“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared March 31, 2004.
Then: William Reader's House -- Union Cemetery
• During William Reader's tenure as city parks superintendent from 1912 until shortly before his death in 1943, he lived in this house located on the northwest slope of Union Cemetery. Below the residence (built around 1913) lay the civic nursery and greenhouses established by Reader around 1914. Between 1913 and 1942, Reader developed an intricate series of public gardens progressing from the sandstone entry arch of Union Cemetery and onward up the hill in a southeasterly direction to the mortuary chapel and northeast to the superintendent's residence. In 1922, he initiated work on a rock garden. By the time of his retirement in 1942, he had changed the face of Calgary through public education, creativity, innovation and commitment to the development of city parks, gardens, green spaces and horticultural initiatives.
Now: Shale clearing -- Union Cemetery
• In 1944, the city parks department, acting on the initiative of the Calgary Horticultural Society (Reader was one of the founders in 1908), unveiled a memorial plaque naming the rock garden at Union Cemetery in memory of its creator, William R. Reader. In that same year, the superintendent's residence was removed and a small parking lot developed in its place. The greenhouses and nurseries were demolished in the late 1970s to accommodate LRT construction. As the years progressed, the gardens fell into disrepair. Initiatives are currently underway to rehabilitate the once internationally recognized Reader's Rock Garden and reclaim it as a heritage resource. For more information, call the local history collection at Calgary Public Library 260-2785.