Apr 082016
Concrete House

Over the years, we’ve explored countless abandoned farm houses. The great majority are constructed of wood, the most common building material for rural dwellings like this, then as now. Occasionally we’ll come across ones of brick, but not terribly often. Very rare, but still seen every now and again, are ones in stone. We’ve seen examples of each. Here’s a new one to us and clearly something that’s a bit strange and out of the ordinary, the fine old home seen here, with walls of cement.

Majestic and elegant the building sits in the middle of an overgrown yard. Being swallowed up by encroaching vegetation the exterior is hard to photograph and once things green up, something near impossible. In spite of being open to the elements (no glass), the inside is oddly pristine, clean and tidy, and overall in better shape than one would ever expect. Bizarre since it’s been abandoned for close to five decades. Structurally it seems very sound. Of course I guess it should be given what it’s built of.

1915 Cement House, strange, splendid, in an overgrown farm yard and forgotten for near half a century. Written and photographed by Chris Doering and Connie Biggart (Genea)

Particularly charming are all the nice touches and sometimes subtle details found all about the bundling, inside and out. The textured concrete with alternating smooth bands is a wonderful feature. The dormers with those pleasant reverse-curve fronts are super nice. There are little carvings everywhere, the gorgeous turned railings. corner details, decorative window frames, they’re all wonderful and impressive. At the same time the entire place reflects a quiet confidence and in form is both sort of understated and reserved.

Cement Farm House

Welcome to the 1915 Cement Farm House.

To protect the property, we’re going to be vague when it comes to certain details about it, like in regards to location and the names of people connected to it. This old house is on private property (and is watched) and is not publicly accessible.

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The immediate region where the house stands was not heavily settled until just before World War One. Most newcomers to the area, including the couple who built this fine structure, were immigrants from the Ukraine. The region today is home to many descents of those early pioneers.

The house is from 1915, confirmed by a date stamp seen on one outer wall. The couple that built it raised nine children here. They had big families back then! Around 1940 it was acquired by one son. This person stayed until the mid-1950s when they sold it. The new owners were the final ones to live here and only stayed until the latter half of the 1960s before moving out. Once bursting with life, the house has stood empty and quiet ever since.

We’re terribly curious why it was constructed of concrete, but have found no hard evidence in regards to that. To impress: I’m not really convinced. Maybe they just wanted the most solid structure EVER, one that would last to the end of time. Clearly, it’s not going anywhere soon!

Some old documents seen while researching this post, make mention it was hard to heat in winter. Here, the temperature can drop to the -20s and -30s and was often accompanied by a blustery wind and cement is not known for holding heat. I guess on those cold, cold days condensation inside was also an ongoing problem. Come summer it would be nice and cool, one advantage perhaps, but not one to overcome the other. No doubt it was costly and challenging to construct too.

In the end, it’s just not a practical material for a farm house, at least in this part of the world and that’s why it comes as such a surprise. I doubt we’ll see another. It’s not completely clear if the walls were made from separate cast blocks stacked atop one another and joined somehow or if some manner of slip-forming technique was used instead. Either way, it’s something. The back end of the house is rather plain in comparison to the front and to a lesser extent the sides.

On the main floor there is a living room, dining room, kitchen and one bedroom (the PINK room) and porches connected each to the front and back entries. Upstairs are four bedrooms and off the hallway, a door to a small outside balcony. A large open attic, easily accessed by stairs, was no doubt used for storage. Of course only the outer walls are of cement. The interior is traditional with wood framing covered by lath and plaster. The house is certainly on the big side of what would be usual for the locale and era. We noted a lack of insulation in any walls we could see into, which may seem odd, but was common in old farm dwellings. I know, they’re pretty exposed out there and it’s damn winter half the year! What the heck?

The dirt basement appears to have been used as a root cellar and is home to a huge central heating plant. There is no bathroom, so outside biffies must have been the norm to the end. What fun is must have been doing one’s business in the middle of the night or during inclement weather. Of course, people were tougher back then. It looks like the home was wired for electricity early on.

Looking at a few old photos we found of the place, at one time there was a covered porch with gentle arches and square pillars, presumably where the current front entrance is. The curved elements in the dormers are actually a false front with a normal peaked roof in behind. The interior is nicely painted up in many pleasant colours. Of course, it’s all peeling exposing older layers of different shades.

In one spot is the unmistakable ghost outline of a wall phone. Scribbled nearby are various numbers (one for the vet) in the old three or four digit local dialing format used way back when.

Abandoned farm yard

An old fence being swallowed up by vegetation.

Outside a couple things left behind, a water jug, old cheese grater, a garter clip that was used to hold up stockings (oh-la-la, shades of Cameo Intimates Lingerie), the place was completely empty of personal effects. Strange, there is usually more left behind.

At one time, confirmed in old photos, there was a big barn on the property. Beside the west wall of the house s a small log structure, a chicken coop perhaps? At the far end of the property is a much larger log building, which appears to be an old dwelling. Maybe the first house here? For farm hands? Not sure. Some old granaries can be seen to the east of the house.

Caraganas have taken over the property. These were often planted in farm yards as decorative elements or wind breaks. Hardy and quick growing, in spring they are resplendent in bright yellow flowers that mature into bean-like seed pods, and if left unchecked they’ll quickly spread taking over any land they’re upon and turning it into a near impenetrable jungle.

Once they leaf up the cement farm house will be mostly likely be lost from view with only the roof being high enough to be seen at a distance. Remains of an old picket fence can be found in the old yard.

