Calgary's Learning City is blooming!

By Richard White,  June 4, 2014

While much of Calgary’s urban development debate seems to revolve around new suburbs vs. City Centre i.e. Downtown, East Village, Beltline and Bridgeland vs. Seton, Cityscape and Walden, there is a mega transformation happening in the northwest. 

I doubt many Calgarians are aware of the multi-billion dollar investments that have been or are being planned for Foothills Hospital (teaching hospital), SAIT / ACAD (Alberta College of Art and Design) and the University of Calgary.  These three campuses, all located within about five kilometers of each other, are the economic engines of Calgary’s emerging “Learning City,” which extends from the Bow River north to Nose Hill and from SAIT Campus to Shaganappi Trail.

The Alberta Children's Hospital has added a new dimension to Calgary's growing learning city. It is also one of Calgary's signature modern architectural buildings. 

The Children's Development Centre located across the street from the Alberta Children's Hospital is home to several agencies that help children in need.  It was one of Calgary's first LEED buildings. 

  Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has undergone a billion dollar expansion over the past 10 years.   

Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has undergone a billion dollar expansion over the past 10 years.  

  SAIT's Heritage Hall is Calgary's finest historic building.

SAIT's Heritage Hall is Calgary's finest historic building.

Catalytic Projects

The Learning City has numerous catalytic projects on the books, which will reshape it over the next 15 to 20 years into a more all-inclusive city. For example, along its “Crowchild Trail Corridor” there are major developments at several LRT stations including the transformation of the Brentwood Mall into University City village with highrise and midrise condos, retail, restaurants and other amenities designed to appeal to students, young medical professionals and empty nesters. 

The Dalhousie LRT Station is also adding mid-rise condo development on its west side, turning it into a more mixed-use station when factoring in the retail on the east side.  And this is just step one in the evolution of this station into a more diverse urban place. 

Motel Village (the collection of old motels across from McMahon Stadium) is also quietly evolving.  A new office building was completed a few years back and plans for upgrading the motels and hotels has begun with the new Aloft Hotel slated to open in February. The University of Calgary is also looking at the potential to redevelop the McMahon Stadium site, studying if this is the best use of site given it gets used to its maximum about 10 times a year.  Given stadium and playing fields proximity to the LRT, the university, hospitals and downtown, it’s “prime picking” for transit-oriented, mixed-use development. 

As well, the mid-century Stadium Shopping Centre is past its “best before” date, with the city having approved zoning to allow for 800,000 square feet of mix of retail, residential, office and hotel buildings this will become a “community within a community.”  The development will be synergistic with the needs of Foothills Hospital workers and visitors, as well as the neighbouring residential community.

But the biggest catalytic project for the “Learning City” is the West Campus project. It will see 205 acres of underutilized University of Calgary campus land immediately west of the Olympic Oval converted into a 21st century walkable “live, work, play” community.  The area already includes the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Ronald MacDonald House, Child Development Centre, University’s Physical Plant and family housing.  While the final plans are still being developed you can be sure the new village will include parks, pathways, a central plaza and community gardens all carefully linked to a variety of housing types, retail, restaurants and personal services, as well as office space. While no specific date has been set for the start of construction, this will be probably be a 2016 to 2025 project.

McMahon Stadium site is currently being looked at by the University of Calgary to determine how it might be redeveloped. (Image courtesy of Ross Aitken, Remax)

Owners of the Stadium Shopping Center (highlighted in yellow), which is located across from the Foothills Hospital are working with the City and community to create a mixed-use (residential, retail, office and hotel) village.  (Image courtesy of Ross Aitken, Remax)

The proposed West Campus university town is well conceived and is already getting lots of interest from developers. (Image courtesy of West Campus Development Trust).

A great place to play!

The Learning City boast some of Calgary’s best urban amenities from indoor shopping (Market, North Hill and Northland Malls), to bobo street retail and restaurants in Bowness and Montgomery.  

Abundant recreational facilities exist - from Shouldice Park to Canada Olympic Park and numerous City of Calgary indoor recreational facilities.  The University and SAIT also offer major recreation facilities to students, faculty and public, not the least of which is the Olympic Oval. It is also home to some of Calgary’s biggest and best parks – Nose Hill, Bowness and Bowmont.

Culturally, the University of Calgary has several performing art spaces for music, theatre and dance.  ACAD is home to the Illingsworth Kerr Gallery and its renowned semi-annual student art sales popular for those looking to start an art collection.   And of course, the Jubilee Theatre is part of the SAIT/ACAD campus.

For those interested in adult education on any given evening everything from travel classes at the University, to culinary classes at SAIT, to art classes at ACAD can be had. 

A great place to live!

The Learning City also offers a diversity of housing options. Upscale communities like Briar Hill, Hounsfield Heights and St. Andrew’s Heights have many spectacular million-dollar view lots along the north bluff of the Bow River.  Both St. Andrew’s Heights and Varsity Estates qualify as million dollar communities as the value of the average home sale is now over one million dollars.

There are lots of new single and duplex housing in all of the communities bordering the Learning City’s employment centers, with new infill construction on almost every block.  These homes with their modern kitchens, three bedrooms and developed basements are particularly attractive to young families.  

The Learning City is very family-friendly with numerous school options (public, Catholic, charter and private) from kindergarten through to high school, post-secondary and university and colleges, as well as Renfrew and Woods Home schools for special needs.

University City at Brentwood Mall will be the first high-rise living with its two colourful 20-story towers (tallest buildings north of the Bow River) – one Royal Gold (yellow) and one Sunlit Topaz (orange).  This emerging urban village will appeal to those wanting a more urban lifestyle with all of the amenities walking distance away and the university across the street. 

The Renaissance condos offer a unique lifestyle in Calgary as they are attached to the North Hill shopping center, which means you can shop without having to go outside.  There is a library just a half a block away and the Lions Park LRT station is across the street. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

West Campus will create a 21st century pedestrian-oriented community for 15,000 or more people. 

The first two University City towers which are part of a mega transformation of the land east of the Brentwood LRT station from a retail power centre, into a mixed-use transit oriented urban village. 

The Renaissance condos are attached to the North Hill shopping mall and are within l walking distance of SAIT and Lion's Park LRT Station.

