Depending on which source you believe, the oldest grain elevator in Canada stands in the ghost town of Elva, Manitoba in deep southwest corner of the province. The previous sentence won’t remain true for very long, however.
We got word that the grain elevator is scheduled to be demolished “this Fall”. No word on a specific date but there is no doubt that the elevator is now measuring its remaining life in weeks, not years.
Naturally, we needed to see this historic relic before it disappears from the landscape forever so we took an extra day off work, hopped in the car and set out to get to Elva. What follows is our journey, which ultimately would take us almost 3000km over the course of four days.
I have become very bad at updating the website, with much more of my focusing being on the YouTube channel. I just realized I never posted the second day of our Ghost Town Tour from back in July. Bad Dan, bad Dan!
What is the Great Beater Challenge? It is a two day road rally event but the goal is to complete it using cars worth $700 or less. Points are awarded for creativity, coming in under budget, modifications to the vehicles, and for completing challenges along the way. It’s a ton of fun and the creativity of some people never ceases to amaze me.
The 2021 route started in Lethbridge, Alberta and followed the Red Coat Trail through to Cadillac, Saskatchewan. The next day took a different route back to Lethbridge. We covered almost 1000km through cities, desolate backroads, ghost towns and pretty much everything in between.
If you have followed the blog and our adventures for any length of time, you undoubtedly are aware we love to make an annual trip with friends to explore the small towns and abandoned places around Alberta and/or Saskatchewan. There was no plan for a group trip this year so Emily and I set out for a two-day 1400+ km road trip throughout eastern Alberta and into western Saskatchewan.
I’m working on putting together the video version of this trip but thought I would share some images of the trip, both as a preview of the upcoming video or as a photographic journey for those who prefer static images.
Our first stop was Ardley, Alberta. Before we even made the final turn into town we immediately spotted this former railway station, now being used as storage for a local farmer. It’s on private property so this was as close as we could get.
I call this building the “most photographed abandoned commercial structure in the province.” The Botha Mercantile Building was built in 1909, shortly after the Canadian Pacific Railway established the line through this area. According to the Alberta Register of Historic Places, it originally housed a hardware store operated by Lou Bastler and a general store operated by E.H. Prudden. It is one of the many buildings on my “I Want To See the Inside of It” bucket list.
Halkirk provides the photographic opportunity to capture two of my favorite small-town icons in a single photo — a grain elevator and a early-twentieth century prairie hotel. While the original Halkirk Hotel burned down shortly after construction, this one has lasted more than one hundred years.
One disadvantage to traveling with a dog is it makes it difficult to visit museums or other attractions because it is too hot to leave the dog alone in the car. Castor offers a couple of different museums we hope to visit one day — the Castor and District Museum and the Castor Pharmacy Museum.
This trip was so jammed pack and involved covering so many miles that we wouldn’t have had time to really enjoy them anyway, even without the dog issue. Some day we shall return!
We didn’t expect to run into any other people in the ghost town of Bulwark, but we did run into a couple of women who arrived shortly after us. They were there for the exact same reasons as we were — photography and exploration. Bulwark may not have a lot left compared to its heyday but I’m sure we could have spent a couple of hours here exploring.
According to the sign, the little church in Metiskow was built as a school in 1914 and then moved into town for use as a church in 1920. It was locked so we were unable to see the inside.
I wasn’t familiar with the Red Lion Bar and Grill (appears to be permanently closed) before seeing it posted on social media. Immediately in went onto my map of places to visit. Apparently it was originally built as a hospital for the small town of Cadogen before being converted into a hotel. You can clearly see there was an addition put onto the back of the building at some point. If you know more about this building, please share.
We were driving down the highway when Emily spotted a church off in the distance on top of a hill. Naturally we had to detour and check it out. It turned out to be the aptly-named Skyline Cemetery. Apparently the church was moved here from Provost in 1932. According to the plaque inside, it was restored in 2008. It is beautifully maintained and, unlike the small church in Meniskow, we were able to get into this one for a look around.
Porter Lake School was out next stop and one of the most heartbreaking of the trip. I have seen photos taken of school not that long ago and it was in wonderful condition. However, we found on our trip that vandals had been hard at work and had smashed out almost every piece of glass in every window. While the interior is in pretty remarkable condition now, without window the elements are bound to infiltrate the building and begin to take their toll. It would be great to see a local group get together and board this one up while there is still something to save.
Another museum we knew we wouldn’t be able to visit, both because of timing as well as having Mabel with us. I really wanted to come up here anyway because Paradise Valley is another one of the grain elevators in the province I had never had a chance to photograph. I know people who have visited this museum and say it is fantastic so we will keep it on the list of “one day we’ll get there” places.
So, tired and dusty from a long day on the road, we settled down in our hotel room in the border town of Lloydminster and got ready for Day Two…
It’s funny how some places become “trendy” on social media. I had never really heard of this place before but then it suddenly seemed like everyone in the abandoned places groups on Facebook started posting photos of this church. Naturally I had to find out where it was and pay a visit for myself. Now we can officially say “Everyone and his dog have been there.”
I know next to nothing about the history of this church. The signs on the front and the side proclaim it as the “Sunshine Gospel Mission” and mention that date of 1946. There are a few mentions of it online but most do not offer much detail about its history nor when it was abandoned and left to the elements. Naturally, I am hoping astute DanOCan readers and viewers will be able to fill in some details. We have been having great success lately with people who have personal knowledge of these places coming forward with more details on a variety of topics.
This must have been quite a striking church back in its day. Even today the faux red brick and the faded green paint on the steeple hint to the vibrant colors which would have stood out brilliantly against the surroundings, especially in the stark blandness of winter.
We did not attempt to venture inside but the windows are all open which provided more than an adequate view of the inside. The south side of the roof has a small hole and combined with the aforementioned missing windows, it is allowing the elements to wreak havoc on the building. While it seems quite intact now, there is little doubt its days are numbered. The smell of mold and mildew inside was quite striking, indicating the water damage is already very advanced.
We were able to fly DroneOCan up and take a peak in the steeple and can confirm that the bell appears to be long gone, as one would expect. We cannot help but wonder what became of it.
Inside we noticed a quite modern-looking vacuum water bottle sitting on the shelf. A remnant from a recent explorer who ventured inside and forgot it?
I made a special effort to avoid disclosing any specifics about the location in our video but it was quite easy to find with only some basic online searching. Here’s hoping its popularity on social media doesn’t bring a hastened demise to this great relic. As always, treat these buildings and places with respect and do your best to make them last for years to come.