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Canadian National Railway Station

Vegreville

Other Names:
C. N. R. Station
C.N.R. Station
Canadian National Railway Station
CNR Station
Vegreville Train Station

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Canadian National Railway Station is a two-storey wood frame building located on one lot in the Town of Vegreville's downtown. Built in 1930, the station features a stucco exterior, hip roof with bellcast eaves supported by brackets, and gable dormers.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Canadian National Railway Station lies in its aesthetic and architectural significance as an example of standard plan railway station design. It also possesses heritage value as an emblem of the central role of railways in opening the province to settlement and agriculture.

The Canadian National Railway Station in Vegreville is a fine example of standard railway plan architecture. Completed in 1930, it is the last extant example of a Canadian National Railway (CNR) station house constructed according to company plan 100-255. The station replaced an earlier, smaller railway facility and featured an integral freight shed and a porte cochere. The ground floor included several separate areas, including a waiting room, ticket and express office, express room, and separate men's and ladies' washrooms. The waiting room was subdivided into compartments, one serving as a ladies waiting room, and another as a smoking room. This five-part arrangement of the ground floor was a pragmatic use of the space at hand and embodied advances in railroad station design typical of the period. The construction of this impressive new station was likely occasioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway's decision to lay down a branch-line through Vegreville and the CNR's desire to remain competitive in the community.

With the gradual disappearance of early train stations from Alberta's communities, buildings like the Canadian National Railway Station in Vegreville have gained increased historic significance as structural embodiments of the essential role that the railways played in establishing settlement and agricultural economy in the province.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 953)


Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Canadian National Railway Station include such features as:
- relatively large scale of the station house, reflective of its many purposes and possibly its symbolic role in the competition between the CNR and CPR;
- hip roof with gable dormers, gabled extensions, bellcast eaves and brackets, and half-timbering;
- floor plan layout according to CNR plan 100-225;
- porte cochere;
- arrangement of window and door openings;
- original interior elements, including flooring and woodwork;
- semaphore control levers.


Location



Street Address: 4922 - 52 Avenue
Community: Vegreville
Boundaries: Lot 1, Descriptive Plan 0123415
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
4
4
4
14
14
14
14
52
52
52
52
18
18
18
18
09
10
15
16

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
0123415

1


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.495801 -112.049306 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: 2006/10/11

Historical Information

Built: 1930 to 1930
Significant Date(s)
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Transport - Rail : Station or Other Rail Facility
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Eating or Drinking Establishment
Commerce / Commercial Services : Studio
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HISTORICAL CONTEXT

When the Canadian Northern (CNor) Railway strung its line through east central Alberta, a number of sidings were erected, and, at a few locations, the CNor undertook to subdivide townsites. One of the townsites was near the tiny community of Vegreville, named after the Oblate priest. The name was probably suggested by Father Morin, who tried to establish a Francophone colony in the area. A few French settlers did come to the area, and, by the turn of the twentieth century, and there were a few English settlers around as well. A number of Ukrainians were also beginning to arrive, some spilling over from Ukrainian settlements further to the east. With the coming of the railway, many more settlers arrived, many from the Ukraine, and, in time, Vegreville became known as, primarily, a Ukrainian district.

With the railway, the farmers from around Vegreville could at last ship their produce to markets in the East. The hinterland around the community was so large, that building boom occurred, and, in August 1906, the re-located community of Vegreville was incorporated, first as a village and then as a town, with over 400 people. The district experienced much prosperity during the World War One period, but, like the rest of rural Alberta, suffered from the reduced grain prices following the War. The Canadian Northern was also suffering, and, in 1919, it was taken over by the Dominion government and made part of the Canadian National system of railways.

The late 1920's was a period of higher prices and higher yields in Alberta, and the farming population around Vegreville increased accordingly. By this time, CN was well aware that the old train station, built in 1906, was hardly adequate for the needs of the district. It had been built to a third class 100-3 design, as had most stations between Lloydminster and Edmonton. According to Les Kozma, most of these stations were soon recognized to be inadequate. On 10 April 1929, the local Board of Trade wrote to CN Superintendent Devenish to complain that:

… the present CNR station is an eyesore and a blemish on the fair face of the town, and the
facilities provided the travelling public at this station were ridiculously inadequate for the
size of the town the station intended to serve.

By this time, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) had begun building a branch line south from Willingdon, and, possibly in recognition of the coming competition, CN decided to build a new station. This was a two-story wood frame structure, measuring 107' x 37', with a stucco exterior. It was divided into four separate function areas on the ground floor (waiting room, ticket and express office, express room, and two washrooms). The second floor was made into living quarters for the station manager and his family. A storage room and a boiler room occupied the basement. The waiting room was subdivided into compartments, one serving as a ladies waiting room, and another as a smoking room. The Vegreville Observer was evidently satisfied, for it observed that:

… The CN, as our pioneer railway, has always been generous to Vegreville, not unduly so,
but sufficiently for our present needs.

The CN Station served the community until 1975, at which time the station was sold and converted into other uses, including a seniors drop-in center.


HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the CN Station in Vegreville lies in its service as a station for the entire Vegreville district from 1930 to 1975. As such, it was the nerve centre for the export of agricultural produce, and the import of finished products. It also provided a passenger service for people travelling east or west, and contained the district telegraph office.

(D. Leonard, June 2005)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1050
Designation File: DES 2176
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 30120
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. 2176)
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