One of my things that I like to do no matter the season is to drive around the province and take pictures of old grain elevators. In fact, this is a popular endeavor for photographers around these parts, but there are enough of them still standing so we don’t usually cross paths.
If you’ve never heard of a grain elevator before, in a nutshell it is a tower containing a bucket elevator or a conveyor, which scoops up grain from a lower level and deposits it in a silo. In Canada, they have been long considered a visual symbol of the West and they pretty much dominated the landscape, numbering as many as 6000 in 1933 but declining steadily as years passed by.
While the future of the traditional grain elevator in Western Canada might look dark, not all elevators will disappear. A certain number were sold to various farmers for personal storage while heritage groups are trying to preserve the remaining ones. Best examples are Inglis, Manitoba with its elevator row, preserved as a National Historic Site, the whole town of Rowley, Alberta with its three elevators, kept alive by few of the locals and also Nanton elevators, saved by a historical society and turned into a museum, with tours offered in the summer.
Identified as “the most Canadian of architectural forms” by the architectural historian Harold Kalman, the last forty years saw the grain elevator transformed from an ordinary industrial building, into a national symbol.