2018 - Lougheed House

Art Deco in Calgary, Building by Building

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by Adam Sarjeant, Lougheed House Admissions Assistant

Calgary contains more Art Deco than you might think: from the solid brick monumentality of Glenmore Water Treatment Plant, to the futurist weirdness of the AGT Phone Exchange, and even homey little Moderne House (a private residence in Mt. Pleasant so unassuming you might drive right past it). Deco was a style which was expressed in a popular sensibility, which leaked into every corner of our visual lives, and its history is told as much in the objects around us as in any art history textbook. This month, we’ll be exploring the growth and decline of Art Deco through three Calgary buildings representing three distinct periods of the style.

  1. The Bank of Nova Scotia (1929): Early Art Deco and Nationalism

It’s no coincidence that Art Deco began its rapid rise to popularity in the inter-war years; the ideological landscape of its time, and particularly that of its middle-upper class patrons, is inseparable from the movement. Critic Rossana Bossaglia[1] once described Deco as “…more of a taste than a style…”, emphasizing that Art Deco was not simply the brainchild of a movement of artists and craftspeople, but a response to the desires of their patrons, whose tastes were visibly dictated by their political milieu. For the futurist, Deco delivered an obsessive fetishism for the machined object, manifest in regular geometric forms, straight edges, regularity, precision. For the proto-fascist, constant reminders of a “classical” lineage, Greek and Roman motifs, Egyptian patterns, pompousness. For the capitalist, mass-produced disposability, fake opulence, and kitsch.

Like its European counterparts, Canadian Art Deco adapted to the political and social environment. When the Bank of Nova Scotia migrated from its original headquarters to Stephen Avenue in 1929, the new building was not only a way to expand its work space, but an opportunity to purchase a visible monument to its legitimacy as a competitor to Calgary’s many established banking firms.[2] John McIntosh Lyle, a prolific and popular architect who had studied abroad in France and New York, was selected for the job. Lyle was an outspoken proponent of the “City Beautiful” movement, and espoused the belief, like many of his contemporaries, that a return to old-fashioned European monumentality could restore order and moral “virtue” to North America.[3] In the economic chaos of the interwar period, it isn’t hard to imagine the value Calgary’s banks might place on the appearance of order, stability, and familiarity.

Lyle’s previous projects had also exposed a talent for appealing to an emerging sense of Canadian Nationalism. Canadians had proved highly receptive to the (often xenophobic) rhetoric of the pro-war Borden government; buoyed by a sense of collective achievement after the First World War, the newly minted nation flocked to anything which reaffirmed their national prestige. Lyle’s buildings capitalized on this sentiment by combining stylized Greco-Roman motifs with relief carvings of Canadian industry and landscapes, as well as local floral and faunal motifs. The building which resulted is a total-artwork dedicated to Canadian self-image, drawing a less than subtle parallel between European settlement and the vanguard of Classical Empire. The Bank’s bellicose themes mirrored those developing in Europe among nations which would soon be on the war-path; similar Greco-Roman motifs prevailed in Italy and Germany, establishing the visual rhetoric of the Fascist world.

Clifton ceramic handpainted vase, courtesy of Steve Archer

  1. Tivoli Theatre (1936): From Modern to “Moderne”

“Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.”

The 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition is often considered the climax of the Art Deco movement in North America. The tone of the above motto suggests a dramatic difference between the spirit of Deco in Europe and in America: more commercial, more capitalistic, more democratic. Whereas the design community of Europe had sprung from the guilds and workshops, making bespoke pieces for wealthy clientele, much of America had never known a time without the factory. Design was a limb of the great American culture machine, reproducible and accessible to the masses – for maximum profit.

When the Odeon Movie theatre chain came to Calgary in 1936, they were aware of the role aesthetics played in capturing the public imagination. Architecture was essential to the mystique of film, and theatres were expected to be palaces to the new. The form of the theatre had to be matched with the new Art Deco look presented on its screens. In many ways, Deco had arrived on Canada’s screens before it arrived in the Canadian home; popular American films featuring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire drew heavily on an growing pool of European emigré talent. Many of the great European film nations were becoming increasingly hostile to the avant-garde, meaning an exodus of German, Russian and Italian filmmakers, many of whom chose to settle in Los Angeles to take advantage of the lucrative studio system. American films had been overtaken by the new European style, at the same time that exploitative business practices, such as block- and blind-booking, were causing the American film industry to overtake all others.

