2018 - Lougheed House

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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,


[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,


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

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


[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,


[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.

The Year was 1917

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If You Thought 2017 Was a Big Year…

…then hold on to your britches, because we’re about to hop into our time machine and take a trip back to 1917!

Clarence Lougheed (centre, front) and other officers in WWI.

First up, what were the Lougheeds doing in 1917? For the family, the years of the Great War were marked by triumph and tragedy. Sir Lougheed was splitting his efforts between his personal real estate and law operations in Calgary, and a newly created wartime cabinet position in Ottawa. Despite possessing a background in law, not medicine, and possessing no military experience, Senator Lougheed was appointed Chair of Military Hospitals in 1915. The Senator’s style was described by his colleagues as effective, if authoritarian. The previous year (1916), Sir James Lougheed had been knighted for his work in this new role. As the war neared its end, more than 30,000 widows and children of those lost in the war, as well as 70,000 disabled veterans, were under Lougheed’s jurisdiction, making 1917 a banner year in Sir James Lougheed’s career.

1917 also brought hardship to the Lougheed family. Clarence (the Lougheed’s first “son & heir”) and Douglas (their fourth son) were at war, having enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Curiously, the family lost neither of the two young men; instead, they lost their youngest daughter Marjorie, at home. Described as infirm since birth, Marjorie contracted influenza at the age of twelve, and died in Victoria on February 18, 1917, where she and Lady Isabella had travelled in hope of aiding her recovery. At the time, it was believed that a change in climate was the best treatment for respiratory illness.

Examining Lincrusta

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Visitors at the Lougheed House often ask about the wall covering material that is found throughout the lower level, but is particularly remarkable in the main hall. Lincrusta was a common wall covering material that was used throughout the Lougheed House, and was embossed and painted gold for decorative effect. An unpainted sample of Lincrusta can be found in the closet to right of the fireplace beneath the musk-ox head, and displays the unique properties of the material. If you have an opportunity to hold this sample, it will immediately be clear that the material is pliable and has a unique composition. While this sample has become brittle over time, it still demonstrates the unique properties of lincrusta.

Lincrusta was invented by Fredrick Walton in 1877. After noticing oxidized linseed oil (also known as flaxseed) had formed a flexible material over a can of paint, Walton noted that this substance could be modified to produce a substitute for natural rubber. After experimenting with linseed oil and wood flour, Walton created a floor covering that he termed linoleum, which he derived from the Latin words for flax, “linum,” and oil, “oleum.” Building on the development of linoleum, Walton began to develop a wall covering incorporating the same technology, and by the late 1870s Walton had developed Lincrusta, a versatile wall covering that was originally patented as Linoleum Muralis – linoleum for walls. The success of Lincrusta was that the wall covering had a “warm and comfortable” effect and “would not warp or be eaten by worms.”[1] Additionally, Victorians noted that unlike stone or terracotta, Lincrusta had a low heat capacity, meaning that it would not be “cold in winter and hot in summer.”[2]

In 1891, Lincrusta was just one of many new technologies that was incorporated into the construction of the Lougheed’s new mansion. The Lougheed House also made use of electric lighting (which had been incorporated into some homes since the 1880s), indoor plumbing, and a telephone line. While it is tempting to think of Victorian homes as existing at a time when technology was not constantly upending and reshaping living spaces like it is today, the reality was quite different. Victorian buildings often incorporated the latest developments of interior design, and profited considerably from incorporating new technologies that could be used by residents. Fortunately, Lincrusta proved to be a material that withstood the test of time, and while it is uncommon in residential properties today, it is still used in hotels, restaurants, and public buildings around the world. Today, Lincrusta is manufactured by Heritage Wall Coverings Ltd. in Morecambe, England, and while it no longer represents the cutting edge of manufacturing, it is still regarded as a versatile and attractive material with a plethora of potential uses.

-Sam Kerr, Interpreter and Event Host

[1] Pamela Simpson, Cheap, Quick, & Easy: Imitative Architectural Materials, 1870-1930 (Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1999), 104.

[2] Simpson, Imitative Architectural Materials, 104-105.

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