Century Celebrations

Calgary is a young city but its rich and fascinating history can be seen in its historic homes. And now your home can be part of the narrative.

The grassroots initiative Century Homes Calgary has put the call out to Calgarians with homes built in 1915 or earlier to be archived and featured as part of Historic Calgary Week 2012 starting July 27. Century homeowners research their home and create a sign both sharing the information and making it easily identifiable.

“Century Homes is about celebrating the homes that were built in Calgary’s first building boom which took place in 1904 to 1914,” said Lindae Stokes, Century Homes Calgary spokesperson.

What started as a North West Mounted Police fort in 1875, Calgary — named for Colonel James McLeod’s home in the Scottish Highlands — was incorporated as a city in 1894. During the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia, Calgary’s location made it an ideal place for a major supply station. Construction workers flocked to the city and hotels and other amenities sprung up to serve both them and trainloads of recently arrived immigrants.

Stokes said 1912 was an especially big year for the city with the inception of the Calgary Stampede, Calgary Public Library, Calgary Planning and City of Calgary Recreation.

“During that building boom, there was money obviously in Calgary, and there was an appetite for building,” she said. “Century homeowners tend to be people who really love their homes because they’re unique and there’s a lot of history to (them).

“They like that kind of style because it’s not a cookie cutter home, and when we’re talking century homes, they’re not necessarily big, monolithic, beautiful sandstone castles, they range from everything from a very small kind of cottage type house to something that can be found in Mount Royal, so they run the whole spectrum of different styles of houses.”

Stokes said there are 25 communities in the city that have century homes, one of which, is Bankview. The Bankview area started out as the ranch of businessman and developer William Nimmons, a jack-of-all-trades who, aside from his real estate ventures, also operated a greenhouse and the Kinema Cinema.

With the economic boom of the early 1900s, Nimmons divided his land and sold plots to new settlers in the area of what is now 17th Avenue SW to 26th Avenue SW and 14th Street to near Crowchild
Trail.

Many of the century homes built in Bankview are still standing today, including a 1911 two-storey, cedarsided home purchased by Century Homes coordinator for Bankview, Terry MacKenzie and his partner in 1982.

“I’m a Maritimer so there was something about this house that appealed to me in terms of it’s two-storied and it kind of looks like a simple Maritimer house; so we kind of liked it for that but also liked it because it was close to downtown. A lot of these older homes are in communities that are close to our vibrant downtown nowadays.”

Throughout the years, various renovations were undertaken to bring the house up to modern standards including jacking the house up and replacing the flooring because the original was uneven, finishing the dirt floor basement and updating the bathroom.

Since undertaking his role as Century Homes co-ordinator, MacKenzie has also noted how the project is a catalyst for bringing the community together. He’s had people over to visit — strangers to each other — sitting around the kitchen table sharing tidbits of Bankview history and anticipates more of the same once homes are signed and bannered.

“Even folks here are working on encouraging their neighbours to sign up,” he said adding the Century Homes initiative could also result in street parties, gatherings and other community sharing.

The initiative allows century homeowners to delve deep into the history of both their home and surrounding community. It also provides and opportunity for Calgarians who don’t necessarily live in a 100-year-old home to learn more about the city they live in.

“I think for a person who doesn’t own a century home, there is a lot of really interesting history and things to find out about, but it also defines where we came from,” said Stokes. “It gives us a sense of who we are, why Calgary looks the way it does as opposed to maybe another major city in Canada. It’s a testament to the people who built this city back then, they put a lot of effort into what they were doing and that’s how we came to where we are today.”

To find out more about your homes age and history or to sign up your century home, email contact@centuryhomes.org.

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