Last Word

Today, on any given day, nearly 100,000 people visit Calgary's Learning City (University of Calgary, SAIT/ACAD, Foothills Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Market and North Hill Malls to work and shop, or attend a class or medical appointment. Currently, 55,000+ people live in Learning City communities; this could double over the next 15 years.

By 2030, the University of Calgary campus could be the heart of a new city with its own culture based on academia, wellness and sports excellence. It could be surrounded by several vibrant self-sustaining pedestrian-oriented urban villages e.g. West Campus, University City, Stadium Village and McMahon Village (redevelopment of McMahon stadium site).  

Dubai Healthcare City looks very similar to the proposed the West Campus Development Trust's plan for the University of Calgary's West Campus. 

Launched in 2002, Dubai's Healthcare City (DHCC) is home to two hospitals, over 120 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with over 4,000 licensed professionals occupying a total of 4.1 million square feet of medical facilities. 

Dubai is also home to the  Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) as part of their city’s master plan.  Formed in 2007, it currently has 20,000 students from 125 nationalities and offers over 400 higher education programs. The campus has 18 million square feet of state-of-the-art facilities. 

Like Dubai, Calgary's Learning City is blooming into one of the world's more interesting urban places for healthcare, academic and athletes to live, work and play. 

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Postcards: Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix)

By Richard White, May 6, 2014

I had no idea the world’s largest museum of musical instruments (15,000 instruments from over 200 countries) was located in Phoenix when we arrived there.  It was only by chance that I found a mention of it while surfing the net.  It looked interesting so I took a chance and after a "too short" visit I can safely say it is very impressive. 

What is just as impressive though is that Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and Chairman of Target Corporation, was able to accomplish the feat of building this world-class museum in just five years from its inception. 

The story goes (according to one of the museum’s gallery educators) that Ulrich was in Europe in 2005 looking to purchase some major artworks when he got the idea to create a major new museum focusing on musical instruments.  Using his Target store opening experience, he set a very ambitious goal of having the museum open in five years.  This is unheard of in museum circles where even planning and fundraising for a museum expansion or renovation can take decades, let alone one that had no land, no collection and no staff.

Ulrich immediately hired Rich Varda (who oversees Target’s team of store designers) as the main architect to create the building and exhibition displays.  He also hired Bille R. DeWalt, a cultural anthropologist (University of Pittsburgh) as the founding president and director to guide the development. 

True to his word, the Musical Instrument Museum opened five years later, in April 2010. The $250 million dollar museum has five huge galleries devoted to Africa and Middle East, Asia and Oceania, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and the United States and Canada. There are almost 300 vignettes, each with historical instruments from the country, related artifacts and a short video about the people and the instruments.

With the videos using the latest Wi-Fi technology, you don’t have to press any buttons. As soon as you get near the videos, the headphones you are provided with pick up the sound and all you need to do is listen. The museum also has a theatre for concerts, a conservation lab and an “experience gallery” where visitors can play the instruments.  You could easily spend all day there. They even have a two-day pass to allow you to come back if you haven’t given yourself enough time to digest everything in one day.

My only complaint is the museum is located at the edge of the city, making it accessible only by car. It’s unfortunate it wasn’t designed as an anchor for a new urban village or perhaps closer to some of the other Phoenix museums to create a museum district.

The guitar exhibition in the lobby.

Lyre guitar, France, c. 1815. I loved the mask, folk-art quality of this guitar

Harp guitar, Germany, 1994 (replica of 1920 harp-guitar by W.J.Dyer % Bros.)

The integration of the local costumes relating to the music and culture was impressive.

A framed collection of harmonicas.

The trumpet call harmonica was probably my favourite piece. 

The evolution of the bag pipes.

Binzasara (rattle), 20th century, wood and rope

One of the five exhibition gallery spaces each the size of a Target store.

Look from the second floor galleries to the lobby below.

Footnotes:

The Musical Instrument Museum is impressive not only as a music museum, but also as an art museum and a cultural history museum.  It is definitely a must see if you are in Phoenix.  

When you think of Phoenix you don't think of it as a cultural mecca.  However after spending six days in the Phoenix and area my image of the city changed significantly because of the impressive museums we visited. And we only visited a few.

Here is quick list Phoenix museums: 

  • Phoenix Museums
  • Phoenix Art Museum
  • The Heard Museum
  • Arizona State University Art Museum
  • Arizona State University Museum of Anthropology
  • Arizona Science Centre
  • Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright's School of Architecture)
  • Desert Botanical Garden  

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Footnotes: University of Arizona, Resort vs Research

By Richard White, April 10, 2014

One of the things we love to do when exploring a new city is to check out its university or college, especially if it is adjacent to downtown.  Experience has shown us that in most cases, you will find lots of urban vitality (pedestrians, cafes, galleries, shops, pubs, live music, etc) in and around urban post-secondary schools.

The University of Arizona in Tucson did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. What we thought might be a 3-hour morning flaneur turned out to be an all-day walkabout.

Visitor Center

As we entered the campus, we saw the  Visitor Center (yes, they have their own visitor center) and decided to drop in and see if they had a map and some suggestions for lesser known places to explore. Yes, I know flaneurs are supposed to just wander with no particular place to go.  

The front desk person was very helpful - at first, she pointed out all the obvious things to see and do - they even have a brochure "Things to Do at the U!"  However, when we asked for some hidden gems, she suggested the School of Pharmacy which has a museum of sorts spread out over two buildings and on various floors.  

Brenda, having read the College of Optical Sciences is the world's premier institute of its kind, asked if there were any displays of artifacts there. We were told there might be, but a good place to check out was the Flandrau Science Centre and Planetarium with its great mineral collection. We had also read that the Creative Photography Center had the largest collection of photographs in the world, so thought this might be a place to check out.

We ended up leaving the Visitor Center with a map with 12 places to check out.  The Museum of Art turned out to be a bit of a dud as there was an installation in progress and the gallery attendant wasn't clear what exhibitions were open to visitors. 

Across the street was the Photography Centre which was very interesting and free. It was too bad that we were the only people there.  Next, we headed to the Architecture and Landscape Architecture building next door. It was a bit more animated with students coming and going, as well as an exhibition of drawings and sculptures in the lobby. Exiting the building, we happened upon a wonderful garden oasis that is a serene setting to study or chat with a friend. 

Schaefer Poetry Center 

Aiming for what I thought was the Pottery Centre, turned out to the the Poetry Center (a case of middle-age eyes).  Glad for the misread.  It is one of only three such centers in North America, the others being in New York City and Chicago. 

