Sunday, July 29, 2012

Century Homes Calgary and the Gothic Mansion's 102nd Birthday!

Beginning this week until August 6, the City of Calgary is celebrating Historic Calgary Week with a city-wide celebration of homes constructed during Calgary’s first building boom, which peaked 100 years ago. Hundreds of century homes in various communities will be displaying homemade yard signs sharing information about their houses, should one wish to do a self-guided walking tour in any of these communities. The insomniac  and her family are proud to be one of the homes included in these festivities.

Although the insomniac  fondly refers to it as the Gothic Mansion (surely one is allowed a little  artistic license in blog writing), in reality it is a brick and sandstone farmhouse built in the Queen Anne Revival style . Riley Lodge, which is its legitimate name, was built in 1910 by Alfred George Fredrick Riley, son of prominent Calgary rancher Thomas Riley. In 1914 he married Ada Marie Pullen of Yorkshire, England, and he and Ada lived in the house until Alfred passed away in 1933; Ada remained in the house for only one more year. Alfred and Ada had no offspring to whom they could bequeath their home.

The gates (and everything else of any value)
were long gone by the time we acquired the house ...

Judging from the style of clothing, one assumes this must be Ada Marie ...

In 1936, the house was rented to Dr. R. H. McLaughlin who used it as an abortion clinic during the war; the house being raided numerous times during his occupancy. The doctor died in the 1970's in Vancouver, BC during “a bad drug deal”. The insomniac  was just contacted a few months ago by someone writing a book on Dr. McLaughlin's life, which she will most certainly purchase when published, in order to gain a bit more insight into the somewhat checkered past of Riley Lodge.

The insomniac  grew up just three blocks away from Riley Lodge, and around the age of three attended playschool there (a true fact and NOT just another instance of dramatic license). She has only two rather dim memories of the place; one being the smell of urine (perhaps none of the other attendees had been potty-trained yet), and the other that it was very dark and scary inside (an ambiance one has attempted to retain during the redecorating process, and the reasoning behind the Gothic Mansion nickname).

The house remained in the Riley family's possession until 1968, at which time it was sold to the City of Calgary. When the insomniac  and her spouse purchased the house from the City in 1987, it had been rented out to a university fraternity for a number of years and was in poor condition, the balcony having been declared unsafe and boarded up six year's previously. Even now, people still stop and entertain us with tales of the excellent party house Riley Lodge was back in the day, and one can only imagine the fun that must have been had, falling through the second floor veranda to the one below.

Poor Condition might be putting too positive a spin on it.
A Likely Candidate for Demolition is slightly closer to the truth.

Besides its derelict condition, the house also needed to be moved from its original site on Crowchild Trail, as the expansion of Crowchild would take the new road right through the middle of the top floor; yet another small deterrent for anyone considering its purchase. Despite the apprehension of family and friends, the insomniac  and her spouse decided it was a house worth saving and a project worth undertaking. With the City's assistance, a parcel of land three blocks west was chosen for the new location, at the bottom of the same undeveloped hill it was currently sitting on.

If the garage had still been there when the house was purchased,
it most certainly would have been moved as well ...

At one point, as it was coming around the corner, the house was leaning so badly
  the insomniac   was quite sure it was going to slide off the truck and onto the road.

And so, the next twenty-five years were spent restoring Riley Lodge, which truly has been a labour of love. One day, the insomniac  will share pictures of the interior before the restoration, including the graffiti on Every Single Interior Wall, the drawings of demons on the ceilings (in the rooms where a ceiling still existed and hadn't already collapsed onto the floor) and the amusing admonition scrawled with a Sharpie in the bathroom - Don't Spit in the Sink!

All too soon, the day will arrive when it will become necessary to say farewell to the Gothic Mansion, as inner-city property taxes and house insurance for a historic home become too difficult to manage on a retirement budget. Which is why, at an age when most people are starting to plan their retirement, the insomniac  is instead planning to put an end to the intermittent Contract Work and return to the work force Full Time, in order to delay the inevitable for at least a while longer.

