March 2018 - Lougheed House

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 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,

[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.

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