Doukhobor Dugout House National Historic Site of Canada
Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan
(© Parks Canada Agency | Agence Parcs Canada, Kate MacFarlane, 2007)
near Highway 12, Petrofka Road, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1899 to 1899
1899 to 1904
Event, Person, Organization:
The Doukhobors of Saskatchewan County
Doukhobor Dugout House
Doukhobor Caves, Doukhobor Pit-House
Research Report Number:
2007-073, 2007-091, 2010-017
Existing plaque: Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan
This dugout house, built by Russian Doukhobor immigrants in 1899, is the only known surviving example of this form of temporary shelter in Canada. It recalls the hardships faced by many settlers of various ethnic backgrounds upon their arrival on the Prairies and the practical solutions they adopted in a setting largely devoid of trees. These dwellings were soon replaced by more permanent housing as required under the Dominion Lands Act. This site is part of a landscape of farm buildings and archaeological remains that speaks to the evolution of Doukhobor communities on the Prairies
Description of Historic Place
The Doukhobor Dugout House National Historic Site of Canada is located alongside a tributary creek on the western shore of the North Saskatchewan River. It is now an archaeological site found in a steep coulee surrounded by cultivated parkland. One of many such dugout houses constructed by Doukhobors before relocating to their nearby village of Oospenia, the visible remains of this one-room structure include portions of its log walls, dovetailed joints, dowel pins, door hinges, and a window frame. Official recognition refers to the original dugout house on its footprint.
Doukhobor Dugout House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2008 because: it is the only known partially surviving example of a practical and temporary form of shelter constructed not only by Doukhobors, but also by many settlers of various ethnic backgrounds upon their arrival on the Canadian prairie, and which played a crucial role in its settlement. These initial and expedient dwellings were replaced as quickly as possible by more permanent ones, as required under the conditions of homesteading under the Dominion Lands Act; it is closely and emotionally associated with the earliest history of the Doukhobors in Canada. It recalls the tremendous hardships faced by these and other early settlers and the practical ways in which they met and overcame them.
The Doukhobor Dugout House was one of several practical yet temporary ‘cave’ dwellings constructed at this site in 1899 and used until 1904 when the Doukhobors moved to their nearby village of Oospenia. When originally constructed in the side of a ravine, the hollowed out area was enclosed with three walls built of logs. The front wall was pierced by a door and a window and protected by a sod roof. During these five years, nearly 300 people lived in one of several structures such as this, with a single dugout house capable of housing nine families, who cooked and slept in an area of about 40.5 square metres (436 square feet). Although these temporary structures were usually stripped or plowed under when they were abandoned in favour of more permanent dwellings, the surviving remains of this dugout house recall the challenges faced by these early settlers and the practical solutions they employed to overcome them. This site speaks to the experience of not only the Doukhobors but to other immigrant groups who played a crucial role in settling the Canadian prairies.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December 2007.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its siting in a steep coulee along the North Saskatchewan River; its spatial relationship and proximity to the year-round Oospenia Spring, which supplied the settlement with fresh water and was a major reason why the Doukobors chose this site; the remnants that indicate the structure’s footprint and composition and its remaining features, including the log walls, the dovetailed joints, dowel pins, door hinges, and window frame; the location, extent and materials of above and below ground archaeological artifacts and remains relating to the presence and settlement of the Doukhobors; its visual and landscape character.