The building has a wonderful soft light that makes for a great place to read, write and reflect. In fact, they have a residence as part of the center for visiting writers or special guests. Though it is a non-circulating library, the public is invited to read the books on site in the lovely indoor and outdoor reading areas.  In addition to the 70,000 poetry-related items in their collection, the Center also has an engaging exhibition of handmade artist's books by Alice Vinson. They even have a charming children's section with a huge blackboard inviting the kids to create their own poetry.  

This the kind of stuff we love to sniff out - art, architecture and ambience.  The Poetry Centre is definitely a hidden gem.

The Poetry Center's indoor/outdoor working spaces are separated by an intriguing two-story slanted wood and glass wall.

First of three examples from Alice Vinson's exhibition.

A single page from one of the books.

"Less Than" art book cover

Pharmacy Museum

Moving on, we quickly found the College of Pharmacy, but there were two buildings so we were unsure which one had the museum.  Luckily, there was an outdoor lunch event and we were able ask a staff member who told us there were lithographs on the second floor of one building and the museum in the other.  She tried to find us a self-guided tour booklet, but they didn't have any in the first building. 

With a couple of false turns and sneaking into a keyed door, we found the lithographs nicely displayed in a hallway. It turns out there was 40 lithos depicting the "Great Moments in Pharmacy." For more details, see photo below. 

We then wandered over to the other building and asked about the self-guided tour booklet. They didn't have any, but they kindly photocopied an electronic copy and off we went (persistence pays off).  There were major displays on all four floors, as well as lots of glass cabinet vignettes with themed artifacts in the hallways. The highlight was the 102-drawer wood pharmacy cabinet used in the '50s to store natural medicines (see photos below). 

Depending on your interest, you could easily spend an hour or more at this museum.  We can't believe it isn't in the "Things to Do at the U" brochure.

Louis Hebert was the first Canadian apothecary. He settled in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605.

This is one of two walls lined with the "Great Moments in Pharmacy" lithographs. 

On one floor, there is a mock old time drug store that you can walk around and into.

The use of show globes (like this yellow glass one) dates back four centuries as a symbol of pharmaceutical and medical care. Sailors landing in English ports knew that a show globe in a store window meant medical treatment was available there.  In America, a red show globe could mean the town had some kind of quarantine or disease while a green one indicated the town was healthy.  Dick Wiedhopf, Curator, History of Pharmacy Museum, informed us in an email that "pharmacists took great pride in creating colours for their show globes. There are several books on how to make these colours, but today we use common food colouring. The yellow colour has not meaning, other than it is attractive." 

One can only wonder what pharmacists used poisons for in the 19th century.

Homeopathic medicines such as Humphreys Specifics were common in drugstore windows at the turn of the century.  Customers ordered by the number printed on the display box. 

During the 19th century, pharmacies were places to meet and socialize.  In addition to medical care, in the past drugstores have offered everything from pinball to punchboard games (like the one above) to entertain and attract customers.  Ironically, we purchased a game similar to this one for $5 in a Las Vegas Goodwill a week earlier. 

On the fourth floor elevator lobby is a 102-drawer '50s cabinet filled with natural plant and mineral products along with vintage medicinal bottles and fascinating details about how natural products were used. Note: the cabinet is located next to the College's modern natural products lab. 

The doors pull out and then swing open. 

Each file is full of artifacts and information.  Brenda wanted to take one home.

Just one of hundreds of artifacts that document the evolution of pharmacy over the past two centuries. 

The Resort Campus

Then it was off for some lunch at the Student Union Building to hang out with the students.  It was abuzz with students, dressed and acting like they were at the beach - tank tops, short shorts and flip flops (it was +30 Celsius). The campus is full of outdoor patio seating with shade umbrellas that enhance the resort ambience.  The only thing missing was the beach and pool. The campus has a huge pedestrian mall with thousands of students walking, biking and hanging out. The animation reminded us Frankfurt's green beach and Calgary's downtown Stephen Avenue Walk on a hot day.

It had the best campus buzz I have every experienced. I would also have to say it has the most active bike culture I have seen to date including Portland, Oregon. 

Just one of many resort-like seating areas.

The central pedestrian mall is a beehive of people moving from building to building. With the palm trees and sand, the only thing missing is the water. Students had set up three slack lines that made for a circus-like atmosphere. The UofA's Central Mall is the Champs-Elysees of university campuses. 

This is the penthouse study area in the College of Optical Sciences building. 

Cycling is a popular mode of transportation on the UofA campus.  The bike racks, like these ones on the central mall are well used. 

Museum of Optics (MOO)

Founded in 1964, The College of Optical Sciences (OSC) located in the Meinel Optical Sciences building is the world's premier institute of optics - three faculty members have won a Nobel Prize. The MOO was established in 2011 but the college started the collection in 2003. Today, it holds more than 700 antique and historic instruments, some built as long ago as the 1700s. 

MOO also has a self-guided handout.  Fortunately, they aren't too hard to find; just look for the display rack on the ground level lobby.  The tour starts here, directing you to go up to the eighth floor and work your way down. 

The building not only has a cache of optical instruments that includes telescopes, microscopes, binoculars, sextants, eyewear and opera glasses, but a penthouse lounge with the best view of the campus (see photo above.)  

Sculpture  by Don Cowen from a block of unannealed pyrex; portion of a pour by Corning Glass works, circa 1935.  

A close up look into the "Desert Flower" glass sculpture in the lobby.

There is an entire display cabinet of glass crystal.

The "Sphere" sculpture in the lobby captures what is happening outside on the mall and inverts it to the viewer.

A few of hundreds of binoculars in the collection.

Who knew there were so many different opera glasses?

Just one of several vintage camera and camera accessory display cases.

This telescope, made by Italian Domenico Selva Venezia in 1710, is believed to be one of the oldest telescopes in the world. 

  The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.

The six-story window well that brings light into the lobby of the building creates a futuristic, periscope-like space.

Footnotes

Pretty much every major city has a history museum, a science centre, a museum of art and a garden of some sort, but how many have a Poetry Centre, Museum of Pharmacy or Museum of Optics?  

In hindsight, I wish we had spent 30 minutes reading and trying to write some poetry as I felt the Poetry Center had an inspirational vibe. The same could be said for the Architecture & Landscape Architecture garden. 

