Historic Sites of Manitoba: British-American Cement Plant (Sturgeon Road, RM of Rosser)
This site along Sturgeon Road in the Rural Municipality of Rosser is about 40 acres in area with an abandoned railway line through it from the CPR main line. Within the area are four large mounds that stand at least eight feet high, in two pairs, with numerous concrete pillars protruding from each mound. If one looks from above, each mound is seen to be almost perfectly circular and the pillars are oriented in a neat grid. The two mounds nearest Sturgeon Road are the largest, each about 70 feet in diameter, while two farther from the road are smaller, about 50 feet in diameter.
The site was developed between late 1963 and early 1964 by BACM (British-American Construction and Materials Limited) Limited, founded in 1961 by four brothers (Saul Simkin, Jim Simkin, Israel Simkin, and Abraham L. Simkin) to amalgamate their 31 companies into one large entity, based in Winnipeg. The company was involved in three major businesses: building supplies, land and property development, and construction. BACM’s building supplies division made concrete products such as precast beams, piles, girders and other structural members; concrete sewer pipe; concrete blocks and brick; and ready-mix concrete. Perhaps most significant, from the standpoint of this site, were its concrete piles.
In May 1963, BACM announced plans to build an $8.5 million cement-manufacturing plant, using limestone quarried at Steeprock and Lily Bay with locally-dug clay to make Portland cement. The subsidiary to operate the plant was to be known as the British-American Cement Company. This was just a month after another firm, Inland Cement, announced similar plans for a $8 million plant in Winnipeg. This was all in addition to the existing Canada Cement plant at Fort Whyte. Industry analysts observed that, if two new plants were built, they would produce almost triple the amount of cement required by Manitoba’s entire construction industry. Three cement plants were not needed in Manitoba.
In November 1963, the driving of concrete piles for BACM’s cement plant commenced here. Each of the piles had a series of numbers written into its concrete when wet. The numbers represent the date on which the pile was made, so workers would know when a pile had sufficient strength to withstand the stress of being pounded into the ground, and its length in feet. The piles at this site are 50, 55, and 60 feet in length.
In June 1964, Inland Cement announced it had purchased the site from BACM. The deal came on the heels of an April 1964 decision by the Winnipeg city council to give all of the city’s cement business to Inland, whose plant was in the Saskatchewan, despite protests from the local Canada Cement that they deserved some of the deal. Eventually, Inland Cement went ahead with its plans for a new cement plant, and built a facility on Kenaston Boulevard that is now abandoned.
Photos & Coordinates
“Cement plant to go up here,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 April 1963, page 1.
“Rosser getting cement plant,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 May 1963, page 1.
“Cement war is on,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 September 1963, page 55.
“Cement plans harden despite likely overload / Two firms set to build plants although business for only one,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 September 1963, page 3.
“Jottings from the business world,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 October 1963, page 61.
“New York wins local contract,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 November 1963, page 22.
“Rosser plant to Inland,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 June 1964, page 13.
“You’ve seen them, but … what are they?,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 1983, page 45.
We thank Christine Loff, Dave Ennis, and Ryan Bernier for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 August 2020