Discover Your Property's History
Saskatoon retains a vibrant, sustainable and diverse heritage character that enriches our urban streetscapes and enhances the quality of life in our city. Conserving and interpreting a community’s heritage allows for a strong sense of community history, provides aesthetic enrichment and offers educational opportunities. You can contribute to the appreciation and understanding of Saskatoon’s past by researching the history of your property! Find out who built your home or building, what makes it unique, and what the story is behind the bricks and mortar.
Essential Aspects of Your Research
- History of the building and its occupants - Is it a two-storey, bungalow, wartime, or row house? Who lived in it?
- Architecture - Who was the architect, contractor or tradespeople who worked on the building? Does it have a particular architectural style or design? What kind of finishings were used?
- Context - What patterns of development in your neighbourhood or subdivision were there? Explore the social fabric of your neighbourhood as reflected in occupations, interests and population composition in the area.
- Take a good look around the building inside and out. Note its layout. When might it have been built? Do you notice another entrance has been added? Are there multi-paned windows in some places and not in others? Is there hardwood flooring under the rug?
- Does the building design fit with the character of the other houses or buildings in the neighbourhood? Could they have been built at the same time or is your house older or newer?
- Take photographs of the interior and exterior of your house or building, capturing the specific details of windows, doors and any notable architectural features.
- Talk to your neighbours or note any facts you already know that reflect the beginnings and growth of your neighbourhood. You can confirm these facts later with actual documentation.
Some Typical Questions About Discovering Your Property's History
What’s my legal address?
The legal address (lot, block, plan) is useful to know, as lots of key information is filed by legal descriptions. Do you own the property? If you do, the legal description is given on your Tax Assessment Notice. Don’t own the property? Visit the Corporate Revenue Division on the Main Floor of City Hall. Here you can get the legal description for a nominal fee.
Who built my house?
A key document of a building's history is the building permit. Building permits are found at the Building Standards Division, City Hall, located on the 3rd floor, South Wing. If you own the property you can access the building permits. Otherwise, Privacy legislation requires that you bring a letter of permission from the current owner and personal ID before you can obtain access to these records.
What can I learn from building permits?
Information such as date of construction, alterations, lot size, zoning, architect, contractor, type of work and value of work being done, specifications of building materials and any inspector’s notes. Each building permit has its unique number which should be recorded.
Where do I find trade specifics on my property?
Trade specifics such as sewer and water connection information, including a record of sewer and water maintenance up to 1985, are available from the Transportation and Construction Department. After that date, they are held in electronic form at Public Works. These files, accessible by street address, contain a diagram of the original connections, the date of application and legal description. The record of maintenance has less historical information, but is a record of water and sewer repair, which might be indicative of when your landscape changed (trees removed, for instance).
Is there a plan of my home or building somewhere?
There are several places that a plan may be found. If you are checking the building permits at the Building Standards Division, City Hall (3rd floor, South Wing), inquire whether there is a plan for your house or building. Copies may be obtained for a charge. If you do not own the property, remember that a letter of permission from the owner and personal ID is required.
Another place to check for plans is the City Archives, located at 224 Cardinal Crescent. It has a number of original plans located by street or legal address.
A third place to find a scaled-down plan of your house is the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library. If your house was built by a company such as Eaton’s Ltd., the T.M. Ball Company Ltd. of Saskatoon or various other lumber companies, catalogues exist with photographs and small plans. They were designed to serve advertising purposes in their day and now are useful to house historians.
Who or what is associated with my property?
You might have a long list or only a few people who lived, owned or worked in your house or building depending how many times the home or building changed hands. Sometimes houses had only one or two owners. Commercial, educational or institutional properties may be associated with a historic business, or affiliated with an important group.
Sources of information:
- The Henderson's Directory contains yearly listings of residents and their occupations, arranged both by name and by location. They are a great way to trace residents’ changes, and sometimes even street name changes. You can find the Henderson’s Directories at the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library or at City Archives.
- Voters’ lists to 1988 are held at City Archives. There are also Tax and Assessment rolls, 1909-1921, which identify the owner of properties. Persons who lived in your house might turn up in the Name Reference File binders and the Biography Clippings Files held at the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library. Here you might also find information on the architect or the contractor.
- Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon office (lower Main Library, U. of S.) holds the private collections of business and community leaders, the records of businesses and unions, some architectural drawings and early newspapers. If you want to take your research all the way back to the homestead days, the original homestead records are located there.
- The University of Saskatchewan Archives (3rd floor, Main Library, U. of S.) also has some architectural drawings, blueprints, and photographs, as well as historical collections and other information relating to faculty members of the University.
- Saskatchewan Land Titles will give you information on changes of title to your property. It is now centralized as the Information Services Corporation and accessible at www.isc.ca . Register on-line as a user to obtain a client number. Searches are generally made by legal land description.
When were changes made to my home or building?
Building Permits will provide you with this information. Also, if your building is pre-1912, early newspapers might also prove fruitful. Special issues of newspapers, such as the Harvest Issues of The Phoenix for example, contain information, even photographs of homes built that year, usually the fancier ones. Ask to see the Harvest Issues at the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library.
Old newspapers are not only a source of local information, but also provide the flavour and style of the times. Closing issues of the newspapers carried lists of properties built year by year, generally until World War I.
Where do I find pictures of my home or property?
Photographs add much to your research and can be used to mark changes made to a property. Try the Local History Room, it is a treasure-trove for old photographs. You might find a picture of your house or building, or if the photo shows a parade passing your street, it will be a wonderful opportunity to glimpse life on your street “that day.” Another source might be the Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon Office (lower Main Library, U. of S.) where the Star-Phoenix photographs are held, 1970s to the present.
I want to know more about my area
- Knowing when your area of the city was developed, who the neighbours were over the years, will enrich your study. You will be able to place your architectural style into context.
- One way to learn about surrounding buildings is to use the City of Saskatoon Fire Insurance maps, which are large-scale block by block drawings of the City showing: occupancy or use of buildings; details of external and internal construction and materials; building heights street widths, numbers and location of property lines; location of water pipes or mains, fire hydrants and fire alarm boxes.
- A new set of fire insurance maps was compiled in 1923, with revisions in 1924, 1928, 1931, 1944 and finally in 1950. In April of 1958 a partial plan was made of areas that had changed since 1950. This plan was partially revised in April of 1963 to show areas of new construction. These plans are held at the City of Saskatoon Archives.
- You can also check Henderson’s Directories, using the street index for quick overviews of your street or avenue in various years. Or check newspaper indexes and clippings scrapbooks held at the Local History Room. And use the buildings and persons binders to check for biographical data.
What can I do with what I have learned?
Contact the Heritage and Design Coordinator to discuss the heritage significance of your property. Consider options for Municipal Heritage Designation or placement on the Saskatoon Register of Historic Places.
Consider sharing the story of your home or building with others by placing a copy of it at the Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library, or the City Archives. There it will form part of the larger community record where it will benefit historians, sociologists and other researchers.
Tip: if photos, letters or other documents are especially fragile, photocopy them, use the photocopies as your handling copies, and store the originals.