Today Verb Magazine published “Why is Saskatoon so horrible at history?” by Ashley Gerling. Overall, I concur with most of the points made in the article. As an outsider from the eastern United States where historic architecture is not difficult to find, I am continuously horrified and puzzled by Saskatoon’s disregard for the few pieces of historic character left in the city and equally appalled by the city’s love affair with urban sprawl.

However, I do feel the need to comment on one specific paragraph:

“Don’t believe me? When was the last time you heard of a Saskatchewan organization saving a historic building from demolition? (No, seriously, I’m interested!) The Saskatchewan History & Folklore Society’s website mentions very little about historic buildings, and is focused more on storytelling and publishing its Folklore magazine. This is all well and good, but physical history can be a far more palpable reminder of the past and how much things have changed.”

As editor of Folklore Magazine for the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society (SHFS), I take issue with suggesting that small organizations like SHFS should be charged with the responsibility of saving historic architecture or that they deserve to be chided for not taking on the responsibility, suggesting such is to suggest that a couple dozen people are single-handedly responsible for saving Saskatchewan’s historical buildings. SHFS and other similar historical organizations in Saskatchewan and elsewhere are dependent on volunteers, donations, and government funding. Acting on a limited budget, such organizations have to streamline their activities. How many of you are members of SHFS? How many subscribe to Folklore? I’m sure the answer is not enough, even though being a member costs only $25 (To become a member, go here). How many of you have contributed to the society’s Historical Markers program? Or looked at the society’s Everett Baker and Adrian Paton Slide Collection? Even followed SHFS on Facebook? Again, very few of you.

The vast majority of citizens, myself included, are all too comfortable sitting back and letting others handle things like the preservation of the region’s history. Historic preservation requires cooperation between the government, large and small historical organizations, and the public. Why is Saskatoon so bad at preserving its history? Short answer: apathy.

While I can’t single-handedly save Saskatoon’s historic buildings, I can offer and provide a space for people to write about them in Folklore. A series of articles about Saskatoon’s historic architecture would be an excellent addition to the magazine. Folklore welcomes submissions from all authors, professional and amateur, and is particularly unique because we are willing to publish personal stories, not just academic history pieces. What is your favourite memory of Farnam Block? How did it shape you individually? Folklore readers would love to know.

Writer’s guide for Folklore can be found here.

*Sidenote: I believe that organizations like the Saskatoon Archaeological Society did voice an opinion on the Farnam Block.

Published by Jessica M. DeWitt

Dr. Jessica M. DeWitt is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States. She is passionate about the use of digital technologies to bridge the gap between the public and researchers. In addition to her community and professional work, she offers various editing and social media consultancy services.

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    1. It really was, really a shame that the right forces did not come together to save it.


  1. I agree with your thoughts on the subject. Usually people are just there to complain after something happens, expecting someone else to have done the heavy lifting for them. I just joined the Historic Commission in my town (first meeting tonight!) and although I am just a “regular” citizen with no academic training on preservation, I am excited to do my part and to be an advocate for saving our old places.


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