungalows.  It is home to many Calgary artists and olympic athletes as it has some of the most affordable housing and is in close proximity to Canada Olympic Park home to many of the 1988 winter olympic events.

Bowness reminds me of Clements St. in San Francisco which we discouvered when we were wandering about Haight Ashbury.  In our usual fashion we saw a church that caught our attention, which then lead to stroll by an interesting tree and next thing you know we begin to feel the street change with some retail shops.  Soon we are on Clement Street and we both looked at each ogther and said "This is what we have been looking for!"  We both loved the Green Apple bookstore - but that is a story for another blog! 

Hope you enjoy the pics below of beautiful downtown Bowness.


Beautiful Bowness mural on the side of an auxiliary building next to arena.  Great community pride!

Beautiful Bowness mural on the side of an auxiliary building next to arena.  Great community pride!

WINS Thriftstore hidden gems for everyone. Main Street Bowness.

WINS Thriftstore hidden gems for everyone. Main Street Bowness.

Bow Cycle building one of Canada's best bike stores. Anchor tenant for Main Street. 

Bow Cycle building one of Canada's best bike stores. Anchor tenant for Main Street. 

Thousands of bikes on display at Bow Cycle.

Cadance Cafe Main Street meeting place especially for the Tour  de Bowness cyclist. Good buzz! 

Currents everything with paddles - canoes, kayaks and boards. 

Paddles at Currents!

Pick a colour any colour!

Bowness Library located in former motor cycle, ATV shop on Main Street.

Retro Carwash. Cars Bikes & Canoes all found on Main Street.

What's a mid-century Main Street without a garage?

Everyone loves "Snapper" a lawn mower repair shop. 

Everyone loves "Snapper" a lawn mower repair shop. 

I Love Bowness mural. Community pride project by youth. 

I Love Bowness mural. Community pride project by youth.