Jennifer Mickle keeps our organization organized

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Meet Jennifer Mickle, our new Lougheed House

Administration Coordinator

 

What sparked your original interest in history/heritage?

My love of history, heritage and culture was nurtured by my parents and I have passed it along to my three sons. During travels, we seek out historical sites, museums and galleries and my engagement truly began when I visited the Fortress of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island, as a young teenager. As all the interpreters are in period character, we were asked at the gate why we wanted entry. My godmother answered, ” I am a mail-order bride whose clothing washed over board in a storm. A kind sailor gave me some of his clothing.” She was instantly granted entry and I followed her saying, “I’m with her.”

You leapt from working in a Manitoba fire and EMS office – a place literally driven by crisis – to a National and Provincial Historic Site in Calgary. One place is about being urgently responsive, one is about preserving and interpreting history for the wide community. Are you finding a big difference, administratively?

In addition to the fire/EMS department, I have also worked in human resources, at a vet clinic, insurance/investment company, two colleges, a retail store and with several society boards. I can honestly say that many of the same administrative problems exist everywhere. Effective communication and data management are always issues. Although emergency services are fast paced, administration follows the same pace everywhere; hectic with multiple needs and deadlines colliding. My old department had an on-site museum displaying over 100 years of history specific to Brandon Manitoba, as well as a division that performed inspections and provided fire prevention educational programming. Of all my previous work locations, the fire/EMS department compliments my position here at Lougheed House the best.

You’re studying for a certification in genealogy. What do you like about that subject?

Genealogy is the study of a family’s history. Although it is based in birth-marriage-death dates, it is also about the where, why, and how a family has lived.  For me, the study of genealogy is the culmination of the many stories of my family. Stories are what Lougheed House is known for and I could not have found a better fit than helping the House share its family’s many stories.

What is the key to keeping an office organized?

Collaboration!  To make this happen, I look at how the organization communicates, dynamics between departments and breaking down any walls between them, fostering changes that move us closer to the strategic vision, helping people adapt to change, and utilizing individual skillsets to good effect.

 

Jennifer Mickle keeps our organization organized

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

 

Meet Jennifer Mickle, our new Lougheed House

Administration Coordinator

 

What sparked your original interest in history/heritage?

My love of history, heritage and culture was nurtured by my parents and I have passed it along to my three sons. During travels, we seek out historical sites, museums and galleries and my engagement truly began when I visited the Fortress of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island, as a young teenager. As all the interpreters are in period character, we were asked at the gate why we wanted entry. My godmother answered, ” I am a mail-order bride whose clothing washed over board in a storm. A kind sailor gave me some of his clothing.” She was instantly granted entry and I followed her saying, “I’m with her.”

You leapt from working in a Manitoba fire and EMS office – a place literally driven by crisis – to a small heritage property in Calgary. One place is about being urgently responsive, one is about preservation and interpretation. Are you finding a big difference, administratively?

In addition to the fire/EMS department, I have also worked in human resources, at a vet clinic, insurance/investment company, two colleges, a retail store and with several society boards. I can honestly say that many of the same administrative problems exist everywhere. Effective communication and data management are always issues. Although emergency services are fast paced, administration follows the same pace everywhere; hectic with multiple needs and deadlines colliding. My old department had an on-site museum displaying over 100 years of history specific to Brandon Manitoba, as well as a division that performed inspections and provided fire prevention educational programming. Of all my previous work locations, the fire/EMS department compliments my position here at Lougheed House the best.

You’re studying for a certification in genealogy. What do you like about that subject?

Genealogy is the study of a family’s history. Although it is based in birth-marriage-death dates, it is also about the where, why, and how a family has lived.  For me, the study of genealogy is the culmination of the many stories of my family. Stories are what Lougheed House is known for and I could not have found a better fit than helping the House share its family’s many stories.
What is the key to keeping an office organized?

Collaboration!  To make this happen, I look at how the organization communicates, dynamics between departments and breaking down any walls between them, fostering changes that move us closer to the strategic vision, helping people adapt to change, and utilizing individual skillsets to good effect.

 

Marquis wheat and Canada’s “heroic” 19th century ag scientist William Saunders

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by Adam Sarjeant, Lougheed House Admissions Assistant

It’s summer, and so Lougheed House celebrates all things green and leafy in our Gardens and in our just-closed “Wild in the West” exhibition of botanical illustrations by the Botanical Artists’ Guild of Southern Alberta. From May 9 to June 10, we joined with museums and galleries in 25 countries on six continents to celebrate Botanical Art Worldwide, an international event promoting botanical illustrators creating works based on indigenous plant species.

