Bookstores were among the first businesses on Stephen Avenue in the early 1880s, and in 1906, they continued to thrive. One of them was Thomson’s – a bookstore that operated where Thomson’s Restaurant now stands – part of the Hyatt Hotel where we will be gathering to celebrate the Alberta Literary Awards tomorrow evening.
There were several libraries in 1906 Calgary – all of them private. While Annie Davidson was settling into her new home on 13th Avenue West, down the street, James and Isabella Lougheed were planning an addition to their sandstone mansion, in part to showcase their extensive library of leather-bound books.
Soon after Annie Davidson arrived in Calgary, she invited a group of women to her parlour, with an eye to starting a reading club. That invitation would, over the decades, turn these few blocks in the Beltline into a literary landscape.
The women who met in Annie Davidson’s parlour in February 1906 formed the city’s first – and longest running book club. (It still convenes to this day with 38 active members and a lively, rigorous program of reading and discussion.)
But for Annie Davidson and her friends– a book club was only the beginning. Soon, their Calgary Women’s Literary Society began petitioning the city to build the province’s first public library in this park behind us, down the block from Annie’s house.