FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Restoring a historic building is a huge commitment.

Each time the North Peace Historical Society (NPHS) is offered a historic building for the Fort St. John North Peace Museum property, we have to take into consideration the history of the building, the condition the building is in, how easy (and expensive) it is to move the building, all the steps involved in getting the building watertight (logs, walls, roof, windows, and doors), not to mention the interior restoration and the creation of exhibits.

To move, restore, and develop exhibits for one historic building can easily cost our non-profit society $80,000 – $100,000! That’s excluding thousands of hours of volunteer time that are instrumental to saving these buildings. The NPHS is deeply grateful for the support of the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) in providing grants-in-aid to help restore and do maintenance on our historic buildings. Without this funding and our wonderful volunteers, even more of our local historic buildings would be lost.

Given the background above, I’m thrilled to announce that we are opening the historic Allen House on October 1, 2022, at the Fort St. John Museum at 1 p.m. (free admission). This is the first historic building restoration that I’ve helped with from beginning to end in my time as Manager/Curator.

Interestingly enough, the Allen/Large family had offered us this house back in the 1980s. At that point, we had not been in a position to take on a project of that complexity, and Ivan Strome had moved the building (minus the floor) back on the Allen/Large property. Then in 2014, Ruth Large approached us again. When our exhibits committee took a look, the project seemed feasible.

With the help of PRRD funding, contractors, and volunteers over the past seven years, we have built a foundation; moved the house; replaced the roof, windows, and doors; fixed up the interior; and developed exhibits and interpretive signs inside. 

We’ve restored this house in a way where visitors can see the building’s history as well as the restoration process. We’ve placed plexiglass over some of the original 1928 newsprint insulation. The original door trim is back on (but you’ll notice it is shorter from when the house had no floor and the bottom rotted away). The painted window trim is original rather than flawless and new. If you look at the landing on the second floor (and yes, this is our first building where visitors can go upstairs!), you’ll see burn marks from a fire. This house has also been very special because we’ve been able to talk to the Allen and Large families who lived there, and they have supplied us with over 70 photographs of the exterior and interior of the house, making this the best documented building the NPHS has restored to date!

September is the last month to see the Our Living Languages exhibit on Indigenous languages in British Columbia (until Sept. 22). On September 24 at 7 p.m. at the museum, we are marking the 80th anniversary of the meeting up of the Alaska Highway at Contact Creek. We’re offering a night of presentations and film clips about African American regiments and their involvement in building the Alaska Highway.  Admission is by donation.