With every passing year, the events of the First and Second World Wars become ever more distant parts of our country’s history. Remembrance requires work, and any excuse to think about or discuss these conflicts and the sacrifices of Canadian veterans helps keep their memories alive.
In this context, three southwest Calgary neighbourhoods that wear their military history on their sleeve are especially significant.
Garrison Green, Garrison Woods and Currie Barracks (now branded Currie) are all developed in a theme that honours the deep military roots of the land on which they’re built.
These neighbourhoods east of Crowchild Trail are all part of the redevelopment of Canadian Forces Base Calgary by Canada Lands Company.
Each neighbourhood follows a specific theme, with Garrison Green nodding to Canada’s role in peacekeeping, while Garrison Woods and Currie recognize the First World War and Second World War, respectively. These themes are reflected in a variety of ways, including street and park names.
For example, Garrison Green is home to Buffalo Park, which honours nine Canadian Forces members who were killed while in a Buffalo aircraft in 1974 over Syria.
This important recognition is valued by Calgarians with connections to the Armed Forces, as well as members of the “broader community,” says Chris Elkey, Canada Lands Company’s vice-president of real estate (west).
“We know that the people who bought in the community appreciate significantly the efforts that we have undertaken to recognize the past military use of the site,” he said. “I think they take a lot of pride in that and so do we, as a company.”
“It makes people think ‘why is this street named after something from a World War I battlefield?’ And we can explain that there’s a direct connection there to our history – soldiers from Calgary and across Canada that fought and died over there. It’s important.” – Doug Stinson, The Military Museums
The land of Garrison Woods and Garrison Green was previously used as private married quarters for members of the military and their families, while the Currie end of the base was largely for training and operational administration.
Doug Stinson, museum manager for the Military Museums in Calgary, says these communities offer a meaningful link to Calgary’s military past.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much history is here and what an important place Calgary was for the last 100 years with the military,” he said.
To further explain this history to Calgarians, museum volunteer Lloyd Northcott started hosting tours of the area.
“It makes people think ‘why is this street named after something from a World War I battlefield?’ And we can explain that there’s a direct connection there to our history – soldiers from Calgary and across Canada that fought and died over there,” said Stinson. “It’s important.”
Northcott – who has a master’s degree in history and has researched these areas through the University of Calgary archives – started his tours in Garrison Woods, home to 14 battle honour monuments, two years ago. He switched to Currie this year and plans to explore Garrison Green next year.
“It represents a huge national effort and a great deal of blood and suffering,” said Northcott, in reference to the monuments.
The mixed-use community of Currie marks the third and final phase of the redevelopment area, which stretches more than 162 hectares (400 acres). Developers always aim to create a sense of place in their projects, but the process was a bit different for this area, given its heritage.
“We don’t necessarily have to do that,” said Elkey. “It comes with the land. We have the history, it’s built into the site.”
In the Currie area alone, there are eight heritage sites and 11 heritage resources. Among these sites is Ramshead House, which is home to Canada Lands Company’s office, and Parade Square, an area that was used for training exercises and important ceremonies.
“We want to make sure those are incorporated and layered into the overall planning for the community, so they remain an asset,” said Elkey.
“They’re a touchpoint for people to understand the past use of the site. It adds an authenticity that is really hard to create in a context where you don’t have that history.”