Another of Canmore’s old homes has been demolished. I don’t know much about this house once located at 813 7th Street other than May Riva lived here up into the 1980s. Canmore born, May Riva was a pillar of our community and an example of how to live. In May’s eyes, everyone else came first.
I believe the house was built during the Canmore Coal Co. era (1911-1926) during a period the company leased land from the government to provide homes for its employees. Land on Mineside had become scarce and the mine directors and managers didn’t want their workers living too close to the mine infrastructure. They were worried about vandalism during strikes. But that was an unfounded fear.
Every time one of Canmore’s old houses comes down we step away from what we were towards what we are becoming. I have to admit to a feeling of frustration and even sadness at that. We’re trading a wide-open, green Canmore of small homes on big lots for big homes or four- and fiveplexes.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Some will say “yes” and others “no.” The same question could applied to progress: good, bad or indifferent, there’s no easy answer. But with my feet firmly planted in old Canmore; given that I grew up here in the ’70s and ’80s, I still prefer the openness verses the density.
In terms of preserving Canmore’s early houses and its history, this house was not exceptional; other than the fact that May had lived here. There are other houses that are more significant. I believe it would be better to preserve at least one of the two Georgetown houses located at the base of Hospital Hill. Both were moved to Canmore from Georgetown after the Georgetown mine closed in 1915 are for sale and will no doubt be demolished once they do sell. Canmore is need of a place and some space to move a few of these miner’s homes as an example of what was. A miniature heritage park if you will. But where and how? As always in Canmore it comes down to money and land, both of which are in short supply.
Canmore will eventually lose most of its links to its mining past, so if we are to continue to describe our town as a former coal-mining town (and Canmore was an important coal town), we have to really embrace our history and make it a fundamental part of our ongoing, even our daily story.