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Sights & Scenes of Canada

Photo Focus: Spruce Grove Grain Elevator, Alberta

by Janann Blanchard & Peter Kessler, 31 March 2024

 

Spruce Grove grain elevator in Alberta, Canada
Photo © Janann Blanchard

The town of Spruce Grove lies a short way to the west of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, alongside the CN rail line which also runs close to Highway 16A.

The construction of grain elevators in the twentieth century led to the growth of services and ultimately to the growth of communities in the Canadian prairies. Almost every community across the prairies began life with a grain elevator.

Spruce Grove grain elevator in Alberta, Canada
Photo © P L Kessler

Farmers would travel to the grain elevator to drop off their grain and would immediately be paid. As a result, people built their businesses and general stores near grain elevators since they knew farmers would come to their business after selling their grain.

As a consequence, since businesses were set up near grain elevators, this also influenced settlers and newcomers to set up their residences near these amenities. Over time, the communities would grow - all from a single grain elevator.

Spruce Grove grain elevator in Alberta, Canada
Photo © P L Kessler

Spruce Grove is a perfect example of this. In 1908, a local farmer named Dan Brox built the first grain elevator in the Spruce Grove area. By 1920, there was a hotel, a railway station, and a general store nearby.

Residents then started to settle in this area. By 1955, Spruce Grove had been established as a village. Then the grain elevator was erected in 1958 on a site at 120 Railway Avenue, Spruce Grove.

Spruce Grove grain elevator in Alberta, Canada
Photo © P L Kessler

Shortly after, in 1971, Spruce Grove became a town. Only fifteen years later it had grown enough to become a city. Spruce Grove's grain elevator remained in operation until 1995, by which time it was due to be demolished. The Spruce Grove Agricultural Society then stepped in to prevent that demolition.

The city's Wheat Pool grain elevator was once one of thousands to stand along the railway tracks of local communities across the Canadian prairies. Of the 1,600 which once defined the Alberta skyline, only 258 wooden-cribbed elevators remain standing today, including this one.

Spruce Grove grain elevator in Alberta, Canada
Photo © P L Kessler

The grain tower is now being maintained as an 'Historically Designated Museum'. It serves as a testament to the province's strong agricultural heritage, and as a reminder of the economic base which still serves Albertans and Canadians.

It is also the last remaining wooden grain elevator on the CN rail line to the west of Edmonton. As these grain elevators continue to disappear the society hopes to keep this one maintained as time goes on.

 

Four photos taken by P L Kessler, and one by Janann Blanchard, on 2 October 2023.

Main Sources

Spruce Grove Agricultural Society website

 

Images and text copyright © Janann Blanchard & P L Kessler except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.