Reshoring Heritage Buildings by Kelsey Wiebe

Heritage Park’s project to reshore five heritage log buildings at Heritage Park Museum to ensure the long-term conservation of our region’s built heritage has been awarded $60,000 in funding from the Province of BC and Canada 150, administered through the BC Museums Association. The five buildings in need of reshoring, dating between 1912 and 1930, serve as interactive displays of Terrace history, together representing the early settlement history of the Terrace area.

The two-storey Conroy Cabin (1914) represents homesteading, domestic labour, and the complexity of First Nations-settler interactions. The Fred Hampton Barn (1912) displays early twentieth-century agriculture and the often unsuccessful translation of settler’s European ideas onto a northern British Columbia landscape. The Johnstone Cabin (1921) showcases both forestry history through its display and early tourism as a result of its original location at the Lakelse Hot Springs. The Lineman’s Cabin (1919) tells the story of the telegraph line and early communications. The Trapper’s Cabin (1930) displays trapping history as well, strangely, as early conservation efforts. The cabins and their interior displays showcase architecture in the early twentieth century, settlement history in the Skeena valley, and the interactions between settlers and First Nations people.

Each of these buildings was moved to the museum site in the early 1980s and placed on cedar posts to maintain authenticity. While the original decision was made with the best of intentions, it was also not forward-thinking, especially in our wet northern BC climate. In the ensuing decades, the cedar posts have rotted, causing the buildings to unevenly skew and to sink into the ground. This has caused considerable strain on their log frames and has resulted in water damage to our artifact collections as well as to the buildings themselves. It is imperative that we lift the buildings and place them on new foundations.

To combine long-term preservation with aesthetic authenticity, we have decided to pour several small concrete pads beneath each building. These will then be topped with a one- to two-foot cedar post. They will be approximately six inches higher than they are now, to account for sinkage and to allow for air flow. Any visible concrete will be covered with dirt. This will look identical to the buildings’ original appearance (as evidenced by archival images) but will simultaneously ensure their longevity. It is a compromise between conservation and preservation, and is one the Terrace and District Museum Society (which operates Heritage Park) have decided is useful for our mandate to preserve our collections, including our buildings, while also celebrating and exploring history for generations to come. The process is also reversible, which is important to us: we have recorded all of our steps and plans in the reshoring process.

Northern Structural Moving out of Smithers will complete the work: they have done a project for us previously, which they completed faster than expected and within budget. They are a local company with a long track record of moving and reshoring heritage buildings across northern BC—including the George Little House. Due to their large crew and their hydraulic jacking system, they can complete each building within two to four days. Three buildings (the Fred Hampton Barn, the Johnstone Cabin, and the Trapper’s Cabin) will be reshored in May, and the remaining two (the Conroy Cabin and the Lineman’s Cabin) will be reshored in September, before and after the museum is busy with summer tourists and school groups.

The work should last for about fifty years, at which point the aesthetic cedar posts may need to be switched out. This will involve minimal work and should be able to be done quickly and easily, without lifting the buildings.

The BC / Canada 150 funds will be supplemented by a capital grant from the City of Terrace and the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, as well as a donation from Northern Structural Moving.

Reshoring these five threatened buildings according to best practices in heritage conservation and in keeping with long-term maintenance needs will ensure continuing access to the Skeena region’s built heritage. The project will allow us to continue to offer our programming and special community events for the diverse populations we serve. Our cultural programming often interrogates history and community identity, carving out a space in Terrace history for all cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and perspectives.

The buildings and each of their displays helps to tell a story about who we are in the northwest, how that identity was developed, and where and how that regional identity needs to be interrogated or expanded. They allow us to discuss forestry, agriculture, telegraphs, trapping, homesteading, tourism, and interactions between settlers and First Nations people.

Four other projects in Terrace and the surrounding region received funding from the the BC / Canada 150 grant program, which funded 220 heritage projects across the province. The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine also received $25,000 for a heritage interpretive structure at the Meanskinisht Churchyard and Cemetery. The City of Terrace received $10,000 for heritage access and interpretive signage at the Terrace-Kitimat Regional Airport. The Terrace Regional Historical Society received $3,300 for a book on Terrace family biographies from 1940 to 1970. The Rosswood Community Association received $1,500 for a Kitsumkalum Lake – Rosswood Heritage Interpretive Sign.

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