Fort Vancouver
Historic Structures Report
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Volume II


Continued research since the completion of volume I of this study has resulted in the accumulation of several bits of information that throw additional light upon structures and furnishings discussed in that volume. These supplementary data may be summarized as follows:


a. Bark on pickets. P. W. Crawford, an overland emigrant who visited Fort Vancouver during 1847, recounted his memory of the post thirty-one years later. Speaking of the palisade, he said it was made of "Round timbers from The natural fir Trees with the Bark all on in diameter from Twelve to fourteen even some Eighteen Inches--firmly placed in The ground whether pointed and driven or a trench dug and set in I do not know." [1]

Crawford's recollection of the Columbia depot was not accurate in all respects, but he might well have remembered such a detail as whether or not the posts retained their bark. His words merit careful consideration, particularly because archeologists excavating along the south stockade wall in 1973 found occasional picket butts with bark still adhering to them. [2]

b. Shapes of picket tops. When digging along the south palisade line in 1973, archeologists noted that when one section of the stockade was moved farther to the south, probably between early 1846 and February 1848, the pickets were completely removed from the original trench (not merely cut off at ground level or knocked over as was often the case). The tops evidently were then cut off square and the poles inserted, former top ends down, in the new trench. The discarded tops were thrown into the old trench when it was refilled.

When these tops were unearthed by the archeologists more than a century later, it was discovered that the pickets in the original trench had been finished at their summits in two different styles. Some were simply cut off at an angle of about 45 degrees. The others showed "double, steep cuts" forming "an edge of about 85° at the top. " In other words, they were wedge-shaped. [3]


James Robert Anderson, born in 1841 and the son of a longtime and well-known Company officer, visited Fort Vancouver occasionally as a boy and youth. Many years later he wrote a description of the depot as he remembered it during the late 1840s and 1850s. One sentence contains what appears to be an important piece of information about the fort gates. "On the side facing the Columbia River and on the opposite side," he said, "were large red gates which were closed and locked at night. . . . " [4]

The fact that the gates were red--probably painted Spanish brown--is something that a boy might notice and remember.


Subsequent to the completion of volume I of this study, the writer prepared a special report on the armament and furnishings of the Bastion. Thanks largely to the courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company and, particularly, to its former Archivist, Mrs. Joan Craig, a considerable amount of additional information was obtained concerning the procurement, shipment, and physical characteristics of the guns that were mounted in the Bastion. Persons interested in these subjects are referred to that study. [5]


Also subsequent to the completion of volume I, a historic furnishings study on the Bakery was prepared. That work contains a considerable amount of additional data on the history of the bakehouse and on the bakers who worked in it. It also includes a more detailed analysis of the physical structure of both the Bakery proper and the ovens, and of the baking process and related equipment, than it was possible to present in volume I. Those interested in such matters should consult that study. [6]

Since the issuance of the furnishings study, however, a few additional items have come to hand that appear to merit notice. First, it should be mentioned that the words Lieutenant Emmons wrote in his journal on July 25, 1841, "Bakery--where soft bread & sea biscuit are baked," make it abundantly clear that loaf bread as well as hard bread was prepared in the bakehouse at Fort Vancouver (see Plate [III, vol. I).

Secondly, on page 51 in volume I it was noted that no Company employee was listed as a baker during Outfit 1852 or thereafter. It was there speculated that the Bakery may have been closed down or its operations curtailed by 1852. Fort Vancouver accounts for that year throw a little more light on this matter. During that outfit two payments for outside baking help were made, one of $18.75 to a "Baker," and another for $39.28 to an "American Baker." [7]


a. Roof. In late August 1837 Chief Factor McLoughlin gave the Reverend Mr. Beaver's servant "some slaps" for stealing "shakes" from the "cellar of the new house." [8] Because the only building at Fort Vancouver known to have had a cellar at about that time was the Big House, and because the new manager's residence was completed shortly thereafter, it is most probable that the "new house" from which the shingles were stolen was the post-1837 Big House. Evidently the building was then in the process of construction.

If there were shakes in the cellar of the Big House, it is quite likely that they were for use on that building. Therefore it seems more probable that the roof was covered with shakes than with boards.

b. Sundial. Mr. A. Lewis Koue has suggested that the urn-shaped object projecting above the Big House porch railing at its center might have been the base for a sundial. This object can be seen in Plate XXIX, volume I. Examination of a very clear print of this 1860 photograph with a reading glass proves that such, indeed, was the case. The style is distinctly visible.

c. Guns. An unusually clear print of the 1860 photograph in the British Columbia Archives makes it possible to state with confidence that the wheels on the two gun carriages in front of the Big House were iron garrison carriage wheels (see Plate IX in Hussey, Armament and Furnishings of the Fort Vancouver Bastion, for an illustration of a garrison carriage and wheels). The muzzles of the guns were plugged with tampions.


On page 169 of volume I it was noted that after Outfit 1847 no employee specifically classified as a cook can be found on the Fort Vancouver employee rolls. It was inferred that after that year laborers were called upon to act as cooks. Such may have been the case for several years, but during 1851 Indians were used in that capacity. [9] Evidently this expedient was not a success, for in Outfit 1852 the firm paid £78.8.2 to a "Kanaka for acting as Cook for Mess" and £19.2 to a "Negro for acting as Cook." [10]


a. Names of stores. Since the completion of volume I, the writer has come to doubt that the structure presently designated as Building No. 7, the storehouse along the south stockade wall directly east of the Powder Magazine, was ever called the Receiving Store. According to the 1846-47 inventory of Company improvements at Fort Vancouver, the "Receiving Store" measured only thirty-two by twenty-four feet, whereas Building No. 7 measured about forty by one hundred feet. [11] Because no unidentified structure thirty-two by twenty-four feet in size seems to be shown within the stockade on any available plan, it is assumed that the Receiving Store was situated outside the fort, perhaps down near the river.

b. Platform between Sale Shop and New Store. On page 202 of volume I the covered and partially enclosed platform that linked Buildings Nos. 4 and 5 was briefly discussed. Few construction details were given, because at that time the only available prints of the 1860 photograph of the northwest corner of the courtyard (Plate XXVIII, vol. I) were so dark that this feature was not clearly shown.

