The Alsask Saskatchewan School, a charming and nicely photogenic two-story brick and concrete structure, is one hundred and one years old. The last classes let out decades ago and while it’s all boarded up now and unused, it remains in decent shape. The most prominent and majestic building in the entire town, we’ve come to visit it to record one of our trademark then and now posts. Armed with an old image showing it just after it was completed, we return to the same spot to compose a similar photo.
The then picture seen here, like many of those used in this ongoing series, was sent in by a reader or fan. A big thank you to our friends (we have many) at the Calgary Public Library, who supplied this one, a scan of an old postcard that was pulled from their archives. While it’s not dated, given how new everything looks within it, no doubt it was taken when the building was fresh and new.
Alsask. right on the ALberta/SASKatchewan border (SK side), was founded in the early 1910s, around the time the Canadian Northern Railway (now Canadian National Railway) came through. At the peak in the 1970s (it was a late bloomer), the town was home to some eight hundred people. Today just over a hundred plus souls live in the quiet community.
The school, architecturally, seems to us to be Georgianesque in nature, although Heritage Canada states it’s a mix of that style with some Romanesque touches. They’re certainly more knowledgeable about these maters than we, so you’ll find no arguments here. Defining elements include a symmetrical layout, numerous large windows and an overall simple yet stately form. You know it’s a school, plain and easy, just by its appearance.
As can be seen, the once prominent bell tower was removed at some point, the exact date of which has not been confirmed by this author (locals seemed to think the 1950s). That change dramatically altered the personality of the building (IMO). The front stairs also appears different from then to now. Even with these, the school today appears much as built.
The building’s cornerstone has a date of July 6th, 1914. A few weeks later World War One would start, casting much of the planet into turmoil. Some records mention the school was completed the year before, and opened up then, with the cornerstone being added a little later. I guess this is possible.
Presumably classes covering all grades were taught here. After closing the building was taken over by the village and according to locals was converted to a community hall. If it’s still used as such is not known. I’d say it’s been a while since anything happened here. A dozen years ago, the structure was recognized as an historical property.
Keeping vandals and troublemakers at bay, the building is well boarded up. Of course, its location in the middle of town, surrounded by lived-in dwellings helps here too. Someone one mows the grass. On the one side, an old swing set waits for children to come.
When shooting these then and now photos, we do our lining up in camera. We could rely on software to do it for us, in post production, but that’d be too easy. Of course, there are limitations on how we do it and no a single then and now we’ve produced is anywhere close to perfect. The most obvious flaw in this one photo is the angle we choose – we shot a little too left slanted and upwards, the latter which caused some keystone problems (how the building seems to drop away differently in our photo). Still, it’s pretty good.
Or does anyone even care?
If you have an old photo showing a similar scene that you’d like us to use as fodder for a BIGDoer.com then and now, scan it and email it to us. We’ll return to the same spot to document how things looks today and post the results for all to see here on this website. Photos must be yours or in the public domain (most old postcards for example, are). Questions? Email us and we’ll respond promptly.
Another then and now shot in town…
Alsask Saskatchewan then and now (old hotel).
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2015.
Location: Alsask, SK.
Article sources: Canada’s Historic Places archives, Casual conversations with local residents.
The school can be viewed from public property.