Riversdale is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada located near the downtown.Riversdale has experienced an economic and development boom since 2012 and has even been called Canada’s Next Great Neighbourhood.
Riversdale, one of Saskatoon’s original neighbourhoods, was once named Richville after an early settler. Despite its old moniker, the area has seen some tough times, but thanks to the current “Saska-boom” (this is Canada’s fastest-growing city), it’s becoming a true west-side success story, with new galleries and condos underway, and an indoor farmers’ market brimming with local treats like wild-boar sausage and fruit wines.
History of Riversdale
Riversdale was one of the three original settlements that merged to form the city of Saskatoon in 1906. The City of Saskatoon had its start as a Temperance Colony on the east side of the South Saskatchewan River in 1882. With the coming of the railway in 1890, homesteaders were settling on the west side of the river, setting the stage for the town of Saskatoon, and on the “other side of the tracks”, the Village of Riversdale.
In 1904 west-side residents petitioned government authorities in Regina to have the area bounded by Avenue A South, 22nd Street West, Avenue H South, and the riverbank, incorporated as a village. Riversdale became a village on January 16, 1905. A little over a year later, after amalgamating with the town of Saskatoon and the Village of Nutana, Riversdale became part of the City of Saskatoon.
Hotels, small businesses, restaurants and mills began springing up throughout the area as immigrants from England, the United States, central and eastern Europe and China came to seek their fortunes. By 1911, the Riversdale business community was taking shape and a building boom was in full swing.
Like Nutana, Riversdale has a number of Saskatoon’s most historic buildings and residences.
Adilman’s Department Store
Adilman’s Department Store served Saskatoon from this location for over 50 years. A cornerstone of the 20th Street shopping district, it survived the hard times of the 1930s, and grew and expanded over the years to become the largest retail establishment in Riversdale.
Max and Harry Adilman were operating a clothing store and William Adilman, a second-hand store on 1st Avenue when their brother Nathan came to Saskatoon with his family in 1919. He had emigrated from Russia in the early part of the century and had turned his hand to a variety of trades – factory hand in Ohio, clerk n Winnipeg, and fur trader and gold prospector in northern Ontario – before settling in Saskatoon.
In 1921, Max, Harry, and Nathan formed a partnership to open Saskatoon’s first department store, Adilman’s Ltd. At 126 20th Street West. A fourth brother, William later joined the firm. Nathan’s son Jack eventually took over, running the store until it closed in 1974.
The Albany Hotel
Construction began on the Iroquois Hotel on the northwest corner of 20th Street and Avenue B in early 1906. In 1912, after the building had been extensively altered and enlarged, it was renamed the Albany.
Cecil B. Daughtery, who had been operating a hotel in Wadena, Saskatchewan, bought the hotel in May 1912 at the height of the local building boom. Then, in the midst of a serious recession in 1922, the property was returned to its previous owner, Francois Colleaux, whose family retained ownership until 1957.
The hotel underwent a series of renovations between 1951 and 1980 when Dale Beavis acquired the title to the property. The hotel is witness to a century of Riversdale’s history, and as the years have passed, has itself changed greatly.
The Butler Block
One of the oldest and most prominent continuously occupied buildings in Riversdale is the Butler Block. In 1906, as Saskatoon was entering its first real boom, Dr. J.H.C. Willoughby and John Butler began construction on the Butler Block. Butler was a speculator-developer from Minneapolis whose adventurous career included travelling with his sons to the Klondike during the gold rush.
By 1904, the hotelier, millionaire and member of the Chicago-Minneapolis Board of Trade had acquired real estate interests in Saskatoon and became one of the signatories on the petition to incorporate Riversdale as a village. Butler died while traveling back to Minneapolis, but Willoughby and Butler’s widow Bridget completed construction on the block in 1907.
The building is typical of business blocks built during that era. It is a two-storey wooden structure with a full stone and cement basement. Originally, it had numerous entrances to accommodate a variety of businesses on its ground floor and a number of suites on the upper level to house the business owners, their families and the odd visitor to the city.
On a Friday in 1925, Joseph Germek purchased a small lot of cigarettes, confections and fruit, moved into the upstairs apartment with his family and opened the doors to the West Star Fruit Co. During the next 31 years, Germek shared the block with businesses such as the Star Meat Market, the Westside Clothing Store, and Lipsett’s Dry Goods. When Germek finally closed up shop, the Butler Block became home to a series of Chinese restaurants.