Electrolux Model XXX (30) Vacuum Cleaner. Chrome-plated steel, vinyl, rubber. Designed by Lurelle Guild in 1937. Courtesy of Bill Ross

To allow these aggressively modern films to be shown in an environment which contradicted the fantasy of Deco glitz, such as the increasingly antique-looking Sherman Grand (constructed in 1912 by the Lougheeds), would have undermined the escapist fantasy the film chains prided themselves on. For Odeon’s Calgary debut, a new, if small, building would have to be constructed. The project was awarded to GBR (Green, Blankstein and Russel), a recently founded firm operating out of Winnipeg which was one of the few Canadian architecture firms operating in a modern style.[4] Later, the firm would help popularize the International Style in Canada with its Norquay Building and Winnipeg Post Office designs. But at this time, in 1936, when they designed the Tivoli theatre, GBR were arbiters of the American interpretation of Art Deco, a pop-art reinvention of the style known referred to as “Streamline Moderne,” or simply, “Moderne.”

The difference between the American Moderne form of Deco and its European counterparts is striking. In the early 20s, Art Deco simply hadn’t “taken” with the American consumer when it first crossed the Atlantic. Americans’ growing distrust of largely European immigrant population certainly played a part – many early proponents of Deco hailed from Europe, and the first official community of Deco artists, AUDAC (American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen) frequently held meetings in German.[5] Likewise, there seemed to be issues of a purely aesthetic kind: a 1929 issue of Good Furniture Magazine described audiences at a touring exhibition of Deco design as “baffled.”[6]

Clifton Vase. Ceramic, hand-painted, 1930. Courtesy of Steve Archer

It was a New York advertising firm by the name of Calkins & Holden which broke through the indifference. Calkins, a self-style marketing guru, believed that if consumers could be convinced their clothing had to be replaced whenever style dictated a change, the same could be made true for all products. The new American aesthetic would not be about a particular look, but a constant quest for novelty, which the firm conflated with American values of boldness, ingenuity and reinvention. Art Deco was new – Art Deco was available – Art Deco was seized by industrial America, not for its inherent meaning, but because it was what was cutting-edge at the time. Formerly ghettoized European designs were adopted and altered to American tastes, and draped over anything which could plausibly be called “new,” be it a train, a car, a telephone – or a movie theatre.

Not surprisingly, the Tivoli theatre was both a beneficiary and a victim of Calkins & Holden’s new system. Though it began as a roaring success, by the 40s it had already begun to look outdated. Never the less, it struggled on for 54 years, playing everything from Buck Rogers serials and musicals in the early 50s, to spaghetti westerns and pornography in the 70s.

  1. St. Mary’s Cathedral (1957): Deco in Retrospect

The reasons for the gradual decline in popularity of Art Deco are just as hotly debated as the forces that created it. What’s generally agreed is that it was generally “on its way out” by World War II. Among the totalitarian regimes of Europe, which in the 1910s and 20s had played host to some of Europe’s most vibrant design communities, growing paranoia had led to the expulsion, suppression or in extreme cases imprisonment of voices of the avant-garde, which were now regarded as subversive elements. In the “Democratic” Capitalist West, on the other hand, the rhetoric of progress through radical industrialization which had styled so much of the Art Deco’s self-image had led to market crashes, labour exploitation, corruption scandals, and host of other sources of political unrest and skepticism.

Man with Spear, bronze. Made by Bruno Yartel Date unknown. Courtesy of Israel Lachovsky

The New York World’s fair of 1939 was a paradigmatic example of the decline of Deco, a desperate attempt to recapture the highly lucrative consumer optimism of 1933. Despite advertising itself as a taste of the Utopian American future, it was from the beginning a shadowy and cynical affair. Corporate interests were allowed to sell wares directly on the grounds, and had enormous control over the goings-on; three months before the exhibition opened, 21 members of the Advisory Committee on Consumer Interests resigned in protest.[7] The most iconic event staged at the exhibition was also the most crass: a time capsule, sponsored by an electrical company, intended to remain sealed in Flushing Meadows until 6939. This so-called “account of universal achievements” contained, among other things, a kewpie doll, a Gillette razor, and a package of Camel cigarettes. The political conditions which had briefly allowed the commercial, governmental and artistic interests of Europe to come together in 1926 to create a harmonious new style, no longer existed, or had never existed, in America, where Art Deco had come to roost.

