Architecture & History
The first nomadic groups of Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine natives in the St. Andrews areas built tipis with poles tied together and fashioned into a balanced circle. They were covered with buffalo skins. A space was left for one entrance, and there was a hole in the top for the smoke produced by the center fire. The forerunner to the central heat of the twentieth century.
Next, with European fur traders and settlers, the two major types of dwellings were of log construction and quarried stone. Stone was quarried out of the river bank near Lockport. Both log and stone buildings are evident at Lower Fort Garry and in the early churches, St. Andrews-on-the-Red, Little Britain, Dynevor Rectory, St. Clements and others.
Red River frame construction had its origins both in Europe and New France. It evolved from a half-timber house which had wooden verticals fairly close together and the space between filled with mortar and stones. This fared poorly and the mortar and stones were replaced with horizontal wooden inserts which were not water tight and shrank and warped over time. The solution was to have the short horizontal tongue and grooved into the vertical studs. A harder, water resistant wood was used as a base sill. No nails were used on these interlocking joints with wooden pegs as anchors. Wood was abundant, as the river banks were bordered by maple, elm, oak, and pine. The roofs were thatched with hay from the plains and mud from the river bank. The river mud was used for making plaster, finishing chimneys and fireplaces. Dividing walls could be made of poplar trunks, lathwork and plaster.
The second method of using logs for building was the saddlenotch and dovetail corner connection. This could be done with only an axe as a tool. The finished walls were plastered (chinked) inside and out with clay, mud and horsehair. Then they were coated with a mixture of lime and water to give them a clean, bright white appearance. Some windows were parchments made of fish skins; creativity has always been a virtue.
These buildings look primitive today beside the homes of the nineties. Specialized power tools for every job, computer technology and skilled carpenters combine to make houses that are designed to please the future owners. Ready-to-move houses, commonly called RTM's, are built on a contractors site and then moved to a location of the customers choice. Mobile house trailers, now known as Modular Homes, are becoming personalized to the customers request, some are moved in two sections and placed together on site.
Wood is not the prime heating source, in the nineties it has become scarce and expensive. Central heating units are likely to be natural gas or electricity; some furnaces still use diesel fuel or a combination of wood and electicity.
Stone and brick are usually used as a cosmetic trim. Stucco is popular for house exteriors, as well as maintenance free vinyl or aluminum siding, with asphalt shingles topping the market of roof finishings.
Windows are triple paned to withstand the cold Manitoba winters. They are built for beauty as well as light. Open beam ceilings, skylights and dormer windows all add light to new homes that are built for comfort and convenience. Some window glass is treated to prevent the ultra violet rays of the sun from entering the home. The sun is sometimes used for solar heating. A St. Andrews couple is promoting this aspect.
As the millennium approaches many large two storey houses are being constructed with many decorative features. Shelter has always been a necessity and always will be, but now comfort, convenience and grandeur all enter into our architectural history.