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Montreal's missing heritage found in Calgary


The statue in Montreal.



The statue in Calgary.



From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Transfer of CPR founder Lord Mount Stephen's statue stirs debate


He's deemed one of Canada's greatest financial geniuses of all time, a builder of the mighty railroad and the first Canadian to earn a peerage. Yet even nation builders can't resist a corporate transfer.


A bronze statue of Lord Mount Stephen, first president of Canadian Pacific Railway, had gazed down on Montrealers and other travellers from his perch at the city's Windsor Station for nearly a century.


But Canadian Pacific quietly relocated him to corporate offices in Calgary this summer, prompting criticism from both Lord Stephen's descendants and Montreal heritage activists.


It hasn't quite reached the level of the Elgin Marbles - the marble statues Britain swiped from the Parthenon - though heritage groups are suggesting that a piece of Montreal's history has been unceremoniously taken.


"This is not a potted plant in a corner office. It's a very symbolic part of Windsor Station and our city," said Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal, who was invested as a member of the Order of Canada this month. "Lord Mount Stephen didn't create CP in Calgary, he didn't greet passengers in Calgary in an office. He did it in our city."


Scottish-born George Stephen adopted Montreal as his home in 1850, and the city became his base for building his fortune. He not only became founding president of the railroad, but left legacies like the Royal Victoria Hospital and his sumptuous mansion on downtown Drummond Street, now the Mount Stephen Club.


His likeness was a fixture at the landmark Windsor Station for decades, overseeing the ebb and flow of passengers and inspiring the memories of writers like Mavis Gallant, who recalled she'd once been told to wait at the foot of the statue if she was ever lost.


The statue was shifted around inside the building, and when Windsor Station was put up for sale in 2007, Lord Stephen was unceremoniously taken down and crated up.


Ever since, reporters questioned his whereabouts and Heritage Montreal pressed CP for word that he - or at least a second copy of the statue - would remain in Montreal.


This week, a Montreal Gazette blog revealed that CP had quietly transferred Lord Stephen to Calgary, where the company had relocated its headquarters in 1996. Some cynically quipped that even statuary was leaving the province.


The statue's new location in Calgary, known as the CPR Pavilion, is used for corporate events and has no passing traffic, an official said yesterday.


The area is closed to the public most of the time and visitors must ring a doorbell to enter during working hours, the official said. Part of the year, the area is open for those heading to the departure point for luxury Royal Canadian Pacific rail service.


The fate of the statue saddened descendants of Lord Stephen, many of whom still live in Quebec; they include the Molson family.


Stephen Reford, a descendant who was named after Lord Stephen, said the statue belongs in Quebec, where the family has deep roots.


"Corporate headquarters move for all kinds of reasons but history doesn't necessarily move along with it," said Mr. Reford, who was born in Quebec but lives in Toronto. "Frankly, most people in Calgary wouldn't know who he is or be interested, while some people in Montreal are."


The issue boils down to who owns heritage: Corporations or the citizenry? CP says it owns the statue and can do as it pleases.


"In CP's opinion, he is part of the corporate history so he's ours to move around or do what we want with," Michel Spénard, a company spokesman in Montreal, said of the Lord Stephen statue.


The Quebec Culture Ministry classified Windsor Station as a historic monument this year. Several artifacts inside the building are protected, but the Lord Stephen statue, which a company official said had been moved out of the building in 2007, is not one of them.


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boohooo sérieux? y a des journalistes payés pour écrire là dessus?


des fois je me demande si t'es ignard, malek.

y'a t-il autre chose que l'automobile ton confort et le développement qui t'intéresse?


sans rancune...

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des fois je me demande si t'es ignard, malek.

y'a t-il autre chose que l'automobile ton confort et le développement qui t'intéresse?


sans rancune...


Sérieux, y a pleins de problèmes dans notre société ici et aussi ailleurs.


L'espace dans un quotidien Montréalais est précieux, pourquoi ne pas l'utiliser plus judicieusement?


Tu crois sincèrement que une statut corporative mérite une attention particulière??

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VOus voyez ce qui arrive quand on ne fais que penser au pauvres et comment les protéger!!! Pendant ce temsp les aurtes villes canadiennes cherchent à s'enrichir, et avec la Richesse, viens les S.S.