Fortunately, no style ever goes extinct without sending repercussions through future generations; Calgary’s St. Mary’s Cathedral is a perfect example of how, as late as 1957, Canadian architects continued to draw on Art Deco. Though its architect, Maxwell Bates, spent the majority of his career better known as a poet and expressionist painter, he had been raised in Canada’s architectural community, and returned to it in his later years. He had apprenticed at the firm created by his father, William Stanley Bates (see our March post) in the 20s, before quite suddenly giving up architecture for nearly twenty years. After a long sojourn Europe, he returned to Calgary to found his own firm in 1946.[8] When the firm received a commission to rebuild St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1957, bates created more than 400 preparatory sketches, eventually settling on a style which blended the contemporary Modernism with a now decidedly “old fashioned” Art Deco influence.[9] Bates recognized the kinship between the Cathedral’s religious and cultural function, its need to remind parishioners both of the history of the Church and to convey a sense of religious majesty, and the aims of Deco: to simultaneously recall and idealize the past, to modernize it and allow it to serve as an icon of a glorious future.

[1] Rossana Bossaglia, L’Arte Déco (Bari, 1984).

[2] Tom Morawetz. Art Deco Architecture Across Canada. (Toronto: Friesens, 2017), 17.

[3] Geoffrey Hunt, “John MacIntosh Lyle,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, September 8, 2009, accessed March 25, 2018, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/john-macintosh-lyle/.

[4] William P. Thompson, “Green, Blankstein, Russell,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, July 2, 2006, accessed April 06, 2018, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/green-blankstein-russell/.

[5] Mel Byars, “Introduction: What Makes American Design American?” in Richard Lawrence Leonard and C. Adolf Glassgold, Modern American Design (New York, 1930; reprinted New York 1992), pp. v-xix-.

[6] Nellie C. Sanford, “Modern Furniture Designed in America: It Must Meet American Living Conditions,” Good Furniture Magazine (April 1929).

[7] Charlotte Benton and Tim Benton, “Decline and Revival,” in Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, and Ghislaine Wood, Art Deco 1910-1939 (London: V & A, 2005).

[8] Joyce Zemans, “Maxwell Bates,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, May 21, 2008, , accessed April 07, 2018, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/maxwell-bates/.

[9] Morawetz, 97.

Events, programs & swordplay on the side. Meet Holleay Rohm.

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Creating events and programs that build people and communities.

A Q&A with our new Programs Manager, Holleay Rohm.

To someone who has never been to Lougheed House, or who may not be interested in history or museums, do programs offer a different way for people to engage with and learn from history than by viewing exhibits or artifacts?

Programs Manager Holleay Rohm

Programs are everyone’s opportunity to explore a variety of intricacies about Calgary’s – or the House’s – history, while giving each person a chance to self identify with that history. Programs also provide social opportunities that build or reinforce a sense of community. Our programs will always use history as the springboard to meeting some of the entertainment, social or self development needs of our audience. Ultimately, I want people who experience one of our events or programs to feel that they were supported enough to take risks or try new things and have a lot of fun.

Does Calgary’s demographic makeup influence how you’ve programmed at Telus Spark & how you intend to program for Lougheed House?

At Telus Spark, we focused on inquiry based, hands-on learning experiences. The fact that everything we did was an active instead of passive experience was key. In the 21st century, we are oversaturated with passive learning or entertainment experiences. Along with that, the lion’s share of those passive experiences can be accessed from the internet without ever having to leave our respective couches. Because of this, providing opportunities for people to actively “do” something within a program is key. It’s what motivates people to get in their car and go out because they know they’re going to have a great memory and a great story to tell their friends. Plus, hands on, immersive experiences generally appeal to people of all ages.

Lougheed House is a charming and charismatic Victorian mansion, very unique in a city that does not have much of its built history intact. How does our physical space assist you in creating great experiences for people? How does it hinder you?

Its great to have an aesthetic and ambiance built into where you’re working. Not having to spend as much time or budget on “setting the scene” is really helpful and frees up resources to invest in other parts of an event or program. I’m sure the shear square footage of the house could become a hindrance when I’m looking to develop programs for a large volume of audience. And due to maintenance and preservation of the house taking top priority… I may have to hold off on programming anything akin to a Jackson Pollock workshop… But, in my experience limits are never a bad thing in an innovative or creative process. If anything, limits are key to unlocking creative ideas.

