Uranium City is small town Canada taken to an extreme

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Sign by hotel, Welcome to Uranium City

Northern Saskatchewan’s Uranium City may be a life too isolated for the likes of most city dwellers, but as photographer Ian Brewster and anthropologist Justin Armstrong discovered on their trip to the ghost town, the city’s sense of community has kept its remaining 70 inhabitants going strong.

“I have this idea of writing a place into existence,” says the 35-year-old Armstrong, a professor at Wellesley College outside of Boston. He wrote his dissertation on vanishing cities across Canada and the United States, and wanted to continue his work with the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation through Uranium City. “So how do you take it from being just a sad, abandoned place to having a really rich narrative and history that might otherwise have been evacuated?”

While Armstrong focused on speaking with the remaining townspeople to gain a folkloric understanding of the town’s fading history, Brewster documented the surrounding community with his Kodak film camera, focusing on the people left behind rather than the deteriorating remains of Saskatchewan’s most northerly settlement.

 

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2 thoughts on “Uranium City is small town Canada taken to an extreme

  1. I lived in Uranium City in the early 70s and would like to find out what has happened since then. My husband and I left when the strike happened and we moved on to another mining town in the Yukon.
    I would definitely be interested in any publications about the area as I have many fond memories.

    1. Hi Laurel,

      Thanks for your message. Well, you can poke around on the site a bit, I’ve got a few things and will be adding more:
      Snapshot circa 2003: https://uraniumcity-history.com/writing/shooting-our-way-back-home/
      And CC Phillips more or less autobiographical account of living in town from the late ’80s to mid ’90s: https://uraniumcity-history.com/somewhere-safe-uranium-city/
      Also, a page of photographs taken by people who still live in Uranium City: https://uraniumcity-history.com/uranium-city-now/

      I’ll write more later, but after the announcement in late 1981, the population dropped rapidly from 4000 to around 400 in six months. From then on, it was sort of in limbo. We left in 1980 so I missed the announcement and the trauma that went with it, but by the time I made it back in 1996 less than 200 people remained. All of the town outside the downtown core had been abandoned, and even the core was only half-inhabited. A real turning point, documented in one the links above, was when the hospital closed in 2003, moving to Stoney Rapids. I was back last summer (will have to write up an account soon) and maybe 80 people remained, and almost all the town outside the core had been taken over by forest. Apparently, the town has only 25 permanent residents – 1/25th of whom stayed at my house for a week here in NYC this fall for a week. But, exploration is ongoing, and somehow the town survives.
      if you’re on Facebook, there’s a UC group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4168822363

      Best, Tim

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