Nov 172017
 
Loverna Saskatchewan Ghost Town

A drive down a dusty back road finds us in Loverna Saskatchewan. We’ve arrived! The community is that close to earning the title of “ghost town” and wandering quiet streets, we pass empty buildings, some near collapse, vacant lots, forgotten churches and other scattered remnants of human habitation. The silence, the stillness, it’s powerful and at times near overwhelming…and is in stark contrast to the Loverna of a century past which was a bustling boom-town with much hope and promise.

First off: this is not a regular outing for the Team. We’re here to be part of a documentary being filmed, “Forgotten Prairie” from Rueben Tschetter’s Cache Productions. He follows us and some fellow photographers, Byron Robb and view camera jockey Rob Pohl, as we explore a number of abandoned type places near the Alberta/Saskatchewan Border, taking pictures and speaking with locals. The film can be seen on Telus Optik TV and Youtube and will be available here at BIGDoer.com in the coming weeks.

Forgotten Prairie: Loverna – touring a picturesque Saskatchewan ghost town. A “Capsule History” by Team BIGDoer, Chris Doering and Connie Biggart. (BIGDoer/Synd/Cache)

Loverna was founded in 1913. Like near every other small community in the province, it sprang to life with the coming of the railway. Steel was laid into generally uninhabited regions and people and towns would soon follow. That was the plan anyway – a bit of a cart before the horse methodology – but it seemed to work. This line was built by Grand Trunk Pacific. In the early 1920s, Canadian National Railways took over. It was conceived as a major through route but in the end was only a lightly trafficked “grain” branch.

Scroll down for photos and to comment.

For the next number of years Loverna prospered. A good size grew out of this, with a downtown core several blocks square down there by the tracks and a good sized residential area further behind. The future was bright – heck no, it was blinding. At the peak there was some five hundred people here, along with every type of business a prosperous community could ever need. There were hotels, restaurants and stores of every description. Many more people lived on farms in the area.

In summary, if you were in this part of Saskatchewan in those days, this was the place to be and was the largest town for some distance around. Loverna, by the way, is a stone’s throw from the Alberta border.

Loverna SK

On the ground in Loverna Saskatchewan.

Then the downward slide started, slowly at first but building with each passing year. Fires ravaged parts of downtown – people left, businesses closed. Each year the population fell. The railway was pulled up in the 1980s – not that anyone really noticed. This sort of sad decline played out in many small prairie communities.

Loverna Saskatchewan Legion

The former Canadian Legion – there used to be a gas station to the right.

Fast forward to 2017 and Loverna has a permanent population counted on one hand (a few others live here seasonally). In downtown there’s a couple old buildings that once were businesses, closed long ago. And they’re collapsing or close to. Empty lots outnumber those with something on them by a huge margin. In the residential area, more houses are vacant than lived in.

Let’s take a tour!

The town is laid out in a grid about five blocks square and five deep. Main and First, by the old railway line marks downtown. There would have been a train station just over there. And grain elevators in behind. Main is mostly empty now, but markers tells us what used to be here. There was a big business district in Loverna! A Chinese Laundry here, a hotel there, a confectionery on this plot, a hardware store on that. East/west avenues are numbered and north/south streets given names (King, Queens, Saskatchewan, Dominion, etc).

On 2nd Avenue the old Canadian Legion is the only old building standing. At one time every small town had a “Legion”, a place for servicemen or former servicemen to hang out. The organization still exists, although today anyone can join. Most small town chapters have long since closed, however.

In old photos there used to be a White Rose gas station next door. Oh, it was beautiful. In behind a 1940s Ford Two Ton, in “BIGDoer Yellow” begs to be photographed.

Further east, at the town’s only business, a repair shop, an old Calgary Transit “Fishbowl” bus in retirement is seen. They got that nickname from the expansive front window. The design, officially was called “New Look” by the maker General Motors. This one dates from the mid-1970s – and was retired, we believe in the later half of the 1990s. New Looks were made from the late-1950s to the mid-1980s and for that era were the most popular transit bus.

In back, a Winnebago Brave. This iconic design was the first mass-produced motor home (1970s era) and in many ways started it all. Compared to the battleship sized monster rigs today, it’s quite modest in proportions.

