Friday, November 4, 2011

The Little House That Could

In 1930, out in Calgary, Alberta, there was a house that gave The Little Engine That Could a run for its money - you think it's tough being a little engine getting up a mountain? Try being a whole two-and-a-half story house that needs to get across a river.

I lived in Calgary several years ago, and it was my first time ever living in the West. It was a great experience, and I got quite interested in the history of Calgary, especially the buildings. I wrote for a local newspaper for awhile, concentrating on historic buildings in the city. So when I saw this article from the July 1930 Popular Mechanics, I knew I had to write about it. I don't know if this house is still around, though. And I wish I knew who built it, because he was clearly a man who didn't let a little mistake like the wrong building site stop him. I like that kind of perseverance.

Calgary's Elbow River
Anyway, long before there were easy ways to find houses for rent in Calgary - in 1930 - our enterprising anonymous hero built himself a house on the banks of the Elbow River (Calgary was built at the confluence, or meeting place, of the Bow and Elbow Rivers). Well, after he got finished he had a good look at the place and wasn't really happy with it. You might say, in 21st century parlance, that the Feng Shui of the house was so far off kilter that - well, that the whole place needed to be in a different spot altogether. Like, on the opposite side of the river.

Now there's a home renovation project and a half. But this clever Calgarian did not give up and say: I guess I don't mind being on the wrong river bank. No, he built himself a temporary bridge made of logs, hired a tractor - and simply had the whole house pulled across the Elbow to the other side, where he had built, in advance of this, a concrete foundation. I especially like the little canopy on the tractor - it looks a little bit like the Surrey With the Fringe on Top from Oklahoma!, doesn't it? And I like the pioneering can-do spirit that inspired someone to haul that house across the river on some logs so that it would be in exactly the right place. He thought he could - and he did.

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