Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Kaslo is one of our favourite places in B.C., one of many memories for Denis from before we met, and many more that we created over the years we revisited Kootenay Lake following its silver-mining story and exploring its wild rugged beauty.

blame the tilt on the photographer, not the structure

Last month we returned after five years away, to find Kaslo looking quite splendid, a determined and visionary town capitalizing on its fine architectural legacy, and its important history, to draw tourism and revenue.

The town's flagship (truly a ship in this case) is the legendary S.S. Moyie which transported people and goods up and down the lake into the 1950's, preserved through great local effort, now a National Historic Site. The Moyie is the oldest intact stern-wheeler on the planet.

It was great to see the old Langham Hotel, which was built in 1893 for the hoards of silver miners sleeping in shifts in the heyday of the mining boom, looking so fine. The ambitious frame hotel, once abandoned, had functioned over the years as a bank and a wooden boat factory, among other reincarnations. The ruined structure was narrowly rescued from demolition not long ago by determined citizens, and stands today, proud in its Victorian finery, as the award-winning Langham Cultural Centre, housing a gallery, museum and office spaces. The history of the building's almost unbelievable rescue is told here.

During WWII, the Langham housed 80 Japanese internees:  a small part of the 1100 proud and resilient Canadian citizens from coastal B.C. who were transported to Sandon. They, along with thousands of other folks of Japanese origin were deemed enemy aliens and housed in appalling conditions in many then-desperately remote areas of the interior.

It's a powerful display, telling a forgotten chapter in our not so proud story of wartime fear, ignorance and prejudice.

 In a curious coincidence, the other night I came upon this superb TVO documentary  by Mitch Miyagawa, about the internment and other injustices in Canada's history, and the awkward attempts to redress past mistakes. The film-maker's father (like David Suzuki's) was wrongly interned as an enemy alien during the war.
Geigerich Building 1894 - internee's school
To read more about Kaslo follow this link to B.C. Magazine:  magazine.
boomtown fronts
The Kaslo Hotel (1896)- demolished 1951
Recreated in 1955/2009
Enjoy a Kaslo Walking Tour!
Kaslo City Hall 1898

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