You founded your own theatre company, and did programming for several others. Tell us what you like about live performance?

GP Family Theatre was founded in 2013. At first it was a short-term project between myself and one of my old colleagues from university. She had just moved back to her hometown of Okotoks and wanted to bring live theatre to her community. When we started, I thought we were going to do one show and call it a day. Well, that was 11 shows, several drama classes and workshops, and five years ago! I am very proud of the work we’ve done and the loyal audience we’ve been able to grow over time. Our mandate is around providing family friendly theatre that can appeal to anyone, whether they are two or 92. Because of that, and how we scaffold the entire event of our shows towards an inclusive family experience, we’ve now become more than just a theatre company but an annual tradition that the wider community enjoys together.

Working in the cultural sector means you work a lot of hours, including evenings. What is your favourite personal interest when you’re not working?
One of my personal passions is connected to my theatre background: stage combat. Basically, anything where I get to use a sword! Swordplay is part of the wide tradition of historical western martial arts, but my favourite styles involve small sword or rapier. I’m super nerdy about it. I love the historical context, as well as the physical and mental challenges of the work. I also love working within the context of stage combat because it’s an environment that is collaborative and based on teamwork rather than combative. You’re learning to take care of yourself and your partner while at the same time learning how best to give an audience an exciting performance that gives the illusion of violence.  It’s truly the most fun!

 

 

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Creating events and programs that build people and communities.

A Q&A with our new Programs Manager, Holleay Rohm.

To someone who has never been to Lougheed House, or who may not be interested in history or museums, do programs offer a different way for people to engage with and learn from history than by viewing exhibits or artifacts?

Programs are everyone’s opportunity to explore a variety of intricacies about Calgary’s – or the House’s – history, while giving each person a chance to self identify with that history. Programs also provide social opportunities that build or reinforce a sense of community. Our programs will always use history as the springboard to meeting some of the entertainment, social or self development needs of our audience. Ultimately, I want people who experience one of our events or programs to feel that they were supported enough to take risks or try new things and have a lot of fun.

Programs Manager Holleay Rohm

Does Calgary’s demographic makeup influence how you’ve programmed at Telus Spark & how you intend to program for Lougheed House?

At Telus Spark, we focused on inquiry based, hands-on learning experiences. The fact that everything we did was an active instead of passive experience was key. In the 21st century, we are oversaturated with passive learning or entertainment experiences. Along with that, the lion’s share of those passive experiences can be accessed from the internet without ever having to leave our respective couches. Because of this, providing opportunities for people to actively “do” something within a program is key. It’s what motivates people to get in their car and go out because they know they’re going to have a great memory and a great story to tell their friends. Plus, hands on, immersive experiences generally appeal to people of all ages.

Lougheed House is a charming and charismatic Victorian mansion, very unique in a city that does not have much of its built history intact. How does our physical space assist you in creating great experiences for people? How does it hinder you?

Its great to have an aesthetic and ambiance built into where you’re working. Not having to spend as much time or budget on “setting the scene” is really helpful and frees up resources to invest in other parts of an event or program. I’m sure the shear square footage of the house could become a hindrance when I’m looking to develop programs for a large volume of audience. And due to maintenance and preservation of the house taking top priority… I may have to hold off on programming anything akin to a Jackson Pollock workshop… But, in my experience limits are never a bad thing in an innovative or creative process. If anything, limits are key to unlocking creative ideas.

You founded your own theatre company, and did programming for several others. Tell us what you like about live performance?

GP Family Theatre was founded in 2013. At first it was a short-term project between myself and one of my old colleagues from university. She had just moved back to her hometown of Okotoks and wanted to bring live theatre to her community. When we started, I thought we were going to do one show and call it a day. Well, that was 11 shows, several drama classes and workshops, and five years ago! I am very proud of the work we’ve done and the loyal audience we’ve been able to grow over time. Our mandate is around providing family friendly theatre that can appeal to anyone, whether they are two or 92. Because of that, and how we scaffold the entire event of our shows towards an inclusive family experience, we’ve now become more than just a theatre company but an annual tradition that the wider community enjoys together.