Today, some of the best dim-sun in Saskatoon can be had at the Mandarin Restaurant, now the sole business operating out of the Butler Block.
Landa Auto Body Works
Four generations of Landas have been involved in the management of this family firm since it was founded by William Landa in 1908. What began as a small blacksmith shop soon became the Landa Carriage Works, manufacturer of buggies, carriages, democrats and sleighs. This, in turn grew into the Landa Carriage and Body Works when the shop expanded to include the servicing of cars and trucks. Today, Landa Auto Body Works still operates out of its original location at 222 Avenue C South.
William Landa, a carriage maker from Dniepetrotrovsk, Russia, arrived in Saskatoon in 1908 with his wife and children. He bought the property at 222 Avenue C South and built a blacksmith shop and, for a number of years, the family lived in apartments above it. William Landa’s blacksmith shop was a modest 14×16 feet in size. In it he repaired buggies, made horseshoes, shod horses, fixed wheels and sharpened shears.
Harry Landa joined the family business in 1928 and ran the shop until 1958, retiring in 1961. His son, Mendy, who had joined the staff in the 50s, managed the business until he retired in 1981. At that time he handed the reigns over to Don Henderson who managed the business for the next six years. In 1986, David Landa, Mendy’s son and William’s great grandson, joined Henderson as a partner. 2008 marked 100 years of the Landa family business.
Little Chief Station
The small, white stucco building with its distinctive tile roof and overhanging eaves was known for almost 40 years as the Texaco Little Chief Service Station. Built in 1928 by the Texas Oil Company, it has attributes of the attractive architectural style variously called Spanish Colonial or Spanish Mission. It was built according to standard design used by the Texaco Oil Company, and sported the company’s logo and colours. Both design and colour were intended to capture the motorist’s attention.
The building, which was recently restored to a house community police station, is the only remaining service station in Saskatoon from that time period and one of very few examples of this style left in the province (a similar structure can be found at Waskesiu Lake in northern Saskatchewan). It retains its original colours and is an excellent example of adaptive reuse of historic commercial building.
Riversdale by the Numbers
- Population | 2,135
- Homeownership % | 36.0
- Average Value of Dwelling | $120,834
- Average Household Income | $35,849
- Average Household Size | 2.5
- Municipal Ward | 2
Where to Eat
Cozy coffee shop located in The Two Twenty. Offers a variety of teas, coffees, and specialty drinks made right before your eyes.
Saskatoon Farmer’s Market
The Saskatoon Farmer’s Market inability to market themselves may be their loss but it your gain, especially during the weekday lunch time. Many times over the years have Wendy and I enjoyed a completely quiet lunch on their patio. While the rest of downtown desperately tries to find a table, the Farmer’s Market and it’s restaurants are often completely empty. That’s bad news for them but great news for you.
Two Gun Quiche House
Named after Riversdale’s most notorious outlaw; Morris “Two Gun” Cohen. While trained as a gunfighter in London England, his parents shipped him off to Canada where he ended up living in Saskatoon. While honouring the past, the Two Gun Quiche House has created a delightful menu and is a contender for being the best lunch spot in Saskatoon.
A fantastic addition to Riversdale in the historic Golden Dragon building. They focus on serving contemporary food focused on natural and seasonal products.
The Park Cafe
This diner takes you back to the early 1960s with vintage booths and a mirrored pie cupboard. While you are waiting for your food, check out the decades-old photos of Riversdale. While the burger joints on 8th Street argue who has the best hamburger in town, the Park Cafe is serving it up.
The Underground Cafe
One of the best places to have a coffee on a warm summer day is the patio of The Underground Cafe. The Underground is right next door to one of Canada’s premier guitar boutiques so you never know which music icon will be wandering in to check out Village Guitar and Amp.
What to Do
Saskatoon Farmer’s Market
While not exactly packed during the week, it comes alive on Saturdays all season long. While there you will discover over 140 vendors who have everything from wild boar to fine arts. It’s worth checking out. It is also home to the PotashCorp Wintershines festival, a great place to take in the PotashCorp Fireworks Festival, and a fine choice for a quiet lunch from one of the vendors on a summer’s day.
Meewasin Valley Trails
Riversdale is home to the southern part of River Landing as well as the jumping off to one of the better parts of the Meewasin trail system as it heading south through Victoria Park. There is the outdoor skatepark, the boathouse, and Riversdale Pool. Not only does it have some great places to stop, it is in my opinion the nicest portion of the trail system in the city.
