May 2017 - Lougheed House

How many fireplaces?

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As you tour Beaulieu you will notice that most rooms have a fireplace (#18). In fact, there are 11 of them! They may have been used to provide additional heating to the rooms, but with the very efficient central heating system I think it is more likely it was primarily for aesthetic reasons and perhaps as a back-up should the main boiler in the basement fail.

Many of the fireplace mantles are different and made out of materials that suit the décor of the particular room. The mantle in the entry hall is rich red mahogany to match the rich mahogany wood.

Notice what appears to be fine marble on the fireplace in the Drawing room. Upon closer inspection, you will notice in a few spots where a fire screen likely rubbed the “marble” that it is actually a “faux” finish of painted slate.

My favourite fireplace is in Lady Isabella’s bedroom. The mantle is of oak and along with the other oak woodwork add a richness and elegance to the room.

If the tour group I am leading has children I ask them to count the fireplaces. On a recent tour one girl counted 10 and a boy 12.

All of the fireplaces would have originally been coal but were converted along with the boiler (#19) when natural gas was pipelined to Calgary. The first natural gas supply to Calgary came from wells drilled by A.W. Dingman on the Colonel James Walker Estate. In 1910 Dingman formed the Canadian Natural Gas Company and pipelined gas to the Calgary Brewery and Malting Company. To supply the growing demand in the booming Calgary for natural gas, another source was needed. Natural gas had been discovered near Bow Island by the C.P.R. while drilling for water for their steam engines in the early 1880’s as the transcontinental railway construction proceeded. A 280-km pipeline was constructed by the Canadian Western Natural Gas Company to supply both Lethbridge and Calgary. The C.P.R. would also discover natural gas near Medicine Hat while drilling a coal exploration well and Medicine was actually the first community to be gasified in 1904.

In 1913, a farmer and amateur geologist named Stewart Herron noticed gas bubbling up near Sheep Creek. He quietly bought up land and convinced prominent Calgarian James Lougheed, along with his law partner R.B. Bennett, and rancher A.E. Cross to form the Calgary Petroleum Products Company to finance the drilling of what became the famous Dingman No. 1 well. They hired A. W. Dingman as their driller. This set off the first oil boom in Calgary when it “blew-in” in May of 1914. James Lougheed also set up a stock brokerage firm, Lougheed and Taylor to take advantage of the demand for the formation of oil companies and the fervour of the new petroleum speculators. People lined up to buy stocks in these new companies. And soon there were more than 500 “paper” oil companies. Calgary’s economy was changing from land speculation and development to oil. The first oil boom ended soon after but the successful Dingman No. 1 marked Calgary as Canada’s oil and gas capital.

– Bill, Volunteer Historical Interpreter