Description of Historic Place
The Circle L Ranch is a collection of historic buildings and landscape features associated with cattle ranching and rural life. The buildings include the ranch house and several ancillary buildings, such as the bunk house, ice house, spring house, log barn, machine/buggy shed and hay shed. Situated around these buildings are landscaping and natural features including a spring, duck pond/holding pond, garden, caragana hedges, and groves of maple and poplar trees. The site is situated on 3.4 hectares of land in the eastern slopes of the Porcupine Hills, which is in the foothills of southwestern Alberta. It is located off Lyndon Road approximately 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) west of Claresholm.
The heritage value of the Circle L Ranch lies in its excellent representation of an historic small-scale ranching operation in southern Alberta.
In the late decades of the nineteenth-century, the rolling hills of what would become south-western Alberta attracted attention as prime grazing land ideal for cattle ranching. Spurred by the ranching-friendly agricultural and protectionist policies of the federal Conservative government, a number of ranches were soon established. Although the most prominent were large operations financed through capital from eastern Canada and Great Britain, a number of smaller ranches were established. These small ranches were often family-owned and were typically started by American cowboys and small businessmen seeking new opportunities north of the border. In the early 1880s, Charles Lyndon, a storekeeper from Salt Lake City, arrived in the Porcupine Hills area with his family. He took out a grazing lease on which he established a small ranch. The ranch prospered for nearly fifteen years when the 1896 election of the Liberals under Wilfrid Laurier brought about a change in agricultural and settlement policy. The government's focus shifted from ranching to homesteading and grain farming and smaller ranch operators were encouraged to start a new life as rancher-farmers. While many small ranchers left because of the new restrictions, the Lyndons saw opportunity and expanded their operation.
In 1896, Charles Lyndon claimed the quarter on which the family had been living. He also filed for homestead on the quarter-section immediately to the south west. This quarter-section contained a spring, around which Lyndon would construct the nerve-centre of the ranching operation. Lyndon's structures were constructed of squared logs joined together with half dove-tail notches. A looped roadway provides access to all areas of the ranch compound. The residential area of the ranch, located to the east of the spring, consisted of the main house, a bunk house, ice house, outhouse and a garage. The Main House, which was built in 1896, is a hip-roofed, one-and-a-half storey structure with a shed-roofed, wrap-around veranda and tall narrow dormer windows on the south and west elevations. Stucco was applied to its exterior in the 1930s. The bunk house, ice house and garage are all basic gable-roofed log structures. The working portion of the ranch compound is located to the west of the spring. This area consists of a barn, hay shed and a machine shed. The barn, constructed in 1919, is a gable-roofed structure with a shed-roofed addition. The machine shed is a gable-roofed structure with large door openings on its south elevation. Perhaps inspired by his time in Utah, Lyndon built a small gable-roofed log structure over the spring. A series of flues diverted the water from this structure to a holding pond and into the ranch house and cattle watering troughs. Caragana hedges and groves of poplar and maple trees protect the ranch yard on the north and west sides. The residential section of the compound is further protected by poplar trees on the west side and caragana hedges on the north, east and south. Other historic features include the remnants of a garden located directly behind the house, and old cattle trails leading from the barnyard to the neighbouring pasturelands.
Between 1896 and 1904, the ranch expanded by purchasing nearby quarters from former neighbours, the Hudson's Bay Company and the federal government and through additional homestead filings by family members. Soon after the First World War, the ranch, now fully owned by William Lyndon, owned nearly 14 quarter-sections and was still able to utilize grazing leases. The ranch stayed in the Lyndon family's hands until 1966.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2109)
Key elements that define the heritage value of the Circle L Ranch include such elements as its:
General and Landscape
- location in the Porcupine Hills;
- situation around a spring and on the banks of a creek;
- looped roadway;
- arrangement of the site's structures into clearly defined residential and operational areas;
- hedgerows of caragana and maple and poplar trees;
- remnants of the historic garden and cattle trails.
The Main House (1896)
- fully-squared log construction and log post and joist support system evident in the cellar;
- stucco cladding (1930s) on the exterior walls;
- wood-shingled hip roof with projecting rectilinear cap on crown of roof;
- shed-roofed veranda;
- two narrow, gable-roofed dormer windows situated on the main elevation and a single, gable-roofed dormer window on the southwest elevation;
- historic fenestration pattern of single-hung windows;
- shed-roofed porch;
- centrally located main entryway and subordinate entryway located in the porch at the rear of the building;
- central hallway interior floor plan with stacked reverse staircase leading to the cellar and second floor;
- extant historic interior woodwork and wall paper finishes.
Bunk House (ca. 1896)
- wood-shingled, side gable roof with cedar planks in the gable ends;
- half squared log construction;
- centrally-located chimney projecting through the ridge pole;
- centrally-located entryway with a large sandstone platform on the front (southeast) elevation;
- small rectangular windows on the southwest and northeast elevations.
Ice House (ca. 1896)
- front gable roof sheathed in fir planks with cedar planks in the gable ends;
- half-squared log construction;
- centrally-located entryway in the southeast elevation and a single, square window opening with frame in the northwest elevation;
- original fir plank door with hand-forged latch.
Garage (ca. 1915)
- wood frame construction;
- rafter-supported gable roof;
- fir plank clad roof and exterior walls;
- hinged double doors on the southeast elevation;
- square window opening in the northeast elevation;
- wood plank floor;
Spring House (ca. 1896)
- situation atop a natural spring;
- water diversion system, including the system of pipes, sluices, flumes, livestock watering troughs and manmade holding/duck pond;
- fully squared log construction;
- front gable-roof with a deep overhang on the front elevation and wide eaves on the side elevations;
- fencing at the rear of the building, which encloses the spring;
- interior cabinet with screen for cooling milk and foodstuffs.
Machine Shed (ca. 1896/1914)
- rectangular mass and form of the original 1890s building and the slightly smaller 1890s addition;
- half-squared log construction;
- log post and beam supported gable roof, 1880s roof sheathed in planks and wood shingles, the 1890s roof clad in sheet metal;
- four bay layout;
- hinged vertical plank, double doors on the original portion and two open bays on the addition;
- extant original interior cabinetry and shelving.
Barn (ca. 1880s/1890s)
- gable-roofed main structure (1880s) with a shed roofed addition (1890s) on the east elevation;
- log post and beam construction;
- exterior walls of half squared logs joined by dove-tailed notches;
- cedar planks in the gable ends;
- log timber cross beam and "tipi" style roof supporting system;
- Dutch doors on the ground floor and double French doors in the loft, all symmetrical placed on the north and south elevations;
- interior configuration of a central corridor and stalls and bays on either side;
- immediately adjacent corrals, pens and fenced yards.
Hay Shed (ca. 1920s)
- log post and beam construction with log cross bracing;
- use of peeled and unpeeled logs;
- log rafter supported roof;
- floorplan divided into east and west bays.