There’s good number of houses in the residential area, some lived in some not and in decay. Please, if you photograph any of them, do it from the street.

Turning back, the south end of main street reached and is home to a couple churches, Grace United and All Saint’s Anglican (“always open for prayer”). We got a thing for churches, so we’re happy. Both are well kept and used occasionally for special services and the like, funerals and the odd wedding. Between the two is the Loverna Cenotaph honouring those who fought and died for our freedoms. It’s staggering how many small town boys volunteered in service of their country. And it’s sobering to know how many didn’t return.

A third church sits on private property a bit to the west.

The community hall is used from time to time. Old signs decorate the walls. For Loverna’s 100th Birthday a few years back, a big party was held here. Loverna hasn’t seen this many people in a long, long time.

Loverna Saskatchewan

In “downtown”.

Most all of what we’ve looked at so far dates from the early period (1910s-1920s).

Caraganas have taken over and many vacant buildings are obscured by this fast growing shrub. This plant is not native to Canada but thrives in the harsh conditions here. That’s why it was brought over, to be used as decorative wind breaks (nice yellow flowers come spring). But if left unchecked it grows like a weed. Most lawns, including places not lived in or used, still get a good mowing. For a ghost town or near ghost town, it’s a rather tidy place.

Loverna Ghost Town

Markers tell us what used to be here.

Over behind downtown is the Curling Rink. Every small prairie town had a rink…and near everybody in the small prairie towns participated. This one is fairly modern, dating from the 1970s. Old advertisements adorns the walls – a good read – many from long gone businesses – the Pool went the way of the Dinosaur. Games were played here into the 1990s. On the opposite side of town old baseball diamonds are seen. Been a while since they were used I bet.

So our motley group wanders about, sometimes together, sometimes each going their own way. Free range photographers on the loose, we bump into each other as we explore the place each in our own special way. All the while, filming of the documentary continues. We’ve been at this for four days now so hardly notice our filmmaker.

It’s chilly but it does little to dampen our enthusiasm and resolve. It’s gotta be done. Time is taken to speak with residents…and grab a welcome coffee.

Loverna was one of four separate towns we visited while filming Forgotten Prairie (also hit up a metal yard). It was in fact, the last one we took in. From here we all went our own way and headed home, each knowing they were part of something special in the making of this production. It’s understanding our past, knowing where we came from and maybe learning something that we hope has been shared.

More from the Forgotten Prairie series…
Forgotten Prairie: Fusilier.
Forgotten Prairie: Esther Alberta.
Forgotten Prairie: Hoosier Saskatchewan.
Old Jack’s.

We visited Loverna, briefly, the year before…
A Few Minutes in Loverna.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: April, 2017.
Location: Loverna SK.
Article references (and thanks): Book – Borderline memories : a history of the town of Loverna and the school districts of Antelope, Claremont, Grattle, Pizarro, Rock Plains, Saskalta, Springville, South Loverna and Stratton (whew!), Glenbow Archives, Johnnie Bachusky, Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board.
You can walk the streets of Loverna and go inside the Anglican Church. Please do not enter any other buildings. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.

Loverna SK Chinese Laundry

Site of the Chinese Laundry.

Loverna SK Ghost Town

Time has taken its toll.

Loverna Anglican Church

Inside All Saints Anglican.

Loverna SK Anglican Church

It’s still used from time to time for weddings and funerals and the like.

Loverna Saskatchewan Anglican Church

From the pulpit.

Old Upright Piano

A fine old piano.

Anglican Church Loverna SK

The little things…

Loverna Saskatchewan Ghost Town

Wandering a random street, this empty house…

Ghost Town Loverana

And this long shed…

Ghost Town Loverana SK

And another dwelling…

Ghost Town Loverana Saskatchewan

Wonder what’s on the tube? In back, Grace United Church.

Grace United Church Loverna

It’s also used from time to time for special services.

Old Church Loverna SK

On private property, one more church.

Loverna SK Community Hall

In the community hall.

North American Lumber Loverna

Old advertisements on the wall.

Loverna SK Cenotaph

A tribute to the fallen.

Old House Loverna

A Rembrandt? Or maybe a van Gogh?