Working in the cultural sector means you work a lot of hours, including evenings. What is your favourite personal interest when you’re not working?
One of my personal passions is connected to my theatre background: stage combat. Basically, anything where I get to use a sword! Swordplay is part of the wide tradition of historical western martial arts, but my favourite styles involve small sword or rapier. I’m super nerdy about it. I love the historical context, as well as the physical and mental challenges of the work. I also love working it on the context of stage combat in live theatre because it’s an environment that is collaborative and based on teamwork rather than combative. You’re learning to take care of yourself and your partner while at the same time learning how best to give an audience an exciting performance that gives the illusion of violence.  It’s truly the most fun!

 

 

Exit The Tramp.

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In anticipation of our April 5 screening of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, here’s a great article by Saul Austerlitz about the film, the actor and the era, all of which were changing irrevocably.

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1656-modern-times-exit-the-tramp

Click for tickets

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times film screening

Meet our Development Manager Sean French

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“I’m an asker and a listener,” said Sean French. “I’ve learned that by doing both of those things, I can connect people with each other. When people are connected, great things happen in our community.”

Sean is the new Development Manager at Lougheed House, and we are thrilled to have his wealth of fund development experience at our disposal. Holding degrees in English (Dalhousie) and Public Relations (Mount Royal) he’s an avid student of historical places.

“I’ve always had a passion for Calgary’s historic shared spaces,” said Sean, who has had senior fundraising and communications roles with well-known and hard-working agencies like The Brenda Strafford Society, Vecova and The Canadian Cancer Society.

Sean is eager to help realize Lougheed House priorities of revitalizing programming, enhancing the visitor experience, building profile and connection, and building organizational capacity and sustainability. He is proud to bring his experience and personality to energizing the conservation of Lougheed House, Calgary’s historical gem.

“As Lougheed House continues to build on its established network of volunteers, friends and active financial donors we’ll achieve our goals and grow into an ever more vital and valued asset to Calgary,” he added.

Sean seeks to spark the joy of giving in donors and supporters. He likes to celebrate the tales of how and why they are making their mark in the community. He welcomes every opportunity to discuss the great community resource that is Lougheed House and invites you to call 244.6333 x 149 or email sfrench@lougheedhouse.com to arrange a good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.

In his free time Sean serves on the board of the Dalhousie Community Association as past president and enjoys family time, skiing and playing hockey, badly.

 

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Meeting “Millionaire’s Row.”

When the Lougheeds completed construction in 1891 on their lavish new sandstone estate, the property could be generously described as “in the middle of nowhere.” The 2.6 acres of grounds adjoined 10 empty lots, on the east side of what is now 6th Street SW. Our savvy Senator Lougheed had purchased these adjoining lots with his law partner Peter McCarthy, speculating that their value would increase once the land was annexed by the city. Two years later, they were proven very right, very lucratively. Peter McCarthy constructed his own lavish home across from the Lougheed estate, on the site now occupied by the Ranchman’s Club. Spurred by the presence of two of Calgary’s wealthiest up-and-comers, 13th Ave. soon began to amass a reputation as home to the rich and famous of Calgary’s new-money society, as more and more of Alberta’s aristocrats flocked to the conveniently located neighbourhood that historians would later refer to as “Millionaire’s Row” (in spite of the fact that in the 1890s the entire property of the Lougheeds amounted to roughly $70,000 – which was an extraordinary sum).

The era of Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth, of the Rockefellers and the Robber-Barons had finally come to Calgary; the only thing more ostentatious than the wealth of these first-families of the New West was their homes. So let’s meet the neighbours

Patrick Burns, The Meat Magnate

In 1901 Patrick Burns completed work on one of Millionaire Row’s most opulent estates: a $32,000 mansion located on the site of the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre. The enormous 18-room sandstone building was built to celebrate Burns’ recent marriage to the daughter of a wealthy BC meat-packing family, which neatly complemented his business interests. Not satisfied with size alone, Burns also hired one of Canada’s leading architects, Francis Rattenbury, a British émigré who had recently completed work on Victoria’s (famously expensive) BC Parliament Buildings, which had gone scandalously over budget by $400,000 to achieve Rattenbury’s ornate Neo-Baroque aesthetic. Characteristic of Burns’ hunger for prestige, even the contractor, Thomas Underwood, was a City Council member, and from 1902-4 went on to become Mayor. Such patronage among business and political allies was common at the time; as late as the early 20s, near the end of his life, James Lougheed himself was quoted defending political kick-backs: “What reason is there why a good party man should not get a good public office provided he is equal to the duties of the task?”

