The town of Stavely Alberta is located some one hundred kilometres south of Calgary and to those travelling on Highway #2, is most noteworthy for its huge grain elevator that sits just east of the busy thoroughfare. The building can’t be missed and the tall blue structure looms over the town, the passing cars and the surrounding prairie. You can spot it long before you arrive here.
I’ve passed by this town a million times but have never taken the initiative to pay it a visit. Until now that is and since we needed a break we thought it a good idea to do a walk-around, taking in some of the history of the place, while at the same time giving our legs a good stretch.
One of the first things we notice is that the town is celebrating 100 years in 2012. Congratulations Stavely!
The next thing we see is a yard full of tractors – bright yellow tractors – meaning we are looking at examples from the maker Minneapolis-Moline (aka M-M). That yellow (almost a Caterpillar yellow) was that organization’s signature colour. Each tractor maker had their own company colours, green for John Deere, red for International Harvester…well you get the picture. This brand is not one I have seen much of, so I think overall they were not terribly common in Canada. Or at least in this area. The way the sun was shining sure made that yellow stand out.
Minneapolis Moline was formed in the late 1920s through a merger of several companies. White Motors then bought it up in the early 1960s and eventfully phased the name out over the next ten years. White also purchased a number of other tractor makers, Oliver and Canada’s Cockshutt for example. This maker was advertised as the “World’s Finest Tractors”. One machine sported a hand crank – that must have been hard work!
Amongst the sea of yellow was a John Deere looking rather out of place.
Many of of buildings seen in town are rather substantial looking structures made from brick. These date from the mid 1920s and were built after a fire swept through town, destroying most of the business district. The hotel in particular is interesting – I just love old hotels, especially if they are made from this material. I must stop in one day and have a beer and wings at the pub and soak it all up. It looks to be a real cowboy tavern.
At the end of the main street (actually 50th Ave – more on this below) and blocking the highway from being seen (and heard) is a very imposing grain elevator. The last one here, it’s framed perfectly by rows of buildings leading down the street to it. Now privately owned, it was formerly an Alberta Wheat Pool elevator (later Agricore) and you can tell by the light blue colour.
In the past Stavely was also home to many other elevators as this author has seen pictures from the 1970s showing another smaller AWP elevator and two Pioneers just north of this one. The others were likely torn down at the time the rail line was abandoned (2000-ish) but it’s nice this one was saved. As you may know, standing grain elevators are a pretty rare and where these used to be close to two thousand in the province now there are hundreds. This one is interesting in that it has two large integrated annexes flanking each side – aka a “double composite” elevator.
We walk around the front and strand where the old rail line used to be. One can easily imagine trains passing through and grain cars being loaded. But it’s only in dreams as the last train passed by here a dozen years ago. Stavely sits along the CPR’s MacLeod Subdivision, a former grain gathering branch that travelled from Calgary south to Fort MacLeod, connecting with the CPR’s southern mainline there.
Found in one back yard is a very cool late 1930s Ford truck. It has such nice lines and appears compete and in good shape. I hope to look so good when I am over seventy! Small towns always seems to be home to old trucks like this. Also seen in back is a El-Camino – an odd vehicle that is useless as a truck and useless as a car.
Also seen in this section of town and all housed in nice brick buildings is a saddlery shop, an antique shop of course (all small towns have one) and the town’s office. Also seen is Unc’s machine shop, who repairs boat propellers. Odd, how may boats can there be on the almost lake-less prairies.
Found just off of downtown is what appears to be an old garage and service station. At least that what it looks like – heck I am pretty sure it is. It has some nice fieldstone work and it would be easy to see where the glass globe pumps would have fit under the awning.
An unusual thing about Stavely are the street numbers. Downtown is at the corner of 50th Avenue and 52nd Street. Odd, where’s First Street, or Main, or Railway Avenue? In fact almost all the streets in town are numbered in the 50s. This begs the question, why?
Update: May 2013. The elevator we see was a late one on the scene, being constructed in the early 1980s. This makes it one of the last of the traditional wooden elevators built.
The next town north of Stavely in Nanton, and they also have some elevators, two of them actually. To see a report we did on them, follow this link…
Nanton Alberta, elevators and old things.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: December 2012.
Location: Stavely, AB.