I have toured a lot of post-secondary campuses over the years and would have to say the University of Arizona's campus was one of the most interesting with its animated, resort-like student areas contrasting with its quiet, contemplative research spaces.  A perfect concoction!

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Boise vs Calgary / David vs Goliath

By Richard White, April 2, 2014

Note: An edited version of this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's, Condo Living section on March 22 and 29, 2014.

When I tell people I went to Boise, Idaho for a holiday their immediate question is, “What took you to Boise?”  Our immediate answer is “I’ve always wanted to go to an American University football game and we love small university cities and road trips.  So when it came to a fall road trip – Boise it was!

We discovered this city of about 210,000 (metro population of 600,000) to have a vibrant downtown that could well be North America’s next urban playground with farmers’ market, arts and craft market, “farm to table” restaurants and wineries. Despite the obvious size difference, I thought it would be fun to compare Boise and Calgary as urban playgrounds.

The Boise tailgate party was a sea of blue and orange around the stadium.  I'd estimate the crowd at about 10,000 people. 

Linen District vs Mattress District

Just to the west of downtown Boise lies an old industrial area that has been branded as the Linen District based on the name of its historic Linen Building.  The building is currently being used as an art gallery and special events space, much like the Simmons Mattress Factory building was.  Made me wonder if perhaps East Village should have been branded as the Mattress District.

While Calgary’s Mattress District is currently undergoing a massive multi-billion dollar transformation, Boise’s Linen District is evolving organically with the introduction of secondhand stores, as well as the upscale  A’Tavola Marketplace, Big City Coffee, salons, home decor and furniture stores. It is also home to Idaho Mountain Touring (similar to MEC) and The Modern Hotel and Bar - an old motel transformed into a chic hotel and funky bar.  Instead of major public art pieces, the Linen District has funky painted utility boxes. 

Jane Jacobs, the ‘60s community activist, who wrote “Death and Life of Great American Cities” once said “urban renewal should be evolutionary not revolutionary.” It will be interesting to see how in 50 years the Linen District compares to the Mattress District.

This is the patio with the fire pits at the Modern Motel and Bar. 

The historic Linen Building at night.

Advantage: Boise

Julia Davis Park vs. Prince’s Island Park

Julia Davis Park is on the edge of their downtown and connects it to their river, as does Prince’s Island Park does in Calgary.  This 89-acre park is home to the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, Idaho Black History Museum, Zoo Boise, a rose garden, Gene Harris Band Shell and a lagoon complete with paddle-boats.   It is a combination of Prince’s Island, Bowness Park and Olympic Plaza Cultural District. Prince’s Island’s 50 acres is home to Enmax Stage, River Café and ChevronTexaco Learning Pathway. Perhaps if you added in Telus Spark and the Calgary Zoo, Calgary might be on par.

Just across the street from Julia Davis Park’s museums is the new main Library! – it is actually spelled with an exclamation point at the end. Turns out that when they opened the new library in 1995, the owner of the local “Flying Pie Pizzaria” thought the simple LIBRARY letters on the side of the building needed some pizzazz, so he approached the City about adding an exclamation point.  After some negotiation, he paid $1,500 to have exclamation points added to the signage and now LIBRARY! has incorporated it into its official name.  Boise is quirky in a fun way!

Advantage: Boise

Library!

North End vs North Side

Boise’s North End is a great neighbourhood to wander around (walking or cycling) enjoying the old homes, going for coffee or lunch or maybe some “window licking.” The area is well known for its early 20th century homes especially Queen Anne architecture.  There are several different “chill spots” including the Fort Street Market Place home to the Boise Co-op, the 13th Street strip of bohemian shops and the West State Street market place anchored by Albertson’s grocery store. 

On Boise’s northwest urban edge is the 11-acre Camelback Park, a perfect site for picnicking, or activities like tennis and volleyball or hiking into the foothills.   In 2008, the American Planning Association designated Boise’s North End one of ten great neighborhoods.

The Calgary equivalents would be Hillhurst, Sunnyside and Bridgeland with their early 20th century homes, Riley Park (cricket, wading pool, perennial and rock gardens and playground), Kensington Village as well as Edmonton Trail and 1st Ave NE shops and restaurants.

One of the many historic homes in Boise's north end.

Cafe Vicino is an upscale bistro with the best soups ever.  It is part of small mall with the Boise Coop, wine store and cafe.  

Strolling 13th Street you with find an eclectic collection of restaurants, cafes and shops like this one with some very imaginative art. 

Advantage: Tied

Boise State vs. Beltline

On the other side of the Boise River, south of downtown sits Boise Sate University (BSU) with its 170 buildings including the 37,000-seat Bronco Stadium and the 12,380-seat Taco Bell Arena.  BSU is home to 23,000 students, while Calgary’s south side Beltline is home to 20,000 residents, many of whom are recent university graduates now working downtown.

The similarities continue if you include Stampede Park with the Saddledome.  While Calgary has the 10 days of Stampede, Boise has six days of game day tailgate parties.  If you think dressing up for Stampede is a bit weird, you must experience a Bronco tailgate party. Every Bronco home game is like a Grey Cup celebration.   

Broncos stadium before the game.  It is the only football field with blue turf. 

Advantage: Tied

Downtown vs. Downtown

Downtown Boise is an interesting place in that it has few major office or condo towers, no department stores and no mega indoor shopping centre.  So, what is there you ask?

While Calgary’s dense downtown is dominated by mega office towers, shopping centres and corporate hotels, Boise’s downtown is very pedestrian friendly with streets full of locally-owned shops, restaurants, cafes and bistros with just a sprinkling of office buildings, hotels and the majestic Capitol Building.  

While Calgary spends millions on public art, Boise created its renowned Freak Alley for next to nothing. The approach was basically, take an alley, find a curator to invite some artists to paint murals on the backsides of buildings and voila - an outdoor gallery that can be enjoyed free of charge anytime, any day, by anybody.

Both downtowns have created a vibrant pedestrian street, Boise’s is 8th Street, while Calgary’s is 8th Avenue. Both have wide sidewalks and are actively programmed and have become the heart of their downtown.

