Discovering the ruins of Factoria, The Magic City
Danica Lorer sits on the remains of the failed community of Factoria. (Francois Biber/CTV Saskatoon)
More than a century ago William “Billy” Silverwood stumbled upon a freshwater spring north of Saskatoon and based a settlement around his discovery.
At the time the infant City of Saskatoon was struggling with hundreds of cases each year of typhoid fever from residents drinking untreated water from the South Saskatchewan River.
“There was a spring going through the land and the water was crystal clear,” said Danica Lorer with Saskatoon’s Storytellers’ Guild. “So when he found this spring he was able to sell the water to businesses, hotels, restaurants and people in the city.”
This marked the beginning of Factoria, The Magic City – so named because of the views over the river
“It’s a story of big dreams, it’s a story of the desire to make a fortune and it’s a story of something that didn’t happen as it should have happened,” Lorer said.
As a livestock dealer, Silverwood raised a huge barn and it wasn’t long after more businesses and factories started popping up. In a few years there was a water-bottling plant, a brick manufacturing plant, a 66-room hotel and plans for a brewery which never came to fruition.
Some haphazard planning around Factoria ultimately led to runoff from the livestock barn into the pristine spring, contaminating the fresh water source. At the same time the First World War began freezing any credit Silverwood had to purchase and develop Factoria further. An economic slowdown and the expense of running powerlines from Saskatoon to Factoria was too much for Silverwood to overcome, spelling the end of Factoria.
What remains of Factoria are the front steps into Silverwood’s home and large pieces of concrete foundation in the riverbank.
The Meewasin Valley Authority commissioned a historical and archeological study for the area. With help from the Saskatoon Public Library, photos of the early settlements, photos of the bottles Silverwood used in his plant were compiled together.
Lis Mack is with the manager of partners for the Saskatchewan river basin across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. She said the fact that this piece of history is something people today can still look at and touch is incredible.
“The fact that something from this long time ago from our early history we can actually go and touch it,” Mack said.
Riding her bike past the historical site just off of Adilman Drive in Saskatoon’s Silverwood Heights neighbourhood, Lorer grew more curious about the history of the site.
About a month ago Lorer researched the history of Factoria for a storytellers’ guild presentation. Started in 1981 the guild meets every month in the basement of Winston’s English Pub and share stories from near and far, anecdotes, urban legends and myths.