Down it Comes

Last month, my partner Dave decided to tear down his old shack in Old Town Yellowknife. It really wasn’t safe any more for anyone. Instead of hiring some heavy equipment to do the job, he decided to dismantle the building piece by piece. He hired the Essery brothers, Buddy and Raymond, and Adam Cassaway to tear it apart. Tear it apart they did, over 10 days, using crowbars and chainsaws. It was quite a production and attracted most of the neighbourhood as walls were opened and secrets revealed.

We discovered that it was built in 1942 by Carl Jensen, a local contractor. The frame was still solid, but the insulation was a bit outdated….wood shavings and peat moss, which had settled over 60 years to the bottom half of the walls, leaving the top of the building with empty walls. No wonder it was so damn cold. Newspaper, magazines and cardboard boxes supplied another layer of protection and the building was sheathed in shiplap and covered by insulbrick.

We estimate that about 100 people lived here over the past 60 years. Our earliest confirmed tenants so far are the Demelt family who bought the house in 1953. Many memories are associated with the shack. For instance, we brought our newborn daughter, Kathleen, home to this shack in May of 1990 while we waited for the ice to break up on the Bay so that we could return to our houseboat.

We discovered that in fact, walls do talk. These walls told us lots about the era and about the people who made the North, and Yellowknife their home, in the early days. These are a few of the photos taken over the past month.

Even demolition can pop.

A lobster party at the shack in 1983. The lobsters were in the back of the Suzuki pickup.

Time to start. The porch is already gone.

Buddy, Dave and Raymond - starting the process

Raymond pries the shiplap off the wall. What will he find?

Shavings, peat moss and newspaper

...and an old carton for dog food. Who ate dog food? of the few types of pop available that long ago.

Raymond with his favourite movie star.

Buddy....Mr. Chainsaw.

Of course, Campbells Soup had to be there too.


The crew....ready to destroy !!

Off comes the roof.

In the kitchen...a rainbow of primary colours.

The living room...with paneling from the Devil's Channel fish plant.

Now it's gone. Buddy, Raymond and Adam rake up the site. For now, it will be a small community garden. Sadly, another piece of our past has disappeared.


About franhurcombphotography

I'm a photographer and writer based in Yellowknife, NWT, 62.5 degrees north latitude. I've been taking photos across the north for over 35 years. Some of my blog content is old....most of it new. My style seems to change on a regular basis, which keeps life interesting. Enjoy.
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4 Responses to Down it Comes

  1. cominco says:

    seems to be working fine fran. Looks good, some nice shots of the lads. Lot is looking a bit empty at the moment.

  2. Rosalind Mercredi says:

    It is great Fran. I love them and having seen these it helps me in designing the glass peice based on this history.

  3. paulette doucett says:

    Love the story and the photos Fran. Looks like some mice may be in need of a new home come winter! Congratulations on your blog.

  4. margy says:

    i don’t know why, but it makes me happy to know that dave respected this old shack so much that he disassembled it, when plowing it down would have been so much faster and easier. but how much history would have been lost.

    thanks for sharing this piece of yk folklore, fran. and congrats on your blog.


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