Grain elevator owner contemplates tearing down iconic landmark before someone gets hurt

After the large windstorm that hit Saskatchewan last week, Dallas Ostrom has a tough decision.

His property includes the iconic Bents grain elevator, which has been featured in thousands of photos long after Bents became a ghost town.

It was in decent condition until the wind storm. Now the elevator has been severely damaged and the top roof is expected to fall off soon. 

“I’ve had all sorts of people telling me not to burn it down,” he said. “But I don’t want anybody going in the elevator and getting hurt.

“So I guess I’m wrestling with either burning it down in the wintertime here before the snow leaves or getting a company in to tip it over and see if we can maybe salvage some of the big timbers and stuff out of it. But that gets a little costly.”

The grain elevator at Bents, Sask., has been captured by photographers from across Canada, the United States and more. (Submitted by Dallas Ostrom)

Ostrom looked at the grain elevator every day when growing up because his parents’ farm was right across the road. It’s located about 94 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon. Ostrom came to possess the elevator after the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool decommissioned it and turned it over to the landowner. 

He said it wasn’t usable even then, and he enjoys seeing people stop by.

“We’ve had people come from all over the world to photograph that elevator,” he said. “Like from Qatar, Montreal, all over the States.… It was kind of a sense of pride for me to have one that was so popular and so photographed.

The Bents grain elevator was photographed in 2018 by Saskatoon photographer Faith McDonald. (Photography by Faithy/Facebook)

“It’s a great iconic structure in Saskatchewan. It’s too bad that time hasn’t been a friend, and this last winter storm the other day kind of was the final straw. So it’s a sad day for me.”

Because he doesn’t want to pay the hundreds of thousands to fix it, he needs to decide the next steps. If he doesn’t demolish it, he worries someone may get hurt, then sue.

“Most people are good people, and they’ll stop and ask permission,” he said. “But there are a handful of people that come out there and steal stuff out of it and vandalize it and cause trouble.

“I don’t want to end up broke because somebody sued me for trespassing on my property when they got hurt.” 

Other landmarks damaged in the storm

Ostrom’s grain elevator isn’t the only historic landmark damaged in the storm. The Ogema firewall was destroyed and the Pangman grain elevator was badly damaged. 

Allan Spriggs, a hobby drone photographer, captured the damage done to the Pangman elevator, about 95 kilometres south of Regina.

The Pangman grain elevator damage was captured by Allan Spriggs, a drone photographer in southern Saskatchewan. (Allan Spriggs Drone Photography & Video)

During the storm, he was concerned about property damage and wasn’t planning to take out the drone for the aftermath, but was inspired to check it out after seeing some ground-level images on social media.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow.’ It was incredible to see it ripped apart like that, with portions of the walls completely opened up from the wind, yet the shell of the structure and top of the elevator still standing,” Spriggs said. “It looked like it could collapse any minute.

“It really gives you a sense of the destructive power of the Prairie wind.”

The Pangman grain elevator was damaged in the wind storm that hit Saskatchewan last week. (Allan Spriggs Drone Photography & Video)

Spriggs said people have a real attachment to their small-town elevators, which are part of the cultural identity of the province. 

“It’s sad to see them slowly disappear. It’s like seeing a part of our heritage become forgotten,” he said. 

Spriggs hopes to capture more through drone photography before it’s too late, and hopes the Pangman elevator will be repaired. He also hopes the old grain elevators will be maintained as heritage sites.

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