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 The frame was still solid, but the insulation was a bit outdated….wood shavings and peat moss, which had settled over 60 years to the bottom half of the walls, leaving the top of the building with empty walls.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.