Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Long House

By Stephen Mullock. RI

I can't help myself but wonder about the local First Nation people and their lifestyle before European contact.  The places they would call home is of real interest to me. So I was pleased to find a book by Charles Hill-Tout who arrived in British Columbia in 1891; his field work has been called "the first resume of British Columbia archaeology".

There seems to have been two different styles of home, along the Fraser River near Chilliwack and Agassiz, the long house and the the semi-subterranean winter pit house.

The long house was a communal home for the tribe and might be quite sizable depending upon the number of inhabitants and the landscape.  One such aptly named long house erected by the Chehalis band on the north side of the Fraser River was 300' long and 24' wide providing a total interior space of about 7,200 square feet.

The structure had a half gable or shed-roof style with a low pitch.  So low, that at times it was used as a sort of grandstand. The roof was made of slabs of wood that were pulled and pushed, this way and that, to allow smoke from fire pits to leave and light to enter.  The sheer size and weight of these log slabs must have kept them in place during stormy weather.

The exterior walls of the long house were also made of wood slabs with doors on all sides with the long side having three doors some 96 feet apart. One side of the building was higher than the other and this was considered the front of the building.  As it is today, a vaulted ceiling confers a sense of prestige and here to for it was along this side of the building that the chief and other family notables would live inside. The back of the building relegated to important but lesser status serving as a place to remove dirt and refuse.

The interior offered no physical division except at the doorway entry points, where an 8' foot wood screen or wall was built; otherwise it was wide open from end to end. Physical modesty was apparently not an issue with these people. Exterior walls were lined with reed mats and wall hangings to reduce draft and provide some protection from the elements.

Along the walls on each side about 3' up from the floor was a platform upon which people slept. Below this bench, wood fuel was stored for later use in the fire pits.  Above the platform there were shelves for storing food and other family possessions.

The space was divided into family groupings and around each fire pit circle would be the cedar and treasure boxes containing the wealth of each group.  These areas were about 48' wide running from the front to the back of the building and in this area might live 4 families related through marriage with several generations being involved. An area of 48' by 24' is 1152 square feet, so fairly close quarters depending on the number of people in the family group.

Today, the closest building in the area modeled after the long house shed style described above is the Agassiz Library - a nice nod to the past.

Agassiz Library Shed Roof Styl

The rich cultural and historic background of the Agassiz, Chilliwack and Harrison Hot Spring people makes this a fascinating area.  Imagine living here...

Source Material: The Salish People, The Local Contribution of Charles Hill-Tout Volume III: The Mainland Halkomelem © Ralph Maud, Talonbooks

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Agassiz Tulip Festival, Seabird Island

Stephen Mullock Photography ©

The Agassiz Tulip Festival is in full bloom and it is truly a remarkable sight. This facebook link will give you directions, opening hours and an idea of what is happening in the fields. I took these snaps last night I hope that you like them.

Beauty abounds in the communities of Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs and Chilliwack. Imagine living here...


Monday, April 22, 2013

Silo House, Mission BC

Unique Properties - Silo House, Mission BC by Stephen Mullock

Found this beauty in the Mission farmland and thought how quaint it looks.  The sort of home ideal for a fairy tale; although I am not sure it has ever been lived in. Rapunzel let down your hair...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Castle Cranrowan, Agassiz, BC

Unique Properties: Castle Cranrowan by Stephen Mullock
Once upon a time, a man and woman called Malcolm and Libby Wright decided to build their own "Camelot" on a difficult piece of ground situated between a rock face, a highway and a river.   When it was done there stood a remarkable structure; a single tower three storey in height with a castle-like parapet and the top and an elevator at the back. Today it can be glimpsed through the trees at the eastern base of Mount Woodside in Agassiz, District of Kent, BC.

 A one of a kind home, indeed, as unique and wondrous to the bewildered local inhabitants as Malcolm and Libby themselves. They called it "Cranrowan".

I remember Malcolm as the area activist who with a sharp wit took to writing in the local paper with the true spirit of a curmudgeon.  At some point along the way he had served as the clerk for the Village of Harrison Hot Springs BC but came with roots extending deeply into municipal development and social activism in Vancouver. The result was he had no difficulty in taking on the local government when he felt, which was often, that some sort of boneheaded decision needed sorting out.  I would not say all his ideas were sterling but he was a force and when building a new library to service the communities of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs needed a push Malcolm was front and centre.

An excellent write up about Malcolm that appeared in the Agassiz Harrison Observer can be found at zoominfo. There is one section that I really like, to quote, "He had a prodigious memory for songs and poems and could quote from Shakespeare, statesmen, the Bible, Latin and Greek scholars when such a bon mot would help illustrate a point or provide guidance on a decision.  His command of accents and dialect was always a delightful addition to any conversation. Stern warnings were delivered in a strong Scottish brogue and the musical lilt of a Welsh or Irish accent could appear in the same conversation as a plummy English accent."

I would have liked to known the departed Malcolm and Libby better, who along with this unique structure added a sense of romance and magic to the local community.  They are still sadly missed.