JE m'excuse, mais cette statue appartient à la C.P. et ils peuvent faire ce qu'ils veulent avec...ON peux chialer autant qu'on veux(on est bon la dedans :rolleyes: ) mais ça ne change pas le fait que c leurs statue.


Ça me fais chier de voir cette statue partir, mais si on passait moins de temps à bitcher, chialer et essayer de niveler par le bas, peut être que la C.P ne serait jamais parti!?!?


Il y a des conséquences à nos décisions, il faut vivre avec!

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Bite me, Montreal! Stephen belongs here


By Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald

November 22, 2009


Eat your heart out, Montreal. George Stephen has come home to Calgary, where he belongs.


Montrealers are up in arms because a statue of George Stephen, also known as Lord Mount Stephen, first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, has been moved from their city's Windsor Station to Calgary. It's an eminently sensible move, since the company's headquarters is here.


Too bad, so sad Montreal --Stephen's rightful place is in Calgary with the company he headed. And if his new home in the CPR Pavilion across from the Fairmont Palliser isn't exactly auspicious, well, neither was his arrival in Calgary in 1883.


Stephen's advent here back then was duly noted by another George, a fellow Scot who also had a "first" in his title--George Murdoch, Calgary's first mayor, who started out here as a harnessmaker. In early August 1883, CPR track-laying crews reached Calgary and near the end of the month, Murdoch wrote in his diary: "The Excursion train arrived today with the Moguls." Chief mogul on that train was Stephen himself.


Stephen and CPR general manager William Cornelius Van Horne lunched with Father Albert Lacombe on the train that day so long ago in Calgary's early history. The story, one of my favourites, goes that Stephen jokingly appointed Lacombe president of the CPR for an hour, whereupon Lacombe reciprocated by naming Stephen rector of St. Mary's Church in Calgary. Stephen laughed as he gazed out the train window at his new parish --a scattering of tents and board shacks on the riverbank and remarked: "Poor souls of Calgary, I pity you."


Well, poor souls of Montreal, may I say that I pity you. Your loss is Calgary's gain. I could not agree more with Michel Spenard, manager of media relations and public affairs for Canadian Pacific, who told me over the phone from his Montreal office that "It's always been the CPR's belief that Stephen's statue is part of the corporate history." As for Stephen's new home in Calgary, Spenard says: "He's comfortable where he is."


Stephen Reford, a descendant of George Stephen, told the media last week that, "Frankly, most people in Calgary wouldn't know who he is or be interested . . . "


Them's fightin' words. Nice to see that someone living in Toronto professes to pontificate upon what Calgarians know or don't know. Frankly, Mr. Reford, most people in Calgary know that Stephen Avenue Walk was named for George Stephen. And, Mr. Reford, most people in Calgary know that this city's history is inseparably bound up with the history of the CPR. When the first settlers came to Calgary, they erected their tents east of the Elbow River, but the CPR liked the west bank better. The train station went up there and the streets that make up downtown Calgary were laid out there. Calgary is where it is today because the CPR made it that way. And for a bit of further frankness, Mr. Reford, most Calgarians know that Mount Stephen, which towers 2,000 metres above Field, B.C., was named for our man George.


Montrealers argue that Stephen's statue belongs in Windsor Station because it has stood there for almost 100 years. But as Spenard says, "Lord Mount Stephen wasn't involved with Windsor Station in his period as president of the company. Windsor Station was built subsequent to his period." Windsor Station was sold and the deal finalized in August, which meant, Spenard says, "we did not want to leave a piece of our corporate history in a building where we were no longer the owner."


What deals the final blow to Montreal's argument that Stephen's statue belongs in that city because he lived there is the fact that Stephen moved to England in 1888 and lived there until his death in 1921. Should his statue be moved to England because he resided there? Of course not. Along with Van Horne and Donald Smith, he personifies the CPR. He belongs in Calgary.


The final, fitting thing that the company should do for its illustrious first president is to move his statue to a venue where the public can see it. Right now, it is in a space which Spenard describes as "not necessarily a public space. It's a rental venue for various events such as private parties." Such things as wine-tastings and Scotch-tastings have been held in the pavilion. As for putting him somewhere a bit more public, Spenard says: "That decision hasn't come up. It hasn't been looked at."


Well, it should be. George Stephen is part of Calgary's history. Calgary's present needs to look upon him to remember that.


[email protected] canwest.coM

© Copyright © The Calgary Herald




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