Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hope Springs Eternal

Good Hope Hall, near Melville, Sask.
 We've just returned from six weeks of driving and camping across the face of our astonishingly diverse country. Over the winter I will endeavour to process what I have learned from all the museum visits, the walking tours, the mountain hikes and canyon explorations, the dusty backroads and open countryside, all the moments of standing in awe ....and of course, the buildings.

And, if I still remember how to write, I will try to share them.

I love the prairies. Of course, our country is huge - the width of rivers, the expanse of lakes, the height of virgin forest trees and of mountains. But for me, the limitless horizons of the prairies, dwarfing us and our illusions, best convey the vastness.

In face of this, settlers created homes, farms, communities in the late c.19 and early c.20.

across the road, canola stretching to the horizon

We saw so many picturesque early farmhouses,  barns, and outbuildings,  returning, dignified, back into the land. But opportunity to capture most of these on camera were hampered by lack of opportunity - traffic, distance, fences, light and lack thereof, rain. I will hold these images in my head forever, but they are somewhat difficult to share with others.

This weathered and abandoned little community hall, standing at a cross-roads on municipal road 13 east of Melville Saskatchewan, can ably stand in for them all. This is the Good Hope Community hall. Looks to have been built around 1910/20.I expect at one time it was the centre of a striving farming community, likely composed of optimistic immigrants from Europe, plowing the virgin prairie, starting farms and ranches, always looking forward to better yields, better houses, a better future for their families. Hopeful.


  1. Good to see you back here, and I'll look forward to all the stories to come. Given the pinball nature of our conversations, it might be the best way for me to learn about your trip!

  2. I've missed the blog. Was starting to wonder what happened ! I can't wait to see what built heritage you've captured across the country....should be interesting. The pic of that lonely Melville structure made me think about Alexander Brownlie's sod house in Iowa....Brownlie was a Canadian who moved to Iowa and built the first 2 storey sod house (c.1838) in N. America. (as far as I know).

  3. A two storey sod house! Now that's ambition! Bet that fellow went far.

  4. Its hard to find info in Brownlie, but I read somewhere that he wasn't happy w/ the Canadian gov't at the time, and wanted out. Perhaps this was a reference to the Family Compact and the resulting friction in the 1830's ?? He could very well have been in Ontario before he left for Iowa. Had he stayed, he almost certainly wouldn't have built the sod house.