Excavation revealing artifacts from Calgary’s past

CALGARY –

While excavating, construction crews discovered a little slice of Calgary’s past: glass bottles and other items from a site just northeast of the Stampede grounds.

Christine Leppard is the Stampede’s historian and is excited about the find.

“We’re looking at bottles that likely came from the hospital or the isolation hospital, bedpans, pop bottles from the people who were living in here so (they’re) a reflection of the lives of the people in this era area in those years,” said Leppard. “We’re looking at things that I haven’t fully dated, but range from about the 1930s up to the 1960s and reflects the uses of the site.”

Work has begun on the Calgary Stampede’s SAM Centre near the corner of 12th avenue and 5th street southeast. It’s just south of the Rundle Ruins, the sight of Calgary’s second General Hospital built in 1894. It featured 35 beds, an operating room, nursing school and it even had electric lights and telephones. It saw several additions and eventually became a facility for the chronically ill but was knocked down in the 1970s.

“Part of my job has been scouring through these items and selecting a few that we will take into the Calgary Stampede collection that we can use to interpret in exhibits in the future,” said Leppard.

Brian Vivian is a senior project archeologist with Lifeways of Canada. He consults on all kinds of construction projects in Alberta.

“This is an old landscape close to Fort Calgary where people first settled,” said Vivian. “There was First Nations occupants here for years and years, a millennium before Fort Calgary and then Fort Calgary got established 1874 and even by that time there were lots of Metis, European people and buffalo hunters around on the landscape.”

UNDERGROUND SURPRISES

Vivian says people would be surprised what can be found underground in some of the city’s older neighbourhoods.

“We were finding things in East Village before East Village was developed in 2008,” said Vivian. “We were doing studies in there and we even found remnants of First Nations camps in that area which is unprecedented to find in what is downtown Calgary now.”

Vivian has been issued a monitoring permit to oversee further excavation on the site to see if something else might be revealed.

“There might always be some surprises and our construction crew we’ve been working with are really sharp,” he said. “They’ve been recognizing and identifying materials and pulling them out as they see them so that makes my job a lot easier but definitely, we’re always looking to see if there’s surprises coming up.”

Leppard says many of the items found will eventually be on display in the new Calgary Stampede SAM Centre.

“SAM Centre’s going to be a year round Calgary Stampede experience,” said Leppard. “It’s going to be a place where Calgarians, Albertans and people from around the world get to come together and share in the Calgary Stampede story.”

“It’s about the community that we are and how we think about the community now, how it was in the past and going forward into the future.”

The Rundle Ruins will remain untouched by the construction project and the new SAM Centre is expected to open in late 2023.

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