Fort Calgary uncovers mummified rat, 1890s newspaper during Hunt House restoration

Fort Calgary workers are uncovering a wide range of rare artifacts as they continue to restore the Hunt House in Inglewood.

'It's been like a treasure hunt actually,' says Fort Calgary spokesperson

A rolled up newspaper was uncovered in the roof of Hunt House. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Fort Calgary workers are uncovering a wide range of rare artifacts as they continue to restore the Hunt House in Inglewood. 

A mummified rat, a child's toy and a 125-year-old newspaper are some of the items that have been discovered in the building and buried beneath the structure.

"It's completely unexpected," said Fort Calgary's Cynthia Klaassen. "It's been like a treasure hunt actually."

An inside look at the preservation of Hunt House. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Preservation specialists have been working to restore Hunt House for the last 12 months. The structure is considered Calgary's oldest building still in its original location.

The Hunt House is a one room building that was likely constructed in the 1870s or 1880s. It is located across the Elbow River from Fort Calgary.

"It doesn't have the grandiosity of something like the Lougheed House would have, but it really is important to Calgary's history," said Klaassen.

The Hunt House as seen in 1910. (Glenbow Museum photo archives)

The building is a rare look at how the founders of Calgary lived more than a century ago.

"It will become Fort Calgary's most important artifact. We will use that to tell the story of Fort Calgary as a site and we will also use it to tell the story of the Hudson's Bay company that first arrived in Calgary," said Klaassen.

Several items found

The most recent artifact was a rolled up newspaper discovered in the roof of the house. It was likely placed there as added insulation for the log cabin. The newspaper is the Sept. 5, 1890, edition of The Carlisle Journal.

This newspaper is from Sept. 5, 1890. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

One of the most interesting discoveries is believed to be a mummified rat found underneath the cabin's floor. While the rodents do occasionally make an appearance in the province today, Alberta has claimed rat-free status since the 1950s.

A mummified rat was found underneath the floor of Hunt House. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Workers have uncovered several glass bottles. One is from London in the 1920s and another is a vanilla bottle from the Hudson's Bay.

A Hudson`s Bay bottle of vanilla (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Workers also uncovered a piece of wood believed to be a child's block. It was found underneath the building along with a pair of shoes.

This item is believed to be a child`s wood block. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Preservation work

Most of the discoveries are made by Dave Chalmers, who is contracted to preserve the log cabin. Each log and board is inspected for deterioration. They are then restored using epoxy and original wood fibres. Chalmers is hoping to finish the restoration by the spring.

Chalmers says as someone who has grown up in Calgary this is the pinnacle of his career.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.