Back in 1992, shortly after the school board announced Canmore’s Model School, built in 1921 would be torn down, I asked my Grade 2 teacher Marilyn Watt if she would take me into the school so I could photograph it. I went in twice, once during the day and then once at night. This school was built after Canmore’s second school, a two-storey, four-room school burned down in late 1921. The new school, which was we thought of as the “old” school by the time we came along, opened Dec. 8, 1921.
In 2009, what served as the elementary, junior and senior high for Canmore was demolished. I spent an afternoon wandering through the school taking photographs. This is a small selection from that.
Canmore has always been susceptible to flooding given its low-lying location on the Bow River floodplain. For people who lived near the river on both sides of Canmore, flooding was a simple fact of life. Provincial records indicate the Bow River has flooded at least 19 times between 1883 and 1967 with a number of those inundating Canmore, specifically Mineside, with water.
But on Tuesday, June 25, 1974, with warm June weather and an unusually heavy snowpack, the Bow River began to flood causing Canmore’s mayor and doctor, Alfred Miltins, to declare a state of emergency. The flood’s crest, which was expected on Thursday, was going to be larger than anticipated as Calgary Power had been forced to release water from Lake Minnewanka to keep it from overflowing.
The Calgary Herald reported the water level could rise an additional nine inches to a flood that was already six feet higher than the normal level of flow for the Bow River, and at 13,276 cubic feet per second, it was a flow amount only recorded once every 10 to 15 years.
By Wednesday, the Calgary Herald reported the flood had affected nearly 95 per cent of Canmore’s 600 homes, with Eighth Avenue, Second Street and Mineside the worst hit. A handful of families had to be evacuated.
Hundreds of volunteers laboured throughout the day and night filling the 40,000 sandbags needed to build a three-kilometre-long dike to keep the brown flood water from spreading further into town. Children even sacrificed the sand in their sandboxes as they helped their parents to fill the burlap sacks that would make the 50-pound sandbags.
The flood of 1974 spurred officials to build the Bow River dike that stretches along from east of First Street in South Canmore west along the river to the end of Larch Avenue. The dike also runs along a relatively short section of the south bank of the river to protect homes in the Mineside area, has protected Canmore since its last big flood. The dike is designed to protect from all but that one per cent flood, a flood so large that only occurs one per cent of the time in any year.
Taken from The History of Canmore, by Rob Alexander, published by Summerthought.
Along with the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall and the Canmore Hotel, one more of Canmore’s heritage buildings is slated to see some restoration work. This time, it’s the North West Mounted Police barracks. Built in 1893, the barracks are the only NWMP barracks on its original site in Alberta. The Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre is planning a modest restoration of the barracks, with plans to fix drainage issues, the chimney and to restore parts of the grounds to its 1920s appearance. The barracks underwent an extensive restoration leading up to its designation as a Provincial Historic Resource in 1990 and now it’s time for some maintenance. One part of this project is the plans to turn the gardens into a heritage garden and grow plants that would have been common in Canmore during the 1920s.
Once this is out, I plan to comb through and see what it says about Canmore in the 192os. If it is anything like the 1891 census, it should provide some great background information about Canmore. Can’t wait!
The Canmore Miners’ Hall restoration is underway! It won’t be long before the 100-year-old hall and Canmore landmark looks as it did in 1913.
It’s good news for the venerable Canmore Hotel and for Canmore. Neil Richardson of Heritage Property Corporation of Calgary has great plans for the Hotel, built in 1890, and Alberta’s oldest wooden hotel and the province’s second-oldest operating hotel. I can’t help but think it is the best-case scenario and I’m looking forward to seeing the work get underway and be completed. A story I wrote about Neil’s project can be found here, complete with an artist’s rendition of how it will look once completed. Canmore has lost the majority of its heritage buildings, but at least we know this is one building that will persist.