British Columbia

Future uncertain for 147-year-old Kelowna heritage home damaged in fire

The city of Kelowna is building a temporary roof to protect a 147-year-old heritage home from the elements after it was damaged in a fire earlier this summer.

The Fleming House is a historic 2-storey log house built by one of Kelowna's first European settlers in 1871

A fire in July 2018 destroyed much of the 147-year-old Fleming House built by one of Kelowna's first pioneers. (City of Kelowna / Brady Strachan/CBC)

The city of Kelowna is building a temporary roof to protect a 147-year-old home after it was damaged in a fire earlier this summer.

The Fleming House is a two storey farm house built in 1871 from hand hewn pine logs by one of Kelowna's first pioneers, Fredrick Brent.

Brent also constructed Brent's Grist Mill which is the oldest surviving grist mill in British Columbia. 

The two buildings were moved to Kelowna's Heritage Park in 2002 along with a historic dairy barn from the original property.

However, this summer the future of the farm house was put into question after a fire destroyed the building's roof and the wooden siding that was added onto the original structure in the early 1900s.

Photo of the Fleming Home in Kelowna from 1907 with wooden siding added to the original pine log construction. (City of Kelowna)

The building also lost its porch and much of the interior was burned.

This week, Kelowna city council considered a motion to finance the construction of a temporary roof for the heritage house to protect it from the elements.

During a debate on the motion, some councillors questioned the merits of making further investments in the burned farm house.

"Sorry, to me it looks like good money after bad," said Luke Stack.

"When I look at the condition of this facility, I don't see how we would be able to put a plan together to make it restorable."

The two-storey Fleming House on its original site near Mill Creek before it was moved to Heritage Park in 2002 (City of Kelowna)

The motion narrowly passed, however, and city will pay $29,000 for construction of the temporary roof.

Local historian Don Knox, who is president of the Central Okanagan Historical Society, said he's grateful council approved the money.

Knox said the Fleming home, despite its burned out condition, remains an important example of building practices of the Okanagan region's pioneers.

"The value of especially the very old buildings, which Kelowna does not have a lot of, is the preservation of the information that the building itself contains," said Knox. 

There is no estimate on how much it will cost to fully restore the house, but city of Kelowna Parks and Buildings manager Robert Parlane said it will likely be very expensive.

Although charred from a fire in July 2018, the original pine logs of the Fleming House are intact. (City of Kelowna)

Despite the fire, the original pine logs in the home are in good shape, said Parlane.

"It's sort of a little bit of an archeological discovery by fire, if you like," he said.

"It's restoring [the house] back to its original building form."

The Fleming House and Brent's Grist Mill are located very near the newly developed Okanagan Rail Trail, which will bring many people past Heritage Park, said Parlane.

Putting the temporary roof on the farm house will protect what's left of the structure from the elements and it also gives the city time to consider its future. 

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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