Early this year, the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market opened its new location near the airport, a move that some vendors and customers opposed. However, history shows how the market’s previous downtown site has served multiple purposes, including as a power station that helped electrify Saskatchewan.
It might seem like the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market has always been in Riversdale, but the market only moved to River Landing in 2007. One hundred years earlier, in 1906, the then newly incorporated City of Saskatoon built its first electrical generating station about one kilometre away on Avenue H South and 11th Street West.
But within a few years of its completion, Saskatoon’s first power station was insufficient to meet the energy demands of the rapidly growing population. Not only did Saskatoon need a new facility to meet the needs of citizens during its boom period, but the city council’s planned electric streetcar system also increased the need for more power.
The city’s second generating plant was then built in a downtown location along Avenue A South and 19th Street West in 1911. If you visit River Landing, you will notice an obscure octagonal tower made of white bricks — a pumphouse.
While this structure might seem out of place, it is actually an artifact of the Saskatoon Power House. This pumphouse utilized the river’s water to cool the generators of the electrical facility.
The 1911 power station served Saskatoon’s needs for over 16 years until, once again, the growing city’s electrical demands overburdened the existing energy system.
Up to then, electric power had been used mostly for illumination and the telegraph, but this period saw the rapid diversification of its application. The electric streetcars that began operating in 1913 are just one example, and after the 1900s the rise of household appliances led to the consumption of more power.
The changing energy demands of society caused Saskatoon authorities to consider building another new plant in 1927. Although the previous facilities were owned by the municipality, this plant — later named the A.L. Cole Generating Station — was sold to the Saskatchewan Power Commission before it commenced operation in 1929.
The provincial body purchased the plant to fulfill its mandate to create a Saskatchewan-wide power grid capable of producing cheap power and then distributing the energy across a large network. The SPC’s planned integrated electrical system would use large plants like Saskatoon’s to create energy for the multitude of rural communities.
By the summer of 1930, the SPC had constructed and began energizing 1,096 miles of transmission lines. Because Regina and Moose Jaw refused to sell their facilities, Saskatoon became the central point of electrical generation in the provincial network.
This brought reliable and cheap power to the 106 municipalities integrated into the provincial grid. It also introduced energy to the farms neighbouring the transmission lines through a process the SPC called “rural electrification.”
In the following decades, the SPC — later renamed SaskPower — continued expanding its provincial electrical network which effectively powered more of Saskatchewan’s rural communities as they were integrated into the system.
In 1959, the A.L. Cole facility was superseded by the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Power Station built four kilometres upstream. The old plant was actively used until 1983, and afterwards it became tangled up in a failed proposal to repurpose the building into condominium residences that lasted over a decade.
The A.L. Cole Generating Station was demolished in 1996 and within 11 years the location would be home to the city’s vibrant farmer’s market. Although the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market move from downtown to the north-end was seen as unfortunate, the River Landing site has served Saskatoon in different ways for over 100 years — this is just the latest in a long history of transformations.
Long before farmers brought their produce to popular markets in Saskatoon, the city was sending its power to farms throughout Saskatchewan.
Noah Callaghan | Staff Writer
Photo: Supplied | Saskatoon Public Library Local History