This Saturday, get out and explore the historic city of Saskatoon. As part of Culture Days, a nation-wide initiative to celebrate and honour Canada’s history, culture, and art, On This Spot is featuring a different city or town in Canada each day. Today, we take a look at Saskatoon and its rich history. We have one historic self-guided walking tour in the city, which is available for free online and through the On This Spot app.
In 1883, a group of Toronto-based Methodists with the Temperance Colonization Society established Saskatoon on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. They aimed to build a society free from alcohol. The colony grew only very slowly, even after it was reached by a railway in 1890. In 1901, almost 20 years after its founding, Saskatoon’s population was still only 113. The town’s first big break came in 1903, when a huge party of colonists from Britain, led by the Reverend Isaac Barr, began settling west of Saskatoon, but the enterprise was so chaotic and poorly planned that many of the colonists ended up settling in and around Saskatoon, especially on the west bank of the river where some established the village of Nutana.
The second break came in 1904, when Saskatoon was designated the divisional centre for the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, which put Saskatoon right in the middle of prairie development. The population boomed, and by 1906 had skyrocketed to 4,500. The third boost came after Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, when Saskatoon was chosen as the site of the University of Saskatchewan. It grew rapidly until 1913, when growth across all Western Canada shuddered to a halt. In the following decades, Saskatoon went through booms and busts, and the Great Depression hit the city especially hard. After the Second World War, however, the city benefited from the economic trends that were bouying much of Western Canada, and it has continued to grow to this day. Now it is the largest city in Saskatchewan and its main economic centre.
Our walking tour in Saskatoon, “The City of Bridges“, travels along the South Saskatchewan River. Every city needs a backbone, and here in Saskatoon, it’s the slow moving waters of the great South Saskatchewan River. The river once provided water for the legions of buffalo who roamed the prairies and for the plains First Nations who hunted them, and it now feeds the taps of every house in Saskatoon. As the backbone of the city, the river is a prominent character in almost every story from the city’s history. Follow us on this tour along the South Saskatchewan River and through Saskatoon’s major life events and its growth into one of Canada’s most prominent prairie cities.