Description of Historic Place
The Officer’s Dwelling House is a side-gabled, one-and-a-half storey rectangular log building with a large verandah located at Fort St. James National Historic Site. It is large in size and exhibits elaborate detailing. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Officer’s Dwelling House is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value.
Fort St. James played a key role in the development of transportation and communications in northern British Columbia. It provided a base from which the North West Company, and later the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), traded with local First Nations peoples, in particular the Carrier tribe. The Officer’s Dwelling House was built in the first year of a five-year program aimed at renewing the trading establishment on Stuart Lake. As one of the oldest buildings in the vicinity of the present-day town of Fort St. James, it also represents a significant period in the history of the community.
The Officer’s Dwelling House is a good example of Victorian rural domestic architecture. It is among four other buildings on the site that constitute the largest group of extant wood fur trade structures in Canada. Its large size and more elaborate detailing reflect the higher status of its occupants. It exhibits high quality craftsmanship.
The Environmental Value
The immediate context of the Officer’s Dwelling House contrasts with the rest of the fort because of its domestic character. As one of the original and most dominant elements within the site, it reinforces the character of the restored and reconstructed fort.
Margaret Coleman, 5 Buildings, Fort St. James, Fort St. James National Historic Park, British Columbia, Federal Heritage Building Report, 89-113.
Officer’s Dwelling House, Fort St. James National Historic Site, British Columbia, Heritage Character Statement, 89-113.
The following character-defining elements of the Officer’s Dwelling House should be respected, for example:
Its illustration of the significance of the fur trade in Canadian history and its changing requirements over time as evidenced by:
-Its role in affirming through its impressive size, distinctive architecture, and garden setting, the important status of the officer in charge and clerk of a major administration centre for the fur trade in western Canada.
Its distinctive Victorian rural domestic architectural character and its high-quality
horizontal log construction, for example:
-The original rectangular, side-gabled, 1-1/2-storey form, with prominent roof,
verandah, central-hall plan, and entrance door arrangement.
-The horizontal log exterior walls with dovetailed corners.
-The original front door and side lites.
-The bedroom and kitchen extensions.
-The restored mid-1890s interior configuration.
-The interior features - including wall and ceiling panelling, decorative beaded
details, and flooring and the appropriately reconstructed interior features.
Its spatial relationship with its immediate context and the fort as a whole as evidenced by:
-The surviving relationship with the surrounding garden, trees, and dairy building, which
reinforces the character of the present-day arrangement of buildings, platforms, fences,
and other features that make up the restored and reconstructed cultural landscape of the
Fort St. James National Historic Site.