Donalda Creamery Conservation Plan

Donalda, Alberta  Canada

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The focus of the conservation plan was to assess the condition of the building and to make recommendations for its conservation through restoration and repairs. There will be some substantial costs associated with the restoration. The report provided budgets for the proposed conservation work that will assist with fund-raising and project planning. It is important to note that all reviews and recommendations are in keeping with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Donalda Creamery lies in its association with the development of the dairy industry in Alberta. It is also significant for its architecture, which is an excellent example of small-scale industrial architecture adapted for use in the dairy industry, and for the equipment it contains, which illustrates changes in dairy-processing technology and procedures.

In 1937, the Donalda Co-operative Creamery Association was formed by local producers and the owner of the existing creamery, which had been established in 1924. Numerous co-operative creameries were established throughout Alberta in the early decades of the twentieth century. Based on the successful wheat pool and grain co-op ventures, creamery co-ops allowed producers to work together to overcome the challenges presented by their geographic isolation and their economic and political remoteness from the centres of power. The Donalda Creamery produced butter and cream for consumption both locally and throughout the province. Beginning in 1946, the Central Alberta Dairy Pool attempted to absorb the Donalda Creamery, a move reflective of the consolidation of the province’s small creameries under the much larger dairy pools. These overtures were resisted, and the Donalda Creamery was one of the few creameries to remain independent during the middle decades of the twentieth century.

In the 1950s, rising production and a rapidly deteriorating facility meant that a new and larger creamery was required. In 1954, a gable-roofed machine shop located was purchased and moved onto the creamery’s property. The open floor plan of the machine shop was ideally suited for conversion.

A shed-roofed addition, which would house an office, laboratory and boiler room, was quickly constructed. The former creamery building was torn down and the salvaged lumber was used to construct a two door truck garage. Most of the equipment from the original creamery was transferred to the new facility and new equipment was purchased, giving the Donalda Creamery a collection of dairy processing equipment covering a number of different eras. The creamery continued to use equipment from the 1920s and 1930s, notably the Babcock Tester, which is used to determine the fat content in milk; a cream tester; centrifuge; bottle holders; scales; and a cream can washer. Three churns, complete with different drive systems and vats date from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Other original equipment of differing vintages provides evidence of how dairy technology and procedures changed from the 1930s to the 1980s. When the Creamery closed in 1987, it was one of the last farmer-owned creameries operating in Alberta.

In many ways, the Donalda Creamery is typical of small-scale creameries in Alberta. The co-op’s Board of Directors based the creamery’s layout on observations of other creameries and on the recommendations of the Provincial Dairy Commissioner. The Donalda Creamery is a wood-framed, gable roofed building with a shed roofed addition. Two vented cupolas top the gable roof for extra ventilation, important in creamery buildings. The stepped, boomtown front on the south elevation makes the creamery an impressive presence on the street, and the three entrances facilitate the easy movement of workers, customers and cream can deliveries. Inside the creamery has an efficient layout with a clear demarcation between the building’s functional areas. The main gable roof covers an open processing area, a cold storage room and a testing laboratory. The shed-roofed portion contains the creamery office, water pump and boiler room with coal storage bin. The importance of sanitation in creameries is demonstrated by the easily cleaned surfaces, including the concrete floor with drains, tin-clad walls and ceiling and sealed light fixtures.


Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1583)

Structural Consultant: Eric Jacobsen, E.B. Jacobsen Engineering
Quantity Surveyor: Graeme Alston, Acumen Consulting
Hazardous Materials Consultant:  Caliber Consulting