ALBERTA WHEAT POOL GRAIN ELEVATOR SITE COMPLEX, ANDREW
When the Canadian Northern Railway entered Edmonton from the east in 1905, the rich agricultural region south of the Victoria Settlement had already been partially settled, the first residents being mostly Metis scrip holders. When the land was surveyed for homesteading purposes in the early 1890's, a number of English immigrants had also carved out farms in the area. During the late 1890's, the first wave of Ukrainian settlers arrived, and, with them, a number of rural communities were born. One of these was Andrew, just northwest of Whitford Lake, with both the lake and the community being named after Andrew Whitford, a Metis settler who died in 1902 when the Post Office was opened.
Andrew survived as a rural farming hamlet until 1930, when a branch line of the Canadian Pacific Railway was extended north from Lloydminster past Two Hills, and skirted the north shore of Whitford Lake on its way to Bruderheim and Edmonton. The year before, the CPR had subdivided a new townsite northwest of the Lake, and so the hamlet of Andrew was moved a short distance to be next to the railway. Its population also quickly expanded, and, in June 1930, Andrew was incorporated as a village with over 500 people.
Among the necessities of a northern Alberta village in the middle of a farming district were grain elevators. The late 1920's had seen a rapidly expanding international market for western Canadian wheat, and therefore, even before the railway arrived, six such structures were constructed just off the grade at Andrew. They were built by the Alberta Pacific Grain Company, the Bawlf Grain Company, the Home Grain Company, the Brooks Grain Company, the United Grain Growers and the Alberta Wheat Pool. Of these, all but one was to change hands over the years, some of them several times. This was the original Alberta Wheat Pool elevator, which was also the only elevator to ultimately survive. It had capacity for 39,700 bushels and was opened in November 1928, with H. Anderson as its first agent. On 5 January 1931, it was closed briefly due to the Great Depression, when the price of #1 wheat fell below 40 cents per bushel. The following August, it was opened to accommodate the fall harvest, and it would continue to withstand the rest of the Depression. Its low point, according to the Alberta Wheat Pool, was during 1935-36, when only 26,472 bushels were shipped out. By this time, many farmers were inclined not to sell their grain, for the cost of shipping it to the Lakehead was sometimes greater than the return from sales. By contrast, during 1976-77, when the Pool operated four elevators in Andrew, 514,251 bushels were reported to have been exported.
In 1985, the Wheat Pool decided to bolster its original grain elevator in Andrew by adding two large new bins to either side of the structure, to give it a capacity of 149,000 bushels. One was newly built, the other moved in from Mundare. This move probably resulted in the survival of this elevator, for new, modernized systems of grain handling were coming into the fore, with concrete bins and hydraulic lifts. Trucking grain to larger and more centralized locations was also becoming common. All across western Canada therefore, the traditional wood frame elevator was beginning to disappear, and, by the late 1990's, the old Pool elevator was the only one left in Andrew. In early 2000, it too was closed, and, in June of that year, it was purchased for $5,000 by the Andrew & District Historical Archives Museum Society. The Society intends to undertake its restoration and preservation.
In summary, the historical significance of the Andrew Grain Elevator lies in its provision of structural evidence of a northern prairie wood frame grain elevator, examples of which are rapidly disappearing throughout western Canada. It is also significant locally, as evidence of the predominant economy of the Andrew area, grain farming, which the elevator served from 1928 until just recently. It is important as well as a structure of the Alberta Wheat Pool, symbolic of the co-operative marketing of farm produce, which had become common on the prairies during the 1920's.
The Andrew Grain Elevator Complex was erected by the Alberta Wheat Pool as part of a major building campaign in the 1920s. It consists of a central elevator, flanked by storage annexes. The tall narrow elevator has the characteristic monitor roofline, while the massive annexes have gable roofs. The complex follows a standard plan, and represents a typical building form which is today becoming ever more scarce.