One of B.C.’s forgotten landmarks is being brought back to life.
The Alexandra Lodge was in dire straights when Shirley and Ken Mackinnon bought it in 2021, but since August they’ve been working night and day to restore the building to its former glory. Here is the first in a series that will continue every month as the Mackinnons work in the present, discover the past and dream about the future.
Since Shirley and Ken Mackinnon took ownership of the Alexandra Lodge last fall, their stove has been (forgive the pun) a hot topic of conversation.
It’s an ancient wood-burning beast, rusted and neglected. But everyone who has talked to Shirley about the lodge renos has asked about it.
“One of the first questions we get is ‘Where is the stove?’ That stove honestly has its own following,” Shirley said with a laugh. “We know it was once used for cinnamon buns. We just had a fella in yesterday who said he saw once it fired up making cinnamon buns and Jim Wolfe, who’s a historian in New Westminster, sent us a water colour of a cinnamon buns sign out front of the lodge.”
The Mackinnons were recently sent a photo of the McLary Manufacturing Company’s ‘Navy’ flat-top range model in a 1941 catalogue, which would make it 81 years old.
But there’s reason to suspect it’s even older than that. The building the stove resides in has been dated back to 1891.
“If we could find out how far back they made this type of stove, it might have been here from the very beginning,” Shirley mused. “It’s very likely, because it’s kind of built into the house and it was the heat source for the house, but we don’t know for sure.”
An aluminum badge on the front of the stove says it comes from London, Ontario. It would have travelled by train to the lodge, and it’s possible it was even used on a train before finding its current home. The Mackinnons don’t know if that last part is true.
People have reached out to the Mackinnons about restoring the stove. It’d be a tall task. The original layer of gunmetal gray paint can still be seen under a layer of rust and oxidation, and it’s not hard to look at it now and imagine the way it used to be.
“Once it’s safe to have people to be in here, we have people who want to come and polish it up for us,” Shirley said. “That would be a part of the restoration. People are so focused on that stove.”
Bringing it back to fully-functional status will be much harder. It vents outside through a chimney that collapsed above the roof. That’ll need to be fixed. The stove itself has some badly rusted gears that need to be dealt with, including one that is badly bent out of place.
Ken has pondered switching the stove over to propane.
“But some people say that’s sacrilegious,” he laughed. “I’ll probably leave it as wood, but it’s got to be that shiny gun-metal grey. That’s got to be done. It’s on the list of to-dos, but it’s a bit of a ways down, and it will be very important for us to do it correctly.”
Piecing together the history of the stove has been fun, and the Mackinnons are meeting lots of interesting people doing it.
“It blows us away how people come in with so many stories associated with that stove,” Shirley said. “We think about the people staying in the cabins and wonder how many breakfasts it would have cooked. It’s a lot of fun to think about.”