Historical Context Paper

In evaluating a historic place, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta have established processes for determining its eligibility for heritage protection. The Historical Resources Act allows for the designation of historic districts at both the provincial and municipal levels. However, neither form of designation has been used extensively in Alberta, and policies and procedures have not yet been established to help guide these protective measures.

Two Provincial Historic Areas (Old Strathcona and Fort Macleod) and three Municipal Historic Areas (Medicine Hat’s First Street South and Saratoga Park, as well as Victoria Trail in Smoky Lake Country) are designated with area boundaries under the Historical Resource Act, while management and protection of these areas remain the responsibility of the municipality. Protections for heritage areas can be put in place by municipalities involving land use provisions (zoning) and/or design guidelines. Examples of this are Edmonton’s neighbourhood of Westmount and Cochrane’s Western Heritage Design Framework.

All of this being said, Scarboro undertook the challenge of being the “first” area in Calgary to be evaluated for heritage significance in January 2021. Bolstered by support letters written by landscape architects, heritage planners and the National Association for Olmsted Parks in the United States, the community is asking that the original Olmsted Design and its component elements be evaluated for municipal and provincial heritage significance. 

One of the steps involved in applying for heritage designation is the Historical Context Paper. The context paper establishes the research and background information to support a Statement of Significance for Scarboro. We submitted both documents for Scarboro to Heritage Calgary in January 2021 and to Alberta’s Heritage Resources Management Branch in March 2021.

The context paper identifies historical themes and characteristics that contribute to the heritage value of the area. Five criteria of significance are used to determine the heritage value of a resource: person/institution; activity/cultural practice; design/style/construction; symbolic/landmark value; and information potential. Scarboro’s historical context paper explores social, economic and architectural history across the historical eras of:

¨      Pre-1903 - The Land and the First Peoples

¨      1901-1911 - Involvement of Canadian Pacific Railway

¨      1909-1912 - City Beautiful Movement, Olmsted Design & Marketing

¨      1913-1929 - Real Estate Booms and Urban Development

¨      1930-1945 - Depression and WWII Community Impacts

¨      1945-1960 - Community Build-Out to Current Scarboro

¨      1960s to present - Community Challenges and Opportunities.

A thematic chapter about Scarboro’s community life enriches our understanding of social institutions (church, school, community association) and leisure activities. The history of Scarboro’s horticulture (William Reader’s involvement in parks & streetscapes), architecture and streetscapes (recognizing different architectural styles typical of different eras) help us appreciate the aesthetics and design of the neighbourhood. The context paper also includes maps of Scarboro’s development, a chronological history, a list of places of interest and a list of persons of interest.

We hope you enjoy reading the Historical Context Paper as much as we enjoyed preparing it. 

Scarboro’s historical research team (2020-21)


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© Scarboro Community Association 1727 14 Avenue SW, Calgary, AB  T3C 0W7

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