Alexandra Lodge: a renovation update
Rebuilding work is continuing on a Fraser Canyon landmark and the owners are looking for volunteers who want to help out.
From Highway 1, the Alexandra Lodge looks much the same as it did a year ago when The Current first visited the Fraser Canyon landmark.
But a closer look and a chat with owner Shirley MacKinnon reveal the progress being made to restore one of the region’s most-famous historic buildings.
This is an update on the work on the famous Fraser Canyon landmark.
You can read our original story from March of 2022, with much more on the lodge’s fascinating history, here.
In April of 2021, Shirley and Ken MacKinnon bought the run-down building with a dream to restore it to its former self.
Mother Nature had another idea. Over the next year, she blasted the Fraser Canyon with heat, fire, landslides, rain, and so much snow it started to buckle some of the beams supporting the lodge’s roof. The lodge, though, endured, as it has since the late 1800s (but in large part because Ken added more beams to support the roof before it came tumbling down).
The MacKinnons were just emerging from the other side of an exceedingly tumultuous year when The Current first caught up with them last winter.
Ten months after that visit, the front of the building looks much the same, but the couple has dramatically strengthened the lodge’s bones, whipped the upstairs into shape, and ripped out years of rot. There’s still a huge amount to do but the future is bright, Shirley said, thanks in part to the goodwill of people from all across British Columbia.
On a recent late-January afternoon, Shirley took The Current around the lodge.
The effects of that snowfall are still visible, but so are the improvements to the 130-year-old building.
Walking through the back of the building, Shirley pointed to one temporary beam.
“The snow load was so heavy that this building would have come down if Ken didn’t have it braced all over the place,” she said.
The building is a two-person job, with Ken doing most of the construction work. So progress is slower than on a professional multi-person jobsite. But it’s coming. The rotted-out foundation has been strengthened and rebuilt, and the walls at the back of the lodge will soon be ready for final finishing and tar paper.
Ken (who wasn’t present during the Current’s recent visit) was in the midst of replacing structural beams that must be finished before a floor can be installed.
“By this time next week, the beam will be all done,” Shirley said. After that, the floor can be re-installed. Then Ken can begin work upstairs, where the MacKinnons will eventually live. That area has been roughed-in, and getting it in shape and insulated—the first insulation ever for the lodge—will allow the couple to move out of their RV.
Big dreams for the lodge remain. Shirley still envisions a lodge that becomes an arts hub and destination for travellers from around the region. The front of the building will be turned into a ‘living museum,’ pottery studio, and arts space. They also hope to renovate cabins on the 12-acre property so they can rent them out.
It would harken back to a century ago, when the lodge was a tourist hot spot.
A century ago, the lodge was more than a lodge. (You can read more on that in the story below). Vacationers from Vancouver would take trains up the canyon, to stay at the lodge and its several cabins, then return on the train.
“You didn’t even need a car,” Shirley said.
The train station that once sat across the road is gone, but work is now planned to restore historic train stations both in Hope and Boston Bar. the timing couldn’t be better for the lodge to retake its position in the Fraser Canyon’s tourist pantheon.
“I’m so happy about the Hope train station,” Shirley said. “I think that’s going to be amazing.”
The MacKinnons’ hopes have also been stoked by the immense public response to the couple’s work. On Facebook especially, the lodge has a dedicated following, with members of history-focused groups cheering the MacKinnons on and frequently offering help, donations, and supplies.
And the offers have been substantial. One woman has pledged a century-old player piano that can take up residence in one of the lodge’s front rooms. That piano is expected this spring. Others have donated brass beds and vowed to help restore the lodge’s historic stove.
Shirley said many people have expressed a desire to assist, and she said there’s lots for would-be volunteers to do.
On the inside of the lodge, volunteers can help remove (asbestos-free) drywall and ceilings down to bare wood. Outside, help is needed to clean up the grounds of the property. The lodge already has a few volunteer tradespeople, but labour for weeping tile work and front step cement would also be useful, Shirley said.
“We get lots of people wanting to volunteer, so I may as well put it out there.”
The lodge may also be able to provide a site for RVing and tenting while volunteering.
To volunteer, call Shirley at 778-773-6690 or email [email protected]