Burns had launched his career by creating a unique mobile slaughtering facility used to provision railway labourers working on a line between Quebec and Maine. Using the substantial capital raised from this bizarre contract, Burns moved to Calgary to establish his first (non-mobile) slaughterhouse in the early 1890s. The lucrative facility financed several others across Western Canada. By the time “Burns Manor” was constructed in 1901, P. Burns & Co. (later Burns Foods) dominated the market for meat packing in Western Canada, buying out local competitors, including those of another notable Calgarian business magnate, William Roper Hull. By the end of his life, Burns’ land holdings in Alberta were so extensive that he could travel from Calgary to the southern border without setting foot on land he didn’t own.

The Bates House

Located directly across from the Lougheed’s beloved Bealieu was a home that didn’t quite fit the Millionaire’s Row mould; small (by that neighbourhood’s standards) but exquisitely constructed; modest brick, rather than monumental sandstone; and built in the Arts-and-Crafts tradition which was sweeping the homes of the fashionable down south. William Stanley Bates, Calgary’s foremost architect, was both the designer and the occupant of this exquisite early modernist structure. Bates had made a tidy living designing much of what today constitutes historic downtown Calgary: The Grain Exchange (1909), the Burns Building (1912), the Beveridge Block (1912) among many others. But it was the interior of the home which was truly remarkable. The poet P.K. Page once described the elegant home from memory:

“It was the living room of the house that I remember especially… The furniture – dark oak – was intricately carved, in many cases by the Bateses themselves, and innumerable objet d’art – fashioned of silver or ivory… There, under the hanging Tiffany lamp, we supported unwieldy copies of Chums… inset on either side of the fireplace were bookcases with leaded glass art nouveau doors, containing the latest issues of The Studio…”

 

Calgary: development, settlement, and expansion

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The early history of the Calgary region was shaped by a number of factors and significant events, and it is valuable to more closely examine this period of history to better understand how Calgary grew to become the city that it is today. For simplicity sake, the early history of Calgary can be divided into pre-settlement, early contact, and expansion phases of development. During each one of these phases a series of events influenced the future of the city and shaped the composition and character of Calgary as it is known today. By examining the early history of the region in light of these developments, it is easier to understand the history of the Lougheed House and other historical landmarks in the city.

Long before European pioneers and settlers came to the region, Indigenous nomadic peoples occupied the Calgary region for several thousands of years. In fact, archeological evidence consisting of arrowheads found in ploughed fields to the east of the city suggest that Indigenous peoples had occupied the Calgary region for at least 12,000 years.[1] This period of occupation coincided with the end of the last ice age when the climate was warming and glaciers were receding from the Bow Valley. Since that time, successive cycles of nomadic tribes occupied the area, with the last group major group being the Blackfoot from the Eastern Woodlands.[2] Later arrivals included the Sarcee who immigrated from the north and the Stoney who immigrated from the eastern plains.[3] While this period was the longest duration of habitation in the Calgary area, little is known owing to a lack of recorded documents. Nonetheless, greater attention has been paid to this early history of Calgary in recent decades, particularly as archaeological evidence sheds light on pre-settlement history of the region.

John Glenn, c. 1873-1886

By the late eighteenth-century trading and cartographical initiatives brought Europeans to the region. In 1787 the cartographer David Thompson spent the winter along the Bow River with Piikani people.[4] Thompson’s stay in the region was transitory, however, and it wasn’t for nearly another hundred years that the first European settler began operating in the region. In 1873 John Glenn, an Irish immigrant who had fought in the Civil War, built a cabin near the confluence of the Bow River and Fish Creek.[5] Writing in his journal, Glenn stated that he “liked the climate [in Calgary] better than anywhere between the Atlantic and the Pacific; the Rio Grande and the Peace, over all of which territory [which he] had travelled.”[6]  While Glenn was the first settler in the region, in 1875 the North-West Mounted Police, the predecessors to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, quickly became involved in the in the Calgary area to protect Canadian fur trading interests and control illegal American whisky smuggling in the region. In 1875 the North-West Mounted Police constructed Fort-Brisebois as part of an initiative to protect the western plains from American whisky traders. Shortly after its construction, Fort Brisebois was renamed Fort Calgary.

