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Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator

St. Albert

Other Names:
Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator No. 1

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator includes a rectangular traditional wooden elevator with an attached drive shed and an office/engine house connected to the main structure by a covered walkway. The elevator is located on Meadowview Drive in St. Albert on a 0.8 hectare parcel of land. It is situated adjacent to the Canadian National Railway line and beside the Alberta Grain Company Grain Elevator, also a Provincial Historic Resource.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator lies in its embodiment of the dominant method of grain storage and transportation throughout most of the twentieth century in Alberta. It also possesses value as an icon of the province's social and agricultural history.

The arrivals in Edmonton of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway line in 1891 and the Canadian Northern Railway line in 1905 were essential in opening central Alberta to settlement and establishing the region's grain economy. In 1906, the Canadian Northern (after 1919, the Canadian National) line was extended through St. Albert to Morinville. Over the succeeding two decades, St. Albert grew quickly. In 1929, the Alberta Wheat Pool (AWP) constructed the agricultural district's largest grain elevator to date, just east of the town's first elevator (built by the Brackman Kerr Milling Co.). The AWP was founded in 1923 during the administration of the United Farmers of Alberta (1921-1935) and reflected the rise of the cooperative ethos among Alberta's agriculturalists. Like other wheat pools, it sought to maximize returns to farmers by marketing their grain directly to the Central Selling Agency in Winnipeg, providing an alternative to selling through middlemen and the Grain Exchange. The 35,000 bushel elevator built by the AWP in St. Albert in 1929 was derived from the standard plans used by the organization at the end of the 1920s during a period of rapid expansion. It is one of the oldest extant AWP grain elevators in the province. By the mid-twentieth century the AWP had become a major grain marketer, owning more elevators in Alberta than any other company. It acquired the neighbouring Alberta Grain Company Grain Elevator in St. Albert in 1967 (originally constructed by Brackman Kerr Milling Co. and later owned by the Alberta Grain Company, the Alberta Pacific Grain Company and Federal Grain Ltd.).

Grain elevators are singular symbols of the Prairies, reflecting the region's deep economic and social connections to agricultural life and providing striking vertical landmarks against the often monotonous flatness of the West. Like other grain elevators in Alberta, the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator was an integral part of St. Albert's social fabric. The site encapsulates a pattern that defines the history of many of Alberta's early communities - the growth of settlement following the arrival of the railway and the construction of grain elevators, the rise of the co-operative ethos that changed the nature of grain marketing in western Canada, and the closing of older grain elevators in recent decades as a result of improvements to the province's transportation infrastructure and the development of mass storage facilities for grain. The elevator complex thus represents in microcosm a whole range of changes to Alberta economy and society during the twentieth century. Together, the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator and the Alberta Grain Company Grain Elevator form an elevator row that is a landmark for the community of St. Albert.
Source: Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch (Files: DES 1723 and DES 2174)


Character-Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator lies in such character-defining elements as:
- scale and massing of the elevator;
- the tall rectangular design expressing its grain handling function, with wooden crib construction, exposed structural members, sloping shoulder design, wood framing, and cupola;
- bevelled cedar siding;
- in situ components of the grain handling systems, such as the elevator leg and distributor, weigh scale, hopper scale, and drive shed scale bed, control wheel and levers, electric motors, bins, hopper, belts and pulleys for the vertical conveyor belt, wood bins and chutes, and man-lift;
- prominent corporate signage;
- spatial relationships between the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator, the Alberta Grain Company Grain Elevator, and the railway line.


Location



Street Address: 4B Meadowview Drive
Community: St. Albert
Boundaries: Lot 3, Block 9, Plan 0625107
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
25
54
5
8 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
0625107
9
3


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.633071 -113.641119 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: 2007/01/19

Historical Information

Built: 1929 to 1929
Significant Date(s) 1929 to 1989
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Developing Economies : Trade and Commerce
Historic Function(s): Food Supply : Grain Elevator
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HISTORICAL CONTEXT

When Father Albert Lacombe, O.M.I. (Oblates of Mary Immaculate), established his Mission on the north side of the Sturgeon River in 1861, he worked with the local Métis population to develop the fledgling community, a settlement which would evolve into a town and, eventually, a city. His little church would eventually become a Catholic bishopric
It was Lacombe's intent to have the Métis residents around his parish become farmers, and so he encouraged them to till the soil. He immediately assigned river lots along the Sturgeon, which provided for the planting of gardens and small fields of wheat, oats and barley. By 1870, the population around the Church had increased to such an extent that the community had become the largest settlement between Winnipeg and Vancouver. The St. Albert Settlement was officially surveyed in 1880. From this time until the middle of the twentieth century, St. Albert was mainly a farming community.

Initially, most grain grown in the fields around St. Albert was for domestic use, some as fodder for horses and cattle, and some for the making of bread, with wheat ground into flour with domestic mills. Then, after the Calgary & Edmonton (C & E) Railway arrived South Edmonton in 1891, some of the grain from the district began to be shipped to outside markets from this terminal. The 1890's also saw much land beyond St. Albert opened up for homesteading. The community itself therefore continued to grow and take on the appearance of a northern prairie farming town, and, in 1899, it was incorporated as a village with over 100 people. During these years, the St. Albert Trail saw many horse-drawn wagon loads of grain taken to the railhead in Strathcona, or to various mills in Edmonton or Strathcona. In St. Albert itself, a flourmill was built in 1906 by a group of local businessmen called the St. Albert Company.

In the fall of 1905, the Canadian Northern (CNoR) Railway entered Edmonton from the east, and, immediately, grain elevators sprang up in the east end of Edmonton. The trip for St. Albert farmers to sell grain at the elevators of Edmonton was therefore made much shorter. Also, more farmland in the areas out from St. Albert was opened up for settlement as a result. Some farmers, however, now began selling their grain at St. Albert's first grain elevator, built in 1906 by Brackman Kerr Milling Co. In 1906, on the strength of provincial government bond guarantees, the CNoR constructed a rail line from its terminal in Edmonton across the Sturgeon River to the west side of St. Albert through to Morinville with lines eventually continuing on to Vancouver, the Peace River Country, and Athabasca Landing.

With the completion of the CNoR line to St. Albert, the town became immediately eligible for a railway grain elevator, and so, one was built by Brackman Kerr Milling Co. in 1906. In 1909, the Gillespie Grain Company also built an elevator in St. Albert, and, in 1929, the district would see the construction of its largest grain elevator to date, this being a 35,000 bushel Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, located just south from the original Brackman Kerr Milling Co. structure. The Wheat Pool was a farmer-owned co-operative created six years earlier through the United Farmers of Alberta (U.F.A.), with Henry Wise Wood in charge. The chief appeal of their elevators was that grain marketed through them would be sold without any mid-point entrepreneurs siphoning off profits. It was also recognized that pooling would protect the farmer owners from extreme fluctuations in grain prices.

Like the earlier Alberta Grain Company elevator, the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator in St. Albert would survive until grain marketing from this point would cease in 1989. In 1967, the Alberta Wheat Pool took over the old Alberta Grain structure. Both elevators would manage to survive, and, in 1992, they were designated a Registered Historic Resource.


HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator in St. Albert lies primarily in its structural representation of the method of storing and marketing grain from this community to the outside world from 1929 until the 1950's, during which time, the principal economy of St. Albert was the production and export of grain.

(D. Leonard, September 2005; Updated by P. Melnycky, August 2019)

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1072
Designation File: DES 1723; DES 2174
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 30121
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: DES 2174)
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