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The House that Sod Built

For the week of Monday May 5, 2008

On May 5, 2004, the Addison Sod House located in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, was designated a National Historic Site. It is the only known sod house in Canada still being used as a home.

Addison Sod House (early 1990s)
© The Addison Sod House
In 1907 James Addison and his family arrived in Saskatoon from England. A skilled carpenter, Addison aimed to build a sod house that would last. The house’s construction started in 1909, and in 1911, the home was completed and the family moved in.

Sod houses, also known as soddies, were mainly built as temporary homes for new settlers until they were able to afford a new home. When people arrived in Canada they often had no money, thus were unable to purchase bricks or wood, so they used sod to construct a house. Soddies were made from pieces of sod that were turned grass-side down and used like bricks to build the walls. The floor was usually packed earth and the roof was made of poplar poles covered with hay. They were cool in the summer, warm in the winter and were resistant to the destructive prairie fires that often occurred. Unfortunately they also attracted vermin, leaked for days after a rainstorm and were almost impossible to keep clean. But the biggest disadvantage was that they did not adhere to the Homestead Act, which stated a house worth at least $300 had to be on the property to receive a land title.

Addison Sod Hosue (1920's)
© The Addison Sod House
Most soddies were roughly built as temporary residences, and this is one of the main aspects that sets the Addison Sod House apart. Addison originally planned to replace the walls with a wooden frame but never did. Originally, the exterior of the house was covered with vines, which acted as a weather-proofing agent and this treatment is thought to be the reason behind the house’s longevity. In the 1940s, the vines were replaced with wooden siding, then asphalt siding and finally in 1996, it was replaced with vinyl siding.

The Addison Sod House is the only sod house inhabited today. Over the years, renovations have been made to make it more comfortable, including electricity, indoor plumbing and bathroom facilities.

The Addison Sod House has been designated a National Historic Site because it is a representative of the sod-type construction that was frequently used by settlers in Western Canada.

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