February 2017 - Lougheed House

The View from the Ballroom

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My name is Amanda, and I work in Guest Services at Lougheed House. If you’ve come to visit, you’ve likely met me at the front desk. Guests often tell me that I have one of Calgary’s most beautiful work spaces, and I couldn’t agree more! As a student of museums and heritage it’s a dream come true to work at Lougheed House with the collections and stories that this fascinating place holds.

I’ve asked Caroline if I could write a guest post to share some of my favorite artifacts from around the House. Besides helping guests, I also work with the interpretation team here at the House, and I’m so excited to have the chance to share some of the artifacts that tell important stories of our past.

One of my favorite things about the house is to look through the Stag stained glass window (#4). I have the luxury of seeing it at all different times of the day, and watching the light change and play with the beautiful pastel colors. The window faces north, at the end of the hallway on the second floor. In the Lougheed’s time it would have looked out upon the fledgling city, slowing growing towards the house radiating out from Stephen Avenue and the rail line. Besides its beauty, the window has a historic significance all its own; it’s made by McCausland and Company of Toronto. They are still in business today – the oldest surviving stained glass studio in North America.

As I pass by the Stag, into the landing and down the stairs to the main floor I am confronted by another favorite artifact, the Lougheed’s Telephone (#5). It was one of the first telephones in Calgary, which is why the telephone number was 77. Likely, the majority of calls were made to the senator’s law firm – Lougheed and Bennett – at number 21. In essence, the line acted more like an intercom than what we now know as a telephone. The location of the phone was probably not where you see it today at the end of the Main Hall. Likely, it would not have been in plain sight at all, since it would have probably been answered by staff, who we unfortunately know very little about.

I spend most of my day at Lougheed House on the Ballroom level, which is the lowest level of the house, but I like the idea of working in a ballroom better than a basement. Underneath the original house, there were bunkers established when the house and gardens were renovated in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The bunkers house our collections and archives, where items are stored for later display. One of my favorite things in the collection is a small toy record player (#6). It reminds me that this Historic Site was actually a home, and that children lived and played here once.

Thanks so much for reading, next time you come to the House I’d love to hear about your favorite artifacts too. I often ask guests, especially young folks, what their favorite stained glass animal is. Now that you know mine, have a look as you’re walking around and let me know which one you like best.  Wishing you a wonderful day, and looking forward to seeing you soon,

-Amanda, Lead Interpreter


Sir James Lougheed

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To commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Lougheed House is telling 150 stories through the objects, archives, and architecture of the house. I’m the curator at the house and I’ll be posting most often, but we’ll also have guest bloggers contributing. To start things off, we’re looking at the life and career of Sir James Lougheed (1854-1925) – the Lougheed House’s namesake and its most famous occupant.

Lougheed grew up in Cabbagetown, a poor neighbourhood in Toronto, in a working-class family. He started out as a carpenter but quickly set his sights on becoming a lawyer. He studied law at Osgoode Hall Law School and in 1881, he was sworn in as a solicitor. The following year he moved west to Winnipeg to practise law; a year later he went further west to Medicine Hat; and eventually arrived Calgary in 1883 – following the CPR, which would become one of his best clients, along the way. There, he met and married Isabella Hardisty in 1884. The pair would become known for their support of the arts, and love of hosting both local Calgarians and visiting dignitaries.



One of James Lougheed’s boyhood books, A life’s motto, (#1) was passed on to his eldest son Clarence and now resides in the archives of Lougheed House. The motto, from Ecclesiastes, is “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” The book also contains a handwritten inscription “Presented to James Lougheed for punctuality and attention at Trinity Church Sunday School from his teacher, October 15th, 1869.” Lougheed must have highly valued this book since he kept it all his life, brought it with him to the West, and passed it on to Clarence. It was kept through the generations and eventually made its way back to Lougheed House in 1999.

From a museums and heritage perspective, it is interesting to observe which objects are kept and which are discarded. For example, we have no collection of personal letters from James and Isabella that can tell us of their personal relationship. It’s likely that they did write letters to one another, as James would have travelled extensively for business, but none survive. In some ways it is telling that we know very little of their personal life – perhaps this was intentional, or simply circumstantial.



Lougheed’s time in Calgary was initially spent practising law, but he soon expanded into real estate, becoming one of the largest property owners in Calgary. In 1889, Richard Hardisty –Isabella’s uncle and a Canadian Senator – died tragically after been thrown from a buggy. Due to the family connection and his career as a prominent lawyer and businessman, James Lougheed took his place as Senator and started a career in politics.

The highlight of his career as Senator came during the First World War, when he was knighted for his efforts as Chair of the Military Hospitals Commission – an early precursor to Veteran’s Affairs. The commission sought to re-house, re-educate, and rehabilitate soldiers injured during the war.

A wooden cane with gold detailing (#2) was presented to Sir James Lougheed in recognition of his service by his fellow members of the Senate in 1925.


The third object is a Senate Train Pass (#3) that states that its bearer is “a member of the Senate of Canada and is entitled by law to free transportation with his luggage upon all Railway trains in Canada.” As Senator, James Lougheed would have frequently traveled by train between Calgary and Ottawa using this free pass. The certificate came into the possession of Lougheed House in 2007 from the Mackenzie family. The Mackenzie’s had lived in the Lougheed Carriage House from 1940 to 1950 before it was demolished. During their time in the house, they discovered several archival documents in and around the property, including this train pass.

-Caroline, Lougheed House Curator

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