Surrounded by skyscrapers and apartments, Calgary’s Lougheed House was once separated from downtown by prairie grasslands in an area known simply as “South of the Tracks”.
“At the time it was built in 1891, the population of Calgary was 4,000 people and this palace . . . was then out on the prairie, people thought (James Lougheed) was crazy,” said Blane Hogue, executive director, Lougheed House.
James Lougheed made his way west to Calgary from Ontario. He married the daughter of a Hudson Bay factor, Isabella Hardisty, and proceeded to build one of the grandest homes the city has seen.
A lawyer and businessman by trade, Lougheed was appointed to senate, was a founding member of the Alberta Law Society and Ranchmen’s Club and is the only Albertan to date to be knighted for his work in the First World War establishing veteran’s hospitals and what would become Veterans’ A airs.
The Clarence and Norman Blocks on Calgary’s popular Stephen Avenue were named for two of Lougheed’s sons, while his grandson Peter, served as Alberta’s premier from 1971 to 1985.
The home James built “South of the Tracks” was, “a palace, it’s a mansion, it was just the hub, as the newspapers of the times said, ‘of the Northwest Territories’ (Alberta didn’t become a province until 1905),” said Hogue.
The sandstone mansion, sitting on 2.8 acres with the ajoining Beaulieu Gardens, was enlarged in 1907 to accommodate the Lougheed’s growing family and staff. Throughout the years, the Lougheed’s entertained many influential guests such as Prince Edward, Governor General Lord and Lady Byng, Prince Erik of Denmark and the Right Honourable Stanley Baldwin.
Sir James Lougheed passed away in 1925 and is buried at Union Cemetery. The City took legal title of the house in 1934 with Lady Lougheed remaining there until her death in 1936. This however didn’t signal the end of Lougheed House as the mansion went through several transformations as a women’s training centre, barracks for the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and blood clinic.
“(Lougheed) was a very active, influential and important politician,” Hogue said. “At the time he died in 1925, it was said that he was paying 50 per cent of the property taxes in Calgary.”
In 1976, the province designated the house a Historic Resource before the Historical Society of Alberta looked into restoring it to its former splendor in 1988. The house sat unchanged until 1995 when restoration started thanks to the Lougheed House Conservation Society. After ten years of restoration, the Lougheed House today is an important part of Calgary’s past history.
Located at 707 13th Ave. S.W, Hogue explained, Lougheed is the only home of its kind that remains in the area. Saved from destruction with its Historic Resource status, the house was saved from the fate of other properties including the former homes of businessman Pat Burns and architect Maxwell Bates.
The $40 million restoration was covered by provincial, federal, public and private money. Check out www.lougheedhouse.com for more information such as hours of operation.
Have you been to Lougheed House? What is your favourite room in the house?