The Sexsmith and District Museum Society is happy to report that the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator in town has been formally designated a municipal historic resource by Alberta Culture. Such designation is intended to protect the elevator from demolition and make it eligible for grants for restoration work from the provincial government. The elevator has already received generous grants from Alberta Culture, the County of Grande Prairie, and GP Rotary to have the building painted and re-roofed. Other restoration work is now in the offing.
The Sexsmith Elevator is the only mid-20th century grain elevator in the Peace River Country with a chance of survival. Two others, in Hines Creek and Kinuso, are still standing, but no initiative appears to be in place to guarantee their continuance. There are several elevators historically designated in central and southern Alberta, but nothing else in the northern half of the province.
For almost a century, these “prairie giants” stood as the most dramatic symbol of the dominant economy of western Canada, agriculture. That this elevator should be designated is appropriate, for Sexsmith was, for much of the 20th century, the major grain exporter in the province. Between 1938 and 1947, it led all inland terminals in the British Empire for the export of grain, and so made claim to the proud sobriquet, “Grain Capital of the British Empire.” At one point in the 1950s, nine grain elevators dominated the skyline.
With the historic buildings along Main Street, three 1930s-1950s churches, the 1921 Blacksmith Shop, the 1929 NAR Train Station, and a number of early residences, the community has been able to stand out as a quintessential mid-20th century northern farming community.
The elevator was built in 1961 by the Alberta Wheat Pool, with an extension added in 1978. In 2004, the Museum Society purchased the building from Agricore, with the Town of Sexsmith acquiring a twenty-year lease on the land on which it stands from Canadian National. The elevator still retains all the fixtures and furnishings of a mid-20th century elevator, which is why it would be ideal for local residents, school groups, and tourists to see first-hand how grain was handled in northern Alberta at a time when dry-land farming was the dominant economy.