Heritage homes in Kamloops offer a peek into the past

‘The history of Kamloops is wound through them’: heritage homes in the area provide a connection to those who built the city.
This photo features an old Edwardian style heritage building clad in red brick and stone at the corner of 1st and Victoria Street, downtown Kamloops.
The old Canadian Bank of Commerce, built in 1904, sits at the corner of 1st and Victoria St. and is now home to the popular Kamloops eatery, The Brownstone Restaurant. The building is clad in pressed red brick, manufactured right here in Kamloops at the old brick factory in Mission Flats. Kyra Grubb / The Wren.

Kamloops (Tk’emlúps), a town steeped in history, boasts an abundance of heritage homes. With over 130 of these structures situated in the city centre, West End and North Shore, there exists a wealth of knowledge regarding the individuals, events, dates and locations associated with them.

During this year’s Memorial Cup, the City of Kamloops is extending an invitation to both residents and visitors alike to partake in several heritage walking tours hosted in partnership with the city’s heritage engagement group and the Kamloops Museum and Archives.

This week, The Wren spoke with a handful of people who work to honour both built and cultural heritage here in Kamloops.

Kamloops resident talks heritage home ownership

The owner of a home recently added to the Heritage Home Register, Lisa Felepchuck, says owning a heritage home has been a lifelong dream.

Felepchuck is also the face behind Vintage Fuze, a “colourful, kitsch and curious” little world she’s worked to build on Instagram that occasionally transcends the digital realm when the vintage items she sources appear on shelves at local retailers like Far & Wide and Botanical Scene.

For the most part, though, Felepchuck’s Instagram is chock full of beautifully curated photos and well-worded captions describing the trials, tribulations and triumphs of owning her very own heritage home.

“I spy with my little eye something that is oval,” she wrote within a caption underneath a photo of a plaque pointing to her home’s new title.

“I applied for heritage recognition … and was finally approved. I’m now a proud owner of a heritage plaque from the city of Kamloops, and I cannot wait to add it to the exterior of our home,” she wrote, prompting The Wren to reach out. 

Photo features a fire place painted pink decorated with kitschy decor surrounded by colourful furnitures and other fun features.
Receiving a plaque for heritage recognition doesn’t mean you have to forgo your own personal style. When Lisa Felepchuck moved into the heritage home she and her partner live in now, the brick fireplace was already painted over, making it a great canvas to add colour to and decorate with kitschy design features. Image courtesy Lisa Felepchuck.

Felepchuck’s fascination with historic residences flourished at a young age, she told The Wren. She nurtured a lifelong desire to acquire a charming, antiquated house due to the abundance of heritage homes in her hometown, Stouffville, Ont., which she used to admire while taking leisurely walks downtown.

When the time came to purchase her first property here in Kamloops with her partner, Felepchuck says the hunt for her dream home was finally initiated. 

As a creative person with an eye for design, Felepchuck says she was thrilled to find a 1930s home in need of some work. She’s been adding sparkle to her home since purchasing the property a little over two years ago.

While she romanticized the idea of home ownership, there were times when she says the never-ending list of to-dos seemed insurmountable. 

“Not gonna lie, when we first got the house, there was a moment there where I just walked out and stood on the front steps and shouted to no one in particular, just up at the sky, ‘I want to live in an apartment again,’ because I was simply so overwhelmed,” she recalls. 

Nevertheless, Felepchuck believes the endeavour has been rewarding, as she now assumes the role of caretaker of an old home brimming with rich history.

Felepchuck encourages folks who own heritage homes in the city to apply for heritage recognition. 

“Take the time to write a letter to the heritage engagement group and see if your home could be awarded one of these heritage recognition plaques,” she says. “I think that the more people in Kamloops that are aware of heritage properties, the better job we can do at preserving them, and it’s just a fun way to celebrate the community as well.”

Registering for heritage recognition

The Wren sat down with the former chair of the Kamloops Heritage Commission and now a member of the city’s heritage engagement group, Andrew Yarmie, to learn more about the process of registering for heritage recognition.

He says homeowners who register do so on a totally voluntary basis, and while there are no restrictions on editions, interior design or construction materials, homeowners must simply be able to prove the exterior of their home has been substantially preserved in its original appearance and has been kept in good condition. 

Homeowners who are interested in registering for heritage recognition can write a letter outlining why they believe their home should be considered to The Kamloops Heritage Engagement Group at 207 Seymore Street, Yarmie explains. 

The letter should include the homeowner’s name, address, telephone number or email, as the heritage engagement group will likely reach out for additional information.

Felepchuck provided us with some of what she wrote in her letter to the heritage engagement group, which we hope may inspire you to take a look around and determine which aspects within your home may signify historical relevance. 

She wrote, “The gable roof, with its steep pitch, is reminiscent of the quaint, but utilitarian design of the ’30s, and the half concrete round steps that lead up to the arch porch door are original.”

“All of the windows, with the exception of the two front windows on the main floor, remain original as well, adding to its uniqueness … the home has kept the original built-ins in the main floor bathroom, the beautiful original hardwood flooring throughout … the fireplace in the living room and the mauve tiles under it … original silver interior door handles with ornate detail … as well as original baseboards and door trim throughout.”

While the heritage engagement group doesn’t necessarily concern itself with the interior of homes when considering heritage recognition, “there are features that typify certain eras of architecture and design,” Yarmie says.

To confirm the exact date a home was built and identify features that would qualify a house for heritage recognition, he suggests scheduling some time at the Kamloops Museum and Archives.

“You do have to go to the archives to determine the exact date in which your home was built if you’ve applied for heritage recognition anyways unless you have some kind of document in your personal collection that confirms that date,” he says.