One wonders if it might be slightly odd  to become this attached to a house?

The next house will definitely require a dormer window.
After all, where would the insomniac  be
without her Dim and Dreary Attic Dormer?

But when that sad time does eventually arrive, perhaps another Gothic Mansion in some small town will become available, with the potential for yet another restoration project. Even now, one can see the long-suffering spouse cringing as he's proofreading this post. And if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the insomniac's  Evil (but completely confident) Laughter echoing down the hallway ... Mwahahaha.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. And if you happen to live in Calgary, check out the Century Homes Calgary website for a map of the walking tours. The insomniac  is actually planning on dragging herself away from the computer and taking in a few neighbourhoods herself!

Goodnight, my pretties.

IA


PostScript: In the hopes the long-suffering spouse gets bored and doesn't proofread right through to the end of this post, the insomniac  is going to let you in on a little secret - she has already  discovered another lovely Victorian brick house in a small town just north of Calgary, and it has a Widow's Walk! One might actually be able to live in a house without an Attic Dormer, if one had a Widow's Walk ... Mwahahaha.

Sources:
    B&W Photos from the Glenbow Archives  

40 comments:

  1. ...♥...
    What a delightful history your home has.
    ...Is it haunted?
    blessings

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    1. Yes, it is definitely haunted by a ghost that causes one to “misplace” things and not be able to find them again for days. Or perhaps that could just be attributable to one's age ... ;o)

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  2. I once lived in a 100 year old house. it is not for everyone. Next time I will rent a old house. All the fun with none of the work. It can get to be a real money pit. Thank god for people like you and your husband. In my sons bedroom I painted the original woodwork bright blue after the previous owner probably spent endless hours stripping it. I have no excuse except I was going for a Sesame Street Theme. I am much
    older now and would never do that again

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    1. Renting is an excellent idea, Rhonda! Perhaps one should give that further thought before actually purchasing the brick Victorian with the Widow's Walk ...

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  3. I can picture you now. Pacing back and forth with a lace handkerchief in one hand the back of your other hand tragically pressed against your forehead wearing one of your awesome widow coats! (but of course not really a widow you just play one at old houses)

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    1. One should probably just stick with the original plan and purchase the house with the Widow's Walk, because you are absolutely right - one actually can picture oneself pacing with the lace hankie, hand dramatically pressed to forehead whilst wearing the AWESOME mourning jacket. Thank you for helping make the right choice ... ;o)

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  4. What an awesome story about an awesome house! It sounds like a true labor of love. I hope you and the house will have many more years together.

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    1. Awww, thank you Ms. Kitty! And might the insomniac  mention at this time how much she enjoys your blog and your impeccable taste in putting together the most gorgeous outfits. She also hopes that didn't come off as too effusive, or worse still, creepy ... :o)

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  5. You made an amazing job. I can only imagine how much labour it has cost to restore this building and moving it. My house is quite new but it has timber walls from a poorhouse dated to 15th century, this house has been disturbingly haunted, bad nightmares, kids toys moving and so on but it is healed by a witch and it's ok to live here now (after 3 years or they are used to us). Your house has a very interesting history, it's bad if you have to leave your house when you retire, but since I've been forced to leave places I love, I know it's just materia, after all.

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    1. How horrible that your house was haunted, but good to hear that it is now okay to live in. That must have been very frightening for you and your family!

      The hardest part of having to leave this house was making the decision. Now that one has started to seriously think about it, it doesn't seem so bad. And you are so right - it is just material, and what really matters is not the house itself, but the family that fills it. Oh darn, now one is getting all misty-eyed talking about it ... :o)

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  6. Oh, such a beautiful house - gasp! :O

    I'm a firm believer that houses choose their occupants ... and when it's ready for you to move on, then it's a mutual decision ;)

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    1. What a beautiful sentiment, Michelle! And exactly how one plans on looking at it from here on! :D

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  7. This is such a beautiful and inspiring story, and it angers me that property taxes are so high for historical homes. One would think they would want them to be taken care of instead of falling into disprepair! Look at the wonders you did with this!

