The Gay History of Lougheed House
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Written by Caroline Loewen
For many years, the park around Lougheed House was at the centre of Calgary’s gay prostitution stroll which was known in the community as the “Fruit Loop”. While the Beltline neighbourhood and the park became a known site for the queer community to gather, not everyone approved. In Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary, Kevin Allen writes that “In 1982, residents who lived in apartment towers facing the Fruit Loop petitioned Calgary Police to have the stroll removed. The petition received 547 signatures from area residents […] owners alleged they were losing renters due to the distasteful activity and the ensuing noise and traffic.” (p. 81) While the police did take some steps to address the petitions, such as enhancing enforcement and even handing out cards asking sex workers to relocate to nearby 10th Avenue, they were mostly ineffective.
In the end, it was community organizers and heritage enthusiasts, not police action, that forced the gay community to relocate. It was done in the name of community safety and by touting the benefits of the restoration of the site to its former state as a historic house and gardens.
In 1988, recognizing the historic value of the house and buoyed by community support to make the site safer, the Historical Society of Alberta researched the possibility of restoring Lougheed House. The province approved its plan and created a provincial advisory board. In 1993, the City of Calgary purchased the original formal garden and pasture, and the entire historic estate property was in public ownership.
During the 1990s, the Historical Society of Alberta continued to raise public awareness about the site and its potential, creating the Lougheed House Conservation Society in 1995. Since then, the Society has spearheaded the project to restore and re-use the Lougheed estate, a project completed with the formal opening of Lougheed House in 2005.
The restoration of historic sites like Lougheed House has been a tremendous benefit to our community as it provides a space to explore our past. But we also recognize that the process of restoration has the potential to displace and sideline the interests of marginalized groups, and in the case of Lougheed House, has led to the erasure of certain narratives from the history of the site.
Do you have any stories that you think Calgarians should know about?
Tell your side of the story at Lougheed House Civil Space – Lougheed House Re-Imagined.