Kelowna’s Fleming House has to come down but it could return - InfoNews

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Kelowna’s Fleming House has to come down but it could return

This is the front on the Fleming House that was damaged by fire last monty but could still be rebuilt.
May 06, 2020 - 6:00 PM

One of Kelowna’s oldest buildings was so badly damaged by fire on April 22 that it is not safe to leave it standing, says Central Okanagan Heritage Society President Don Knox.

But many of the squared logs used to build the walls should be salvaged and used to rebuild the house next to the Brent Grist Mill, he said.

“When you save material like that it gives you the information about the construction, which would be valuable if it was going to be rebuilt, which is something we would like to see down the road,” Knox said.

The top couple of rows of logs are too badly damaged to be of use but the rest of the walls seem sound. It’s not known yet whether the floor joists can be salvaged.

“This has been done relatively frequently in the past, when a building is badly damaged,” he said. “You go in and save what you can to be reused, then you get somebody who knows how to do the square log construction and replicate what was done originally.”

According to some sources, the house was built by John McDougal who had unique building techniques that can be identified by studying the old logs.

The house was originally built for the Brent family along with their grist mill. Both buildings and a milk barn were moved to a field on Dilworth Drive between Mill Creek and the Rail Trail in 2002.

The house was damaged by fire in 2018, likely from a barbeque being used by squatters.

Kelowna Fire Chief Travis Whiting told last week that the cause of the latest fire was “undetermined.” Knox said that it appeared people were camping in the house. The chain link fence surrounding the buildings was often cut so people could get in.

The boarding around the Milk House also showed signs of entry, he said. There is fear that the other buildings may be burned in the future if the site isn’t restored with a caretaker living there.

The Heritage Society’s first job is to convince the city to not only salvage the logs but to number them and put them in secure storage for future use, Knox said. He doesn’t expect that to be a significant cost over and above the cost of demolition.

Ideally, he would like to see a major fundraising campaign launched to restore the house in the near future then work towards restoring the mill. As they are located close to the Rail Trail, they could become major tourist attractions, he said.

He just delivered his salvage proposal to the city yesterday so expects it to take awhile for them to reach a decision but, Knox said, he understands the city wants the building removed quickly because of the safety risks.

Lance Kayfish, the city's risk manager, said in an email sent Saturday that they are "still assessing next steps with the heritage society" and he would know more in a week or so.

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