First Canadian Pacific Railway station, Calgary, Alberta, 1884, Courtesy Glenbow Archives, NA-659-18

Following this initial period of settlement, Calgary underwent a period of growth and began to take on some of the features for which it is known for today. In 1881 construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway began as a project intended to secure political and economic unity, and by 1884 the railway had been constructed through the Calgary region. In November of the same year, Calgary was officially incorporated as a town under the North-West Territories Ordnance.[7] The passage of the Canadian Pacific Railway through Calgary ensured that the city became natural place for future population growth.[8] By 1894, the town of Calgary was officially incorporated as a city under Chapter 33 of the Ordinance of the North-West Territories with a population of 3,900 people.[9] Following the construction of the railway and the incorporation of the settlement into a city and town, large numbers of homesteaders began arriving in the area between 1896-1914 and generated rapid population growth. When Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s Liberals defeated Charles Tupper’s Conservatives 1896, the Canadian Government began to aggressively promote immigration as part of a national strategy to settle the West. From 1896 to 1905 the number of immigrants to Canada increased by more than eight-fold, and many new comers found new homes on the prairies.[10] The government sought immigrants specifically from farming backgrounds, with the architect of the new policy, Clifford Sifton, describing his ideal settler as a “stalwart peasant” whose “forefathers have been farmers for ten generations.”[11] Partly as a consequence of Sifton’s immigration policy, agriculture and ranching became key components of the local economy, an element of Calgary’s economy which remains to the present day.

While the history of Calgary does not end with the examination of these three phases, it is nonetheless easier to understand the historical roots of the city within this context. In the first phase of the early history of Calgary Indigenous nomadic people use the area for thousands of years and created lasting ties with the land that remain to the present day. In the second phase, early explorers and settlers, represented by David Thompson and John Glenn, stayed in the area and began to create patterns that would play out in future development. While this early period of settlement established the beginnings of a period of change in the region, the scale of change, however, remained relatively small. Finally, lasting change was symbolized by the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the incorporation of the town of Calgary, and the rapid population growth created by federal settlement policies. In each one of these periods decisions were made that would influence the future growth of the city. While the ultimate outcome of these developments has yet to be determined, their influence on the history of Calgary today should not be forgotten.

-Sam Kerr, Event Host and Volunteer

[1] “Calgary,” Cities and Populated Places, The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed February 1, 2018,

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/calgary/

[2] The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Calgary.”

[3] The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Calgary.”

[4] The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Calgary.”

[5] “John Glenn: Calgary’s First European Settler,” John Glenn, accessed February 6, 2018,

http://www.johnglenn.ca/

[6] John Glenn, “Calgary’s First European Settler.”

[7] “Historical Information,” The City of Calgary, accessed February 6th, 2018,

http://www.calgary.ca/CA/city-clerks/Pages/Corporate-records/Archives/Historical-information/Historical-Information.aspx

[8] The City of Calgary. “Historical Information.”

[9] The City of Calgary. “Historical Information.”

[10] Dominions Land Act,” Immigration and Settlement, The Canadian Encyclopedia, accessed February 6, 2018,

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/dominion-lands-policy/

[11] The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Dominions Land Act.”

This Looks Familiar: our Mission Room, Art Deco and the New Style

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This Looks Familiar…

While checking out the exhibit, you may a recognize a few design features from our Mission Room: long, simple rectilinear shapes, squared corners, hard edges. While the design of our 1907 wing dates from a decade and a half before the Deco movement was in full swing, the “Mission Style” after which it was named, certainly shares a lineage with the daring New Style of the 1920s.

Our Mission Room decorated for Christmas, 2017

The first steps toward a truly modern look in Europe and North America were taken in the late 19th century by the Arts and Crafts Movement, a loose but highly self-aware group of designers, lead by John Ruskin, William Morris and others. Ruskin’s writing formed the philosophical backbone of the movement, disavowing “servile labour,” and demanding the reinstatement of the “craftsman-designer” as the motivating factor of design. More important for the history of design, however, was that the aesthetic heart of the movement stemmed from the removal of all ornamentation. It was the opinion of the Arts and Crafts Movement that anything which was not essential to the structure of a house, a piece furniture, an image, or etc. was a distraction from its true “beauty.”

