In February one of our Facebook fans asked how many grain elevators still stand on the Alberta horizon. Dorothy Field, our Heritage Survey Program Coordinator has compiled some statistics.
The twentieth century saw the rise and fall – literally – of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The high water mark for wooden country grain elevators was in 1934. New elevators were added in every decade, but this has been exceeded by the rate of demolition or closure ever since. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country elevators, called “elevators” for short in this list.
Number of elevators in Alberta:
- in 1934: 1,781
- in 1951: 1,651
- in 1982: 979
- in 1997: 327
- in 2005: 156
- in 2012 on railway rights-of-way: 130
Number of communities with:
- at least one elevator: 95
- 2 or more elevators: 26
- 3 or more elevators: 7
- 4 or more elevators: 1 (Warner)
- Number of elevators in Alberta’s longest row: 6
- Oldest remaining elevator: 1905 (Raley)
- Number of remaining elevators that pre-date 1910: 3 (Raley, St. Albert, De Winton)
- Newest remaining elevator: 1988 (Woodgrove)
- Decade with the largest number of surviving elevators: 1920s (33)
- Decade with the second largest number of surviving elevators: 1980s (26)
- Decade with the fewest (after pre-1910) number of surviving elevators: 1940s (5)
- Number of elevators that have been designated a Provincial Historic Resource (PHR): 13
- Number of communities with at least one elevator designated as a PHR: 10
- Oldest designated elevator: 1906 (St. Albert)
- Newest designated elevator: Leduc (1978)
For a list of communities in Alberta with designated and non-designated elevators, please click here.
- Grain elevators that have been moved off railway rights-of-way – to a farmyard or a museum, for instance – are not included in these statistics.
- Grain elevators located on railway rights-of-way where the rails have been torn up are included in these statistics.
- Concrete or steel elevators are not included.
- Elevators used for other purposes, such as seed cleaning or fertilizer storage, are not included.
- Most of these elevators were last documented by the Heritage Survey in 2005. It is possible that some of the elevators on the list are now gone.
- Check out the Royal Alberta Museum’s online exhibition, “Finding Our Way Home”
- View records for designated grain elevators on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.
- Explore the online Heritage Survey database, which has records for over 700 grain elevators.
- Read “Alberta’s Grain Elevators: A brief history of a prairie icon”, a Government of Alberta booklet, on the Alberta Grain Elevator Society website.
- Read an excellent 2008 article by Judy Larmour on the Alberta Motor Association website: “Hold that Elevator”
Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator