Description of Historic Place
The Butedale Cannery is a former salmon cannery situated in a remote location on the shore of Butedale Passage on the northeast side of Princess Royal Island, approximately 95 km south of Kitimat in northwestern BC. The site consists of the remains of buildings, structures, wharves and landscape features. The cannery buildings are in a general state of disrepair.
The Butedale Cannery is significant as one of the last remaining northern cannery sites in British Columbia, as a cultural landscape with a powerful sense of place, and as a destination for water-based tourism activities.
Butedale Cannery provides evidence of the role of the Pacific fishery as the basis of settlement and employment in the Kitimat-Stikine region. Constructed in 1911 by John Wallace, and later owned by the Canadian Fishing Company, the Butedale Cannery is historically significant as part of the system of northern canneries that were constructed and populated as company towns. Butedale was one of the multi-purpose fish plants that achieved, through diversification, year-round operating status. Its main functions included a cannery, reduction plant, cold storage and ice manufacturing.
Butedale Cannery is also significant for its success in spite of its isolated location. Originally, all of the northern canneries were lonely waypoints served only by steamships, tugboats and fishboats. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway later provided access to the Skeena River canneries, however those south of Prince Rupert, such as Butedale, remained in isolation. This isolation required the consolidation of the multi-ethnic workforce and fueled the ingenuity of management and crews to solve any technical breakdowns.
The interaction of the remote location, natural landscape, natural resources and human activity have determined the form, character and cultural associations of this unique cultural landscape. The site was chosen for its proximity to the annual salmon runs in Butedale Passage and coastal shipping routes. Nearby Butedale Creek offered unlimited fresh water and hydro-electric power. The cannery's linear form hugs the foreshore as the residences and bunkhouses step up the steep bank. This physical environment also contributed to the cannery's physical collapse; the steep foreshore and lack of solid ground for pile driving meant that the cannery complex had to be tied to the shore with cables, and was subject to collapse during harsh weather or floods.
The remaining buildings and structures at Butedale Cannery have historical and architectural merit as rare surviving structures typical of a northern British Columbia cannery. These include a worker's bunkhouse, management housing, cookhouse, ice house, packing house, reduction plant, herring oil tanks and powerhouse. The main cannery building is representative of the type of building constructed after the introduction of a type of fish-gutting machine known as the 'iron chink'.
Butedale Cannery is also valued for its historic character or sense of place, created by the combination of remaining buildings and structures set in the natural landscape, rather than by individual buildings. The variety and layout of the remaining buildings and structures illustrates the functions, social structure and singular way of life of a remote cannery village. The site is also valued for its intangible heritage of memories and stories, collected on the site since 1911.
The site also has significance for local First Nations because the cannery site is within First Nations traditional territory, and because members of the First Nation lived and worked at Butedale during the period when the cannery was operating.
Butedale Cannery also has social value as a place of high interest for water-based tourism, especially as it is located on the Inside Passage ferry route.
Source: Kitimat-Stikine Regional District Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of Butedale Cannery include its:
- remote location
- direct connection and relationship to Butedale Passage and Butedale Creek
- physical evidence of marine-based industrial heritage, such as cannery buildings and structures
- spatial layout of the buildings along the waterfront and stepping up the slope
- sounds and smells of the waterfront
- evidence of past use of the waterfront
- clean water and natural landscape of Butedale Creek
- views to and from the site
- remains of pathways to the locations of the China house, First Nations bunkhouses and Japanese quarters
- traces of domestic garden plants and small fences in the vicinity of the managers' houses
- construction of buildings on pilings, some extending into the water
- variety of cannery structures in their original locations
- industrial buildings such as herring oil tanks, boiler house and stack, reduction plant, packing house, ice house, net loft, and powerhouse with intact and working Pelton wheels
- domestic, administrative and office buildings such as hotel/bunkhouse, remains of store and office, cookhouse (now the caretaker's residence), managers' houses
- functional design of the buidings
- diverse and appropriate building materials and finishes, including board and batten, corrugated iron, brick, wood frame, whitewash and shingles
- remains of cannery pilings
- concrete wharves
- wooden walkways
- fire hydrant