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This page last updated March 20, 2019

© Michael Kluckner



Written in 2000, painted in 2013: The idea of a forestry camp on the almost treeless, arid benches near Ashcroft seems like a joke. For the more than 40 years I can remember travelling the Trans Canada highway, I've been intrigued by the rather military quality of this collection of buildings, with orange-and-white-striped pylons holding, presumably, radio antennae, next to Ashcroft Manor (just west of Cache Creek). 

DESTROYED BY FIRE, JULY 18, 2014

(an earlier, unfinished sketch from 2000)

There are two distinct styles of buildings: first, a row of gambrel-roofed houses with prominent shed-roofed dormers that face the highway; and, a handful of simple gabled buildings arranged more randomly among the pylons behind the other houses. Apparently, according to the Ashcroft Museum, the site was originally a forestry camp, but became an army station during the Second World War – a communications station, presumably. Now the site is completely abandoned, the buildings boarded up, and I wonder every time I drive the Trans Canada whether they'll still be there.

The gambrel-roofed designs of the houses facing the highway (on the right above) are almost certainly those of Henry Whittaker, BC Provincial architect, about 1918-1919. They showed up in returned servicemen's housing in South Vancouver, and in provincial police buildings such as the former lock-up in Burns Lake, a larger building. The standard forest-service buildings, and many of the small ambulance crew buildings scattered around the province, appear to be evolutions of this basic design.

Note from Vashti Fisk, 2009 [née Parker, whose mother DeeDee was one of the Cornwall daughers from the Manor]: "The DOT buildings near the Manor were originally built for a Radio Range Facility for the DOT about 1944 until that was phased out and the site was turned into a weather station in the 60's.This lasted a few years before it was briefly turned over to the foresty. It was sold sometime in the early 70's.....the dates are hazy offhand but we do have records somewhere I believe. We don't know the name of the present owner. It is so sad to see it as it is now. It was once so well groomed and cared for. The original inhabitants were really wonderful neighbors but we have lost touch over the years."

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From Sheila Smyth, 2019: I worked at Ashcroft Manor as a general helper in 1962.

I stayed in the little log cabin with the sod roof sheltered by a tree, and listened at night to the mice skittering between the logs and layers of paper. I cooked for Colonel and Mrs Parker on the big range. It made great toast!  
I remember the back bedroom mentioned and also the mousetraps I checked every morning upstairs. I also cleaned the cabins, and ironed Vashti’s children clothes in the separate cabin out back, looking onto the hill I used to ride on my horse. She was a dapple-grey former bareback bronc and liked to hang out next to the helicopters in the field for company.

I had a wonderful summer and will never forget the friendly family and the haunting quality of the landscape. Especially memorable was a moonlit ride through the sagebrush on my ‘cayuse’ Ladybird. (Afterwards renamed ‘Shady Lady’ which is more romantic.) I used to sing ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ when I rode to the top of the hill to look down on the converging rivers, one blue, one brown, if memory serves.

I had such a lingering fondness for the place that a few years ago my husband and I bought a cabin not far away, near Savona, where we will be heading very soon.

PS. Behind the Manor, I used to ride through the reservation, which had a loose stallion. One day I was riding a young gelding called Copper who had ‘put his first owner in the hospital.’ Apparently he thought he was still an ‘entire’ at least the stallion thought so and chased us right back to the Manor. We sprinted straight across the back lawn to where a barbed wire fence and a dry gulch awaited us. Luckily I was young and agile and leapt off, swirling Copper around by the reins. Another occasion, up on Lady, we came across a rattler, noisily defending itself. Of course my trusty mare reared in true ‘tales of the ‘West’ fashion. I am sure you know that anyone with much experience of horses has a fund of anecdotes, though I have yet to tell them around a campfire out on the trail. Perhaps that pleasure still awaits me.

From Gerald Houbregs, Abbotsford, 2016: Just a history note regarding the Ashcroft Manor and the adjoining Govt Communications station and radio range....I had the privilege of working at the Radio Range Station, as it was called, in 1964, for approx 6 months.as a Radio Operator for the Federal Govt....As a single person at that time i roomed and boarded at the Ashcroft Manor...I had a single room at the back of the Manor on the ground floor..The houses at the Radio Range Station were for the married personnel. Trav was busy at the time overseeing rental cabins being built next to the Manor...Vashti did a lot of the cooking for me...the Parkers were still around also....After Ashcroft i went to work for 6 years at Smithers Airport as a Radio Operator and then moved to Abbotsford, where i still live today, and worked for 25 years at the Abbotsford Airport...And have been retired since...I stopped in at the Manor at times in the 60s when i commuted from Smithers to the Coast on vacation....I see Vashti sent a note re the Manor a few years ago...I don’t know if her and Trav are still around...I don’t get up that way any more.

From Margaret Durrant, 2015: I read with great interest the article about the former forestry camp in Ashcroft and devastated to read that it had been destroyed. I first saw those houses when I was about 10 years old and I am now 69 years old. We travel through  the area twice a year and I will miss seeing them. The paintings in the article are wonderful. Those houses were always kept immaculate when I was a kid and it was sad to see they had fallen on such hard times. I assume you are aware that one was used in the Robert Redford/Jennifer Lopez/Morgan Freeman film ”An Unfinished Life.”

From Barbara Roden, Aschcroft, 2014: As an admirer of your 'Vanishing British Columbia' series, and local amateur historian, I thought you might be interested - and probably saddened - to know that the buildings at the former forestry station in Ashcroft, on Highway 1 beside Ashcroft Manor, burned down last night (18 July). I live in Ashcroft, and my son - who's a volunteer firefighter - got a call around 11.30pm to attend a fire there (I just picked him up; he's one tired 16-year-old). No word on how the fire started, and the firefighters managed to save the Manor, Teahouse, and cabins around the Manor, but all the buildings on the forestry station site are gone; there's nothing left standing but the brick chimneys. There's no word yet on the cause of the fire, but high winds last night, plus tinder-dry conditions, meant that once it got hold there was nothing anyone could do to save the buildings, and efforts were concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading (it kept jumping the highway) and saving the Manor buildings.

From Michael Taylor, 2011: Am proud to tell you the houses and garage were built by Taylor & Son, that's my grandfather John (Jack) C Taylor and my father Clifford Taylor (Kamloops pioneers since 1907).

Understand they were built in early 1940's after Cliff & Jack had built housing at Bralorne mine site in 1935-37.   Taylor & Son also built wartime housing in Kamloops in late 1930's and early 1940's.
Believe my grandmother Mary (Miles) Taylor was a friend of the Cornwall family.

Must say the buildings that "Taylors made" were very well built as you have attested. My brother Jim & I were very fortunate to have summertime jobs, in mid 50's & 60's building schools, churches, arenas, curling rinks and gas stations as we grew up in Kamloops, and able to pay our way through UBC Engineering, and then onto building pulp mills, gas plants, bridges and stadiums through out BC, Alberta, across Canada and Internationally.


Photo by Ken Sigfusson, 1946, showing the edge of the site.

A 2008 photo of one of the houses by Bill Grulkey, Vancouver

His photo collection can be viewed at: www.altphotos.com
      ( keyword search: grulkey )

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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001, 2002