Inglewood, the Colonel James Walker House
The Colonel James Walker House is an early twentieth century, two-storey building constructed of red bricks and featuring sandstone trim, a low hipped roof and a wide verandah on the south and west sides. It is located on 0.98 hectares of land backing onto a lagoon on the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in the Inglewood district of Calgary. The original brick carriage house adjacent to the building is also included in the designation as an historic place registered in Alberta in 1975 and in the Canadian Register on March 29, 2006.
The heritage value of the Colonel James Walker House lies chiefly in that it served as the primary residence of Colonel James Walker for over 25 years. It is further significant as the house from which the surrounding community of Inglewood derived its name, as well as for its association with the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Finally, the house is valued as a good example of the eclectic residential architecture favoured by wealthy Albertans in the early twentieth century.
In 1910 the current brick house was built by Colonel James Walker, one of the most influential civic figures during Calgary's early years. Originally distinguishing himself as an officer of the first North West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.) detachment to cross the plains, he gained the trust of both settlers and aboriginal leaders as Indian Agent and negotiator. After 1881, when he resigned from active duty and went into ranching, sawmilling, and real estate, he became known as one of the region's premier businessmen, earning a reputation for fairness and integrity. The list of his achievements is impressive. In 1883, Colonel Walker homesteaded the land where the house was later built. He is credited with donating the land for the school that now bears his name in the Inglewood community, laying Calgary's first sidewalk, stringing the first telephone line and providing the city with its first commercial and residential natural gas illumination supplied from a well drilled in partnership with the pioneer oilman Archibald W. Dingman on this property in 1908-09. He founded the Calgary Agricultural Society (forerunner of the Calgary Stampede), served as first school trustee, the first justice of the peace and the first Boy Scout leader. Given the scope and breadth of his accomplishments before he died in 1936, it came as little surprise that Walker was named as Calgary's Citizen of the Century in 1975.
The home was built in an area known as Brewery Flats at the time. "Inglewood" was Walker's name for his home, and the moniker was soon applied by the public to the surrounding community. While the Inglewood district had originally been established in 1875, following the construction of Fort Calgary, it was not until the construction of Colonel Walker's home that an enduring neighbourhood name was adopted by the people. The home has remained a proud local landmark since that time. In 1929 at the urging of Colonel Walker and his son W.J. Selby Walker, the Walker Estate and an adjoining parcel of land were set aside by the Federal Government as a sanctuary for migratory birds, most likely the first such sanctuary in the province. James Walker died in 1936. During the Great Depression, Selby Walker lost the bulk of the Walker estate through tax arrears. After citizens approved the agreement in a July 20, 1938 plebiscite, the City sold about 90 acres of the former Walker homestead to the British American Oil Company (B/A). Selby Walker was opposed to the City selling the land for industrial purposes. The company built an oil refinery on the site. Selby died on July 21, 1952, at the age of seventy-three. Within fifteen months, his heirs lost ownership of the Walker estate. The City had changed the tax scheme from agricultural to city property, and the heirs were forced to sell the property for owed taxes. The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary became property of Jefferies and Sons Limited, a large contracting firm established by James Edward (Ed) Jefferies (1888-1955). Jefferies and Sons donated or sold the Walker house and its immediate environs to the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA), which made the house its new headquarters. A gravel pit was excavated on the AFGA property and was reclaimed and is now known as Jefferies pond. The transfer of title took effect in 1955, the year Jefferies died. In the late 1960s, members of the Calgary Field Naturalists’ Society (founded in 1960 as the Calgary Bird Club) led a successful effort to persuade the City to acquire the site as a natural preserve and educational facility within the city’s parks system. The City purchased the house and its surrounding 2.4 acres for $15,000 plus the Alberta Fish and Game Association’s tax arrears. Consolidated Concrete purchased Jefferies and Sons Limited and developed a number of buildings on the site. Many of these buildings were demolished when the City took over the management of the Bird Sanctuary. Open to the public since 1929, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary has been a home to over 270 species of migratory birds, and the Colonel James Walker House has served as a centre for the educational and administrative activities of the Sanctuary.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 224)
Source: Colonel Walker Estate February 7, 2007 report by Harry Sanders
Source: Photograph of the Walker home courtesy of the Calgary Public Library, Community Heritage and Family History Collection