When I planned this trip, I researched each area that we were planning to visit, looking for attractions and sights that we would find interesting and beautiful. The one that really drew my attention in Calgary was the Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary… It seemed to have a lot of things to see that we both like…
Heritage Park Historical Village is located on 127 acres of parkland on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir, along the Calgary’s southwestern edge. As Canada's largest living history museum by number of exhibits, it is one of the city's most visited tourist attractions. The park is referred to as a living history museum because it features 4 distinct ‘villages’ or areas reflecting different time periods in Western Canadian history. These time periods are circa 1864, 1880, 1910 and a town from the 1930s to 1950s.
Many of the buildings in the park are historical and were transported to the park to be placed on display. Others are re-creations of actual buildings. Most of the structures are furnished and decorated with genuine artifacts. Park employees dress in historic costume, and antique automobiles and horse-drawn vehicles service the site. A steam locomotive and trolley’s provide transportation and an old time experience for park visitors…
We arrived early on a Friday morning in early August. The crowds were starting to stream in already… We’re not big on crowds but as it turned out, this park is so spread out and there is so much to see that crowds or long lines were never an issue.
This is a scaled down recreation of a Hudson's Bay Company Fur Trading Fort or post. This fort was built by Heritage Park in 1965 to illustrate the important role played by the Hudson's Bay Company. At one time, the company had established posts from Alaska, British Columbia and Oregon to the eastern part of Canada in Labrador. Hudson Bay Company was key in the economic, social and resource development of Canada.
Heritage Park originally designed this structure as a replica of the second fur trading fort built in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, in 1835. The forts were each staffed by approximately 30 laborers, interpreters, clerks, apprentice clerks and traders. They were managed by one chief trader or chief factor. This particular fort was used as a backdrop for a film celebrating the Hudson’s Bay Company's tricentennial. (Hudson Bay Company, now a giant retailer known as ‘The Bay’, recently purchased Saks Fifth Avenue in the USA)
For more on the history of the Hudson Bay Company, just click on the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson's_Bay_Company. Did you know that this company is the longest continually operating commercial venture in North America!
The interior of the fort contains several buildings with period furnishings or replicas thereof. It was clear that the focus was on trading and activities related to trading. There were people in period costumes and there was a small garden plot. As with everything else at Heritage Park, the displays and buildings were pristine and clean…and the staff was all friendly and helpful.
European demand for furs brought trading companies to Canada as early as 1670. The Hudson Bay Company was a British partnership…and it was the first trading company to enter the market and the last to cease the fur trading business. Posts were spread from coast-to-coast. They were staffed by poorly paid young men from Eastern Canada and Great Britain.
The whole business focused on the exchange of furs for manufactured goods. The furs came from trappers and Indians alike. As explained to us by the young man in the trading post, beaver skins were the standard… Everything else was measured against the value of beaver skins. While the HBC traded in almost all pelts, it might take 3 wolf pelts to equal one beaver skin. In the mid-1800s, it might have taken 12 - 14 beaver pelts to buy a rifle.
We loved the stonework on these fireplaces. As usual for Canadian Historic Parks, everything is well done, clean and well thought out…
The Heritage Park in Calgary is the 3rd Canadian Living Park that we’ve visited. The other two were the Barkerville Historic Town in north central British Columbia, (http://www.barkerville.ca/), and Fortress Louisbourg in Nova Scotia. (http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/louisbourg/index.aspx) Be sure and visit them both! We’ve been to Fortress Louisbourg twice!
There were several windows in the fort and nearby cabins that were covered with tanned hides as shown above. (For some reason, I couldn't turn this photo right side up...) These 'hide windows' keep out the elements and let in a little light too. Since glass was unavailable for the most part, this was an alternative…
This collection of tipis is a representative Aboriginal/Plains Indian encampment. Appropriately enough, it’s placed next to the Hudson's Bay Company Fort. Historically, the encampment represents a gathering place for diverse groups of people including First Nations, Métis (mixed blood aboriginals), explorers, settlers and traders, as well as others who travelled through Western Canada.
Heritage Park's native encampment was re-created within the historical context of neighboring exhibits, such as the Fort, Livingston House, Our Lady of Peace Mission and the North West Mounted Police Berry Creek detachment, in order to allow visitors to see how these different cultures would have interacted. (We didn’t try to take photos of every building or display…)
The 3 canvas tipis that are on display are furnished with artifacts that represent the lifestyle of the Plains First Nations during the last half of the 19th century. This encampment represents a special place for Aboriginal people, their home, their way of life and their economy. Native interpreters were on hand to demonstrate traditional activities, tools and other artifacts and share stories from their culture.
Three aboriginal tribe members…all ladies…were present when we visited. As shown above, they demonstrated the process of erecting a tipi. The largest numbers of Indians or aboriginal people living in Alberta are from Blackfoot, Cree and Metis groups.
For more information on these 3 native/aboriginal groups, you can click on any of the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackfoot_Confederacy; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cree; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9tis_people_(Canada).
This upscale 2-story log ‘cabin’ is the ‘Livingston House’. Samuel Henry Harkwood (Sam) Livingston was born in Ireland in 1831. He immigrated to America at the age of 16. Following an unsuccessful venture in the Californian gold rush of 1849, he moved to Canada. He spent 20 years moving around western Canada as a prospector, trapper, trader, freight hauler and buffalo hunter.
In 1865, he married the Metis daughter of a fur trade officer. He claimed a homestead in the area in 1876 and this home was built shortly thereafter…
This photo shows one corner inside the Livingston House. It was a very impressive structure for its day! Laurie and I love these old stoves. Many of them were so ornate that they are works of art. We also noted that many of them were manufactured in Chicago…
Sam and his wife Jane raised 14 children! Sam died in 1897 shortly after the birth of the 14th child. He was 66 years old… Sam farmed in Alberta when farming was a dirty word. It was all about cattle ranching in those days. He persevered and became known for impressive yields of grain, huge vegetables and excellent beef. He also became a champion of settler’s rights and a key promoter of agriculture in southern Alberta.
One last photo… We like animals and this very laid back mule offered to pose for Laurie’s camera. Many more animal photos will follow from the Heritage Park!
This is the first of a series of blogs that stemmed from our day at Calgary’s Heritage Park Historic Village. There was so much to see and do! As an additional plus…there is also a terrific auto/transportation museum right at the entrance to the park.
That’s it for now… Just click on any photo to enlarge it.
Thanks for touring the Heritage Park with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave