Riversdale: The changing face of a Saskatoon neighbourhood: Photo Essay

Google Street View offers a glimpse into the not-so-distant past

Located in the heart of Riversdale, 20th Street is now a major financial and cultural artery, a fixer-upper prairie “favela” where an increasing amount of people are coming to work and play. Where pawn shops and dicey bars once reigned supreme, it is now checkered with upscale furniture stores, perpetually renovated office space and places to get brunch.

It’s an interesting part of the city. But then again it always has been.

For example, navigate Riversdale via Google Street View and you will see what looks like a very different neighbourhood.

Hard to believe, but less than a decade ago there were no brunch spots or espresso joints.

Before the Park Café opened in 2005, or any one of the now-numerous coffee shops popped up, you had to stomach the swill served at the Auto-Tec discount gas station that sat at the tippy toes of the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge on the corner of Idylwyld.

Your welcome to the west side was the Albany and the Barry, the twin tower hotels that housed two of the more notorious bars in all of Saskatoon. They have already been erased from Google Street View. but if you came by back in the day on a Friday night you’d invariably see the cops out front. Nowadays, the most brawling you’ll see in the neighbourhood is over a plate of breakfast poutine at The Hollows.

Back then there were no yoga studios or cake stores or quiche restaurants. Instead there was Dirk’s, a novelty shop, peepshow theatre and arcade that sold dildos and rolling papers. The building that housed the infamous Dirk’s is now a yoga studio and a grocery store.

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For a kid from the suburbs, the ‘hood had a dangerous, but enticing, reputation.

Punk shows sprang up in some of the most unlikely spots, like the Wah Qua Chinese smorg (now the parking lot next to the Farmer’s Market), the upstairs of Toon’s Kitchen (now the PAVED Arts centre) and in the alleyway entrance of the church on Avenue G (still a church).

Just a block off of the drag was Pure Hate Productions, a punk rock record store that sold some of the dirtiest grindcore ever. The best part? If you called to a phone that had call display (which was relatively new and uncommon in the mid ‘90s) the location would be shown as “Pure Hate”.

Thankfully the punks stuck around. Bands now play shows at the Underground Café while next-door neighbours Village Guitars host musicians on the folk end of things. And, if you’re one of those in the know, you can still catch one of the sporadic grind, punk, crust and hardcore sets at The Sweat Lodge.

- “Before” photos courtesy of Google Street View. All other photos via Ominocity.