While the Ranchmen’s Club was getting organized in 1891, the “City Beautiful” movement was beginning to take root across Canada. Projects ranged from the construction of civic centres to the development of tree-lined boulevards, allotment gardens and public parks – the “planned creation of civic beauty through architectural harmony, unified design and visual activity.” Citizens formed horticultural societies, civic improvement associations, and boards of trade. Railway gardens, an inspired marketing concept of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s nationwide initiative to promote the perception of fertility on company owned lands, sprang up through western Canada.
By the time the Club first met on the 5th of May 1891, the CPR had opened Calgary’s first public park; a fenced railway garden featuring a drinking fountain, flower and vegetable gardens and trees, located next to the tracks at the 9th Avenue passenger depot. Ranchmen’s Club member Senator James Alexander Lougheed was an ardent proponent of “City Beautiful.” A prominent lawyer, astute businessman and politician, Lougheed recognized that a beautiful town was good for business! In October 1894, Lougheed wrote the Mayor and Council of the City of Calgary:
"Allow me to suggest the desirability of your passing a By-law providing for a reservation on the sides of residential streets outside the sidewalk line, of about eighty feet for Boulevard purposes, and giving to Citizens the right to sod the same, plant trees and to surround such boulevard by a light railing for the preservation of the trees from cattle etc. It is needless to say that this mode of beautifying a City is so largely observed in the East as to require no comments on the desirability of your making provision for such a method. If the By-law is now passed, residents will be in a position to count upon making Boulevard improvements in the ensuing spring.” - Senator James Alexander Lougheed - October 1894
Turn of the century photos of the Ranchmen’s first purpose-built clubhouse constructed on McIntyre Avenue (7th Avenue – where the Hudson’s Bay parking garage now sits) in 1892, show a yard dotted with trees including ash, elm, spruce, Russian poplars and a front verandah nestled in hop vines. Lougheed and other members of the Ranchmen’s Club (Messrs. Hull, Burns and Cross) actively supported the “greening” of Calgary; surrounding their homes with gardener tended flowerbeds, trees, shrubs and kitchen gardens. The Club and many of its members became involved in the Calgary Horticultural Society founded in 1907 with the purpose of “encouraging botany, forestry and horticulture” and in “aiding the beautifying and improving of the city.” In August 1908 the Club won prizes for the best pair of window or balcony boxes of flowers and for sweet peas under the cut flower category at the Society’s second annual flower show.
By 1911 the Club was well represented on the Horticultural Society's executive; A.G. Wolley-Dod as President, Senator Lougheed as Honourary President and W.J. Tregillus as 1st Vice-President. Wolley-Dod's lecture 'What to Grow and How to Grow It' was published by the Society in 1911 in response to public demand. In the introduction to the collection of essays, the editor wrote, "The value of this publication to those who are not fully acquainted with local conditions will be incalculable. Conditions, as they exist in Calgary, are very different from other places, and the reason so many people, especially newcomers, do not meet with the success they anticipated in their attempts at home beautifying."
When the new Ranchmen's Club's clubhouse was built on the corner of 6th Street and 13th Avenue in 1913/14, trees planted around the old clubhouse on 7th Avenue were dug up and replanted at the new location. Improvements to the property and gardens continued throughout the years and in 1920 a gardener was hired for $50.00 per month and meals. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the bowling green, the lawn and the gardens seemed to need constant attention, primarily for the management of dandelions, roots and uneven ground.
In contemporary times, maintenance of the property surrounding the clubhouse remains a priority. In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Ranchmen's Club's clubhouse on the current site, the Committee of Management, through its Anniversaries Committee, had commissioned a renovated landscaping and exterior lighting program that was officially unveiled on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. The Club's perimeter gardens were returned to a traditional-style with plantings circa 1914, and a more detailed and more cost effective exterior lighting plan will provide for better highlighting of the building's spectacular design with its unique terra cotta detail.
Although "City Beautiful" as a movement officially faded away around 1930, the City of Calgary's current 13th Avenue Heritage Greenway project confirms that the philosophy endures. Senator Lougheed would be pleased.
13th Avenue Clubhouse nearing completion in the spring of 1913