The centrepiece of Boise’s downtown is unquestionably the State Capitol Building completed in 1912 with its magnificent 208-foot dome. The interior is just as inspiring with extensive use of marble from Georgia (red), Alaska (grey), Vermont (green) and Italy (black) for its floors, pillars and staircases.  There is also a wonderful collection of statues, murals and art, all accessible for public viewing via a self-guided or guided tours. Calgary has nothing to match this historical gem.

Downtown Calgary has nothing to match the Boise’s Capital City Public Market that operates every Saturday from April to December.  In prime time 150+ vendors take over six blocks in the middle of downtown, selling their wares to over 15,000 visitors a day. It creates a wonderful festival atmosphere every Saturday nine months of the year.

On the other hand, Boise has nothing to match Calgary’s Core, Bankers Hall, The Bay, Holt Renfrew retail centres, somehow we didn’t miss all the national and international retailers that permeate almost every mall in every city across North America

This past year, downtown Calgary lost one of its two art house cinemas (Uptown) leaving only the Globe, which has also been rumoured several times to be closing.  Boise, boasts what might be the best little art house cinema in the west. Called The Flicks, it has four movie theatres, a restaurant (that serves up food, great wines and craft beers on tap, inside or on its outdoor patio) and also has an extensive international movie rental room.  The Flicks is funky!

Street performers on 8th Street add fun and surprise to this pedestrian area. 

Downtown Boise's Farmers' Market attracts thousands of shoppers and people watchers. 

The stately capitol building creates an immediate sense of place for the downtown. We were surprised at how easy it was to wander the building and take pictures. 

  River Sculpture by Alison Sky, is a 50 foot public artwork on the side of high-rise building in downtown Boise. The artwork inspired by the Snake River includes lights and misters to create a more experiential piece of art. 

River Sculpture by Alison Sky, is a 50 foot public artwork on the side of high-rise building in downtown Boise. The artwork inspired by the Snake River includes lights and misters to create a more experiential piece of art. 

  Modern office building under construction in Boise.

Modern office building under construction in Boise.

Advantaged: Tied

Basque Block vs. Stephen Avenue Walk

Calgary is home the Stephen Avenue National Historic District; Boise is home to the Basque Block.  Boise has the largest Basque (the region in Spain on the French border, probably best known for the city of Bilbao, where the famous Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum is located) population in North America. While Calgary’s Stephen Avenue Walk is historically significant in Canada, Boise’s Basque Block is unique in the North America and perhaps the world.

The one block of Grove St. between Capitol Boulevard and 6th St. includes a Basque museum, market, cultural centre, restaurants and bar.  The museum is definitely on the “must do” list for any visitor as it is both a history museum and modern art gallery.  It also includes two original Basque boarding houses that you can tour.

The Cultural Centre fosters the preservation and promotion of the Basque in Boise and Idaho.  Based in the Anduiza building built in 1912, with its original Fronton Court (a huge three-walled court 10 meters high, 30 meters long by and 15 meters wide. It is played with four people (two teams of two) who hit a rubber tennis-size ball with a solid wooden racquet - bit like squash and doubles tennis. Boise is definitely unique!

Across the street is the Basque Market, which is home to the biggest Paella pans I have ever seen.  They are stored hanging from the ceiling and it takes two people to bring them down. Wednesdays and Fridays at noon it is a “paella frenzy” on their street patio or you can check out the Thursday Paella dinner.  There is also the Bar Gernika at the end of the block, which is a “must do.” If you want to hang out with the locals and try some Basque food, beer and wines this is the placed to do it.

While Stephen Avenue has lots of restaurants, patios, squash courts, the Glenbow Museum and EPCOR Performing Arts Centre, it lacks the Basque Blocks’ uniqueness.

The Fronton Court.  Nobody asked me if I wanted to play. Darn!

Paella pan is being removed from the ceiling to get ready for the evening feast. 

A modern work of art in the Basque Museum. 

Advantage: Boise

Potato vs. Beef

Calgary, with its “corporate expense account” restaurants, has been making a name for itself with some of the best new restaurants in Canada. When it comes to eating local, Idaho has one of the most diverse agricultural industries in North America – 25,000 farmers produce over 185 crops.  Everyone knows Idaho is a major potato producer in the USA, but did you know that 70% of the commercial trout produced in the US comes from Idaho and that it is a major onion producer?

You gotta love a restaurant named “Bacon” and its tagline “bacon, bistro and bloody marys.” John Berryhill, who owns Bacon and two other downtown restaurants expects Bacon will serve 150,000 strips of bacon this year, some of which will be delivered free of charge downtown via the “bacon bike.”

Another popular Boise “farm to table” restaurant, “Fork” is located in a historic bank building on vibrant 8th Street and would fit right in with Calgary’s Stephen Avenue cuisine scene.  Add to that the northern Spanish restaurants on the nearby Basque Block, as well as Bardenay, a distillery/restaurant and it’s clear Boise offers a wonderfully diverse cuisine scene. And, yes, Boise also has a vibrant café culture with plenty of street patios. 

What Boise has that Calgary doesn’t is its own wine region.  Just 30 minutes away lies the Snake River Valley wine region where over 40 wineries (many with tasting rooms) can be found. 

Fork is one of many creative and charming places to dine in downtown Boise. 

As you might imagine the restaurant Bacon, serves up some very interesting strips of bacon.  No plain old Canadian back bacon here! Great sandwiches and quiche also. 

Advantage: Boise

Final Score

After all is said and done, despite Calgary’s billion dollar office towers, billion dollar urban renewal schemes and multi-million dollar public artworks and pedestrian bridges, Boise kicks our butt.  As the old saying goes “bigger isn’t always better.”

I have not included any photos of Calgary in this blog as I have many Calgary images in my other blogs.  If you'd like to see Calgary images check out these blogs.

Calgary: North America's Newest Design City 

Discover Calgary's Secret Heritage Trail 

Calgary's Rail Trail Stroll

Calgary vs Winnipeg as Urban Hot Spots (Part 2)

By Richard White, February, 8 2014 (this blog appeared in the Calgary Herald's New Condos section on February 8, 3014 titled "Exchange District is tough to beat.") 

Last week compared downtown Winnipeg vs Calgary from the perspective of museums, galleries, attractions, sports and river developments (East Village/Stampede Park vs The Forks)Overall it was a tie.  Let the play continue…

 Placemaking Fun

Winnipeg’s Exchange District is one of the best collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings in North America.  It is a walk back in time as you flaneur the area with its old bank and warehouse buildings.  It is fun place to shop for vintage clothing, furniture, home accessories and art.  Together, Stephen Avenue and Inglewood just can’t compete with the Exchange District’s architecture and streetscapes.

