One of Calgary's few remaining historic houses, Lougheed House was built in 1891 as the home of Senator James Alexander Lougheed, his wife Lady Isabella Hardisty Lougheed, their six children and staff. They named it 'Beaulieu' meaning beautiful place and at that time it was one of the finest houses in this pioneer town of only 4,000 residents.
This grand sandstone mansion, which once stood in prairie land southwest of the city, is testament to the wealth and status of its original owners with fine mahogany panelling, maple floors, hand-painted stained-glass windows, and wall coverings that were the height of opulence in the 1890s.
As a visitor, it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to hear the music in the downstairs ballroom and watch couples dance the tango - an occasion which caused quite a stir in 1914 - or to look out into the gardens and see a genteel throng of people talking and enjoying light refreshment at a garden party attended by the Prince of Wales in 1919.
There are little surprises in almost every room, like the inglenook seating area in the entrance hallway, the domed skylight in the dining room and the etched glass doors bearing Senator Lougheed's monogram. The stained-glass windows, particularly those adjacent to the staircase, are beautiful. Featuring flora and fauna such as deer, birds and rabbits, they were made by Robert McCausland Stained Glass of Toronto, which is the oldest surviving stained-glass maker in North America.
I went on a self-guided tour with an audio guide which provided an excellent commentary about the Lougheeds, the history of the house and how the various rooms were used originally and later for other activities as the ownership changed hands.
Senator Lougheed died in 1925 and in 1934, following the depression, the City of Calgary took possession of the house and estate for non-payment of property taxes. Lady Lougheed was allowed to continue living there until her death in 1936. Two years later the contents of the house were auctioned off and between then and the early 2000s Lougheed House was used for a variety of purposes, including a youth employment training centre, the Canadian Women's Army Corps barracks, and a Canadian Red Cross blood donor centre. In 1977 the Province of Alberta took ownership of Lougheed house and designated it a Provincial Historic Resource.
During the 1990s the Lougheed House Preservation Society was created to restore the house and its gardens to their former Victorian and Edwardian splendour. Restoration of the house was completed in 2005 when it opened to the public.
Today, as well as being able to tour the house and gardens, you can enjoy lunch at The Restaurant inside Lougheed House from Wednesday to Friday or brunch at the weekend, but check the website or give them a call before you go as the house is used for external events.
The museum shop is a delight, all giftware reflecting the house's history through the 20th century. Among the reproduction pieces of jewellery, linen, stationery, fashion accessories and china there are some genuine vintage collectibles.
Lougheed House is easy to find along 13th Avenue/7th Street. I parked on the street where payment is required, but there are two free car parks with limited parking spaces off 13th Avenue and 14th Avenue to the west of the house. The nearest C-Train stops are 7th St SW (travelling west) and 6th St SW (travelling east), which are a 10 minute walk away.