Much of the material for our most recent project, which we have been calling the "Recycled House", was repurposed from an old WW2 aircraft hangar originally built in Lethbridge Alberta. This is the story of the origins of the materials used in the project.
The beams and other materials (metal rings, lag bolts, timber washers) were all used in the construction of these hangars across Canada as part of the war effort. Canada and particularly Western Canada became the home of the Air Commonwealth Training Plan where many young men from everywhere in the British Commonwealth and beyond learned the rudiments of flight. Most did not last long after joining the fighting, and many also perished in training exercises.
The wooden parts of these buildings were assembled from old growth west coast Douglas Fir, which was logged, milled into beams, posts, then loaded onto freighters. These ships transported the material down the West coast through the Panama Canal then North up the Eastern seaboard and into the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec/Montreal. Here the timbers were further machined into kits for assembly and then reloaded and shipped back across the country by rail.
These hangars were then assembled across Canada from the Maritimes to Alberta. This became the largest construction project in Canadian history eclipsing even the national railway and is largely unknown or ignored today.
The old Calgary farmers market on the Army barracks land is one of the few remaining buildings of that era. Most were torn down but few reused. Our material was salvaged in Lethbridge then sent to either Fernie BC or Okotoks Alberta. After sorting and re-sawing the Fernie material became the wood used for flooring, doors, millwork, etcetera, while the Okotoks shipment became exterior trim, brackets, and fascia, or was made into the sturdy timber frame elements at the front and rear covered entries.
The reason for using this material was sentimental. The owner’s father had been involved in the war as both a flight instructor and a crash investigator based in the Claresholm area of Southern Alberta, and the connection to this history continues through their beautiful home. In addition, the re-use of old growth Douglas Fir ensures that the material from these magnificent trees was used in the most efficient manner possible.
- Don James, President - Jameswood Homes Inc.