Winnipeg's Exchange District has some of the best late 19th and early 20th century buildings in North America. 

Calgary's Stephen Avenue is a National Historic District and one of North America's best restaurant rows. 

Osborne Village is Winnipeg’s equivalent to Calgary’s Kensington Village. Both are separated from the downtown core by the river, have a major Safeway store a key anchor and a “main street” of shops and restaurants. Kensington wins here given its greater diversity and depth of boutiques and restaurants, its vintage Plaza Theatre and funky new condos. 

Winnipeg has two grand classic urban boulevard streets – Portage Avenue and Main Street; Calgary has none.  While Portage and Main is one of the most famous intersections in Canada, it generally isn’t for good reason. It has a reputation as being the coldest and windiest urban corner in Canada. 

Calgary’s downtown lacks a grand, ceremonial street that is so often associated with great cities.  Though charming, Stephen Avenue simply lacks grandeur.

Over the past 10 years, the University of Winnipeg Campus on the western edge of the city’s downtown has blossomed into a major urban campus with some wonderful contemporary buildings, much like Calgary’s SAIT campus - unfortunately it’s not downtown.  Red River College also has a campus in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, similar to our Bow Valley College.

The Buhler Centre is just one of many new University of Winnipeg campus buildings that is changing the face of downtown Winnipeg.  This building is an office building, art gallery and home to Stella Cafe. 

Bow Valley College has just completed a major expansion in downtown Calgary.  The College is  home to an amazing collection of contemporary art. 

Similarities also exist between Calgary’s Bridgeland (once called “Little Italy”) and Winnipeg’s St. Boniface (the largest French-speaking community west of the Great Lakes).  Not only are both communities across the river from their respective downtowns, but both were home to a major hospital. In Calgary’s case, the hospital has been replaced by condos, while the St. Boniface Hospital is still very much a part of its health care facilities.

Advantage:  Winnipeg

Architecture / Urban Design

Winnipeg boasts better historic architecture with its large buildings like the Beaux Arts-style Manitoba Legislative Building (1920), considered by many as one of the finest public buildings in North America. Other large historic buildings include Union Station (1911) that still serves as a passenger train station, the Vaughan Street Jail (1881), Law Courts (1916), St. Mary’s Cathedral (1881), St Boniface City Hall (1906) and the iconic Bank of Montreal (1913) at the corner of Portage and Main.

Winnipeg is home to a number of major historic buildings including the beaux arts architecture of the Manitoba Legislative Building.  In addition to being big, bold and beautiful, there is a mystery around some of the architectural elements like the sphinxes that has lead to a Hermetic Code theory. 

Courthouse Building 

Most of Calgary’s historic buildings on the other hand are smaller structures, with the only large-scale historic building being Mewata Armoury.

Calgary’s architectural forte is its modern office architecture, which makes sense given most of Calgary’s growth as been in the last 50 years, while Winnipeg’s was pre-1960s.  It might interest Calgarians to know that there is a proposal floating around Winnipeg to build a mixed-use, 55-story building that will build on the strength of the recently completed Manitoba Hydro building, a 22-story building that received LEED Platinum certification and deemed as the most energy efficient building in North America in 2012.

Manitoba Hydro building was one of the first LEED Platinum office building in North America. 

The twin towers of Eight Avenue Place are one of several mega office towers recently completed or under construction. Downtown Calgary is home to one of the largest concentration of corporate headquarters in North America.

Yes, Winnipeg even has a bridge to match Calgary’s Calatrava Peace Bridge.  Its locally designed Esplanade Riel (2003) pedestrian bridge connects downtown to St. Boniface in unique ways.  It is attached to the Provencher Bridge for vehicles with an upscale restaurant in the middle that offers outstanding views. The bridge with its 57-meters high spire (20-story high pole) has cables that stretch out in teepee- like fashion. It is bold, beautiful and elegant night and day.

Esplanade Riel Pedestrian Bridge over the Red River in Winnipeg with restaurant in the middle. 

Calgary's Peace Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava. 

Rather than building a new central library, Winnipeg opted for a mega-makeover of its existing Centennial Library as a millennium project.  Rebranded as the Millennium Library, it is a wonderful contemporary glass building with commanding views of the Millennium Library Park completed in 2012. 

The Library Park has an artificial wetland, wooden walkway, a stand of birch trees and two significant pieces of public art, that combine to make it a wonderful urban space.  The Park’s centerpiece is Bill Pechet’s “Emptyful,” a playful Erlenmeyer flask-shaped fountain illuminated by four bands of LED lighting, that in the summer, illuminate the water and fog from the flask in blue, green and purple hues.  In the winter, when the water elements are not operational, the artwork is lit up in reds, organs and yellows.

Winnipeg's Millennium Library and Park. 

Bill Pechet artist and Chris Pekas of Lightworks 35 ft high and 31 ft wide sculpture "Emptyful." 

Jaume Plensa's sculpture "Wonderland" on the plaza in front of The Bow office tower designed by Norman Foster. 

Calgary’s closest equivalent is the “Wonderland” artwork by Jaume Plensa on the plaza of the Bow office tower. Though attractive, it lacks the same fun factor that “Emptyful” has and there are no benches or other elements to invite you to sit and linger.

Advantage: Tied

Condo Living

Winnipeg simply can’t compete with the diversity and density of condo development that Calgary offers. While there is some condo development along the Red River near the Exchange District, it is nothing like Calgary’s Bridgeland, West End, Eau Claire, Mission, Beltline or Erlton developments.

New condos along the Red River in Downtown Winnipeg. 

New condos on First Street SW one of seven districts with new high-rise condo development in the city centre.

What Winnipeg does offer is some amazing loft living in the old buildings in its Exchange District warehouses. There are also many attractive condos and apartments along the Assiniboine River in the Osborne Village area right along the river.  I used to think they would be great places to live when I lived in downtown Winnipeg in the mid ‘70s while attending the University of Manitoba. And I still do.

Advantage: Calgary

Last Word

If you look at the three big variables for downtown vitality – live, work and play Calgary would seem the clear winner.  It has more contemporary condos, and more jobs for the professional GABEsters (Geologists, Accountants, Bankers, Brokers and Engineers). But if you were a young hipster (creative type), Winnipeg offers more appeal with its affordable and attractive studio loft living.

