Sod Houses

Picture in your mind the hearty pioneers, weaving their way across the prairies to a new home. They stroll through endless days of gently swaying grass, the deer and antelope frolicking around them, bison contently munching off in the distance. Everything is serene as these families search out a spot to put down roots. Homesteaders in northern Alberta put in back-breaking labour to clear the forested land—but they had more than enough wood for homes and firewood. In the south, hardships were no less but different. Those innovative souls used the materials that nature provided in abundance for their homes.

From the late 1800s until the rail lines were built, sod was the name of the game. The best sod came from the areas around creeks or sloughs, where the roots went deeper. Rectangles were cut and piled in layers for walls, using some of the small trees for support. More logs provided the framework for the roof which was again covered in sod strips. Floors were usually dirt, packed and swept. Cozy, but every home has its challenges.

They were dusty and buggy in the summer but adequately insulated during the cold winter months. And the “soddies” required constant maintenance. Once lumber could be obtained, these homes were abandoned, and eventually the earth reclaimed them—with the exception of one. The Addison Sod House, north of Kindersley, SK was built in about 1909 and still stands. It is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Don’t miss the chance to take a step back to the 1800s in a building right in our own backyard. Visit Fort Whoop-Up in Lethbridge and enjoy learning about the whiskey and robe trade that built our region. Come for a wagon ride and the entertainment too! On Saturday, July 30th see Bud Edgar the Comedy Cowboy perform from 1-2 pm. Admission fees apply.