Charles Plavin Homestead
Links and documents
1920/01/01 to 1940/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Plavin Homestead consists of a house, hexagonal hog barn, smokehouse, and the remains of a barn situated on 5 acres of land near the Hamlet of North Star, south of Manning. The extant structures were erected between 1920 and the 1940s and embody both meticulous craftsmanship and Baltic and Scandinavian architectural influences.
The heritage value of the Plavin Homestead lies in its connection with Latvian immigrant and Peace River country pioneer Charles Plavin as well as in the craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibility evident in the structures erected on the site.
Born in Latvia in 1875, Charles Plavin left his homeland thirty years later, fearing that his reformist sympathies would invite persecution from Russian authorities. He spent time in Germany and San Francisco developing his skills in the building trades before moving to the embryonic Latvian settlement of Lake Isle in central Alberta. Disillusioned by life in Lake Isle, Plavin departed for Alberta's Peace Country region in 1916, attracted to the province's north by its open plains and the availability of rich, fertile land. Initially establishing himself as a cattle rancher, Plavin later incorporated swine into his operations and eventually converted his whole farmstead into a grain growing enterprise. His substantial farming operation provides structural evidence of the opening up of the Battle River Prairie portion of the Peace River County to settlement. A diligent worker and highly astute entrepreneur, Plavin was also a major contributor to the social and cultural life of the region. In the mid to late 1920s, he advocated for improved transportation infrastructure in the region and was hired as a foreman by the Department of Roads and Highways to supervise the construction of a road between Grimshaw and North Star. Plavin was a cultured man with refined aesthetic taste and he established his lasting legacy by seeking to develop musical education in the province; among his many endeavours in this field, Plavin endowed a music scholarship for University of Alberta students. Charles Plavin died in 1969.
Trained as a stonemason and skilled in carpentry and bricklaying, Plavin created the structures on his farmstead with a meticulous sense of craftsmanship. The home extant on the site was constructed in two stages: the initial building was erected between 1920 and 1921 and the addition was completed circa 1928. The home reflects Plavin's Latvian cultural heritage in its roof construction, with rafters joined at the ridge and carved rafter ends, its projecting log ends at the building's corners, and its double-notch joins. The warehouse attached to the home also features a distinctly Latvian element - a steam-bath room. But this structure also represents a marked departure from Latvian design sensibilities in its roof construction, which suggests Swedish influences. The hexagonal hog barn evinces few traces of European cultural influence; only the finishing of the logs and the notching details can be traced to this source. Built in 1939, the building represents a slight modification of a plan for hog barns promoted by the Canadian Department of Agriculture in the late 1930s. The smokehouse is the most recent extant structure added to the site: built in the 1940s, it is composed of half-notched logs left in their natural form and joined by rough saddle notch joins. The resulting farmstead is a remarkable collection of artfully and ingeniously constructed structures reflecting both traditional Latvian and Scandinavian construction techniques and design as well as more modern Canadian models of functional farm architecture.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 403)
The character-defining elements of the Plavin Homestead include such features as:
- steeply sloped saddle roof of tightly fitting timber supported by purlins;
- rafters joined at the ridge and carved rafter ends;
- handmade spruce shakes underneath aluminum metal sheets;
- shed dormer, paneless window on the second storey;
- logs left in the round in attic space above ceiling;
- rock foundation;
- round spruce logs hewed square;
- projecting log ends;
- wooden pegs holding logs together;
- double notch joins;
- oakum and moss insulation;
- trapdoor leading to dugout basement partially lined with rocks;
- large stone stove/oven;
- handmade furniture, including rocking chair, cupboard, and table.
Warehouse attached to house:
- log construction;
- hewing of the logs to the smoke line;
- concrete oven;
- roof construction featuring truss, supported by side walls, holding a centre beam and two side purlins running from the gable ends to the west wall of the house;
- crosspieces nailed to saplings laid side by side over the beams to join at the ridge;
- handmade shakes nailed to the crosspieces;
- mud and straw insulation;
- bath-house, including heat unit featuring concrete oven and oil drum.
Hexagonal Hog Barn:
- notching details;
- rock-lined partial basement with a rock-lined well;
- concrete furnace continuing above grade to form the chimney;
- concrete and wooden floor;
- concrete slop trough running around perimeter of the interior;
- removable partitions between farrowing pens;
- logs left in the round on interior.
- half-notched logs left in their natural form;
- rough saddle notch joins.
Remains of a barn:
- cement foundation.
- stone gates at the entrance to the farm;
- spatial relationship between buildings;
- trees planted on the north and west sides as windbreaks and shelterbelts.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Food Supply
- Farm or Ranch
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 403)
Cross-Reference to Collection