While it may seem like a hassle to some, Yarmie says that archival research at the Museum and Archives is the fun of it for many homeowners who are already interested in preserving the history of their homes.

What’s in store for those who attend the Memorial Cup tours

The tours go beyond architectural information, such as construction dates and materials and dig into the captivating narratives of significant individuals and the lasting influence they have had on our community, according to Julia Cyr, Museum Supervisor at the Kamloops Museum and Archives and the Heritage Engagement Group liaison

Among those significant individuals, Cyr says the tour touches on Peter Wing, the first mayor of Chinese descent in North America, Kamloops’ first and British Columbia’s second Black alderman, John Freemont Smith and Sir Wilfred Laurier, the seventh Prime Minister of Canada.

This photo features a brick heritage building with a red sign on the front that reads "Freemont 1911 Block."
The Freemont Block Building was built in 1911 by John Freemont Smith, Kamloops’ first Black alderman and the province’s second. The building still features the original Freemont Block sign and is now home to the Art We Are Cafe and Lys’s Thrift and Vintage Hommes. Kyra Grubb / The Wren.

Laurier was presented with a memorial by Secwepemc, Nlaka’pamux and Syilx Chiefs that centred on the loss of their homelands and livelihood and spoke of a pathway toward inclusivity and the building of positive relationships with settlers. 

“It was right here in Kamloops that Chiefs from multiple Nations literally asked the Canadian government to do justice to Indigenous peoples,” Cyr says. “I mean wow, I’m blown away by these stories.”

While tours commenced on May 27 and wrap up on June 4, rest assured that the heritage celebration doesn’t end there. The Kamloops Museum and Archives has an additional tour in store sure to excite local history buffs and lovers of heritage homes — a captivating stroll through Kamloops’ beautiful West End neighbourhood.

What’s so special about the West End?

The Wren also had the opportunity to speak with Meghan Stewart, the Kamloops Museum and Archives museum educator, to get the inside scoop on what Kamloopsians can anticipate on the West End walking tours.

“It’s a very physical, very hands-on demonstration of the past,” Stewart says. “It’s a great way to get up close and personal with history in a way that you may not get to do with many other topics.”

The tours are a great way to enjoy the beauty and history the City of Kamloops has to offer, Stewart says. 

“I think it isn’t just about the homes themselves. They’re a jumping-off point for stories, right? The history of Kamloops is wound through them, and you can see it and even feel it when you take the time to look at these buildings.”

The West End walking tour will begin at The Museum and Archives June 29 and Aug. 26. Attendees will then head out on a loop through Memorial Hill Park, Battle St. West and St. Paul St.

Stewart says the buildings on the tour were built between the late 1800s and 1930s. The oldest home attendees will encounter, and the first home on the loop is a cabin built in 1843 by the Hudson’s Bay Company that sits within the Kamloops Museum and Archives Children’s Museum. 

“We will look at quite a few different houses and different examples of architecture through time,” Stewart says. “We’ll also take a look at some of the buildings we pass by on the loop, like Stuart Wood Elementary, the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the Old Kamloops Courthouse, the Inland Cigar Factory, and St. Andrews on the Square.”

How to spot a heritage home

If you cannot attend the heritage walking tours in the coming days, weeks and months, Yarmie and Stewart shared some tips and tricks to help you spot some heritage homes on your own.

Ornate wrap-around porches are a telltale sign you’ve stumbled across a heritage home, Stewart says.

“Obviously, things like wrap-around porches can’t be used to date a house conclusively, but if you are going to pick something to try and date a house with, those ornate porches are probably your best bet,” Stewart says.

Additionally, porches on the second floor called a widow’s walk or sleeping porch, are another feature to look out for, as well as shiplap siding, cedar shingles, and big square columns.

A large grey house with a wrap around porch sits on top of a hill in Kamloops' West End neighborhood.
This beautiful home, known as the Captain E.A. Nash Home, was built in 1910 and features a large and long veranda, stone chimney, cedar shingles and siding. All of which are signs of the era. Kyra Grubb / The Wren.

While decorative windows and doors are usually a sign that a house is old, Stewart says Kamloops homes aren’t necessarily known for their ornamental characteristics. 

“While Kamloopsians definitely had the economic means to build decorative homes, the town’s culture was sort of set in this unostentatious way of doing things … there’s a real blue-collar sort of strand that runs through Kamloops history,” Stewart says.

Yarmie echoed Stewart’s statements and explains that the lack of superfluous features was in direct rejection of Victorian architectural design.

A style of home you will likely notice on the hunt for heritage homes is the classic American Foursquare, Yarmie says. 

This photo features a Foursquare heritage home with beige siding and lots of windows.
This home, located at 149 Connaught Road, is a great example of the classic American Foursquare. Built in 1912, it features clapboard siding, leaded multi-pane windows, a hip roof and a dormer. Kyra Grubb / The Wren.

“Foursquare homes are that kind of house you see in Kamloops that look like a square or block. They were very prominent in the community for their efficient style and were popular among up-and-coming business people and railroad engineers, for example,” Yarmie says. 

Foursquare homes are typified by their boxy stature, clapboard siding, multi-pane windows, hip rooves and dormers, Yarmie explains. 

Yarmie also says Kamloopsians should look for classic Craftsmen style homes, which can be spotted all over Kamloops. 

He adds that Craftsmen style homes often feature brick and river rock foundations, stain-glass windows and “an emphasis on materials that bring the home back to nature per se.”

Another great thing to look out for is heritage recognition plaques, awarded to old homes by the City of Kamloops if and when their stewards – in other words, owners of heritage homes – apply for heritage recognition.

Yarmie says Kamloopsians should also check out kamloops.ca for information on the city’s self-guided downtown and North Shore heritage walking tours.

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