Industrial Park Living
Story and photos by Chris & Connie.
The Calgary district of Alyth – Bonnybrook – Manchester, three formerly separate neighbourhoods now sort of seen as one, is mostly industrial, but here and there are some old houses, a couple of them even lived in. Join us a we walk about this gritty neighbourhood, located southeast of downtown, in search of these dwellings – a post reminiscent of our Nine Houses/Eight Houses series where we did the same, but only deep in the city’s core.
These types of places are often a gold mine when it comes to other things that interest the BIGDoer crew, old trucks for example, so forgive us if some pictures stray from the main theme.
All the houses seen here are concentrated in triangle chunk of land perhaps 20 blocks square (sort of in the Alyth and Bonnybrook sections). The CPR’s huge railyards are in the northeast, an escarpment in the west that later trends south and a stinky sewage plant, with Bow River behind it, directly south. This only a small part of AlBoMa (our “clever” name for it), which is quite big and extensive, but other parts of it seem devoid of residences of any kind. At least as far as we could see.
Many of the homes appear to be used as offices or storage for various businesses, including a pair belonging to an used car firm, one of them open to the elements and abandoned looking. A couple are clearly not lived in and/or empty, including one for sale and probably slatted for redevelopment. Three or so show signs of habitation and must certainly qualify as some of the weirdest places, at least as location goes, to live in Calgary.
The oddest of the group are three that have a railway track running right past their front yard. The road they’re on (road one side, track beside it) is one of the few in Calgary that is not paved. Sure there are a lot of gravel alleys, but that’s not to be said for roads. Imagine living at any one of them with trucks kicking up dust, industrial noises and smells, and the occasional passing train (the track is used to reach a few industries). Strange!
I doubt many people could live in such an environment without going a bit nuts. It takes a certain type and it’s for these people we call the article Industrial Park Living. I’m hoping one of them reads this. Please, let’s chat about the experience. We’ll bring beer!
We’ve researched each house, as best we could, but as might be expect data on some was completely missing or at best spotty and incomplete. The oldest of the group we found information on, about two thirds of them, is from 1900, (a date I question given the style of architecture, which appears “newer”); the youngest from 1939. Most are from the 1920-1930 era. A few are multi-story, but the rest are single level and rather small in size. A good number are clad in that broken glass stucco so popular in the old days.
This author has seen an old aerial photo showing the area about 1950. At that time it was more a semi-rural mixed residential and industrial, with some farm land and many empty lots scattered about. I guess in the end, the land was better suited for factories and warehouses, a big rail yard was close by for example, and so it grew more and more in that direction over time.
It is possible there are more ex-houses nearby that either could not be seen as we walked about, say they’re surrounded by other buildings or pilled up industrial materials, or that have been so heavily modified that they’re not recognizable, or where outside the area we explored. Either way, I’m sure we must have missed some. If our readers know of one we failed to catch, be sure and speak up.
In World War Two a Canadian Forces supply depot was built nearby and many of the old warehouses remain today, used by various firms, including a number used to store booze for Alberta Distillers thinking of a way to sneak in). The area here is home to a large number of concrete grain elevators and mills. They dominate the scene.
While walking about we find some nice trucks and such to shoot. A Pace Arrow Eleganza motorhome (1980s) looked lived in. It’s not that odd to find one like this every now and then, even if the city frowns upon them as dwellings. Due to any number of factors, usually money related though, empty lots and side roads become temporary addresses for some. Then the police roust them out and they find a new place. Pace Arrow dates from the 1960s and the make is still in production today.
A waterwell drilling company owns some interesting trucks. One is a late 1980s/early 1990s International Paystar – the model was little changed from the 1970s-1990s, but we know this one is from a specific time due to the Navistar Logo on the grill. Navistar took over International, but kept the legacy name, in the mid-1980s. This was that makers heavy duty line of trucks, meant for difficult jobs in the construction, mining and petroleum industries and other concerns where a regular duty rig would just not do. It has a full steel hood and fenders.
Next is a real rare one, a Hendrickson VT-100, a mid to late 1980s model from what we could see. This US based firm is better known for making large truck suspension parts but has always produced a line of specialized or highly customized heavy duty trucks, in small quantities. Today, called HME, they make fire chassis and apparatus.
This make is not common in Canada, nor really anywhere for that matter and it’s the first we’ve seen in the wild. Look at the size of the radiator!
A very battered and worn Kenworth W900 series (we believe – we’re not that good) works for a metal recycling firm (how long before it too becomes scrap?). This model was made from the early 1960s to the early 1980s. This one, based on some details, seems to be from the last half dozen years of production.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Everything was shot was public property
Article sources: Calgary property records.