However, as mentioned in several other places in volume II, a remarkably sharp print of this picture is available in the Provincial Archives of British Columbia, although it, too, loses considerable detail when reproduced (see Plate XIV). Architects working on plans for the reconstruction of this platform should consult the original print or, better still, obtain an enlarged print from the original glass negative in England.

The Provincial Archives print appears to show that the platform base was formed of, or faced by, at least two massive squared timbers on its east side. On top of these, evidently, rested a plank floor. The front of the lower story of the platform was open, but the rear was closed in (or perhaps the stockade in the rear gives that appearance). At the second-floor level of the warehouses there was another platform connecting the upper stories of the Sale Shop and the New Store. This platform was open front and rear, but there was a guardrail at least across the front.

Over the second story of the platform stretched a roof, the apex of which reached almost to the eaves of the two adjoining warehouses. From this apex the roof slanted at a rather low angle toward the front and rear, extending to and perhaps even a bit beyond the front and rear walls of the flanking stores.

Immediately under the eaves of the warehouses, on the sides facing the platform, there were rain gutters that carried the runoff beyond the platform roof. The gutters seem to have been of metal or of hollowed log halves. No gutters can be seen over the other walls of these warehouses.


a. Structure of New Store. The Provincial Archives print of the 1860 photograph mentioned in the paragraphs above also provides additional information concerning the physical structure of Building No. 5, the New Store. The enlarged portion of a copy of this print, reproduced as Plate XIV, gives some notion of the value of this picture, but architects should see the original in order to gain the utmost detail.

All of the new information thus revealed cannot be stated at length here. Particularly revealing, however, is the view of the massive arched-top door that is generally trimmed from prints of this picture. The lintel over the door appears to be one great timber into which the arch was cut. Noteworthy is the fact that there seems to have been no arched frame over the door (as there was on the Fort Nisqually granary). The nine-paned windows and their shutters are quite clearly shown. If there was a second-story window centered over the door it cannot be seen, but the picture is not too clear in that area; a closed and shuttered window could be present.

b. Name and function of Building No. 7. As mentioned in the remarks in the preceding paragraphs on Chapter XI of volume I, it is not clear that the structure presently identified as Building No. 7 was actually the Receiving Store. Very likely it was not, and the structure probably should be called merely a "Store." That it was a warehouse of some type seems indisputable.

When Samuel Parker visited Fort Vancouver during the fall of 1835, he found that there were four warehouses for the "trading department": one "for the Indian trade, in which are deposited their peltries; one for provisions; one for goods opened for the current year's business, that is, to sell to their men and to send off to various fur stations; and another for storing goods in a year's advance." [12]

By 1845-46, as has been seen, the warehouses of 1835 had been either rebuilt or replaced by new structures, and some had changed in function. But Parker's statement is of value as indicating the classes of goods kept in the several stores. This general scheme, although with some variations as is shown by the Emmons map of 1841 (Plate III, vol. I), seems to have continued in later years.

In view of this probability, the words of P. W. Crawford describing the fort as he saw it in 1847 take on added significance. On the west side of the depot he found the "wholesale & Retail store with numerous clerks in attendance," while on "the South Side of the Square" was "a Store house where Casks of Sugar Molases [sic] and larger Groceries" were kept and "dealt out by a Red River Scotch half Breed." [13]

At that time, if the Iron Store and Powder Magazine are excluded, there were only three warehouses along the south wall of the fort--the present Buildings Nos. 7, 8, and 21. Number 8 is known to have been the Fur Store, and Number 21 was the Indian Trade Shop. Therefore, if there was a store devoted largely to provisions, it must have been Number 7.

Rather early in the present century, Fred Lockley, a well-known historian and writer in the Pacific Northwest, described Fort Vancouver as it appeared ca. 1849. The sources he employed are unknown.

His account contains certain errors, but it also shows signs of having been based upon independent, original, and often remarkably accurate information. He said that the storehouse for heavy goods, barrels of molasses, and such items was in the southwest corner of the fort, and he was not discussing the New Store, because he had assigned it another function. [14] Therefore, his storehouse for molasses, etc., must have been Building No. 7.

None of the evidence presented above is by any means conclusive, but it does suggest that Building No. 7 was not the Receiving Store and that it may have been primarily for the storage of bulk pro visions.

c. Packaging of imported dry goods. On page 245 of volume I a small amount of information is given on the methods of packing the goods sent out annually from England to the Columbia. The recent publication of Dr. John McLoughlin's business correspondence for 1847-48, after he had retired from active participation in the Company's affairs, permits ready access to a bit more data on this subject.

When ordering goods from his London agents on his own account on May 27, 1848, McLoughlin wrote: "The Cotton Shirts Melbourn, rail road and drab Cord Trousers ought to be packed in Bales wrapped three point Blankets covered with paper in the Same manner as the Hudson Bay Company's are Shipped--the Moleskin ought to be in cases tinned and well soldered." [15]


During January 1848 the survivors of the Whitman massacre spent several days recuperating at Fort Vancouver. One of the rescued children, Elizabeth Sager, recalled many years later that she had wanted to remain with the family of Chief Factor James Douglas because "they had such good bread and cake, and the cutest beds for the children, that could be shoved right into the wall during the day." [16]

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2003