Ahead by a Century

For the last 22 years the Chinook country Historical Society has been celebrating Historic Calgary Week and this year, with so many Calgary mainstays celebrating their centennials, it means that much more for the Heart of the New West.

“Even though we’re a relatively young city, we do have a history and people are interested in learning about it,” said Gail Kessler, Chinook Country Historical Society committee member.

Historic Calgary Week holds more meaning than usual in 2012, not only for the centennials being celebrated throughout the city but also for the Calgary 2012 initiative and Calgary being dubbed a Cultural Capital of Canada.

Calgary 2012 is a non-profit organization showcasing Calgary culture and creating legacy projects to raise awareness of the richness of “Calgary’s cultural assets, empower cultural celebration and participation in every community in Calgary, to build a stronger sense of identity and have local and national impact,” stated www.calgary2012.com.

Calgary was designated a 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada in October 2011, a handle that came attached with a $1.6 million federal government grant. The money in part went to cultural activities in the City in recognition of the many 2012 celebrations.

More than 60 events are lined up for Historic Calgary Week including a celebration of Calgary’s century homes, talks about Calgarians prominent in making the city what it is today, historic walking tours and concerts.

Local institutions celebrating their centennials this year include the Calgary Stampede, Calgary Public Library, Lougheed House, the Grand Theatre, Ramsay School, the Simmons Building, Burnco, Calgary Planning and City of Calgary Recreation.
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Calgary Stampede
For 10 days every year, Calgarians trade in their suits and loafers for wranglers and boots to celebrate The Calgary Stampede. In 1912, New York vaudevillian and cowboy Guy Weadick produced the first “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest”, funded by The Big Four: Pat Burns, George Lane, A.E. Cross and A.J Maclean. In the 100 years that followed, historic markets such as the agricultural building, Stampede Corral and Big Four Building added to the Stampede Grounds. In 2006, a new invitational rodeo format was introduced and prize money for the major Calgary Stampede events increased from $50,000 to $100,000 making it one of the most coveted rodeos in the world.

Calgary Public Library
In 1912, the Central Memorial Library opened in Calgary’s Central Park (as it was then known), the first library in not only the City but also the province of Alberta. The library was made possible by funding from The Carnegie Foundation, an independent policy and research centre. The library was designed by Boston firm McLean and Wright and constructed using the infamous Paskapoo sandstone that characterized so many Calgary buildings at the time. The steps at the front of the library symbolized a person’s elevation through learning while the lampposts symbolized enlightenment.

The Grand Theatre
In 1912, The Grand Theatre, built thanks to Calgary’s Sir James Lougheed, provided the very western town with one of its first tastes of culture. The Grand was the initial home of many organizations in Calgary and was the first place residents could go to see theatre, opera, ballet, symphonies and films. In 1979, The Grand was slated for demolition but was saved and went through some zany incarnations such as an indoor driving range and was about to become a parkade when local philanthropist Jackie Flanagan made a donation to help save the landmark. Under the vision of Mark Lawes, Theatre Junction purchased the building and today it serves as one of the leading contemporary theatres in Canada.

The Simmons Building
Located in the heart of Calgary’s East Village, The Simmons Building, built in 1912, was used during World War II exclusively to provide bedding for the military. The building continued as a mattress factory until 1966, after which it fell into disrepair. In 2007, the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) refurbished the building as their new headquarters. In May 2011, the CMLC issued a national Expression of Interested looking for groups interested in leasing the historic building for commercial purposes. The Simmons Building’s proximity to the East Village RiverWalk ensures a great commercial spot and Calgary landmark that will continue to thrive as the East Village grows around it.

Are you celebrating the century homes throughout Calgary during this Heritage Week?

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