Classified Federal Heritage Building
Fort St. James, British Columbia
(© (Canada Parks Service))
Fort St. James, British Columbia
Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
1888 to 1888
Event, Person, Organization:
Hudson Bay Company, Roderick MacFarlane
FHBRO Report Reference:
Description of Historic Place
The Fish Cache at Fort St. James is a simple, one-storey square block, composed of logs, posts and beams and slats, held above grade on four corner supports, with a pyramidal roof clad with wooden shingles. The entrance to the structure is reached by an exterior wooden stairway. The interior of the building is a single room, with cross beams at ceiling level that were used for hanging fish and meat. The Fish Cache is a unique structure located among five other buildings, which are connected by a series of fences, boardwalks, gardens and spaces within Fort St. James National Historic Park. These buildings were built between 1884 and 1889 as part of a general renewal of the facilities at the fort. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Fish Cache is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations and its architectural and environmental values.
The Fish Cache is an excellent example of a typical fur-trading establishment in the history of the West Coast region and belongs to the largest extant grouping of wooden fur trade buildings in Canada The Fish Cache and its companion structures are associated with the development of the Fur Trade in Canada.. A structure designed to safely store dried fish, the mainstay diet during the 19th Century at Fort St. James, the Fish Cache along with the other buildings are all related to the central role Fort St. James played in the region as an administrative center.
The Fish Cache is an excellent example of Red River Frame architecture with its form inspired by native structures combined with Hudson’s Bay Company design and construction, which drew its form and massing from the British Classical tradition. Its overall simple massing and form, materials and construction system characterize the Fish Cache.
The Fish Cache reinforces the present character of Fort St. James, which has been restored to represent the interdependent historic arrangement of boardwalks, fences, gardens, open fields, and buildings, which contribute to the function and character of the park. The Fish Cache’s unusual shape, style, height and placement within the complex as a whole give it prominence as an integral element of the fort’s cultural landscape. Its identity is maintained through the site’s general flat topography and the building’s relationship to the water and tree enclosure distinct from the adjacent modern community, to which it is well known as a National Historic Site.
Margaret Coleman, 5 Buildings, Fort St. James., Fort St. James National Historic Park, Fort St. James, British Columbia, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Building Report 89-113;Fish Cache, Fort St. James National historic Site, Fort St. James, British Columbia. Heritage Character Statement 89-113.
The character defining elements of the Fish Cache should be respected.
Its role as an illustration of the fur-trade industry in Canada.
Its excellent Red River Frame construction, unique form and massing inspired by traditional native structures combined with Hudson’s Bay Company construction, original materials and craftsmanship as manifested in; the simple massing of a square block with pyramidal roof, held above ground on four corner supports; its strong, simple forms; its roof cladding; its frame of squared log uprights, filler logs, posts and beams and slats; its exterior wooden stairway; the symmetrically placed windows; its interior single room space.
The manner in which the Fish Cache reinforces the present character of Fort St. James and its historical setting with its unusual shape, style, height and placement within the complex as a whole and through its known distinct identity from the adjacent modern community.
Heritage Character Statement
The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.
The Fish Cache at Fort St. James was built in 1888 and is one of a number of buildings of the former Hudson's Bay Company Post located on Stuart Lake. It is administered by Parks Canada. See FHBRO Building Report 89-113.
Reasons for Designation
The Fish Cache at Fort St. James was designated Classified for its historical associations, its rare functional type and unique architectural form, and its contributing role in defining the character of the site.
The Fish Cache and its companion structures at Fort St. James comprise an excellent example of a Fur Trading establishment. A fine example of Red River frame construction, the form of the Fish Cache was inspired by traditional native structures combined with Hudson's Bay Company design and construction. The structure's unusual shape, style and height give it prominence as an integral element of the fort's cultural landscape. The site itself has been restored to represent the interdependent historic arrangement of fences, boardwalks, gardens, open fields and buildings, and retains its physical relationship to Stuart Lake.
Character Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Fish Cache resides in its overall form, materials and construction system, and in the expression of its functional role as a facility for storing fish and meat. The building's value is also reinforced by its relationship with its setting.
The massing of the structure is simple, consisting of a one-storey square block with a pyramidal roof, held above grade on four corner supports. The entrance to the raised structure is reached by an exterior wooden stairway. These three features - the roof, the stairs and the unusual relationship to grade - are integral to the character of the building and should be respected.
The Red River Frame structure, composed of squared log uprights and filler logs, posts and beams and slats, is a defining feature of the building. The original material of the upper section of the building is largely intact, while rotted sections of the lower beams, supporting posts, stairs, door and shingled roof have been replaced over the years. Regular maintenance will enhance the longevity of this building. When replacement of elements is required, traditional materials and details appropriate to Red River Frame construction should be employed.
The interior of the building is a single room, with cross beams at ceiling level that were used for hanging fish and meat. Any early interior finishes or hardware which reflect this activity should be retained. Any alteration of the interior should be preceded by investigation to identify original finishes and features, and these elements incorporated into new work.
The Fish Cache is connected to other buildings by a series of fences, boardwalks, gardens and spaces which contribute to the function and character of the park and which should be maintained for continued public use and interpretation. The archaeological vestiges of a former roothouse should be protected during any site work. The site's generally flat topography should be respected in any site development. The relationship to the water and to the tree enclosure should also be respected to maintain an identity distinct from the adjacent modern community.
It is this building's unique form, functional type and placement within the complex as a whole which make it an integral element of this cultural landscape. The Fish Cache should be maintained in its present position without changes, alterations or additions.