Winnipeg’s downtown is also much more attractive to small businesses as real estate prices and rents are significantly lower.  REITs and Pension Fund landowners, who are not interested in the “mom and pop” start-ups, dominate Calgary’s downtown. 

Looking a little further afield, Calgary is just one hour away from its mountain playgrounds and Winnipeg is just one hour to cottage country. Take away Calgary’s downtown office towers and there is not much difference between Calgary and Winnipeg (as evidence by the tied score when comparing seven elements of urban vitality).   

It seems to me almost everyone I know in Calgary has some connection to Winnipeg…perhaps we should be sister cities.  Next time you are in Winnipeg visiting family or friends or on business, I recommend heading downtown to flaneur the Exchange District and The Forks, maybe take in a baseball game, an exhibition at the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery) or tour the Legislature building. There is more to Winnipeg than first meets the eye.

If you like this blog, you might like:

Calgary vs Winnipeg as Urban Hot Spots (Part 1)

Embracing Winter 

Las Vega Neon Boneyard 

Downtowns need to more fun

 

 

Travels in small towns in North America

By Richard White, February 9, 2014

It is ironic that in December I picked up Stuart McLean’s 1991 book “Welcome Home: Travels in small town Canada” in a Maple Creek SK thrift store and the first story is in fact about his stay in Maple Creek.  It was also ironic as 2013 turned out to be “Year of Small Town Travel” in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, Idaho and Washington for Brenda and I.

For us, visiting a small towns is mostly just pulling off the highway and taking an hour or so to flaneur the streets, take some pictures, maybe grab a bite or a coffee and chat a bit with one or two locals.

McLean, much more strategic, carefully researched his small towns – Maple Creek (Saskatchewan), Dresden (Ontario), St. Jean de Matha (Quebec), Sackville (New Brunswick), Foxwarren (Manitoba), Naksup (British Columbia and Ferryland, (Newfoundland).  He chose carefully to ensure that collectively, the towns would reflect that diversity that is Canada’s sense of place.  

He also went and lived for a couple of weeks in each town, so he could meet the residents and truly understand the psyche of the people and place.  This all happened in early ‘90s over 20 years ago.

What I loved about the book was the great insights - his and others - that he quotes into understanding the ongoing evolution of our cities and towns, as well as better sense of our collective history as Canadians and North Americans. There are also amazing character sketches for those interested in people.

I thought I would share some of these insights with you accompanied by an image from one of the small towns we visited that related to the McLean’s observations.

From the introduction:

“If there is one aspect of towns and villages that we find remarkable, it is their persistence, their refusal to die out, their staying power.” G.D Hodge and M.A. Qadeer, 1983

“Eventually, I decided that we all live in small towns. Mine happens to be in the heart of a big city.” S. McLean

This is a house on our block just a few doors down.  Like McLean we live in a Calgary, a big city, however it is composed of over 200 small communities of about 5,000 people, each with their own parks, playgrounds, schools, recreation and community centres. Not that much different than the small towns McLean visited. 

Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

“Asians didn’t get the right to vote in Canada until the late 1940s.”

“When she was twelve, Pansy rode (horseback) five and half miles across the fields every day to a one-room schoolhouse…there were lots of deer, antelope and coyotes.” (And we complain about kids taking long bus rides to get to school today)

McLean talks about a Chinese restaurant in his book; this might be it.  Had a great soup and grilled cheese.  GA writes: "you may want to add the nearby winery, yep I do mean winery.  Most of the wine is made from berries and Rhubarb, but they also grow grapes.  The wines are certainly drinkable and it is fun to produce for visiting guests. Their wine tastings are professionally done."

Dresden, Ontario

“Dresden is where Aylmer manufactures all of the ketchup they produce in Canada.”

“Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom.” Martin Luther King Jr., Massey Lectures, 1967

Did you know that Josiah Henson a slave who escaped to Canada and settled in Dresden was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

“The bell at the firehall used to ring at noon and at nine in the evening to signal curfew for all those under the age of fourteen.  The bell at the old McVean factory rang at starting time and quitting time and, like all the other bells in town, at the noon break.  You don’t hear town bells the way you used to. It is too bad. A bell lends a certain orderliness to a town – anoints the noon meal with righteousness, resolves the end of the work day with dignity, infuses dusk with a sense of purpose.”

“There’s also a certain continuity that you don’t get anywhere else. Everyone in school knows everyone else. Most of the parents come from here. The continuum is passed along.”

While I didn't travel to Dresden, I did get to Clarkesdale, Mississippi which is home to the Delta Blues and to Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Both are cities in decline, but with a  proud history that they celebrate vigorously. 

This is the J.W. Cutrer Mansion in Clarkesdale.  The Cutrers and their home inspired the character names and settings in several works by playwright Tennessee Williams. This small town is an interesting study in contrasts between the rich and the poor that has existed for decades - it is not something new. 

Just one of many homes that are slowly peeling away. 

This is the entrance to Ground Zero Blues Club, one of the most authentic and famous blues bars in the world.  The entire inside of the club is like this with people signing their names on every wall, everywhere.  It is a work of art. 

Who knew when I picked up this used book in the spring of 2013 that I would be in the Mojo Man's home turf early in 2014.

St-Jean-de-Matha, Quebec

You can see winter in the architecture wherever you look – the old houses small because they were easier to heat; the brightly painted roofs, pitched steeper here than anywhere in the country, because if you let snow accumulate all winter your roof would collapse before spring.” 

We discovered the ghost town of  Washtucna, while on our way see the off the beaten path Palouse Falls Washington.  We don't usually seek out natural wonders, but we were encouraged to do so and in the process we found Washtucna. I did not realize the potlatch culture extended this far south or east, I had always associated it with Pacific Northwest first nations. Every small town has a story to tell. 

We tried to get into Sonny's but despite the sign it wasn't open. 

 

Ted's Garage has become the town's post office. In "Welcome Home" you will read how important the post office was in small towns even in the early '90s.

Sackville, New Brunswick

“This is a town that understands tradition…Mrs. Helen C. Beale wouldn’t think of going downtown to mail at letter without putting on a dress, white gloves and a hat.”  “the driving factor behind the new clock tower is that public’s displeasure with not having a clock in the downtown core.”

