This post was originally published on RETROactive on March 6th, 2012 and again on August 26, 2015. Interest in grain elevators remains strong, so a revisit seems in order. Some additional data has been added, an updated list of communities with elevators can be accessed below, as well as a variety of resources and documents relating to Alberta’s Grain elevators.
The twentieth century saw the rise and fall—literally—of the wooden country grain elevator in Alberta. As rail lines spread across the province in the early 1900s, grain elevators sprouted like mushrooms after a spring rain. The height of wooden country grain elevators was reached in 1934. New ones continued to be added until the 1990s, but with increasing numbers being demolished, these icons of the prairie became scarcer. Today, the remaining wooden country grain elevators number only about six percent of the maximum reached in the 1930s. Check out the following “index” of Alberta’s wooden country grain elevators, called “elevators” for short in this article.
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
- in 2017 on railway rights-of-way: 110
Number of communities with:
- at least one elevator: 83 (down from 95 in 2012)
- 2 or more elevators: 21 (down from 26 in 2012)
- 3 or more elevators: 5 (down from 7 in 2012)
- 4 or more elevators: 1 (Warner)
- Number of elevators in Alberta’s longest row: 4 (Warner), down from 6 in 2012
- 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 (26, down from 33 in 2012)
- Decade with the second largest number of surviving elevators: 1980s (20, down from 26 in 2012)
- Decade with the fewest (after pre-1910) number of surviving elevators: 1940s (4, down from 5 in 2012)
- Number of elevators that have been designated a Provincial Historic Resource (PHR): (14, up from 13 in 2012)
- Number of communities with at least one elevator designated as a PHR: (11, up from 10 in 2012)
- Oldest designated elevator: St. Albert (1906)
- 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.
- These elevators were last confirmed as extant in February 2017. It is possible that some of the elevators on the list are now gone.
- 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.
Written by: Dorothy Field, Heritage Survey Program Coordinator