|Best. Realtor. Ever.|
And now that the exhausting task of downsizing which we started way back in January is finally done, it seems as good a time as any to tell our story of Riley Lodge. And who knows, at some point in the distant future the offspring might actually be interested in how we kept ourselves occupied before their arrival. In the meantime, the new owners are interested right now.
Therefore, the insomniac will try to recall as much as possible, bearing in mind this story started way back in 1986 and that was a VERY long time ago. Thank goodness she made copious notes and saved all the paperwork - she must have had a premonition her memory would become rather suspect as she got older.
It will be a fairly detailed account and, for that reason, quite boring. Even more boring than usual ...
It all began in October of 1986, when we learned the house located at 819 Crowchild Trail was available for relocation; the life-changing news relayed via phone by the insomniac's Sainted Mother, who excitedly announced, “You know that house you used to go to kindergarten in? It's for sale! And it has to be moved!!” Since we were already looking to buy a new/old home, we started tossing around the idea of whether or not we could afford to take on a project of that magnitude (is this not all beginning to sound a little familiar?).
After much waffling about, on November 13th (a very auspicious day, being the insomniac's birthday), she finally sent a letter to the City of Calgary Municipal Heritage Properties Authority, indicating our interest in purchasing Riley Lodge. At that time, we had been through the house twice, once with Mr. John Coulson of the Land Department, and once with a general contractor, Mr. Herb Veckenstedt. In the letter, we included financial details showing that with the sale of our current house and some money we would borrow, we had the funds available to restore the house - as well as the necessary skills; the spouse at that time having had various careers as a cement finisher, roofer, cribber and carpenter, and the insomniac having had much experience in office work and computer programming - because those are particularly handy skills to have when taking on the restoration of a very large and dilapidated house.
We also discussed with the Land Department a piece of property that was only three blocks away from Riley Lodge as a possible site to relocate the house to. We asked to lease the land from the City until the restoration was complete which would allow us to invest all our capital into the restoration, with an option to purchase the land once the major work was done.
We laid out our plan of action to the City - first and foremost being to restore the structural condition of the house, including replacing the original wiring, plumbing and heating, adding insulation (other than a bit of horse hair and crumpled newspaper in the walls, there was none) and replacing the roof, which was leaking badly. We also included a detailed financial plan of the costs of restoration, as well as an estimated cost for moving the house.
Two weeks later, the City advised they were prepared to recommend our proposal to the Heritage Properties Authority at their December meeting. Later that month, the HPA asked that City Council grant us a three-month option and right of first refusal on the property we had chosen, on the condition a subsoil and slope stability report be done and the site proven safe to develop.
To set the record straight, the insomniac would like to point out a few errors in the following newspaper article:
- The house was not designated a heritage property at that time.
- The insomniac did not say Yipee. And if she had, it would have been spelled correctly. However, it seems more likely it was an unprintable expletive of excitement that was uttered.
- The relocation was not to 282-18th Avenue NW but rather 2821-8th Avenue NW.
- It was never said the house would be opened to the public at least one day per year. The exact wording in our letter stated, “We would also consider making future arrangements with the City to open the house to the public.”
However, once we started looking into that possibility and phrases such as Liability Insurance and Property Theft were mentioned on a pretty regular basis, we eventually dismissed the idea. Not that it prevents people from asking, even now, when the house is open to the public. Presumably so they can come in and
case the jointhave a good look around.
|Click to enlarge.|
Once the subsoil and slope stability reports were complete and the land given the go-ahead for development, the relocation of Riley Lodge was added to City Council's agenda for January 26, 1987. The ward alderman asked Council to table the decision until he had an opportunity to meet with and further discuss the relocation with Parkdale community residents, who were opposed to having the house moved to the 8th Avenue location. The insomniac attended the meeting with the community members and left in tears, convinced we would never obtain permission to relocate the house. The residents were not just opposed - they were hostile.
The relocation was again added to Council's agenda for February 16th, and again it was tabled. On March 2nd, another meeting was held with the Parkdale residents, who presented their case against the relocation while the insomniac presented ours. The matter was approved by Council that afternoon, by a close vote of 8 to 6. On March 5th, we picked up the house key from Mr. Coulson. Finally, after months of uncertainty, she was ours.
|Click to enlarge.|
The following pictures were taken on January 1, 1987. From the insomniac's notes of that day: “Photographed interior and exterior of house. Front door wide open - house broken into and a pickaxe left lying in the library. I brought it home!”
|Pretty sure we still have that pickaxe around somewhere.|
Probably out in the sea can ...
As you can tell, the insomniac's photography skills haven't improved all that much over the years. If memory serves (and it probably doesn't) it was a bottom-of-the-line Yashica that produced these outstanding photos. Still, it did manage to capture the desolate look of the place, didn't it?
Next, the months of preparation to ready the house for the big move ...
Postscript: The insomniac would like to thank both Mr. Coulson and Mr. Anderson of the City of Calgary Land Department. If not for your efforts on our behalf, it's likely Riley Lodge would have become just one more historic building destined for the landfill, in a city renowned for bulldozing its history rather than preserving it ...