The stone farm house we’ll be exploring today, a small two story affair, dare we say an almost cute one, is located along a lonely backroad on the endless plains of Northern Alberta. Built close to ninety years ago, it was only lived in sporadically at the start and from time to time thereafter. For most of its existence however, it has been completely empty and for the last number of decades, simply abandoned. Open to the elements, she’s looking a bit rough but seems to be structurally pretty sound.
To protect the property I’m afraid we’re going to have to be a bit vague in regards to names and locations and such. The building is on private property and not publicly accessible. We visited with permission.
The house dates from about 1925. Records suggest it was the first structure here, the land being unbroken before that. The person who built it lived in it for only short time. We don’t know much about him, where exactly he’s from – his last name suggests he was an Eastern European (lots of settlers in the area were) – his age, just what happened to him later, what his first name was, and so on. A bit of a mystery! We do know he left early on and that he was a bachelor.
The structure seems to be built of regular timber frame construction with what looks to be a jacket of stone. This accounts for that odd jog on the second story. It’s hard to tell if the stone was in any way structural, or if it was simply a protective wrap of sorts. One things is certain, the rock would have kept the place nice and cool come summer. While I guess it would make a good windbreak during a blustery Alberta winter, stone is hardly a great insulator of heat and keeping it warm overall in the cold months must have been a real challenge.
The stone work appears well done, not that we’re in any way experts. Even with the small footprint of the building, stacking all those stones would have been quite the task.
It’s said this first resident started collecting stones – there’s no shortage of them in the area – to build a barn of similar construction on the same property. For some reasons it was never completed. I guess walls were started but were soon knocked down. Maybe it was just too ambitious a project? Remains, I am told, can be found across the road. Oops, we overlooked them while exploring the grounds.
The next owners acquired the property in the 1930s and it’s said the house was was already empty and unlived in at that point. Afterwards it was rented out occasionally over the next few decades, to single men. The last person, described as a “Mad Trapper” type, or a hermit, lived in it for a year or so in the late 1960s then left. Ever since the place has been empty and forgotten.
The building was never wired for electricity nor plumbing and what was pretty typical for old farm houses of the era, had an outdoor privy for doing one’s business. What fun during the frigid winter, the scorching summer or a pounding rain storm. It appears there’s a small root cellar of sorts under the floor boards. There’s a small wood porch out back. Heat would have been supplied by a coal or wood stove. Pretty primitive living overall.
The modest size of the house, a couple rooms on the main floor, one on upstairs (cramped and with little headroom), suggests the builder never planned to have a family. There’s no way they’d ever fit!
Being open to the outside (abandoned farm houses almost always have no window glass), the birds, of course, have got in and pooped all over everything. Moisture has caused wall plaster it to fall. Partiers have left their mark too.
Corrals nearby were put in by the second owners.
The house and land were sold around the turn of the century (have to remind myself it means 2000 and not 1900) the land being purchase from descendants of the second owner.
In times past the land was set aside for cattle grazing but is now farmed with what was once the yard around the stone house now plowed under. The current owners seem okay in keeping the building, but did mention vandals and trespassers have been a bit of a problem. We hear that same story all the time! Few people, it seems, respect these places and it’s the reason we have to avoid saying where it is. So we don’t guide the trouble makers in. Damn, what a sad state.
Hosting us this day was Edmonton based Rob Pohl, fellow adventurer, good friend and a fantastic photographer (digital AND film). Along with his entourage of kids, we spent a great weekend exploring some of his favourite abandoned haunts in the area, and some others that were completely new. It was wonderful visit! Love hanging with people who have healthy passion for this strange hobby but can still take the time to enjoy it all, let loose, and have fun. Too many uptight types with cameras out there, being overly serious and not having a good time. The 1915 Cement House, which we visited next, was a real highlight of this trip, an old Russian Monastery another.
Rob’s site: Robert S Pohl…photographs, travels and stuff).
And one of cement…
1915 Cement House.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2016.
Location: Beaver County, AB.
Article references and thanks: Gene S, Judy P, local history books, Alberta land records.
The stone farm house is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.