What stories can stones tell? Often, these tranquil observers lie still, bearing witness to alterations across a landscape. Or they may find themselves relocated and transformed to serve the needs of humans settling within a space. Despite the city of Saskatoon’s relatively short history, it is full of these stones that chronicle the tales of natural and human use overlapping and evolving through time.

One such story is told by the stone ruins of Factoria, an early 1920s development that visionaries imagined as The Magical City. The ruins are a short walk from the Adilman Drive roundabout in the neighbourhood of Silverwood Heights. The stone remains are admittedly small, nestled in among grasses, pasture sage, and other plants that thrive on disturbed landscapes.

Looking out across the park, imagine how different this site would have been in the early 1900s. During that time, Saskatoon had no organized waste management systems and water sources were often contaminated, resulting in frequent typhoid fever outbreaks. Reflecting on this history, it’s interesting to note that present-day Factoria borders Saskatoon’s wastewater treatment plant which meets the highest level of certification in Canada!

There are also natural springs in the area, which were a major draw for entrepreneur William Alexander Silverwood who purchased the land in 1909. I was surprised to learn that the neighbourhood’s name, Silverwood Heights, pays homage to this historical figure. William Silverwood envisioned the springs as a solution to Saskatoon’s water woes, while simultaneously being the source of a profitable enterprise. He developed a bottling business, selling this natural spring water to eager Saskatoon residents.

The high-quality springs also attracted Chicago visionary and speculator Robert Glass. Glass envisioned a thriving industrial metropolis on Silverwood’s land with an impressive main attraction: a beer brewery using the spring water. Advertisements in The Saskatoon Phoenix newspaper from 1912-13 promise that Factoria’s brewery will put Saskatoon on the map, make Saskatoon famous, and provide up to 500 jobs.

The Factoria dream was of a self-sufficient town, complete with flour mill, hotel, restaurant, and subdivided residential plots for the workers and their families. Further expansion of the industrial village would include a CNR rail line and power lines connecting Factoria to Saskatoon. Unfortunately, these grand plans would not come to fruition as World War I began, resulting in a widespread economic decline that led to the demise of the Magical City dream.

As I explored the site, a light breeze rustled through the trees and grasses and the cheerful songs of yellow warblers, robins, and chickadees mingled with the happy chatter of people biking and walking along the Meewasin Trail. The natural springs along the riverbank now provide unique habitat for wildlife and plants, and the forest below Factoria is a birding hot spot during spring and autumn migrations.  It’s been touted as the best place to see warblers in Saskatoon.

Standing on a stone near the trail I looked out at the forested valley below, enjoying the panoramic view of the South Saskatchewan River. It’s easy to understand why Silverwood, Glass, and those who came before have been drawn to the site, with its beautiful vistas and natural abundance. Although the Factoria dream was never fully realized, perhaps those early visionaries would be pleased with how the site is loved and utilized by Saskatoon residents today.

– Mia Nemeth, Meewasin summer student

The Great Canadian Trail

The portion of the Meewasin Trail that runs through the Factoria site is a part of The Great Trail system.The Great Trail dream began in 1992, when visionaries determined to connect people throughout Canada with a multi-use trail. It now stretches almost 24,000 km across Canada from coast to coast. The largest trail system in the world, it runs along 20km of the Meewasin Trail through Saskatoon.To learn more, head to the Meewasin website and click on The Great Trail.

Advertisement from the Saskatoon Daily Star in 1912

Gallery of Warblers

Yellow Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Palm Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Sources used in this article:
1. https://wdm.ca/2020/05/27/silverwood-springs-factoria/

2. https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/discovering-the-ruins-of-factoria-the-magic-city-1.4368499
3. The Saskatoon Daily Star (Nov. 25, Dec. 6 1912) accessed through Proquest.com
4. The Saskatoon Phoenix (Nov. 26,30 1912, Dec. 4 1913) accessed through Proquest.com

How to get there

Access: Factoria is located near the roundabout at the end of Adilman Drive in Silverwood Heights. The Meewasin Trail runs through the area, connecting to the Silverwood Off-Leash Area. The main trail is paved, and the green space around the Factoria ruins is groomed and easily accessible. The trail is wheelchair, pedestrian, and cycling friendly; dogs must be leashed.

Facilities: There are no washrooms nearby. Parking is limited to the space available within the roundabout. There is a Meewasin Trail-Factoria map showing all trail connections through the area.

For more information: Check out the Saskatoon Nature Society’s A Guide to Nature Viewing Sites In and Around Saskatoon, available on loan from the Saskatoon Public Library and for purchase at Turning the Tide and McNally Robinson bookstores and directly from the Saskatoon Nature Society, purchase the book here.