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An Elboya Walk

Recently, I had some time on my hands when I had to wait in Calgary for a function to start. The weather was hot and the skies were clear so I decided I would make my way to Stanley Park in Lower Elboya. I usually end up there at least once a year for a walk, because that was my old ‘stomping ground’ in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I lived in Elboya from 1953 to 1964. During that time I attended Elementary School, Junior High School, Senior High School, and my first two years of university.


Whilst the paths and streets on my Elboya walk are the same as they were in the 1950’s and 1960’s, there are very few scenes on that walk that look the same. However, the route of the Elbow River hasn’t changed and as my walk follows that river for much of the way, I still feel grounded…..at least a bit.


My family’s first home in Lower Elboya was at 401 Cliffe Avenue, beside the present day Stanley Park. Mom and Dad bought an empty lot and in 1952 had a house built to their specifications. It was the most modern house on the block with such things as an open plan and large picture windows in the front. The property was large so Dad had a stand-alone garage built and went to work setting up a huge garden in the back. Gardening was his passion and he had his garden filled with flowers and vegetables. After we were settled in that house for a year, he added a greenhouse.


401 Cliffe Avenue in 1955

For some reason I don’t have a photograph of the house from the front and all I can find is this one of the garden and the back of the house. The back of the house is where all the bedrooms were. Off to the right is where Stanley Park is today, but in the 1950’s it was just open city land.


In 1956, we moved out of that house and into our other Elboya home on Riverdale Avenue.


There is a side story about the Cliffe Avenue name. When we moved into the house in 1953 the street had been named by the city and it was Cliff Avenue. Mom and Dad were the ones who came up with the idea to change it to the olde world spelling of Cliffe. They got all the residents on the street to sign a request to change the name and the city agreed. I’ll bet no one now living on Cliffe Avenue knows anything about that.

401 Cliffe Avenue - 2023

Our Cliffe Avenue house was severely damaged in the 2013 Calgary Flood and was not worth repairing. It was torn down and the site lay as open land for many years. The new house at 401 is modern and seems to dwarf the lot.


After taking a few minutes to take in the new house at 401 Cliffe Avenue, I walked down to the Elbow River and through Stanley Park. I stopped at the east end of the park to look at the river and only then recognised I’d been walking beside our old swimming hole. I spent many a hot summer’s day there playing in the cool water with my neighbourhood friends.


Elbow River at the ol' swimming hole. It's still in use.

I continued on the paved trail to the Rideau Park district passing the trail to Lindsay’s Folley and the site where Calgary’s first TV station, CHCT, was located. The TV station building was removed many decades ago and in place of that are several huge and expensive homes. Many houses in Rideau Park are ostentatious compared to what was there in the 50’s and 60’s, but I understand why. It is isolated from the din of the city, yet only 10 minutes drive to downtown. Just the sort of location where those with money can live.


A corner of the garden at the Rideau Park home.

However, in Rideau Park there are still some of the older, original houses that have been renovated yet kept the charm of earlier days. One such home is across from the suspension bridge that crosses the Elbow River to the district of Elbow Park.


That home has one of the best architected yards I’ve seen—anywhere. I always stop to admire it. The way that the grassed areas weave their way through the bushes, trees, and flowers of the garden, make it seem like they grow on a large property—but it isn’t. It is just a normal sized yard, at least normal for the district of Rideau.


After crossing the river on the suspension bridge, I turn left, head south along the river, and into Elbow Park. Although there are some homes that have been built new, there are many that look similar to what they were back in the 1950’s, but they’ve been nicely renovated.


Arriving back at the river I cross it on the Elboya Bridge, then turn east on Riverdale Avenue. In one block I arrive at our other family home in Elboya, 521 Riverdale Avenue.

521 Riverdale Avenue in 2023

The present house is still the same basic frame as when we lived there, but it has been renovated a few times, each a significant architectural improvement.

521 Riverdale Avenue in 1967

As you can see from this old black and white photos I have from 1967, the front entry and, the layout of the windows are much nicer than what we had. There are many differences that make me wonder if the house was completely rebuilt, but there are too many key features that are still there. The little bay window along the side of the house and the position of the basement window are examples. Most critically, the key shape of the roof is intact, even though the overhang is greater. It's notable that all I could get for this place when I sold it in 1967 was $16,000, and that was after it sat on the market for 6 months. Today there is a house three doors to the west of our old place that is listed for $3,500,000. Of course it's a completely new build and in on a lot comprised of two of the old lots.


Carrying on along Riverdale I don’t see one other house from the 1960’s remaining. They’ve all be torn down and large, modern homes built in their place. Here I noticed two styles of architecture that are now common throughout Elboya.


On the corner, house architecture and a landscaped yard that keeps with the style of the district. For me it melds form and function well and I would love to live there. Next door, nouveau, with building block design and flat roofs. Inside, probably very functional with maximum use of lot space, but for me, the exterior form is missing something.


Another two blocks and I’m back to Stanley Park, into my car, and off to my next appointment. Memories have been stirred up again, but it's also clear that this district no longer feels like home to me, here, in 2023.

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Ed Strickland
Ed Strickland
Aug 27, 2023

I enjoyed the ‘stroll’ with you Jack. I agree with your feeling about the ‘nouveau’ house, something about the flat, slightly sloping roof disagrees with my psyche, less than appealing!

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Guest
Aug 27, 2023

Thanks Jack. A very nice look at the passage of time. Amazing the things we remember about old houses. I don’t think I would have remembered details like the placement of basement windows.


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