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Addison Sod House

Oakdale RM 320, Saskatchewan, S0L, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1992/11/23

The Addison Sod House as seem from the garden, 2004.; Government of Saskatchewan, Calvin Fehr, 2004.
Front Elevation of the Addison Sod House
Back Porch of the Addison Sod House, 2004; Government of Saskatchewan
exposed sods framing the rear entrance
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Other Name(s)

Addison Sod House
Addison Sod House

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1909/01/01 to 1911/12/31

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2005/03/31

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Addison Sod House is a Provincial Heritage Property comprising two legal subdivisions in the Rural Municipality of Oakdale No. 320. The property features a farmyard that includes a sod house, barn, two sheds, dugout and a shelterbelt.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Addison Sod House lies in its association with the history of settlement in western Canada. Most homesteaders constructed a ‘soddy’ as a temporary shelter during the first crucial years of establishing their farm. They realized that large blocks of topsoil, held tightly together by the matted roots of prairie grasses, could be an expedient building material. Sod houses were uncomfortable homes that deteriorated rapidly; they were replaced with a wood-frame house as soon as the homesteader could afford the building materials. Sod houses were an integral part of the prairie landscape during the settlement period prior to 1914.

The heritage value of the Addison Sod House resides in its design. Noting that most sod houses collapsed after a few years, James Addison incorporated several innovative design elements that guaranteed his sod house’s structural integrity. The sods were cut from a dry slough-bed where plant roots would be especially thick. They were then laid on flat ground in an interlocking pattern. A small portion of the centre of each sod was scooped out, causing the weight of the wall to slump towards the centre. This prevented the walls from falling over as they settled. Finally, the walls are twice as thick as normal at the base and taper as the height increases, thereby reducing the weight and pressure of the upper portion on the lower. Instead of the usual sod-roof, Addison’s house was capped with a carefully constructed hip roof and covered with wood shingles. The exterior walls were covered, first with vines, then with cedar shingles which in time were covered with asphalt and then vinyl siding. These two innovations limited the sod’s exposure to the environment, both preventing erosion and ensuring that the interior remained dry.

The heritage value of the Addison Sod House also lies in how this ‘soddy’ has evolved into a comfortable home. Addison originally intended to replace the sod portions of the building with wood-frame construction. When it became clear that the sod was going to be permanent, the interior was divided into rooms and the lean-to, originally used as a temporary shelter during the house’s construction, was adapted to provide additional living space. The sod walls were plastered and later wallpapered. In the 1960s, the house was electrified and indoor plumbing was installed. A small earthen cellar used to store vegetables and preserves lies beneath the house.

The heritage value of the Addison Sod House also resides in the layout of the grounds. The farmstead’s design shows a particular approach to farmstead layout during the early twentieth century. A shelterbelt surrounds most of the farmyard, which is divided roughly in half by another row of trees. The house is located in the main yard where much of the farm’s domestic work, gardening, laundry and the raising of small animals, would have occurred. The secondary yard includes the remains of an orchard and an area for a second house, intended for Addison’s son. A barn and two small outbuildings are positioned to the north of the main yard, beyond the shelter belt. A dugout used to collect and store spring runoff for the cattle is nearby. Laid out to combine beauty and practicality, the grounds of the Addison Sod House retain a degree of heritage integrity now uncommon on the prairies.


Province of Saskatchewan, Notice of Intention to Designate as Provincial Heritage Property under The Heritage Property Act, April 16, 1992.

Province of Saskatchewan, Order to Designate as Provincial Heritage Property under The Heritage Property Act, November 23, 1992.

Character-Defining Elements

The heritage value of the Addison Sod House lies in the following character defining elements:
-those elements reflecting the sod house and farmstead’s association with the settlement period including the sod walls, garden plots and earthen cellar;
-those elements reflecting the evolution of the James Addison’s architectural design such as the lean-to, the evolving division of the rooms, the plastered walls, and the hipped roof;
-those elements reflecting the layout of the farmstead including the large garden plots, the sheds and dugout, and the shelter belt.




Recognition Authority

Government of Saskatchewan

Recognition Statute

Heritage Property Act, s. 39(1)

Recognition Type

Provincial Heritage Property

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type


Single Dwelling


Food Supply
Farm or Ranch

Architect / Designer



James Addison

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Heritage Conservation Branch, Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, 3211 Albert Street, Regina, Saskatchewan S4S 5W6

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

PHP 1386



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