March 2017 - Lougheed House

The ‘Sir’ in Sir James

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As you tour the house you will notice in the Senator’s study the framed documents and medal which indicate the Senator’s prestigious award (#14).

Senator James Lougheed was made Chairman of the Military Hospitals Commission in 1915, which involved the care of the many returning injured Canadian soldiers from the battles of WW1. (This would later be called Veterans’ Affairs). For his service, he was awarded a knighthood, the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George by King George V, and thus was entitled to be called Sir James Lougheed and his wife Lady Isabella.

As an historic interpreter, I like to point out that he is the only Albertan so honoured to date. It is unlikely that there will be another such honour for any Canadian as the receipt of titles by Canadian citizens has been the subject of debate since 1917 when Conservative MP William Folger Nickle brought forward a motion in the House of Commons calling for an address to be made to King George V requesting that he no longer grand hereditary peerages and knighthoods to Canadians and that all such titles held by Canadians expire upon their deaths. It was passed by the House of Commons and came to be known as the Nickle Resolution. The rationale was that in a true democracy all citizens are equal. It was not forwarded to the Senate for ratification for fear of it being defeated so it never became law. It has, however, been followed by most Prime Ministers, with the exception of James Lougheed’s former law partner, the Honourable R. B. Bennett who in the early 1930s recommended a few individuals such as Frederick Banting, co-discoverer of insulin, be knighted. In 1938 Bennett moved to England and was awarded the title of Viscount, as was the British practice for former Prime Ministers – he remains the only Canadian PM to do this.

You may recall the more recent contention between Conrad Black and PM Jean Chrétien in the 1970s. Black held dual British and Canadian citizenship and the British wished to honour him with a life peerage. Chrétien, in line with the Nickle Resolution, wouldn’t allow it and the decision was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Black renounced his Canadian citizenship and became Sir Conrad Black. Following his conviction in 2007 in the US for fraud and obstruction of justice and subsequent jail sentence, it is unlikely he will ever again be a Canadian citizen as his application would undoubtedly be denied because of his criminal record. Despite his criminal record, he can still be called Baron Black of Coalharbour and take his seat in the House of Lords in London.

Canada has adopted the Order of Canada as a way of honouring citizens for exemplarly service and had this been the practice when Sir James was knighted, I am confident he would have been a recipient – as was his grandson, former premier Peter Lougheed. Peter was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1986 – the second-highest award granted to Canadian citizens. The highest is the Order of Merit, which is a personal gift of Canada’s monarch. The only Canadian to currently hold that honour is Jean Chrétien.

-Bill, Historical Interpreter


Inside the Toy Box

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My name is Charlotte and I work at Lougheed House assisting with educational programming and curatorial work. Our school programs give students the unique opportunity to interact with a wide assortment of historical objects such as Victorian household objects, fashion accessories, and children’s toys. I am always amazed by how popular the Victorian toys are among the students, which are quite simple in comparison to today’s high-tech electronic toys. They find toys like Jacob’s ladder, which creates a simple visual illusion, to be particularly mesmerizing and magical. I have chosen three antique children’s toys which are part of our collection. Sir James and Lady Isabella Lougheed had six children and they likely owned some of the most modern and innovative toys of the era.

Bowling Green Puzzle

This game is called the “Bowling Green Puzzle” (#11), manufactured by R. Journet and Co. in London, England at the turn of the 19th century. I had a similar game growing up but it used a metal ball instead of this ‘silver fluid’. The fluid is mercury, which is a highly toxic liquid metal now banned in manufacturing. The ‘silver fluid’ is very mesmerizing in the way that it glides and divides, an effect which cannot be achieved by a solid metal ball.

The instructions of the game are outlined on the inner surface of the toy: “The object of this game is to get as many holes filled with the ‘Silver Fluid’ as possible without letting any glide into the Alley way. Each player is allowed three turns or ‘Rolls’ (a ‘Roll’ is finished as soon as any portion of the ‘Silver Fluid’ glides into the Alley way) the skill and ingenuity of the players will be shown by their ability to prevent this. The Holes filled are added together and the total will be the score of the player.”

It is very challenging to split the mercury into multiple holes and to keep it in there while completing additional rolls. It’s likely that the Lougheed children owned a toy like this which must have kept them entertained for hours!

Upside Down Clowns

This wooden toy is called “Upside Down Clowns” (#12). The wooden clown is held at the top of the ladder and as it swings down it catches onto each rung of the ladder. All parts of this toy would have to be perfectly measured for it to work correctly.

