The McMillan Log House, built in 1885 and is currently housed at the Parksville and District Museum, is getting restoration work done through a Canada 150 grant. — Lauren Collins photo

Historic Parksville log house getting restored

Funding through a Canada 150 grant

Much-needed work on the McMillan Log House at the Parksville and District Museum has started after receiving thousands of dollars in funding.

The funding program is the Canada 150: Celebrating B.C. Communities and their Contributions to Canada which was designed to invest up to $7.6 million in legacy, culture and heritage projects in communities throughout the province.

The B.C. Museums Association administered the grants on behalf of the Province of British Columbia, with the support of Heritage B.C.

Of 416 eligible applications from across the province, the Parksville and District Historical Society received $13,000 for the McMillan House Remedial Conservation project.

Nikki Gervais, the museum’s executive director, said full costs for the restorations total $16,000.

The work being done on the building, said Gervais, includes replacing the plaster between the logs on the building. The plaster is made up of a combination of sand, lime, clay and horse hair.

Gervais said the previous formula, which is currently in the process of being removed, was not the original mixture that would have been used when the house was built. She said that instead, concrete that was painted white was used the last time.

“I think at the time it was just the owners who had it before we got it just maybe didn’t have the money for it, or maybe it was just patched by volunteers when they got here,” Gervais said. “Either way, we’re happy to have the building.”

Gervais said museum staff is expecting the work to take a few weeks.

Steven Draper, a theatre designer by trade who was also trained by master masons and contractors, has been doing the work on the log house.

Draper is taking out the old concrete and cement pieces and replacing it with the material that would have been used when the house was built in 1885.

“It’s a natural mixture,” Draper said. “It’ll expand and contract with the materials. It’ll help wick the water back out. It absorbs moisture, evens it out, and then basically evaporates it back away from the building.”

Cement, he said, basically absorbs water and holds it in.

Draper said the concrete mixture was allowing water to get in behind the wood and rot the wood from within.

The McMillan Log House, built in 1885 by Duncan McMillan, is one of the few houses left standing from that era, according to the museum’s website. The house is constructed of hand-cut, squared-off timbers, dove-tailed at the corners.

The McMillan house is a designated Heritage Trust building.

Gervais said the museum is looking for volunteers who would like to help with the work on the McMillan Log House. Current membership is needed in order to volunteer.

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May 14-21 is B.C. Museums Week which celebrates the contributions of museums, galleries, historic sites and other related heritage organizations to B.C. communities and their economy.