Elevator in Veregin receives federal and provincial heritage property designation

A grain elevator constructed in 1908 by the Doukhobor settlers of the community has received both federal and provincial heritage property designations.

Members of the board of the Doukhobor Heritage Museum in Veregin were responsible for filling out all the necessary paperwork and facilitating the long process which culminated in success when the elevator was granted heritage designations.

article continues below

It is located directly across the road from the Doukhobor Prayer Home, already a Provincial Heritage Property.

“The Veregin Grain Elevator is significant because it is the third oldest standing grain elevator in Saskatchewan, on its original site,” said the nomination form which was prepared by the board. “The intent is to preserve the elevator as a heritage building for its historic significance to the community as part of the National Doukhobor Heritage Village.”

“The committee has taken on the job of completing the restoration work, and the funding will be split 50 percent, so there will be fundraising to be done,” said Andy Kazakoff, a board member of the Doukhobor Heritage Museum in Veregin and chair of the Elevator Restoration Committee.

“Right now there are five members of the Restoration Committee, and we would welcome anyone who has an interest to join.”

Although the committee has not established a timeline for completion of the work, Kazakoff indicated that they will likely start with exterior restoration.

“For an old building of its size, the base was made correctly so there are no mainframe structural issues,” he said.

The 1908 Doukhobor-built grain elevator was operated by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (the spiritual and economic organization of Canadian Doukhobors) until 1939. It was then bought by Federal Grain Co. which, in 1972, sold it to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and in 1986 it was sold to Pioneer Grain.

In 1996, the elevator was bought again by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and closed in 1997, and sold to the National Doukhobor Heritage Village Inc. in 2001, the information said.

The Veregin Grain Elevator is a property consisting of 12.6 acres adjacent to the CN railway track in Veregin in the Rural Municipality of Sliding Hills No. 273. It features a unique roof design with a wide cupola that is an extension of the elevator. The property also includes a driveway shed leading to the elevator, an elevator annex and elevator office building.

The elevator and its interior, annex and office are all structurally solid, but requires new shingles, top windows and replacement of metal siding. The driveway receiving shed is in poor condition. The cement is crumbling and the roof needs replacement. The elevator office building is in good condition with some repair completed in the last 10 years, it said.

The estimated 45,000-bushel capacity elevator was one of several built by the Doukhobors. The first elevators appeared on the prairies in the early 1880s following the arrival of the railway. At their peak, over 3,000 elevators stood in Saskatchewan's towns and villages so that by the 1920s a row of grain elevators characterized prairie towns, it said.

Wood-crib grain elevators became obsolete with the introduction of inland terminals and the subsequent rationalization of the grain handling system. Despite diminishing numbers, the traditional grain elevator continues to be a symbol of Saskatchewan's rural, agricultural identity.

The heritage value of the Veregin Grain Elevator also lies in its form. The Veregin elevator is distinguished by its unique roof design. It is neither the pyramidal design nor hipped-roof design of elevators built during its era. This elevator has its shorter stature with a wide cupola that is an extension of the building.

It utilizes traditional wood-crib construction which consists of boards laid horizontally and nailed together.

Finally, the heritage value of the elevator lies in the property's association with the Doukhobors, it said. In 1899, 7,500 Doukhobors emigrated from Russia to seek land and religious freedom. Persecuted in Tsarist Russia for their communal and pacifist beliefs, they came to Saskatchewan, establishing three colonies including one at Veregin.

Inspired by their leader, Peter V. Verigin, the Doukhobors created the Veregin Settlement. The elevator was built by early Doukhobor settlers over 110 years ago. The Veregin settlement played an essential role as an administrative, distribution, and spiritual centre for the Doukhobor community in the region. The settlement was established in 1904, and was the headquarters of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood.

The settlement was revived in the 1980s as a heritage village dedicated to presenting and preserving the history of the Doukhobors. The spectacular two-story prayer home, which originally served as the residence of the head of the community as well as the spiritual and administrative center for Doukhobors arriving in Canada, operates as a museum and continues to play an important role within the Doukhobor community. The Veregin Doukhobor Prayer Home was designated as Provincial Heritage Property under the Heritage Property Act in July 1982.

The property is considered culturally significant due to its construction by early Canadian Doukhobor settlers to the region. The elevator's cultural significance lies in the fact that it was built by the hands of early pioneers to the province. The elevator is important landmark to the overall culture and history that the National Doukhobor Heritage Village is working to preserve. The elevator is a key element contributing to the heritage value of this site, it said.

Provincial Heritage Property designations help protect important places in Saskatchewan's history for the benefit of all citizens. For more information about Saskatchewan's Provincial Heritage properties, visit Saskatchewan.ca (www.saskatchewan.ca/provincial-heritage-property.)