Historic Calgary Week is an annual event put on by the Chinook Country Historical Society. It features walks, talks, tours, and a variety of events that showcase the history of Calgary and area. Over the last few years, it has become one of my favorite times of the year as it provides a wealth of opportunities to get out, explore, and learn about the rich heritage we have right in our backyard.
Emily and I had the opportunity to attend a number of the events and to use Historic Calgary Week as an “excuse” to check out some other venues as well.
Glenbow Townsite Tour: Saturday, July 23
Our first event of HCW2016 was a tour of the Glenbow townsite. This tour required both pre-registration and a fee of $25/person because it involved being shuttled to the site by golf cart. I had done this tour two or three years ago and I knew Emily would really enjoy it. Led by Shari Peyerl who works for the Archaeological Society of Alberta (Calgary Centre), this tour offered a glimpse into the town of Glenbow, as well as the stories of the people who lived there and worked in the sandstone quarry. I highly recommend you do this tour when it is offered.
Okotoks Cemetery Tour: Saturday, July 23
Right after our Glenbow tour, we needed to head to the far side of Calgary to spend an hour or so in the Okotoks Cemetery. Karen Peters of the Okotoks and District Historical Society battled through a rainstorm to lead our hearty group around the cemetery while sharing stories of some of the people buried there. There were a lot of names, a lot of dates, a lot of family relationships so I should have been making notes to try and help keep them all straight.
History of Bow Valley Ranche: Saturday, July 23
Our busy day wrapped up in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The stories of John Glenn, William Roper Hull, and Pat Burns all intertwine in what is now the south end of the city. I won’t bother retelling the history because you can read about it on the Bow Valley Ranche webpage in more detail than I could provide.
We were unable to tour the inside of the house as it was booked for multiple weddings, but our guide Wayne Meikle did a fantastic job. He’s worked for many years in Fish Creek as a planner and founding member of the Friends of Fish Creek and we hope to take one of his Halloween tours one day.
E.P. Ranch: Sunday, July 24
Another one of the few events which required pre-registration, this was an exclusive tour of the EP Ranch near Longview. I must admit I knew nothing about this venue before attending this tour but it proved to be very interesting on a number of levels. First, the history of the property is fascinating, especially when one considers the ties to royalty — Edward, Prince of Wales purchased the property in 1919 and made several visits to the property. Secondly, the present day efforts to restore and preserve the property after the floods of 2013 decimated the area. The current owners are passionate about their work and are doing a great job in maintaining the integrity of the site.
It was also a chance to meet Fraser Shaw, who is one of the authors of the RetroActive blog, which is always posting historical stories about Alberta. You can read Fraser’s story about the E.P. Ranch restoration work in his December 2015 posting here.
Apparently there was a waiting list of more than sixty people who wanted to get on this tour, so we were very fortunate to make the cut. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for this property as the restoration work of the buildings continues.
The E.P. Ranch is a privately owned Provincially Designated Historic Resource and is not open to the public.
Bar-U Ranch: Sunday, July 24
This was not part of HCW, but since it is located just down the road from the E.P. Ranch, we decided we should stop in for a visit. The BAR U is a National Historic Site and it ties in very well with our “ranch” theme of the week. Well worth the price of admission if you have a few hours to spare.
Walker House: Sunday, July 31
Located on the grounds of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, the Walker House was built in 1910 by Colonel James Walker. The history of the area was interesting but I must admit the inside of the house left much to be desired. Only a small section was open for the tour and it was the modernized section which is used by the City of Calgary Parks department for some of their educational programs. Apparently more of the house is open during Doors Open, so we may return one day. The photos and exhibits inside the house were nicely presented and a walk around the pathways in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is always a pleasant experience.
The Schools and Teachers of Morleyville: Sunday, July 31
The McDougall Memorial Church is a place I have stopped many times over the years. This was the second time I had been to a HCW talk here, with this one focusing more on the schools that educated the town’s children more than the church itself. One of my favorite sites, I’ll never pass up a chance to visit, especially when the church is open. Sarah Harvey is a wonderful presenter and knows so much about the site that you can’t help but get engaged in the topic, whatever it is.
How Calgary Became the Realm’s “Horsiest” City: Monday, August 1
We had met presenter Ken McGuire at the E.P. Ranch tour so, combined with Emily’s love of all things horse, attending this presentation was a no-brainer for us. Hosted in the Railway Orientation Centre just outside the gates of Heritage Park, this was a great narrative outlining the history of horses in the Calgary area. I learned many things I didn’t know before, including that the land just east of present day Heritage Park was once a horse racing track in the 1920s.
Heritage Park: Monday, July 1
Since we were already in the area, we decided to visit Heritage Park on Heritage Day. We actually managed to take advantage of the free pancake breakfast before the aforementioned “horse talk” and then returned to spend the rest of the day exploring the park. Even though we have been to the park multiple times over the last few years, Emily and I both enjoy revisiting old favorites as well as we always manage to find something new we hadn’t seen before. It’s not inexpensive, especially now with the new parking fee, but we still think it’s worth it.
Well, that’s it! Historic Calgary Week 2016 is officially in the books. We would like to offer both our thanks and our congratulations to the many volunteers and supporters of the Chinook Country Historical Society who made these events a reality. There were many other events we would have loved to have attended but had to miss because of work commitments. Hopefully some of those presentations will be offered again in the future and, if not, we’re sure there will be plenty of new locations and tours to enjoy in 2017.