Saskatoon walking tour

(continuer en français) – Last updated: July 25, 2022

At the beginning of Saskatoon, there is a meeting, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. A group of Ontarians, emissaries of a temperance league, were looking for a land to establish a new colony, away from the temptations of the city. In 1882, they took the train to the end of the line, at that time in Moonsomin, and continuing their journey they reached the Saskatchewan River. There, they met Whitecap, chief of a Dakota tribe, who designated a place across the river for them to establish their future community.

A year later, the emissaries returned with the group of pioneers from eastern Canada and settled where the riverbank descended to the river. Moreover, this portion of the river was relatively narrower, making it possible to consider the establishment of a ferry.

From the ferry, they moved on to the construction of bridges, there are currently nine within the city limits, two of which are for railway lines. The railway finally arrived in Saskatoon, as early as 1890, but on the other side of the river from the original centre. The city relocated to the other side, eventually encompassing both sides of the river, reaching a population of 247,000 inhabitants in 2016.

Originally an agricultural settlement, Saskatoon later became the administrative and commercial centre of a larger area where farmland was becoming increasingly larger. It was therefore natural for Saskatoon to establish an office registering land rights, the Land Titles Building. The building still exists but its activity has been transferred.

During the economic crisis of the 20th century, many farmers were forced into bankruptcy, between bad harvests and price swings, they also had to go into debt to keep up with the advances in mechanisation. Unable to pay off their debts, even in good years because their land was too small, they ended up joining the rural exodus, swelling the population of cities like Saskatoon. This old Chevrolet truck is reminiscent of the rural world, as is this old tractor, curiously decorating a house in the city centre.

Saskatoon has become the most populous city in the province, surpassing Regina, the provincial capital. Naturally it is the seat of a diocese and the churches of various denominations embellish the city centre. Such as the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, which was built from 1912 to 1917, or the Catholic Cathedral of St. Paul, built in 1910.

There are memorials in the city’s parks. The Hugh Cairns Monument honours Saskatoon’s 76 football players who died in the First World War. The Cenotaph is a more general memorial for the fallen. At the request of City Council, a clock was placed there to make it more useful than a simple block of stone.

The banks of the Saskatchewan River have been developed as parkland. They are used, for example, for lunchtime walks by downtown office workers.

The Bessborough Hotel is a historic building in the centre of Saskatoon. It was built from 1928 to 1932 by a railway company, in the Chateau style that is common in Canada. The hotel remains at the centre of the city’s social life.

Out of its period of emergence as a regional commercial centre, Saskatoon has retained some buildings typical of this early 20th century period.

A 1960’s Pontiac Parisienne, a model mainly produced in General Motors plants in Canada.

Although Saskatoon was established in 1883 as a temperance city, today there are about 120 pubs, including a former double-decker bus, which is very British.

Saskatoon City Hall is a rather unassuming building. The city’s great political figure is John Diefenbaker (1895-1979), who was Prime Minister of Canada. A statue shows him at the age of fifteen, when he was selling newspapers, having an informal discussion with then Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. This anecdote remains in history, at least in local history.

Another historic moment took place just north of Saskatoon in 1885, at Batoche. It was there that the final episode of the Métis Rebellion came to a tragic end. Gabriel Dumont was their best military leader, there is a statue of him on his horse in a Saskatoon park.

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