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Key Number: HS 31946
Site Name: Empress C.P.R. Station
Other Names:
Site Type: 0803 - Transportation - Rail Facility: Station

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
23 1 4


Address: N/A
Number: N/A
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Other:
Town: Empress
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style:
Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 1
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Bellcast, any roof type
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Large brackets under extened eaves, a spire on roof peak plus ornamentation on ridge ends, distinctive window design.
Interior: Freight shed is original, but main section has been changed on the inside to make a bunkhouse.
Environment: Near core of Empress, on Alberta-Saskatchewan boarder. 0.216 - 0.534 Acres
Condition: Structure: Good. Repair: Fair. 1 APR 1979.
Alterations: Interior Renovation.

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Constructed
1914/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Station
1914/01/01
Owner: Owner Date:
N/A

Architect: N/A
Builder: N/A
Craftsman: N/A
History: Built 1914 - commencement Jun 19 1914, completed Oct 9, 1914. Opened Oct 21, 1914 cost $8,393.40. Used as a divisional point, several other related structures built at this general site. Only station of this plan built in Alberta.
RESOURCE Canadian Pacific Railway Station Building
ADDRESS Empress
BUILT 1914
DESIGNATION STATUS Provincial Historic Resource

HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE
The historical significance of the CPR Railway Station 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 CPR station left in Alberta. It was earlier protected under the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act , and has now been earmarked for designation as a provincial historic site under the Alberta Historical Resources Act .

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
After the Canadian Pacific Railway 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 CPR 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 CPR 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 trail connected Fort Walsh with Fort Battleford, the CPR 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 CPR 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 CPR, 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 . When the Station was sold to the Alberta Special Areas Board in 1990, the Alberta Minister of Community Development, Stan Woloshyn, indicated that it was his intention to designate the structure a provincial historic site under the Alberta Historical Resources Act .

ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE
The Empress CPR Station was built in 1914. Though 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.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active
1979/04/01
Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
2002/06/28
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
K. Williams 1991/06/12

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0804
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