“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared November 9, 1997.
Pearce House (Bow Bend Shack)
• 2014 17th Avenue East
• Built: 1889
• Demolished: 1957
• C.O. Wickenden (also designed Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver)
• Original owner: William Pearce was a land surveyor and civil engineer who came west to Winnipeg from Ontario in 1874. He was one of the first 10 surveyors employed in the initial survey of the North West Territories and was involved in the survey of the 49th parallel. Pearce worked as Inspector of Dominion Land Agencies, was a member of the Dominion Lands Board (1882) and later Superintendent of Mines. He moved to Calgary in 1887. In 1904 he left government service for a position with Canadian Pacific Railway, which he held until his retirement in 1924, as an advisor on land management and natural resources. Pearce was instrumental in establishing Canada's national parks system. In 1885 he helped draft the legislation for the Rocky Mountain Park, forerunner of Banff National Park. Pearce and his wife were married in 1881 and raised five children together. The Pearce's participated in the founding of Calgary General Hospital, collecting donations and lobbying for a hospital site. In 1893 Pearce formed the Calgary Irrigation Company. Pearce, a pioneer conservationist, died in 1930 at the age of 80. He is buried in Union cemetery and his grave is marked by a fragment from a glacial deposit.
• Construction materials: Sandstone hauled from a nearby quarry owned by a man named MacIntosh. Outer walls were two feet thick. Inner partitions were brick.
• Original interior details: Fifteen rooms. Extensive use of wood; hardwood floors, bird's eye maple stair bannister, alder wall panelling, black walnut pillars (the wood was from his father's Lake Erie, Ontario property). Mrs. Pearce reportedly made her own furniture polish from beeswax. Bow Bend had three fireplaces, steam heat, natural gas, two pantries. There was a full basement (finished with plaster walls and baseboards) that included a "billiard room with a pink wash bowl", wine / beer cellar, milk room, servants quarters, furnace and coal room.
• Pearce's sense of humour was evident in his naming the mansion Bow Bend Shack. Contemporary accounts described the house as the "finest west of Winnipeg."
• Pearce carefully chose a hilltop location to take advantage of the mountain view and avoid spring flooding. At his insistence the windows remained without curtains because he didn't want the view obscured.
• Early city directory gave the address as "17th Avenue East beyond the CPR crossing."
• The 197 acre property was a showplace and included tennis courts, stable and coach house, corral, tool house, ice house, hennery, vegetable and flower gardens, playhouse for the children. Groves of spruce trees lined the curved driveway leading to the front door. The trees were dug up at Shagganappi Point west of Calgary and planted on the Pearce estate by Andy Nelson. Pearce irrigated the entire property to demonstrate the benefits of irrigation. Trees, flower and vegetable gardens thrived, creating a haven of foliage on the banks of the Bow.
• Bow Bend was one of the first Calgary homes with indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water. The wind mill located on the property pumped water into an attic tank and gravity did the rest.
• The home had all the modern conveniences including an enormous ice box (refrigerator). Ice was cut from the river during the winter months and stored in saw dust until needed.
• There was an enormous flag pole on the top of the house. The Pearce's entertained frequently and on these social occasions (square dances, picnics, the 1918 armistice) the flag was raised.
• In 1953 Pearce's daughter said, " our house was a big barn of a place... the rooms were all big and square. You walked a mile to the kitchen. The windows were very large and the panes came from Montreal. Some of the rooms were kept closed because we didn't have enough furniture for them."
• In 1957 Bow Bend Shack was demolished to make way for a 50,000 square foot warehouse for Simpson Sears.
• In 1975 the province dedicated a small park on the south bank of the Bow River below the irrigation weir to Pearce. Senator Hastings unveiled a plaque in memory of William Pearce "Czar of the West."
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared March 23, 2004.
Then: Bow Bend Shack (William Pearce residence)
• William Pearce was a pioneer conservationist, land surveyor and civil engineer who moved to Calgary from Winnipeg around 1887. Pearce worked for the federal government in various postings related to land until 1904, when he took a position with the Canadian Pacific Railway as an adviser on land management and natural resources. He was instrumental in establishing Canada's national parks system.
In 1889, he built this 15-room sandstone residence, designed by C.O. Wickenden (architect of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver).
Pearce's "Bow Bend Shack" was the first Calgary home with indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water. It had three fireplaces, steam heat, natural gas, two pantries, a billiard room and a wine/ beer cellar. The house was part of an 80-hectare, irrigated estate that featured a windmill, tennis courts, stable, coach house, corral, tool and ice houses, hennery, vegetable and flower gardens, spruce tree groves and a playhouse for the Pearces' five children.
Now: Vacant lot
• William Pearce died in 1930 and was buried in Union Cemetery. The old house was demolished in 1957 to make way for a 50,000 square- foot warehouse for Simpson Sears. Just recently, the warehouse was demolished and all that remains is a vacant lot. Today, the Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery occupies a portion of the former Pearce Estate. In 1975, the province dedicated a small park on the south bank of the Bow River below the irrigation weir to Pearce. Senator Earl Hastings unveiled a plaque in memory of William Pearce, "Czar of the West."