A piece of the Prairies has gone poof. Edmonton’s last wooden grain elevators are in the process of demolition. Some are sad to see the iconic towering structures, at 74 St. and 120 Ave. near Rexall Place, destroyed. “I hate to see them go, but the reality is we can't save all of them,” said Allan Partridge, a consultant with the grain elevator preservation group Alberta Legacy Development Society.
One of the Viterra elevators near Rexall Place was destroyed on Wednesday, under the watchful eye of fire prevention officers. But as the old buildings are ripped apart, a piece of Edmonton’s history is being torn down with them, said Partridge, who is also a registered architect with Edmonton’s Hip Architects. “It represents a period of Edmonton‘s development along rail lines."
A demolition permit was issued by the city in December. To date, there are no plans for redevelopment on the land, said Maurice Otto, the city of Edmonton’s chief building inspector. Grain elevators were used to collect, store and load grain for transport. But those wooden elevators are being replaced with modern concrete structures. About 300 old-style grain elevators remain in the province.
The society is concentrating on preserving 11 of the most treasured structures – which don't include the one demolished Wednesday. St. Albert features the oldest grain elevator in the province, dating from 1906, while Alberta's last elevator was built in 1972 in Leduc, said Partridge. Both are protected from demolition by the province and will become interpretive sites. “It’s what makes Canada unique as you travel,” said Partridge. “They don’t exist anywhere else in the world to this degree.”