Description of Historic Place
Currently operating as a zoo and park within the city of Saskatoon, the Forestry Farm Park and Zoo opened in 1913 in the community of Sutherland as a tree nursery station and model farm under the Forestry Branch of the federal Department of the Interior. The complex eventually grew to include staff residences, tree packing and storage areas, a pumphouse for the irrigation system, a greenhouse, botanists’ research facility, a blacksmith shop, as well as a barn. Laid out to resemble a progressive farmyard, these buildings have all been adapted for use in the Saskatoon Zoo.
The balance of the site was taken up by the field operations of planting and harvesting tree seedlings, planting shelterbelts to protect the site and demonstrate the effectiveness of trees on the prairie, fields of experimental plantings, and park-like grounds around the farm buildings to illustrate the benefit of ornamental landscaping. A significant amount of this landscape remains. Closed as a tree nursery in 1965, the site became the Forestry Farm Park and Saskatoon Zoo in 1972. The designation refers to the entire landscape and the related buildings.
The Forestry Park Farm and Zoo was designated a national historic site in 1990 by virtue of its role as a Forest Nursery Station. The challenges of settlement and agriculture on the prairies prompted the development of new and scientific farming methods, supported by the Department of the Interior. Trees and shelterbelts were found to be part of the solution. Two tree nursery stations were built by the federal Forestry Branch in Saskatchewan, in 1903 at Indian Head and in 1913 in the community of Sutherland, a rail divisional point near Saskatoon.
The rectangular site was organized into an idealized model farm, with the “farmyard” containing the Superintendent’s residence set in landscaped grounds, with the operational buildings to the rear. To the south, east and north stretched propagation fields, trial shelterbelts and experimental plots. As the trees grew, the Nursery Station also acted as a park for visitors and residents of Saskatoon. Trees were distributed across the Prairies to become vast reaches of protecting shelterbelts that changed the landscape of the agricultural districts.
By the time that most agricultural lands were settled in 1936, both Indian Head and Sutherland nursery stations were administered by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration ( PFRA ), because tree planting was integral to efforts to combat the drought and soil drifting of the Depression. In 1965, nursery activity was consolidated in Indian Head. The eastern half of the Sutherland site was turned over to the Research Branch of the Canadian Department of Agriculture, while the remaining 144 acres were sold to the City of Saskatoon in 1966. In 1972 a zoo featuring indigenous animals opened adjacent to the nursery station buildings.
The ornamental plantings and larger landscaping features have been maintained and enhanced, including the addition of two new theme gardens. The fields that once provided oats, graze and hay for the farmhorses now provide hay for the zoo. The nursery supplies trees to the City of Saskatoon.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1990.
Key elements that express the heritage value of its buildings include:
-the cultural landscape with its remnant fields and associated buildings in their surviving extent, layout and with evidence of original plantings;
-the rectilinear layout of the nursery station’s core in the southeast quadrant;
-surviving original shelterbelts, including the remains of the western perimeter of tamaracks, the south boundary of Scotch pines and the northwest shelterbelt against the buffer zone;
-the triangular area created by the shelterbelt on the northwestern section which is rocky and little used;
- evidence of original circulation patterns including the remnant road between the Superintendent’s Residence and the Bunkhouse, the curving driveway to the Superintendent’s Residence, and the south service entrance road which leads directly to the farmyard / parking lot area of the nursery station;
-the rows of experimental trees of bur oak, Siberian pear and Sutherland crabapple now located within the zoo;
-the south lawn and borders, little altered and now restored to their “model farm” appearance;
-the caragana hedge south of the Bunkhouse, thought to delineate the vegetable garden for the Bunkhouse workers;
- the former Superintendent’s residence in its original location, massing, materials such as brick cladding, and surviving original functional layout;
- the former Bunkhouse or Boarding House in its original location, massing, wood construction, and evidence of its original functional layout;
- the original first-generation out buildings including the former packing shed, tree storage shed, greenhouse, header house with basement water cistern and attached greenhouse with movable walls, former pumphouse, and blacksmith shop, as they survive in their original locations, with evidence of original massing, layout and materials;
- the former stable with evidence of its original massing and materials.