Old House Loverna SK

Pulling back…

Rueben Tschetter Cache Productions

Filmmaker Rueben Tschetter.

Grace United Loverana

In the soft light.

Grace United Loverna SK

We’ve got a thing for churches.

Old Fuse Box

Remember fuse boxes?

Grace United Loverna Saskatchewan

Both churches in town are well kept.

Old House Loverna Saskatchewan

Coats, just left behind…and the green door.

Ford Two Ton

In BIGDoer.com colours, this Ford Two Ton.

Chris Doering BIGDoer.com

Your typically camera-shy author.

Tour Loverna Saskatchewan

Thinking of Christmas now.

Winnebago Brave

A Winnebago Brave in back, and left an expat from Calgary.

Calgary Transit Fishbowl Bus

A great find, a former Calgary Transit “Fishbowl” Bus.

Exploring Loverna Saskatchewan

Looking back at the business district.

Ford Two Ton Truck

“Big Yellow” dates from the 1940s – and Rob Pohl’s view camera.

Loverna SK Ball Diamonds

The Ball Diamonds at the edge of town.

Loverna SK Curling

Every small prairie community had a curling rink.

Saskatchewan Wheat Pool Ad

The “Pool” went the way of the Dinosaur.

Loverna SK Curling Rink

Viewing area – games were held here into the 1990s.

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44 Comments on "Forgotten Prairie: Loverna"

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Connie Biggart
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Connie Biggart

From Johnnie Bachusky: Loverna, named after Loverna McFarland, daughter of a local railway official.

Nicole
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Nicole

Great article! Love the pics and looking forward to the documentary!

DaynaK
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DaynaK

Awesome Captures !! Great Article !!
You may have checked out (in your travels ) Norquay Sask or Swan Plain Sask ? Tons of abandon farms ect
Might be worth the trip
PS
Would be in my glory to have your job 🙂

Francesca Williams
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Francesca Williams

I love these articles and pictures! History is addicting.

Joe Dockrill
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Joe Dockrill

Love your stuff!

Sandra Naughton Fields
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Sandra Naughton Fields

I love reading your articles & following along on google maps when I can. What a beautiful old town. Very spread out over blocks & blocks of emptiness that were once bustling!

Joan Bender
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Joan Bender

You do a tremendous job!

Joan Bender
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Joan Bender

Reminds me of home in Saskatchewan! Many years ago.

Matt Germscheid
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Matt Germscheid

In my part of the world.

Eric Larsson
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Eric Larsson

So cool that you had access to the buildings.

Ken Baker
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Ken Baker

I wish I could have come for that trip. Maybe one day I can sneak out for an adventure.

Jason Sailer
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Great as always Chris & Connie. Loverna is one of my favorite places to check out. Will try to get out there next spring.

Peg Strankman
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Peg Strankman

Love your work! Especially when unexpectedly my home town pops up.

Jenn
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Such an interesting place. Every photo of Loverna I have ever seen is awesome. I have wanted to go for awhile. SOON!!!

Connie Biggart
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Connie Biggart

Everyone did such a great job on that film. All should be proud!

Helen Burgardt
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Helen Burgardt

Love these stories!!
Of course, Fusilier has a soft spot in my heart ❤️ ….

Susan Mielke
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Susan Mielke

Love this article and want to thank you for taking the time to do these photos and the article ❤️ Loverna has been my home for near 60 years. I’m still here today with no plans of leaving. I always say I’ll turn the rest of the street lights off when I’m done.

Rosina Minchin
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Rosina Minchin

This (yellow house) was the United church manse. My first home after my marriage to Bill in jn.Jn. 1954. Shared with minister Dick ?? Heatherington” for nearly 2years. I believe last occupants were. Don & Beatrice Scott.

Diane Thompson
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Diane Thompson

Memories of a great community where everybody helped out their neighbors.

Marge Horton
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Marge Horton

WOW!! Been a LONG time since I was in Loverna & things have really changed in the past 35-40 years. Enjoyed the pics !

Doug Scott
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Doug Scott

I’m sure that is my grandparents house (the yellow house).

Sue Clark
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Sue Clark

Very cool!

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