Disappearing sentinels: 5 grain elevators worth exploring in the capital region
'It's the workmanship and what it stands for'
Alberta's grain elevators, those iconic symbols of the Prairies where harvests were weighed, sold, stored and shipped by rail, are now destinations for summer escapes in the capital region.
Sid Livingstone looks up at the wooden beams inside an elevator at 120 Railway Ave. in Spruce Grove, 30 kilometres west of Edmonton.
"It's the workmanship and what it stands for," says Livingstone, president of the Spruce Grove and District Agricultural Society.
The elevator, built in 1958, was decommissioned in 1995 and designated a provincial historic resource in 2020. It's now open to the public for the summer and is free to tour.
The elevator was purchased for $1. It sits alongside a water tower, the museum and archive buildings and a red barn.
It's a gathering place for the community on Saturdays for the farmers market and for special events like the 50th anniversary agricultural society celebrations, set for August.
"We've had people come from other parts of Alberta that have no elevators in their community anymore so they come here. It brings back memories for them," says Livingstone
The elevator in Spruce Grove is a prime example of the telltale sentinels of the Prairies, but there are others to see in the capital region.
St. Albert Grain Elevator Park
Two Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevators — dating back to 1906 and 1929 — are at 4 Meadowview Dr. in St. Albert.
St. Albert Grain Elevator Park is used for public functions like the Food Truck Event on June 19 from 12-4 p.m.
Geared to Father's Day, it's a free event featuring a dozen food trucks, live music and public tours of the grain elevators and historic homes on River Lots 23 and 24 exploring Métis and French Canadian history.
Leduc Heritage Grain Elevator
An Alberta Wheat Pool elevator — a 30-metre tall, 32-bin single composite wood crib design — was built in 1978 and saved by local volunteers.
It sits at 52nd Avenue and 47th Street in Leduc, where six other elevators once stood.
The Alberta Legacy Development Society is a registered historic site hosting community events and public tours. Learn more about the elevator is available here.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
A half-hour drive east of Edmonton along Highway 16, the grain elevator is one of more than 40 buildings at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a site managed by the province of Alberta.
The Bellis Home Grain Co. elevator is staffed by costumed interpreters.
It's open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Big picture on big Prairie landmarks
Leo Wieser, president of the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre, says Edmonton and area organizations have done a good job of preserving these historic resources.
"There's a number of them still standing, which is fantastic," says Wieser.
"The last count that I saw was that we were getting down into the 150 range, and this compared to the 1950s in Alberta alone, we were at almost 3,000 elevators," Wieser says.
- River lots offer view of Métis and French Canadian history
- Prairie gold: Alberta's grain elevators reimagined to bring a new cool to old sentinels of the pool
- Canada's oldest grain elevator falls in fiery heap in southwest Manitoba
Wieser points to the huge expense to maintain the structures and the fact many end up falling to fire, like the Lake of the Woods Milling Company grain elevator in Elva, in southwest Manitoba, in April of this year.
Canada's oldest grain elevator — 125-year-old wood —was ignited in a flash by a single ember.