Joining us and in fact our host this day is good friend and sometimes partner in adventure Rob Pohl. An Edmonton based photographer, he shoots a monstrous large format film camera, this odd old-fashioned looking thing that seems terribly out of place among all our high-tech digital gear, but actually is something quite modern and even a work of art in itself. Set up of this “Ebony” (the brand) is not quick with each photo taking many minutes to complete from start to finish. Then he has to go home and process the film! An artist suffers for his work. Most of what he shoots is monochrome.

Rob’s site: Robert S Pohl…photographs, travels and stuff).

When we hang with Rob we break out the film camera too. Our rig is a more typical 35mm SLR, some old Minolta we picked up somewhere, similar to one that anyone who was into photography in the 1970s or 1980s might have used.

When documenting old farms we typically stay for an hour or two. This place was so inspiring, so compelling, we lasted far longer. Even with every possible angle and shot in the camera, we still didn’t want to go. It was hard to leave this special place.

Note: technically cement is not the same as concrete and instead is but a component of it. To the general public however, the two words are generally used interchangeably to describe that mix of stones and binders, which is how we approached it in this article too. We were in the industry at one time and even then “pros” used both. Still, we fully expect to hear from the “fact police”. Anyway, “1915 Concrete House” as a title, doesn’t seem quite right.

More photogenic farm houses…
Grist Mill Farm.
The Stone House (also with Rob Pohl).
The Mink Ranch.

Check out this post…
Beachwood Estates – Seph “Joe Melendez” Lawless, this here post is for you!

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: March, 2016.
Location: Minburn County, AB.
Article references and thanks: Tom B, Theresa G, Local history books.
The cement farm house is on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.

Concrete Farm House

It’s clear, a great deal of work went into building the place.

Abandoned Log Cabin

An old log cabin found at the back of the property.

Cement House

A peek inside…

Abandoned Farm House

The interior is amazingly tidy.

Abandoned Farm House Window

A second log building on the property seen from a window.

Abandoned Farm House Alberta

The view from the kitchen.

Alberta Abandoned Farm House

The pink room.

Abandoned House

A nice old heating vent.

Abandoned House Alberta

One the second floor.

Farm House Door

There are four roughly equal-sized rooms upstairs – looking from one to another.

Alberta Abandoned House

Look past the bird poop, to that nice hardwood floor.

Forgotten House

In the attic.

Rob Pohl Photographer

Looking down as large format film photographer Rob Pohl sets up for the shoot.

Farm House Basement

Central heating plant in the dirt-floor basement.

Empty Farm House

Coming in the back door.

Farm House made of Cemnet

Those concrete walls are simply amazing.

Old Farm House

Upper window details.

Old Farm House Alberta

All glass is missing from the house.

Minolta X700 camera

Might as well shoot some film ourselves – an 80s Minolta X700.

Large Format Film Camera

Rob’s big camera is something to see.

Alberta Old Farm House

The back kitchen window.

Abandoned House

Little details all over this house – look in the corner…

Old Door Knobs

It’s been since the 1960s since someone lived here.

Farm House Window

Shrubs surround the entire home.

Old Wall Phone

A wall phone was located here – scribbled numbers beside it.

Metal Garter Clip

A garter clip, to hold up stockings, shades of Cameo Intimates.

Ebony Camera

Setting up Rob’s “Ebony” for a shot…

Farm House Stairs

Stair railing details.

Connie BIGDoer.com

A mid-shoot break.

Farm House Wall

In the back porch.

Farm House that's abandoned

A quiet moment.

Concrete House

Once the vegetation greens up, this view will be gone.

House built in 1915

The build date cast into one wall.

Elaborate Abandoned Farm House

A closer look at the unique false-front.

Picturesque Farm House

Time for goodbyes – the hours just flew past.


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24 Comments on "1915 Cement House"

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john zacharias
john zacharias

What a unique home, great shots! I recently came across a very secluded farm house near Two hills AB where I was able to discover which of the two small upstair attic bedrooms belonged to the girl. My son didn’t figure it out until I pointed to the little keyhole stuff with rags on the window side bedroom. Little funny details that are there if one takes the time to really look! We were hunting on the property with permission.

Josie Zumbusch
Josie Zumbusch

This house is incredible, and your descriptions bring one right along with you, exploring. I have enjoyed this so much! Thank you for sharing! I love history so much, and have been working on a family tree for 35 years, since I was 23.

Ashley Muche
Ashley Muche

(via Facebook)
Bet that was an even more amazing house back in its day… If only walls could tell stories sometimes. Thank you for sharing.

Brenda Shaver
Brenda Shaver

If these walls could talk, what a great find, Thanks for sharing the pictures and the story.

Richard Cockerill
Richard Cockerill

Shared to Ghost Town Hunters.

Barbara Gould Lange
Barbara Gould Lange

(via Facebook)
Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the pictures and the descriptions.

John Paladenic
John Paladenic

A little paint and some care and the house would shine!

Sandi Haydon McPherson
Sandi Haydon McPherson

That’s a beauty! Much respect that you obtained permission as well. Great capture shots.

Christine Ganter
Christine Ganter

Gorgeous! Nice shots and amazing article!

Jason Sailer

AWESOME! What a find! That must of been a neat place back in the day – very interesting architecture!

Jeff Toa
Jeff Toa

What a place in its day!


This home was only 45 years old or so when it was abandoned…that surprises me. I thought the concrete houses had a longer life span, or did it simply go out of style?