Imagine, as you stand on the bluff, known by local school children as ‘Grasshopper Hill, looking south east towards the skyscrapers that mark Calgary’s downtown, how the valley looked 145 years ago. There were no trees, except for the willows along the river, no roads or bridges; just endless prairie, grasslands spreading from the eastern horizon to the foothills to the west.
As a member of the Hounsfield Heights Briar Hill community you may be interested in reading some of the most delightful stories about our community. Stories presented here stem back to the 1910's. We have been fortunate enough to capture these stories written by many of the original residents of the area. Facts about the community are presented in a 'fond memories' format that is most entertaining, comedic and informative.
Hounsfield Height Briar Hill Community is a joint community of two very distinct, yet similar areas that came together to crate a diverse and stable inner-city district filled with a strong sense of community pride. As one of the last remaining, almost exclude R-1 zoned districts in Calgary, we have worked hard to maintain the character and personality of a small close knit community.
The following recollections and memories of the 50 plus years of history by the residents, for the residents, highlights the care and hard work that has gone into building a vibrant, vital and growing community.
Please drop us a note if you'd like to see the more stories from our archive or would you like to contribute photo or stories to our archive.
Hounsfield Heights as a community had begun in the First World War era. Large, almost stately homes had dotted the area. It was a very pastoral setting far from the city centre. To the east of our lot, one could see all the way to the newer parts of Rosedale. The main building of the Technical School (and hutments, build to accommodate service personnel when that building had been converted to #2 Wireless School for air force training) could be seen to the northeast. From the kitchen window, the view extended over downtown to Langevin Bridge.
Ours was one of the 16 A St., post-war urban pioneer families of the new district of Hounsfield Heights. My parents, Howard and Lila Stringer, were frequently chided by their urban friends and relatives about moving way out of town, near Cochrane; that was considered miles out of Calgary at the time. Fourteenth Street was a very steep single dirt track and tough to navigate in the mud, for the old forties, two-wheel drive vehicles, the ice block truck and the horse-drawn milk wagon. That was the sum total of our services.
The Nicholson family lived at 1116 – 16th St N.W. Bert (Nicky), Jean and young son David moved to Calgary at the end of World War II. Nicky had been a teacher in the Grande Prairie area before enlisting in the RCAF where he served overseas in England and Italy.
My father purchased the property I live on in 1950 and I have lived here ever since, with short absences for university.
I moved to Calgary on May 29th, 1948 to 2424 7 Ave NW. The area Houndsfield Heights - Briar Hill did not exist. It was all wild prairie used as grazing land. The farm was located about 22 St and 9 Ave and the land from 24 St to 19th St and 9 Ave to 16th Ave belonged to the farm. Sumac Rd was a slough created by a stream coming from the University area which ended in a sewer at 22 St and 7th Ave.
We were transferred from Edmonton to Calgary in the fall of 1950 by Calgary Power Ltd. Our first residence was a rented suite at the corner of 10th St and 19th Ave NW. In the early spring of 1952 we saw a newspaper advertisement showing lots for sale in the Briar Hill by Glencoe Engineering & Construction Co Ltd. under Les Wade. Their office was located at 3-4 Kresge Building, 236 8th Ave W, Calgary. We soon checked out the available lots and found that all were sold from 19th St to 20a St and the first ones available were on 21st St.
In 1950, Charlie and I came to Calgary from Edmonton, where he began a new job here. When we hunted for a house, we found Keith Construction building the Parkdale subdivision. We like the North Hill so bought a lot at 1308 19th St for $1100 and had Keith build a house there for $11,500. When we moved to Briar Crescent six and a half years later, we sold this for $16,500.
On October 31st, 1952 our family moved into a brand-new house in Briar Hill.
The house had been built by Glenco Construction and the contractor arranged to have the yard’s sidewalks poured, but it was Dad’s personal responsibility to have the adjoining boulevard sidewalk cemented and to landscape the property himself. Dad also took it upon himself to circulate a petition to collect signatures of area residents who wished to have the city plant trees along the boulevards of each block. The request was granted and Briar Hill got its trees.
In mid 1952, houses had just been completed on the east side of 20A St and were being occupied. Completion of the houses though did not include steps up to the homes (some which were three or four feet higher than the road), nor the laying of sidewalks, nor the paving of roads.
We first saw Briar Hill in January 1953, when we drove to the Glenco Construction Sales Office which was located on 16th Ave and 20th St. We ordered our house from the sales representative, Mel Cranford. After much dickering about lot construction information and costly extras, we made a deal. We gave him a down payment of $2000 and had a huge mortgage of $8000. Even our lost was $300 extra due to Mr. Penderson who owned all of Briar Hill originally, but held back eight lots. One of them was ours.
My husband and I purchased a lot in Briar Hill in 1953 for $400. At that time, there was only one house on the lot next to ours. My husband was working for a concrete block company, so with the help of some friends, we built our home with the cement blocks. He and I put the roof on together. A few years later, we had it stuccoed. [Typical 1950's House]