An article by Chris & Connie.
The very photogenic stone house documented here is quite remote. Located on the vast open plains of Eastern Alberta, a region that’s sparsely populated and always has been, it’s far, far off the beaten path. The nearest road is some distance away, as is civilization of any sorts in general. It’s dead centre the middle of nowheresville.
A challenge to get too and picturesque? That’s how we like it.
Joining us in exploring this fine old structure, which was visited with permission by the way, is film photographer Robert Pohl. When he’s on the scene, we break out the old Minolta 35mm, so we don’t miss out on the fun. We love to mix it up.
At the request of the land owner, in their desire to keep the location as secret as possible, we’ll be fairly vague in describing the property. Names will not be mentioned and locations not given.
Here’s what we can say about the dwelling…
The stone house dates from around 1910, exact date unknown, and was abandoned only a few decades later (farming in the area was just too hard). In our research we found a few old photos showing it while it was lived in. When constructed, it had a second story made of wood. Did that rot away or the lumber salvaged? Given the scarcity of material like this on the prairies, I can’t help think the latter. There was also a root cellar or crawl-spaced height basement of some sorts.
A family of twelve (yes, two parents plus TEN kids) lived in this modest-sized dwelling. God, those early pioneers were hardcore. A house in the middle of bloody nowhere, farming conditions that at best were difficult, winters that were brutal, few neighbours, little of anything and a bus load of kids to raise in a house the size of a garage. Give them credit!
A slow moving creek (more so a really, really long pond) right beside the house, provided life giving water. Prairie water: always brown and muddy, always stinky and always tasting of iron or sulphur or something else yucky; and in summer a busy mosquito factory. What’s not to like?
The building appears well made and clearly someone took pride in its construction. Some parts of the stonework have collapsed however, while cracks have appeared elsewhere. Old photos sourced by this author, show the empty shell of a house in the 1970s looking much as it does today. Overall, it’s holding up well. Trees, the only ones as far as one can see, have grown up inside. I guess the building protects them from nasty weather which would otherwise prevent them from being established here.
It’s sort of presumed that a barn and other out buildings once existed on the property (no pics have come to light), but if there was, we could find no evidence of them and we looked. There is no obvious signs of a road leading to the house. I guess it’s long since reverted back to nature.
From the building one can see a couple farms far off in the distance. In some directions, to the east and north, there is noting but rolling prairies, not cultivated fields, but empty pasture lands with not even a fence to be seen. It’s a lonely place, then and now. A power transmission line is the only other evidence of human activity nearby.
We’re told the people that lived here also operated the local post office and even a store for a time (operating out of the house it’s thought). The general area never really developed and given the challenging conditions, many settlers soon left anyway, so these must have not lasted long.
Recall, it’s a bit of a walk into the site. Not a problem for us, even lugging equipment, but for Rob, who brings an old style (but modern made) incredibly heavy large format view camera, its huge wooden tripod and all the accessories, plus his digital gear, it’s a Herculean effort. Kudos! This is his “portable” rig, by the way. He has an even bigger film camera that’s never set up far from the car.
Rob’s view camera shoots a single sheet of film at a time. It’s setup, load, adjust, calculate, readjust, jot down the details then shoot. One picture, many minutes. He’s a purist. I notice that when we shoot film, which we do now and then, mostly when accompanying him (always B&W), we tend to slow down too. Not quite to the degree he does, but we stop and think about each shot a bit more carefully.
Ashamed to admit moment: I forgot to load our 35mm camera! I can’t believe I spent the whole time shooting with with no film…not as single blinking frame was captured. In my defence, the frame counter is broken but I feel damn dense given I didn’t even notice the film knob not spinning with each advance. Face palm! I guess I was having too much fun to notice. Yeah, that’s it.
We spent a good a hour or two at the stone house. It was that fine a subject. We all had a blast. If you want to collaborate as we did here with Rob, drop us a line. Always looking to connect with creative and fun types who do what we do.
Check out Rob’s work here…
Robert S Pohl…photographs, travels and stuff.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 2015.
Location: Eastern AB.
Article references: Family connected with the structure.
The stone house is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.