Despite the Movement’s ideological opposition to industrialized art, their designs soon became enormously popular with factory owners, who discovered that the simplicity of these designs made them easy to reproduce on an industrial scale. The aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts Movement became the aesthetic of the industrial process: simple, minimal and devoid of ornament. Inspired by a chair designed by A.J. Forbes of the Arts and Crafts Movement for a Swedenborgian Church (hence “Mission Style”), New York-based industrialist Joseph P. McHugh ordered the production of an enormously popular line of furniture and décor. Less than a decade later, this quintessentially machine-made look formed both a new direction for designers moving away from Arte Nouveau and towards Deco, and for the chic selection of catalogue interiors from which the Lougheeds selected their new room.

“obliterating the old”. The 1925 Exposition and the “New Style”

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By now, you’ve probably taken at least a quick look at our exciting new exhibit, The Future Looked Bright: Art Deco in Everyday Life. Throughout the late 20s and well into the 40s, Art Deco was an extremely popular aesthetic that invaded nearly every facet of fashionable life.

But where did it come from?

The name “Art Deco” comes from the title of the Parisian Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, one of the largest, most opulent, and arguably the last of the great European exhibitions. Originally conceived in 1912 to take place in 1915, the Exposition was placed on hiatus by the outbreak of WWI. It was nearly a decade before planning began anew, during which time the European design scene underwent a radical transformation. In 1912, the premier aesthetic of the European design world had been Arte Nouveau, a playful, curvilinear style which softened the neoclassical look of the late 19th century into organic forms, experimenting with and exploring European high society’s interest in the new biologiocal sciences, non-linear forms, and sumptuous ostentatiousness. By 1925, the climate had changed; cubism challenged the old art with hard, masculine forms; futurism, an Italian proto-fascist movement, created images that lionized violent cultural “growth” and industrialization; the Bauhaus School demanded that design be sleek, efficient, and reproducible.

Art Deco-style Fada radio, from The Future Looked Bright: Art Deco in Everyday Life, at Lougheed House until April 29, 2018

Clifton hand-painted ceramic Art Deco vase, 1930

The style that emerged at the 1925 Exposition fused avant-garde aesthetics with new forms devised in the factories and workshops: simple, geometric shapes which could be achieved easily with new machinery, used to create simplifications of monumental Greek, Roman and Egyptian forms with elements of Chinese and Japanese style. Though many of the first wave of Deco designers had started their careers in the old Nouveau style, the rhetoric of the day espoused not only the replacement, but the full-on “obliteration” of the old. Le Corbusier, considered one of the first truly modernist designers, perfectly expressed the violence inherent in this conflict of styles, when he said of the Expo, “1925 marks the decisive turning point in the battle between the old and the new. After 1925 the antique lovers will have virtually ended their lives…”

The Exposition housed some of the greatest architectural and industrial achievements of its time. The Grand Palais alone offered 30,000 square meters of exhibition space; from there, the pavilions ran from its entrance, crowded along both banks of the Seine, and continued a total of 1.6 kilometers to the south, ending on the doorstep of Les Invalides. Standing fifteen meters tall, a fountain made entirely of cast glass, designed by René Lalique, encouraged comparisons to the similarly opulent Crystal Palace constructed for the World Exhibition in London in 1851. Pavilions were erected by some of the greatest architects of the era, featuring work by Pierre Patout, Henri Sauvage, and the aforementioned Le Corbusier, commissioned by nations, companies, and even wealthy individuals. One pavillion funded by a wealthy patron, the Hôtel du Collectionneur, housed an entire gallery representing some of the best, and most expensive, work available to private tastes.

Revolution at Home and Abroad

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The year 1917 was one of revolutionary change, both peaceful and violent. Early in the year, the February Revolution forced the abdication of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, marking the end of 196 years of aristocratic rule in Russia. The Russian Civil War followed soon after, beginning with the ousting of the provisional government. Three years of violent conflict would follow, largely between the “Red” and “White” revolutionary armies, but also including numerous other factions and intervening foreign powers.

In November, British Columbia and Ontario joined Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in extending the vote to women, an example Canada’s federal government followed in 1918. Over the past twenty years, Canadian suffragists had been succeeding in incremental expansions of women’s voting rights in Canada; 1917 marked the climax of their largest push for enfranchisement.

A less obvious, economic revolution was also underway in 1917: in July, Sir William Thomas White, a Conservative MP, introduced Canada’s first income tax as a “temporary” war measure. The bill proposed a progressive tax, with brackets between 4% and 25%, according to income.