2017 - Page 2 of 2 - 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


The Carriage House

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While the Lougheed House now stands alone on the 2.8-acre property, it wasn’t always this way. There were several different outbuildings on the property over the years – one of which was the Carriage House (#17). Jim MacKenzie lived in the Carriage House, or Caretakers’ Quarters as a young boy from 1940 to 1950. He recalls that, “After the war started (WWII that is), the C.W.A.C. (Canadian Women’s Army Corps.) moved in after a construction crew, with lots of khaki trucks, erected 3 barrack buildings on the south side of the estate. My brother, age 4, and I, age 6, were highly insulted that we were not consulted. How rude! But we adjusted. Little did we realize that we were witnessing history […] The combination of a break in the pipe that undermined the foundation [of the Carriage House], unceremoniously jerking the greenhouse down with a truck and chain, and the bad aim of a Red Cross truck driver who missed the garage door and backed into the wall, the Carriage House was condemned in 1950”. It was demolished shortly after.

There’s plenty of other evidence that the house existed. This Fire Insurance Plan from 1911 shows where it would have been located on the property – at the far west edge. Different colours indicate different building materials – information the fire insurance companies were interested in as a wooden building would burn much more quickly than one built of sandstone. Blue indicates a stone building, red indicates brick, yellow or grey indicates wood. You can see that the Carriage House is blue, indicating it was built of stone. Lougheed House is also blue, but with yellow on the east end, which tells us that the 1907 additions had some wooden components.

Aerial photographs of Calgary from 1924 also shows the Carriage House still standing. These are some of the earliest aerial photographs of Calgary and the photographs were taken with a Vickers Viking Biplane from 7500 feet above ground. In total, 138 aerial photographs were taken of Calgary that year. See if you can find your house in them here!


Ironstone China

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These plates and platter (#15 and #16) were part of Lady Isabella Lougheed’s dinner service. They are ironstone china, or simply ironstone – a type of pottery made as cheaper, mass-produced substitute to porcelain. It was known by many names including semi-porcelain, opaque porcelain, English porcelain, stone china, and new stone. These plates were likely manufactured by G.L. Ashworth in Staffordshire, England in the late 19th century. The factory mark is visible, although not clearly, on the reverse of the plate.

Instructions for the first ironstone indicate a mixture of Cornwall clay, ironstone slag, flint and blue oxide of cobalt. But some historians believe that Charles Mason, the first producer of ironstone china, had provided a made-up recipe to fool his competitors. Samples of ironstone indicate that it has very little iron content. It seems that the name was likely created for marketing purposes – it combines the strength and durability of iron with the beauty and delicacy of china.

Transferware, or transfer-printed designs, were also popular as a cheaper alternative to Chinese porcelain. In this method, designs were first engraved on copper plates and then transferred to ironstone dishes before glazing and firing. Blue was a favourite colour. This particular service is a combination of transfer and hand-painted. There is a printed outline in blue, but some of the details are hand-painted.

The plates are painted with the Tree of Life pattern, a popular motif in many of the world’s mythologies. In Chinese mythology, the tree represents immortality. In Christianity, the Tree of Life represents one of the forbidden trees in the Garden of Eden and symbolizes the perfect state of humanity before the fall. Some interpretations equate it with the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’, while some say it was a different tree, and was one that would grant immortality. It was a favourite of Lady Lougheed’s.

-Caroline Loewen, Curator


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.

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