“Like all small towns, Sackville’s greatest export is her people.”

Our equivalent to McLean's Sackville was Moscow, Idaho, also a university town and this was one of our favourite breakfast spots. Check out the Huckleberry Zucchini Bread or the Lemon Poppy Seed french toast.  We will be back!

The students loved Bucer's Coffee House and Pub....we did too.  Great ambience

Every college town needs a quirky bike shop - Paradise Bikes was Moscow's. 

Yes there is a new clock tower on campus. It also has a great indoor football stadium and one of the world's best climbing wall facilities. Of the 9,000 students, 6,000 live on campus with an 18 to 1 student to teacher ratio. 

Our dinner at the Sangria Grill may well have been our best meal of 2013.  We could show you an image of our plate but the ceiling is way more exciting. Loved the circus dolls. The menu is very interesting e.g. Macadamia coconut halibut mango salsa fried banana rice.  Desserts are to die for e.g. sweet potato creme brulee or coconut bread pudding with lucuma ice cream. Yum Yum!

Foxwarren, Manitoba

“In western Canada, prosperity is calculated in units of verticality. Oil rigs, grain elevators and silos measure the land.”

“first grain elevator in Canada was built in Gretna, Manitoba, in 1881.”

“you hate to see your home town go. But there is nothing you can do to stop it going. You can’t survive on a small farm anymore.”

“Donna Hodgson is the postmistress, and she is the sixth person (three men, three women) to hold the job since the post office opened on August 1, 1889.”

The Foxwarren arena illuminates Foxwarren the way the Roman Catholic Church used to illuminate Quebec. Hockey in Foxwarren is a faith, a theology and a creed. In Foxwarren you don’t go tot eh game as much as you give yourself to The Game. You don’t enjoy hockey. You believe in it… if you live in Foxwarren you can’t escape the arena’s gravity.”

“Like many old men, Andy has become the embodiment of a better era – living proof that the stories everyone has heard actually happened. With his old age he blesses everyone else with youth.”

“At the turn of the century and for thirty years after that, the tracks on these prairies were haunted by the most romantic train in Canadian history – the silk train. Silk that arrived in Vancouver by boat had to be shipped to the Lakehead quickly… they were given priority over all other trains on the tracks.  Once a train carrying Prince Albert (later George VI) was shunted onto a siding to wait while a silk train burned past.”

Meeting Creek, Alberta was our encounter with the great spirit of the prairie Grain Elevator.  It was surreal to just be able to explore this perfectly preserved elevator and station with nobody around. 

You can't make something like this up.

Nakusp, BC

“Left alone in a museum, it doesn’t take much to make a grown man twelve. Wondering vaguely what I will say if someone walks in, I climb into the saddle and lean on the saddle-horn as I read the typed note pinned to the wall. The horse that Tom Thee Persons rode to fame was known as Cylcone.”  Who knew this piece of Calgary’s Stampede history is housed in the Nakusp Museum?

While we didn't have a saddle to sit on.  Brenda has a similar experience when we were exploring Twin Falls, Idaho and she found this pencil dispenser in the library.  She had to try it. Not once but twice.  It doesn't take much to make a grown women twelve. 

We also found this display of Red Rose Tea figurines at the library.  There were several series but the Canadian Series caught our interest. Who knew the Mongrel was a Canadian animal? 

These dolls were fastened to posts throughout the city, at first it was cute then just strange. 

Twin Falls is one of the few places in the world that you can BASE jump without a permit.  We had to wait around for a bit but we did see several guys jump.  If you look carefully you can see a speck of blue where the bridge shadow meets the steel arch at about two thirds of the way to the top of the image - that is a jumper. 

Ferryland, Newfoundland

“Maybe when death is all around you, maybe when everyone’s children are dying, maybe when the winter blows cold and the nights are dark and your ten-year-old daughter gives a little cough and your heart seizes and you look at your husband with frightened eyes and then the priest comes and then she dies, maybe you find a way to make sense of things. But how, after five have gone, could you have a sixth? And how, when your last boy dies, could you plant a crop, go to church, milk a cow, eat a meal, smile, laugh and carry on?”

“Essentially Albert Lawlor drives the Popemobile up and down highway 10 every day.” Yes the same popemobile Pope John Paul II used when he toured North America in September 1984.

“It was a big change. The more people got TV’s, the less you saw of them. Before the TV, everyone depended on everyone else…you visited. You helped each other.”

“If you really want to understand a place, you can’t do it from an automobile.”

One of our best small town experiences of 2013 was when we decided to park our car and walk the streets of Buhl, Idaho. Within seconds I looked over and saw this warehouse with something interesting in a bucket and  on the ground.  Wandering over, we found the warehouse was full of all kinds of antlers and mounted animal heads that were to be shipped all over the world.  We spent over an hour chatting with the guys with the owners.  The street art was the head and part of the carcass of an elk that had been shot by the owners son. Their trailer is perhaps the equivalent of the popemobile.  

Over 150,000 pounds of antlers are collected in this Buhl shop and then sorted and shipped to pet food plants, used for home decor objects etc.  All of the antlers are naturally shed, only the mounted heads are from animals that are shot with permits. 

The Clover Leaf Creamery was another find in Buhl, Idaho.  It is a fully operational dairy that uses the old glass bottles and has a wonderful old fashion ice cream parlour.  It is amazing what you find if you get off the inter-state highways and take the scenic route.  Buhl also had a great thrift store with mid-century artifacts from the community's past.  There was also a theatre converted into a Mexican restaurant which told the story of the present  economic realities. It is amazing what you find if you get out of the car. 

Brenda is in her happy place. 

Last Word

In “Welcome Home” over and over again you read stories about why people love their small towns - the common denominators being everybody knows everybody, nobody locks their doors, shopkeepers work on credit and lamenting the loss of jobs.

Full of everyday stories of everyday people, it is a fun read of what life used to be like whether you lived during that time or not.  I loved McLean’s comment when he was reflecting on the changes in the way hockey is played today vs 50 years ago, “somehow the game seemed purer when I was young.” I expect that applies to everything in the game of life.

We would like to thank the following for their assistance with our small town flaneuring in 2013:

If you like this blog, you might like:

Postcards from Moscow

Meeting Creek Ghost Town

Flaneuring Maple Creek 

Be a tourist in your own neighbourhood