The Roxy Theatre then, from a Library archive photo, and now. Trelle Burdeniuk/News Talk Radio
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Surrounded by books, articles and maps of Saskatoon’s early days, City archivist, Jeff O’Brien, begins the story of Riversdale.
“There are 25 signatures on the application to incorporate,” said O’Brien about the community that was initially was a separate village, not part of
the city of Saskatoon.
The Village of Riversdale, the Village of Nutana and the town of Saskatoon merged in 1906 to form the start of the city we know today.
But, the separation between Riversdale and downtown Saskatoon would continue for many years.
“Riversdale used to be isolated from the rest of Saskatoon by the railyards, which stretched from the river all the way up to 23rd Street — right where the (Midtown Plaza) is now,” O’Brien said.
That distance between the two areas meant Riversdale thrived in its early years as people who lived in Riversdale tended to shop there as well.
“One of the … side effects of … taking the railyards out and opening up those streets and making access between (downtown) Saskatoon and Riversdale that much easier, was that people then went to Saskatoon to shop,” said O’Brien.
Businesses on 20th Street in Riversdale started to suffer after the railyards were removed in 1964, he said.
The historic pedestrian bridge
When the railyards still existed, there was a covered foot bridge that stretched over them to connect downtown with Riversdale. The bridge has an interesting and tragic past.
In the late 1930s, a man from Prince Albert came to Saskatoon for the city market. He parked his truck in Riversdale and had spent some time in the downtown area. On his way back, he cut across the railyards, rather than take the long route over the foot bridge .
“A freak plough wind blasts through and it took this covering (off the bridge), ripped it right off and the debris fell on him and killed him,” O’Brien said.
A lawsuit followed as the man’s widow sued the city – she won a small amount of money.
That bridge also had happier moments, especially for one couple. The pair was expecting a New Year’s Eve baby when they were walking across the bridge on December 30, 1949.
“They were walking back home across the bridge and her water broke in the middle of the bridge on a blustery night in the end of December.”
The healthy baby was born later that night in hospital.
“It was a New Year’s to remember for that particular couple,” he said.
“The lots are small, the houses are smaller and the property values are lower. So, the people of more limited financial means will tend to go and move to Riversdale and often in Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, that’s immigrants,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien noted the area has seen large populations of Ukrainian and Chinese immigrants. While that has changed, he pointed out there are still similarities.
“Nowadays, the population of Riversdale is a lot more First Nations, but it still follows the immigrant pattern — people coming to Saskatoon from elsewhere, moving into a place where the housing is a little less expensive because they’re of more limited financial means.”
Visit our website Friday for the final part of News Talk Radio reporter Trelle Burdeniuk series which will look at the transition of one of the oldest family businesses in Riversdale.
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