These days, with all our emphasis on our transitioning modern economy, it can be easy to forget that Alberta was once entirely plant dependent. And not just plant dependent; for most of our history as a province, Alberta was reliant on a single strain of wheat to fuel our entire agricultural economy! This month, we’re giving a great big “Thank you” to Marquis Wheat, and the magnificent Saunders family who created it!

  1. William Saunders (1836-1914)

William Saunders (druggist, entomologist, biologist, agriculturalist, geneticist, etc., etc.) was a living, breathing study in the grand scientific shift taking place at the turn of the 20th century. Saunders’s education was a product of 19th century “heroic” science: sporadic efforts being made primarily by independent (sometimes even travelling) scientists, publishing their work in journals with little or no oversight or quality control. Some of these scientists were hobbyists; others, like Saunders, were a product of the new scientific economy, making their modest income through recent innovations in medicine, engineering, chemistry, or other fields of applied science.

Saunders began his career as a Druggist (what we today would call a Pharmacist), though he most likely would have referred to himself as a specialist in “Materia Medica,” or the study of the medical properties of plants. By the standards of the early 20th century, when scientists were beginning to organize into institutions, develop systems of peer review, and organize their work into scientific canons, “Materia Medica” was increasingly seen as a pseudo-science, based more often on obscure, centuries-old texts and folklore than in verifiable experimental data. However, this increasingly outdated scientific system had furnished Saunders with a unique skill-set which bridged medicine and agriculture. As a result of his belief that medicine and the rearing of plants were inextricable studies, Saunders was also an early adopter of experimental techniques for the improvement of crops. At first, this lead him to explore entomology, as a means of understanding the relationship between pest insects and plant disease. But his interest soon began to shift to fruit plant hybridization, and in 1869 he purchased a farm east of London, Ontario, with which to establish one of the first experimental farms for plant breeding in Canada.[1]

Saunders may have begun his career as a relic of the old ways of doing things, but this new interest in experimental farming would gradually re-shape his work into an example of what the new, empirical scientific process could do – but not without a dash of old-fashioned know-how.

  1. The Dominion Experimental Farms System, and the Creation of Marquis Wheat

Despite being a successful agricultural nation, Canada had faced a significant problem with its wheat production for centuries: chiefly, that the varieties of wheat grown in Europe and imported to North America were not acclimatized to our unique Canadian climate. Common Canadian varietals at the time often did not ripen early enough to avoid early frosts which could devastate grain harvests. The Liberal-Conservative government (under Sir John A. MacDonald) recognized the successes of continental efforts in Experimental Agriculture, and in 1886 William Saunders was named Director of the Dominion Experimental Farms System, owing in no small part to his acquaintance with Commissioner of Agriculture John Carling.[2]

Wheat field photo courtesy Pixabay

Saunders’ first act as Director was a gruelling tour of Western Canada’s farms by coach, during which he examined and collected wheat varietals, consulted with farmers, and examined climatological factors in growth. It was during this time that he became familiar with Halychanka wheat, also known as Galician or Red Fife. Of the grain varietals currently in use in Western Canada, only Halychanka (originally from Eastern Germany and Ukraine) and Ladoga (from Russia) displayed an early enough ripening season to match the Canadian climate. To broaden the scope of his experiments, Saunders also imported numerous varieties from across Europe. Tragically, in the experimental plantings which followed, not a single varietal showed the necessary qualities for Canadian cultivation – except for Halychanka. If a Canadian-friendly grain was ever to be bred, it would have to be derived from this unusual Eastern European strain.[3]

Despite having no formal academic background, it was up to William Saunders and two of his sons, A.P. and Charles Saunders, to import modern plant husbanding techniques based on early genetic theory, in order to establish a system for evaluating grain which very closely resembled modern empirical methodology. However, when supply issues during the winter of 1903-4 temporarily deprived Saunders of a properly stocked laboratory, he reverted to his pre-modern roots, and created a way of gauging quality which, though not particularly reproducible, was surprisingly effective. Saunders would place several grains of wheat in his mouth and chew them to create a “dough ball.” From this he could loosely evaluate the grain’s gluten elasticity, giving him a rough estimate of its milling and baking qualities. Later, when the lab was properly established, it turned out that Saunders’ estimates based on chewing were virtually identical to the lab evaluations.[4]

Over numerous generations, and possibly through the addition of Ladoga and Hard Red Calcutta (and Indian hybrid), The Experimental Farms System not only achieved an earlier-ripening strain, but managed (with no small amount of luck) to fortify it with an unusually high average yield, and with stalks which rarely laid flat (a useful trait for harvesting). In 1912, the new variety, dubbed “Markham” (changed to Marquis by 1906) was shipped to a small number of farms across Canada and the Northern United States.[5] [6] The resultant increase in yield from these seeds was immediately obvious, and farmers quickly diverted production to the new strain.

