THE ADDISON SOD HOUSE
The Addison Sod House is one of 52 Provincial Heritage Properties in Saskatchewan (1992) and is also a National Historic Site of Canada (2004). This house is located in the Rural Municipality of Oakdale No. 320: 16km north and 6.5km east of the Town of Kindersley in west-central Saskatchewan (see map link below). Heritage value of the Addison Sod House lies in its association with the history of settlement in western Canada, in its design, and in how it evolved into a comfortable home over almost a century.
Most homesteaders constructed sod houses as temporary shelters during crucial years of establishing their farms. They realized that large blocks of topsoil, held tightly together by the matted roots of prairie grasses, could be an expedient building material. Sod houses were uncomfortable and deteriorated rapidly. They were replaced with wood-frame buildings soon as affordable. Sod houses were an integral feature of the prairie landscape during settlement prior to 1914.
James Addison incorporated several innovative design elements into construction of his sod home that guaranteed structural integrity. The sods were cut from a dry slough-bed where plant roots would be especially thick. They were then laid on flat ground in an interlocking pattern. A small portion of the centre of each sod was scooped out, causing the weight of the wall to slump towards the centre. This prevented the walls from falling over as they settled. Finally, the walls were cut twice as thick as usual at the base and tapered as the height increased, reducing the weight and pressure of the upper portion on the lower. Instead of the usual sod roof, Addison capped the house with a carefully constructed hip roof covered with wood shingles. The exterior walls were covered, first with vines, then with cedar shingles, which, in time, were covered with asphalt and then vinyl siding. These two innovations limited exposure of the sod to the environment, preventing erosion and ensuring a dry interior.
Addison originally intended to replace the sod portions of the building in time. However, when it became clear that the sod was going to be permanent, he divided the interior into rooms and converted the lean-to (a temporary shelter during construction) into living space. The sod walls were plastered and later wallpapered. The house was electrified and indoor plumbing was installed during the 1960s. A small earthen cellar is used to store vegetables and preserves.