    At least if you do ever have to move, you will know you rescued this house and made it beautiful again, and maybe it will one day find someone else.

    Look, I'm starting to subconciously use the word 'one' as well! How excellent! It sounds so cultured!

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    1. Maybe you shouldn't read all the way back to the very beginning, Laura, in case you become unable to use the words I, ME or MYSELF again! LOL!

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  8. Such history and what a great house! It actually, kinda, looks like a small castle, as I imagined it would :D I love that rooftop!
    When it's time for me to buy my own house, I will be looking for an old house with a little need of renovating. That way you can really make it your own and old houses has such charm to them :)

    Looking forward for the "Inside the mansion"-post! ;)

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    1. Yes, if one were to squint just the right way, it might kinda sorta look like a small castle ... ;o)

      It's nice that you'd like to buy an old house in need of repair - they need saving and deserve a little of our love and care instead of being torn down! One will definitely try to get some decent inside pictures done in the New Year. With the new camera, that might even be feasible! :D

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  9. Replies
    1. Well, Rent to Own - Riley Lodge is available for sale even as we speak ... maybe you'd like to purchase her and rent her out to all those people who'd like to try their hand at living in a beautiful historic home before they purchase one? LOL

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  10. The most amazing home occupied by the most amazing people! Supper and cocktails?

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    1. Cocktails? Did someone mention cocktails? WE ARE SO IN!

      Although perhaps it might be prudent to first determine who we've just committed ourselves to having cocktails with? ;o)

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  11. Wow thank you for writing this. I have been wondering about that house for years, if it was moved to its current location and whether it was originally beside Crowchild or the one on 19th St and about 7th Ave NW. Thanks for the interesting history! I hope its new owners love it as much as you do.

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    1. Hello, Anonymous! Yes, it was the house that was on Crowchild and 7th Avenue. The one on 19th Street and 7th Avenue belonged to Alfred's brother Ezra, and was known as Hounsfield Lodge. People often get the two confused, probably because they were both brick and had big verandas!

      Stay tuned over the next few months - the insomniac  is planning to dig through all the paperwork and pictures and write about our experiences restoring the house. In between all the packing and moving, that is! LOL

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  12. Prior to becoming a Frat House, your house was also a favorite haunt for punk rock kids and bands in the late 70's and early 80's. I have some very fond memories.

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    1. LOL, then you probably remember the writing in the basement behind what we assumed was a stage, saying “Welcome Space Travellers”. Unfortunately, the old camera could never capture the ambiance in the basement - it was way too dark for any decent photos. We've heard stories from the police about how it used to take them four hours to get from the front door to the attic to break up the parties. Bet you do have fond memories! :D

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    2. what an interesting background. I was actually trying to find the house on google maps, would have never found it since its been moved. I saw the house in the 1982 punk rock documentary called "another state of mind" many punk rockers hung out there. including the band Social Distortion which are popular and touring to this day.

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    3. I think I may have actually heard of Social Distortion! Good name for a documentary. :)

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  13. I do remember that! I also remember the police! :-)

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  14. So, have you actually sold this home? Am on a "You Know You Grew Up In Calgary" site, so much fun with everyone sharing their Calgary memories. Your home has been mentioned several times, with many of us wondering where it had gone.....what a nice, quiet setting:) Are there any pic of the inside renovations? When it's a designated Heritage Home, what are the ownership "regulations"?

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    1. Yes, the house is now sold. It was a beautiful setting - like living in the country in the middle of the city - and probably the main reason we decided to actually move to the country! :)

      Posts about inside renovations are listed under the tab 'Riley Lodge' ... see right sidebar. Alberta Culture is concerned with keeping these old houses in good repair, and I was always told that they were willing to work with owners on any renovations they might wish to make in order to keep them inhabited and maintained. In the case of Riley Lodge, the turret and wraparound veranda were the main architectural features they wished to preserve. Whatever renovations the new owners decide to make, I know they will do it with love and respect, just as we did. :)

