A diminishing sight on the Canadian prairies are the old-time grain elevators which once served as a focal point for many rural communities.
According to Castor and District Museum Society president Mike Bain, there are around 120 of the wooden structures remaining in the province.
In the heyday of the 1930s, according to Bain, there were around 1700 of them.
“About every 10 to 14 miles there would be an elevator,” Bain.
“The numbers (of elevators) are just depleting at an astounding rate.”
The structures remaining in the province are either privately or publicly owned and range from looking nearly new to barely standing, depending on the maintenance work done on them over the years.
The good news is Castor’s elevator is in decent shape and has actually been designated as a provincial heritage site, one of 20 elevators in the province to receive the designation and the only elevator within in the County of Paintearth to receive it.
The bad news is that the century old structure does need some repairs to ensure that it will last another 100 years.
To that end the Castor and District Museum Society formed a separate committee to guide the needed renovations.
According to Bain, the project, initially estimated at a cost of $188,000 based on previous elevator repairs in other communities, was started in the summer of 2021 in two phases.
Fortunately, thanks to a local contractor in Castor, that cost was brought down thanks to the decreased transportation costs, and other factors, and the complete project now sits at an estimated $144,000.
The first phase, completed in the summer of 2021, had the large doors replaced, repairs made to the ramp footings and the complete replacement of the office siding, along with some other smaller projects for a total cost of just over $56,000.
With the elevator being deemed a heritage site, all repairs must be approved by a provincial representative, and must conform as closely as possible to original design.
“As a provincial historic building, the elevator is eligible for provincial grants for maintenance,” said Bain.
“In the real world, it doesn’t quite work that way. The program is constantly over subscribed and under funded.”
The provincial funding is supposed to pay 50/50 as a matching grant, however in 2021 the ratio ended up being 75 per cent funded by the museum and 25 per cent by the province. In 2020, the province paid out nothing.
To date, the museum has so far raised about $68,000, and in 2022 are hoping for $22,000 from the province, as well as funding from a variety of other fundraising initiatives, such as casinos, however the organization would still be looking at a funding shortfall.
With that in mind, Bain, along with museum members Walter Pickles and John Wright, presented to County of Paintearth council on Jan. 5, 2021, asking for a one-time funding request of $20,000.
“We recognize that we are in difficult times,” said Bain.
“The elevator is a regional resource, it’s a symbol of the rural way of life.”
Bain also highlighted that the museum is heavily supported by the Town of Castor, to the amount of around $30,000 a year and that previous renovations done at the museum were fully fundraised by the volunteers, however, the pandemic is impacting the ability to fundraise and financial support is needed.
Council appreciated the update, and Reeve Stan Schulmeister was positive that funding could be found.
“I’m sure we can arrange some funding,” said Schulmeister.