Fort Vancouver
Historic Structures Report
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Volume I


This history data section of the historic structures report is one of the basic studies required before working drawings can be prepared for the reconstruction of the Hudson's Bay Company post and depot of Fort Vancouver as provided for in the current master plan for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington. It was produced in accordance with Historical Resources Study Proposals FOVA-H-4 and FOVA-H-4a.

The purpose of the report is to present in convenient, usable form for National Park Service architects, curators, and interpreters what the historical and pictorial record reveals about the physical form and the furnishings of the fort stockade and the structures within it as they stood at about the end of 1845, by which time the post was practically at the height of its development. To this end the available historical data concerning each structure are presented in a separate chapter and are there analyzed in the light of archeological findings and of construction techniques employed at other Hudson's Bay Company posts.

When it appears that some useful purpose would be served thereby, the findings are summarized in a list of recommendations at the end of the chapter. In some instances, however, the findings are so obvious or so multitudinous that no summary would be beneficial.

It will be noted that this study does not provide a general, overall history of Fort Vancouver. That information is summarized in a previous publication, The History of Fort Vancouver and Its Physical Structure. In that work will also be found such data as were available up to 1957 concerning the construction of the many Fort Vancouver buildings which lay outside the stockaded fort proper. Except for the cooper's shop, which stood in the shadow of the palisade, all the structures treated in the present report were either part of the stockade or fell within the fort walls. At the present time, except for some fences and other minor features, only the fort proper is proposed for reconstruction in the near future.

It should also be pointed out that the present report does not pretend to intrude into the realms of the curator and the architect by describing in detail items of furniture, equipment, and hardware which might have been present in any one of the fort structures. When the records contain the information, inventories of furnishings are given. It might be stated, for instance, that among the items in a certain building were two "common blankets, 3 points," but no attempt is made to describe a Hudson's Bay Company three-point blanket of the 1840's. With literally hundreds of articles appearing in certain inventories, such descriptions are quite out of the question in a limited study.

On the other hand, in cases where the existence of objects actually associated with the fur-trading post is known, every effort is made to describe those articles, to illustrate them, or to give their locations so that curators may personally examine them. Similarly, where items of hardware such as hinges, shutter latches, and door pulls have been excavated on the sites of specific structures, these facts are mentioned so that architects may employ the actual original articles as models upon which to base reproductions. And in many cases, where inventories or actual association items are not available, information has been supplied as to the types of objects used under similar circumstances and during the same period at other Company posts.

Moreover, because the subject of British fur-trade artifacts is so highly specialized, even esoteric, it has not seemed kind to leave the curators entirely on their own in attempting to acquire or reproduce the thousands of items which will be needed to refurnish and re-equip the western headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company. Thus scattered throughout the text will be found a number of bibliographical citations which should be helpful in their task. Also, an attempt has been made to mention museum collections which contain Hudson's Bay Company artifacts. And when the historical record thus far examined provides information concerning the appearance, quality, shape, and size of an object, the pertinent passages are generally quoted.

One other matter seems to require mention in this preface. When The History of Fort Vancouver and Its Physical Structure was written it was then common practice to describe the type of construction generally used at nineteenth century Hudson's Bay Company posts -- walls formed of horizontally laid timbers, the tenoned ends of which fitted into heavy grooved upright posts set at intervals along wooden sills — as "post on sill." Since that time, however, architectural historians have shown that this term properly belongs to a different type of construction, and they have suggested the names "piece sur piece," "Red River frame," or "Canadian" for the style so widely used throughout early Canada and in the fur trade.

As has also been pointed out, however, none of these substitutes is entirely satisfactory. In the present report, since the term is convenient and since there is no opportunity for confusion, it has thus seemed desirable to retain the designation "post on sill" or "post in the sill," using it as a synonym for the alternate names, which are also employed.

It is planned to issue this study in two volumes. The second will contain the bibliography for the entire work.

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2003