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Canadian Pacific Railway Station Building

Empress

Other Names:
C.P.R. Station
CPR Station
Empress C. P. R. Station
Empress Canadian Pacific Railway Station
Empress CPR Station

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Station Building is a one-storey wood frame structure located on a 5.4 hectare site on the north side of the town of Empress which at one time included a number of other building’s which made up the station facilities at the Empress divisional point. The designation includes the station’s original telegraph pole.

Heritage Value
The Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Station Building at Empress was a key transportation and communications facility and derives its heritage value from the fact that it is the only example in Alberta of a standard Plan X-12 Canadian Pacific Railway station, from its builder C.W. Sharpe and from its association with the C.P.R.’s competitive branch line expansion program under Thomas Shaughnessy who became president in 1899.
The Town of Empress developed after the arrival of the railroad in 1914 and became known as the “Hub of the West”. The 1914 Canadian Pacific Railway station at Empress was a major divisional point at the junction of six intersecting rail lines and associated telegraph lines.
Because of the role of Empress as a railway hub, a station based on standard Plan X-12 was constructed at this location. It is the only example of this standard plan in Alberta. It is distinguished by the utilization of the large windows and by ornamental pressed metal wild roses at the end of the roof ridge cap. The layout of the station incorporates the necessary functions of a divisional point station including: passenger, freight and telegraph facilities as well as office space for the roadmaster who was responsible for the maintenance of the track within the division.
C.W. Sharpe and Sons provided ornamental plasterwork work for many Winnipeg buildings including banks, insurance companies and the Carriage Library and the Legislative Building in Regina.
Empress served as a divisional point on the branch line constructed between Bassano and Swift Current. The choice of the Empress site by the C.P.R. and its designation as a divisional point initiated the development of the community and assured its early development.
Source: Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: DES 0912)


Character-Defining Elements
Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Station Building
- overall form, scale and massing;
- wood shingle clad roof with rolled metal ridge cap;
- three pressed metal wild roses at the ends of the roof ridge cap;
- overhanging eaves with brackets;
- projecting bay on north façade, including its fenestration pattern and shingle siding;
- clapboard drop siding and trim wainscoting;
- overall fenestration pattern;
- double-hung and casement windows with original window frames, muntin bars, storm windows;
- baggage room door and entrance door;
- original floor plan, including ticket and telegraph office, waiting rooms, washrooms, baggage rooms and roadmaster’s office;
- ornamental plaster work in offices, waiting rooms and wash rooms with associated trim;
- high ceilings;
- hardwood floors;
- plank flooring in baggage room;
- express room frame wall;
- ceiling framing in baggage rooms.

Telegraph poles
- location on the southwest corner of the train station property;
- two large vertical telephone poles with stabilizing guy wires;
- two pairs of horizontal wooden cross beams connecting the poles at their upper limit
- threaded wooden insulator pegs on beams


Location



Street Address:
Community: Empress
Boundaries: Lot 5, Portion of Plan 9111276
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
1
23
13
9 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
9111276

5


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.958965 -110.007904 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2002/06/28

Historical Information

Built: 1914 to 1914
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Communications and Transportation
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder: C.W. Sharpe
Context: After the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) was extended across the southern prairies of western Canada during 1881-83, land out from the rail line became viable for agricultural settlement. Thus, while land along the South Saskatchewan River near Medicine Hat was quickly surveyed and taken up, land further downstream to the north was largely left open, even though the Dominion Land Surveys were completed there during the late 1880s. It was not until news spread in 1911 that the C.P.R. planned to connect Swift Current and Calgary with a northern branch line that settlers began to arrive in this area in great numbers. As this northern C.P.R. line was to cross the North Saskatchewan at a point close to where it is joined by the Red Deer River, land along these river flats became instantly attractive. Most settlers to this district were either British or German immigrants who were basically unaware that this open prairie was part of the Palliser Triangle, which would be devastated by drought conditions during the 1920s.

On a broad flat south of the North Saskatchewan, where a North West Mounted Police (N.W.M.P.) trail connected Fort Walsh with Fort Battleford, the C.P.R. decided to subdivide a townsite. Settlement had already occurred on this flat, which the police had named Empress (after the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, Empress of India, in 1897) and, in January 1913, a post office was opened. At the time, the spread-out community was divided into East Empress and West Empress; the C.P.R. townsite would be on the southern portion of East Empress, along the railway grade. Not surprisingly, the business centre of the community was quickly consolidated in the townsite, which was adjacent to the Saskatchewan border. As Empress was made a divisional point of the C.P.R., and, indeed, was the only community within a vast area, it quickly grew to some size immediately after lots were put up for sale in Medicine Hat in November, 1913. In early 1914, the bridge across the North Saskatchewan to the east was completed, and, in May 1914, the steel reached the townsite. Three months before this, Empress was incorporated as a village with over 200 people, with an active board of trade. Regular train service would begin in the spring of 1915.

As with the rest of rural Alberta, Empress prospered with the war years. The demand for wheat was high, and so were the prices. As veterans returned to the land right after the war, there was a further splurge of production, and the village grew as a result. In 1920, it was listed as having 800 residents, and all the amenities a prairie village could provide. However, hard times were on their way. Post-war overproduction soon brought a sharp decline to the wheat market, and, soon the drought condition, which would become endemic in southeastern Alberta, began to prevail. In 1922, there were more foreclosures than applications for land in this region, and, by 1931, Empress had fewer than 500 people. By this time, the Depression was adding to the misery and more businesses in town went under. The community managed to survive however, for, as long as there was some grain production in the region, the farmers needed a community and railway facilities to export their grain.

Among the railway facilities in Empress was a round house and a station. The station was constructed in 1914 to a standard CPR Plan X-12 design and built by C.W. Sharpe & Son of Winnipeg, which had constructed other railway stations throughout the West. Although it was replaced as a station in 1972, it saw subsequent use as a bunkhouse, and, even though it went into disuse after that, it managed to survive due to the lack of development in downtown Empress. In later years, it was noted to be the only CPR Plan X-12 station left in Alberta, and so it was protected under the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.

The historical significance of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station Building in Empress lies in its service as the main station for passenger and freight traffic in the region between Medicine Hat and Oyen from its construction in 1914 until its replacement in 1972. It is also the only building in Empress that dates back to the founding of the community during 1913-14. Its significance is augmented by the fact that it is the only Plan X-12 C.P.R. station left in Alberta.

The architectural significance of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station Building in Empress, built in 1914 is that although it shares many features with other Alberta train stations - such as its wide bracketed eaves, and its long and low arrangement along the alignment of the track - this station's design is unique in the province. Of special interest is the fenestration. In particular, the large segmentally arched window in the station's central one and one-half storey bay is distinctive. Train stations generally followed standard plans devised at the railroad's head office. This was the case with this station. However, unlike many such plans, this is the only one of this type built in Alberta.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0804
Designation File: DES 0912
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 31946
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 912)
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