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  15. Hi there, Insomniac. I've always admired the work you've done on Alfred and Ada Marie's home and look forward to seeing some pictures of your new country project. Just wondering if you had ever come across any info on the St. Andrews Golf Course run by Alfred? It apparently occupied a whole quarter section running up to 16th Ave NW, with the Riley residence and clubhouse sited at the southeast corner of the property. Some early residents of Grand Trunk recall having jobs at the course. Apolologies in advance if you already have this info, but the home was designed by a prominent local architect named Leo Dowler, who also designed Ezra's home just north west of Riley Park. Dowler designed a number of homes for other wealthy Calgarians and some commercial buildings as well. Now I'll go and explore the rest of your intriguing site! Cheers- Alan Zakrison

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    1. Alan, thank you for your comment! And actually, I did not know that information about Leo Dowler until now so thank you for that also. :)

      I'm at HorrorCon all weekend, but I promise I will give you a phone call next week (providing I can get cell service out here in the Spooky Forest). ;)

      I thought I recognized that last name. :)

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  16. Wow, I was feeling nostalgic and typed in "Crowchild manor" and "punk" and it brought me right to your site. I am so happy you bought the old manor--I have many drug addled memories of hanging out there in the 1980's and I'm even in the film by social distortion (I made the chili)... just wondering, did the ghosts move with the house?

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    1. People end up here via the most unusual searches, viledrummer1! I never did see the movie Social Distortion ... is it on YouTube, I wonder? If I find it I'll have to watch for the person making chili.

      No they did not, thank goodness. If they had, I'd never have been able to go into the basement to do laundry for 26 years. So creepy. :)

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    2. I found the video! I saw you! Drug addled indeed! LOL But it was nice to see all the happy smiling faces around that table. And that old spice rack! Memories. :)

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    3. Hello! Actually the ghosts were not in the basement (where our band and others practiced), but on the upper floors--the rumour was that there was a murder in the house. The door to the bedroom to the left of the bathroom would slam shut, it would get very cold in there and my friend who lived there swore she saw a shadow of two people struggling. And you would hear footsteps in the attic when no one was there... the other Riley house on Crowchild trail was also haunted, and there were many unexplained fires in it. Seems like the Rileys were a very unhappy family...

      Also, someone before posted that it was a punk house PRIOR to it being a frat house, but it was a frat house far before--there was even a photo album of the house and its inhabitants then--from the late 50s, early 60s judging by the beehive hairdos of the women...

      In any case, I am very glad the house had such caring people as you to rehabilitate it, and I hope whoever lives there now will give it the tlc it needs!

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  17. I had some time to check out the other posts where you provided before and after photos--your daughter's room is the one my friend used to have, and where there was paranormal activity... hope she slept well in that room! And I was soooo impressed by what you did! Wow, what a labour of love. Seeing the "before" pictures brought back memories, and I was blown away by your attention to detail and what an amazing renovation you did. Hope you are happy in your new place and all the best!

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    1. Actually she was never a very good sleeper, right from the time she was born ... now I wonder if that was why! :O

      Awwww thanks, viledrummer1! We tried to do the very best job we could, considering our limited budget. I have a hard time looking at the before and after pictures even now - no matter who owns the house, I probably won't ever be able to think of it as anything except “Our House”. Not that I'd ever consider moving back to the city, mind you - it's pretty special out here too. :)

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  18. Further to your musings about Min Manor:
    http://citizenfreak.com/titles/278218-eye-on-you-who-s-been-sleeping-in-my-head-ep-picture-sleeve
    Check out the tune on side two... Riley manor boogie. as for 'Min Manor'--it wasn't called that when I hung out there, we called it Crowchild Manor, but maybe "min" is short for minimum? Skater punks tended to shorten words--rad for radical etc. You'd have to ask Gary Lamb or someone else from the band... the writings on the basement walls look like they were lyrics of a song--no idea what one though!

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    1. That's so cool! I'm going to share this and the link to the YouTube video with the offspring next time they're out. I'm sure they'll get a real kick out of them. Thanks for sharing!

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