By 1918, Marquis wheat occupied over 80 per cent of the total wheat acreage of Canada and the Northern United States. The increase in total production resulting from the new strain fundamentally changed Canada’s economy: formerly a high-quality but low-yield producer, in a handful of years Canada became the highest per capita wheat producer in the world. This new economic status quo reverberated throughout the political world. The surplus wheat significantly influenced supply during the First World War, providing a distinct advantage to Canada’s allies. Canadian farmers and farmer’s unions became massively influential, shifting the balance of democratic power – particularly in Alberta, where in 1921 the United Farmer’s Association achieved a surprise majority in the provincial legislature, setting the stage for the economically pro-socialist but culturally conservative political landscape which would last until the 1967 Conservative coup.[7]

[1] Ian M. Stewart, “SAUNDERS, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 3, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/saunders_william_14E.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Stephan Symko, “From a Single Seed – Tracing the Marquis Wheat Success Story in Canada to Its Roots in Ukraine (1 of 11),” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), December 11, 2015, accessed June 08, 2018, http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/news/scientific-achievements-in-agriculture/from-a-single-seed-tracing-the-marquis-wheat-success-story-in-canada-to-its-roots-in-ukraine-1of11/?id=1181224838769.

[4] Ibid.

[5] George Fedak, “Marquis Wheat,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, April 23, 2013, , accessed June 08, 2018, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/marquis-wheat/.

[6] Symko, ibid.

[7] Fedak, ibid.

Marquis wheat and Canada’s “heroic” 19th century ag scientist William Saunders

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by Adam Sarjeant, Lougheed House Admissions Assistant

It’s summer, and so Lougheed House celebrates all things green and leafy in our Gardens and in our just-closed “Wild in the West” exhibition of botanical illustrations by the Botanical Artists’ Guild of Southern Alberta. From May 9 to June 10, we joined with museums and galleries in 25 countries on six continents to celebrate Botanical Art Worldwide, an international event promoting botanical illustrators creating works based on indigenous plant species.

These days, with all our emphasis on our transitioning modern economy, it can be easy to forget that Alberta was once entirely plant dependent. And not just plant dependent; for most of our history as a province, Alberta was reliant on a single strain of wheat to fuel our entire agricultural economy! This month, we’re giving a great big “Thank you” to Marquis Wheat, and the magnificent Saunders family who created it!

  1. William Saunders (1836-1914)

William Saunders (druggist, entomologist, biologist, agriculturalist, geneticist, etc., etc.) was a living, breathing study in the grand scientific shift taking place at the turn of the 20th century. Saunders’ education was a product of 19th century “heroic” science: sporadic efforts being made primarily by independent (sometimes even travelling) scientists, publishing their work in journals with little or no oversight or quality control. Some of these scientists were hobbyists; others, like Saunders, were a product of the new scientific economy, making their modest income through recent innovations in medicine, engineering, chemistry, or other fields of applied science.

Saunders began his career as a Druggist (what we today would call a Pharmacist), though he most likely would have referred to himself as a specialist in “Materia Medica,” or the study of the medical properties of plants. By the standards of the early 20th century, when scientists were beginning to organize into institutions, develop systems of peer review, and organize their work into scientific canons, “Materia Medica” was increasingly seen as a pseudo-science, based more often on obscure, centuries-old texts and folklore than in verifiable experimental data. However, this increasingly outdated scientific system had furnished Saunders with a unique skill-set which bridged medicine and agriculture. As a result of his belief that medicine and the rearing of plants were inextricable studies, Saunders was also an early adopter of experimental techniques for the improvement of crops. At first, this lead him to explore entomology, as a means of understanding the relationship between pest insects and plant disease. But his interest soon began to shift to fruit plant hybridization, and in 1869 he purchased a farm east of London, Ontario, with which to establish one of the first experimental farms for plant breeding in Canada.[1]

Saunders may have begun his career as a relic of the old ways of doing things, but this new interest in experimental farming would gradually re-shape his work into an example of what the new, empirical scientific process could do – but not without a dash of old-fashioned know-how.

