On August 9, 2023 the Canada Building celebrated a special milestone in its history: 110 years as a prestigious landmark in Downtown Saskatoon.
In 1911, Saskatoon was in the midst of a dynamic real estate boom that saw the community’s population expand by 467% between the years 1906 and 1916. Saskatoon’s population was estimated at 28,000 in 1912 and was predicted to reach 100,000 by 1920. The boom was sparked by a rush to own land in the prairies, with homesteaders from across Canada, Europe and the United States flocking to the region. Land values in the city were skyrocketing, fuelled by the arrival of aggressive speculators.
According to “A History of Saskatoon to 1914,” compiled by City of Saskatoon archivist Jeff O’Brien, a 35-foot lot on Second Avenue North that cost $300 in 1903 sold for close to $70,000 in 1912. The land was being bought and sold at a frantic pace, with some titles being flipped for profit in mere hours or days after purchase. Houses were being built at a record pace, also under construction was the University of Saskatchewan, a half-million-dollar transit system, a power station, hospitals and a Downtown railway station.
Adding to the city’s importance, Saskatoon was emerging as the hub for three intercontinental railways in western Canada: the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and the Canadian National Railway Company (CNR).
SASKATOON’S FIRST SKYSCRAPER
One of the visionaries responsible for Saskatoon’s turn-of-the-century boom was Allan Bowerman. Employed as a school principal in Winnipeg from 1872 to 1899, Bowerman arrived in Saskatoon in 1899. He served as Saskatoon’s postmaster from 1900 to 1906 and was active on the Town Council from 1903 to 1905. Bowerman was committed to making Saskatoon’s ‘boomtown’ dreams come true. His vision of building the city’s “first skyscraper” led to the construction of the Canada Building, on land he had acquired for $65 across the street from the Downtown CNR Station and the Post Office.
Bowerman hired the architectural firm of James Chisholm & Son, a Winnipeg company that had designed several prominent buildings in Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Moose Jaw. Carling-Halls Aldinger of Winnipeg was named general contractor. At eight stories (115 feet) in height, upon completion, the Canada Building earned bragging rights as the tallest office building located west of Winnipeg.
DISTINGUISHED TENANTS OF THE PAST CENTURY
By 1914, the Canada Building was rented to capacity, as the city’s most prestigious companies sought space in what was viewed as the most glamorous of Saskatoon’s business blocks. Saskatoon’s top professionals were based in the Canada Building, including numerous doctors, dentists, optometrists, and lawyers. Among the legal eagles located in the building were the highly lauded jurist and civil rights advocate Emmett Matthew Hall and the founding members of Robertson Stromberg LLP (James Wilfred Estey, Arthur Moxon and Peter Makaroff). The financial community was also well represented in the Canada Building. Security and trust companies included Adanac, Imperial Canadian, Great West Permanent and Mutual Security, James Richardson and Sons, now known as Raymond James.
In 1916, Northern Crown Bank opened its doors on the main floor. Grain companies, railway companies and government offices were also in residence. British shipping companies, including the Cunard Line and White Star Line, also opened offices at the Canada Building.
ICONIC BUILDING KEEPS PACE WITH THE TIMES
The Canada Building may be one of Downtown’s most historic landmarks, but it has also kept pace with the times. Over the past century, the building’s owners and property managers have ensured that the building has been carefully maintained with strategic renovations that are sympathetic to the structure’s heritage while providing an inviting and comfortable environment for its occupants.
Major renovations include state-of-the-art HVAC systems, replacement of energy-efficient windows, upgrade to electrical and lighting systems, installation of secured card entry systems, installation of fibre optics and the list goes on.
Text provided by Rosemont Property Mgmt