The Two Twenty
Working is important to. The Two Twenty provides a place for you to hunker down in their co-working space for as little or as long as you need it.
Saskatoon can be cold and it’s easy to stay inside and not come out until April but then you would miss one of Saskatoon’s best festivals. Wintershines is a two week festival held at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market. It may be cold but it worth braving the elements to come out and climb the ice wall, take a sleigh ride, play some shinny, and enjoy the Farmer’s Market.
Saskatoon’s minor building boom of the late 1920s tapered off with the onset of the depression. The Roxy Theatre was built in the summer of 1930, just as the depression was settling in. It is the oldest and most elegant movie theatre still in operation in Saskatoon.
At the time, Spanish Mission or Spanish Colonial was a popular architectural style. Although the Roxy’s facade is of two-toned brick rather than the usual white stucco, it shows the influence of this style. The theatre was designed by F.F. Maistre of Winnipeg and built by R.J. Arrand of Saskatoon. Originally, the inner lobby consisted of two curved ramps leading up to the auditorium. At the front of the auditorium was a sunken orchestra pit which accommodated 15 to 20 musicians. The walls were covered with small balconies, windows and towers that gave the impression of a quaint Spanish village. The ceiling was painted dark blue and had twinkling lights set in the plaster to give the impression of the night sky. Two cloud machines added to the effect.
The Roxy opened August 29, 1930 at 7:30pm. The program featured the film “Is Everybody Happy?” (1929), the comedy short “Sugar Plum Daddy”, and the Mickey Mouse Cartoon “Barnyard Battle.” Ticket prices for the evening show were 40 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. A highlight of the theatre experience was the luxury of air-conditioning, the first in a commercial space in Saskatoon. The auditorium was cooled by water that was pumped from the artesian well located beneath the property.
The Roxy was recently restored by Magic Lantern Theatres and operates as a cinema with occasional live performances. Many of the features in the original theatre, such as the outdoor neon sign, balconies, murals and star-lit ceiling have been preserved or reproduced to create the same magical effect as in days gone by. Nels Warner was a longtime manager of the Roxy, and Ken Bell was manager of the theatre when it was the Towne Cinema between 1976 and 1991 followed by Jason Bell the second generation of the Bell family to operate the theatre.
The theatre was dark from 1996 to 2005 and in serious disrepair. The basement had flooded twice, the roof was leaking and the once magical twinkling ceiling was falling down, and the musty odor of a boarded up building greeted you when entering the once majestic lobby.
Enter Magic Lantern Theatres and Mr. Tom Hutchinson who essentially prevented a parking lot from appearing here. Renovations exceeding one million dollars revived Western Canada’s last Spanish Courtyard Atmospheric Theatre and the identifiable soul of the Roxy Theatre emerged behind the historic neon marquee. This refurbished crown jewel of the Business Improvement District is not only offering a historic and out of the ordinary movie atmosphere, but also serves as a venue for lectures, perfomances and even wedding ceremonies.
Where to Shop
Saskatoon’s best starting point for all of your outdoor adventures from paddle boarding to mountain boarding. You can find the gear that you are looking for at Escape Sports.
Village Guitar and Amp
Village Guitar & Amp isn’t just a big deal locally, musicians and guitar players from all over the continent visit on the best guitar shops anywhere for rare guitars and amps. You never know who you will see walk by as you enjoy
Our Favorite Part of Riversdale
It’s hard to pick just one great thing about Riversdale. There is the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market, great restaurants, and the emergence of the 20th Street. For all of the great things in Riversdale, you have the feeling that the good things have just started and there is much more to come. So we are going to wait a while until we pick our favourite part of Riversdale as we think its best places are still to come.
The Worst Part of Riversdale
The parking lot where the former Barry Hotel used to be. No one misses the Barry Hotel but having a big parking lot in the heart of 20th Street is a shame. Hopefully with the successful development of The Banks will spur on more development in the area and this hole in 20th Street’s street life will soon be filled.
Who’s Who In Riversdale
- City Councillor: Pat Lorje (Ward 2)
- MLA: Danielle Chartier (NDP)
- MLA: David Forbes (NDP)
- MP: Kelly Block (Conservative)
- Community Association: Riversdale Community Association
- Business Improvement District: Riversdale Business Improvement District