  1. The Dominion Experimental Farms System, and the Creation of Marquis Wheat

Despite being a successful agricultural nation, Canada had faced a significant problem with its wheat production for centuries: chiefly, that the varieties of wheat grown in Europe and imported to North America were not acclimatized to our unique Canadian climate. Common Canadian varietals at the time often did not ripen early enough to avoid early frosts which could devastate grain harvests. The Liberal-Conservative government (under Sir John A. MacDonald) recognized the successes of continental efforts in Experimental Agriculture, and in 1886 William Saunders was named Director of the Dominion Experimental Farms System, owing in no small part to his acquaintance with Commissioner of Agriculture John Carling.[2]

Wheat field photo courtesy Pixabay

Saunders’ first act as Director was a gruelling tour of Western Canada’s farms by coach, during which he examined and collected wheat varietals, consulted with farmers, and examined climatological factors in growth. It was during this time that he became familiar with Halychanka wheat, also known as Galician or Red Fife. Of the grain varietals currently in use in Western Canada, only Halychanka (originally from Eastern Germany and Ukraine) and Ladoga (from Russia) displayed an early enough ripening season to match the Canadian climate. To broaden the scope of his experiments, Saunders also imported numerous varieties from across Europe. Tragically, in the experimental plantings which followed, not a single varietal showed the necessary qualities for Canadian cultivation – except for Halychanka. If a Canadian-friendly grain was ever to be bred, it would have to be derived from this unusual Eastern European strain.[3]

Despite having no formal academic background, it was up to William Saunders and two of his sons, A.P. and Charles Saunders, to import modern plant husbanding techniques based on early genetic theory, in order to establish a system for evaluating grain which very closely resembled modern empirical methodology. However, when supply issues during the winter of 1903-4 temporarily deprived Saunders of a properly stocked laboratory, he reverted to his pre-modern roots, and created a way of gauging quality which, though not particularly reproducible, was surprisingly effective. Saunders would place several grains of wheat in his mouth and chew them to create a “dough ball.” From this he could loosely evaluate the grain’s gluten elasticity, giving him a rough estimate of its milling and baking qualities. Later, when the lab was properly established, it turned out that Saunders’ estimates based on chewing were virtually identical to the lab evaluations.[4]

Over numerous generations, and possibly through the addition of Ladoga and Hard Red Calcutta (and Indian hybrid), The Experimental Farms System not only achieved an earlier-ripening strain, but managed (with no small amount of luck) to fortify it with an unusually high average yield, and with stalks which rarely laid flat (a useful trait for harvesting). In 1912, the new variety, dubbed “Markham” (changed to Marquis by 1906) was shipped to a small number of farms across Canada and the Northern United States.[5] [6] The resultant increase in yield from these seeds was immediately obvious, and farmers quickly diverted production to the new strain.

By 1918, Marquis wheat occupied over 80 per cent of the total wheat acreage of Canada and the Northern United States. The increase in total production resulting from the new strain fundamentally changed Canada’s economy: formerly a high-quality but low-yield producer, in a handful of years Canada became the highest per capita wheat producer in the world. This new economic status quo reverberated throughout the political world. The surplus wheat significantly influenced supply during the First World War, providing a distinct advantage to Canada’s allies. Canadian farmers and farmer’s unions became massively influential, shifting the balance of democratic power – particularly in Alberta, where in 1921 the United Farmer’s Association achieved a surprise majority in the provincial legislature, setting the stage for the economically pro-socialist but culturally conservative political landscape which would last until the 1967 Conservative coup.[7]

[1] Ian M. Stewart, “SAUNDERS, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 3, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/saunders_william_14E.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Stephan Symko, “From a Single Seed – Tracing the Marquis Wheat Success Story in Canada to Its Roots in Ukraine (1 of 11),” Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), December 11, 2015, accessed June 08, 2018, http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/news/scientific-achievements-in-agriculture/from-a-single-seed-tracing-the-marquis-wheat-success-story-in-canada-to-its-roots-in-ukraine-1of11/?id=1181224838769.

[4] Ibid.

[5] George Fedak, “Marquis Wheat,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, April 23, 2013, , accessed June 08, 2018, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/marquis-wheat/.

[6] Symko, ibid.

[7] Fedak, ibid.

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…”