The Moving Puzzle

This toy served as a brilliant advertising initiative. The toy is called “The Moving Puzzle” (#13). It consists of nine wooden blocks labelled as different pieces of furniture placed in a cardboard box. The directions state: “Put the furniture in the room, as per diagram. The puzzle is to change the location of the piano from Corner A to Corner C without jumping, raising or turning any pieces. Just straight moves one at a time. It can be done; can you do it?”

Below these instructions is an advertisement for the Edmonton moving company McNeill’s Van & Storage reading “We can solve this puzzle, as well as your Moving Storage, Packing or Shipping problems.”

These games were distributed to potential customers by various moving companies across North America. The game is quite difficult and I’ll admit that I had to look up the solution on the internet to figure out how to get the piano from Corner A to Corner C!

-Charlotte, Educational and Curatorial Assistant

Sandstone City

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Hello, my name is Bill and I am one of the historical interpreters at Lougheed House. Leading tours gives me the opportunity to share information about the house, James and Belle Lougheed, and the early days of Calgary.

As you approach Beaulieu (meaning ‘beautiful place’, this was the Lougheeds name for their palatial 14,000 sq. ft. home), you immediately notice that it is built of sandstone (#10). There’s a good reason for that. After the railway arrived in Calgary in 1883, there was a building boom but nearly all the newly built structures were of wood frame construction. On Nov. 7, 1886, a fire started in the rear of the flour and feed store. It quickly spread and destroyed 14 buildings before the volunteer fire department could get it under control. Shortly after, the Town Council decreed that all major, downtown buildings should be made of non-combustible materials. Sandstone was readily available along the banks of the Bow and Elbow Rivers and numerous quarries were opened to supply Calgary’s building boom.

So many that by 1910 Calgary became known as the ‘Sandstone City’. Although many of the early sandstone buildings have been torn down to make way for steel, concrete and glass skyscrapers that shape the skyline of our downtown, a number still remain, including the old City Hall, the Grain Exchange, early schools, banks and churches such as Knox United.  Other examples can be found along Stephen Avenue including the Clarence and Norman Blocks built by James Lougheed, and of course the Palliser Hotel.

This is just one of the many interesting stories Lougheed House has to tell. Stop in for brunch on a weekend (specifically Sundays if you want to see me 😉) and after you enjoy some Eggs Benedict, I’ll lead you on a guided tour. Hope to see you soon!

-Bill, Volunteer Interpreter


A Few Oddities in the Collection

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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. This week, two of our high school work experience students, Nick and Madison, have selected some objects from the collection.


The first items are two decorative cigar lighters (#7) made in the shape of a knight. The visor lifts up to reveal the spark wheel and wick. The students’ research showed that similar lighters were made around the turn of the century, so these two probably date to the early 20th century.

One of the first lighters – called Döbereiner’s lamp – was invented in 1823. It used a chemical reaction between zincand sulphuric acid to produce hydrogen gas; when a valve is opened, the gas is released onto a platinum sponge which causes another chemical reaction that produces a flame. The first lighters were large, difficult to use, and quite dangerous! These were much safer, but still a far cry from the modern lighter.


Commonly called ‘trench art’, this box (#8) was made by, or for, Edgar Donald Lougheed, during (or perhaps after) his service in World War I. You can see his initials (EDL) on the lid of the box. It is made of melted down artillery shell casings.

Edgar Lougheed was born in Calgary on December 19, 1893, the third son of Senator James and Lady Isabella Lougheed. Edgar enlisted February 24, 1916 with the No 1 Overseas Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) Training Depot. The CASC was an administrative and transport unit of the Canadian military and Edgar served primarily in England, but also in Canada and France. He had six months of previous military experience and rose to the rank of Captain. While on duty, he suffered from a bout of Gastritis and spent three weeks in Shorncliffe Military Hospital in England. Edgar was discharged on June 23, 1919, due to general demobilization. Upon returning to Canada, he enrolled in law school at Dalhousie, graduating and being admitted to the bar in 1923.


The word Chatelaine come from the French and has two connected meanings. It was originally in reference to a woman who owns or controls a large house – Isabella Lougheed would have been the Chatelaine of Beaulieu (another name for Lougheed House). It also refers to a set of short chains on a belt worn to carry small items like keys, watches, or notebooks. They were popular in the late 19th century. This Victorian cartoon pokes fun at the trend.

With Senator Lougheed often away in Ottawa on government affairs, Isabella Lougheed actively ran the House and Estate. Worn at the waist, this chatelaine (#9), with three small note books and pencil, would have been used by Isabella to organize household affairs. So in this case, the Chatelaine (Isabella) was the one wearing the chatelaine.

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