York Factory, Canada - Depot

The Depot (GPS 57.002797,-92.304737) is one of the surviving buildings of a Hudson Bay Company fur trade post built in the first half of the 19th century. It is a designated heritage building. Below is the inspection report requested by Parks Canada.

York Factory National Historic Site - general view. (Photo by B. LUCKI)

The Depot was constructed in the 1830’s, roughly on the site of the previous 40 year old Octagon warehouse. The construction was conducted in such a way that the transition from the Octagon to the Depot was done gradually without diminishing the storage capacity of York Factory. Fragments of the Octagon still remain under the Depot. They are of the highest archaeological value. The Depot itself has also significant national importance. It has been declared "Classified" by the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office because of the major role it played in the operations of the Canadian fur trade. From the 1820s to the 1850s York Factory was the major transshipment link between Britain and Hudson's Bay Facilities in North America. The Depot was its administrative, manufacturing and warehousing core, acting as a storage facility for goods entering and leaving Bay posts in North America.
Since the site was taken over by Parks Canada in 1968, the Depot was stabilized twice. In 1984 major elements of the building wooden foundation were replaced to eliminate the possibility of Depot deformation resulting from a decaying foundation. Rotted window sashes were also replaced to prevent the penetration of rain and snow into the building. This intervention however did not provide adequate conditions for the building and in the late 1980s it was decided that more thorough intervention was required. The work started in 1990 and lasted until 1993. The scope of this work included the replacement of all elements of the Depot foundation system and insulating the permafrost layer directly under the building with a 75 mm layer of high density rigid polystyrene insulation. A layer of 150 mm insulation was also installed around the building extending 2.4 m from the exterior walls. The intention of this intervention was to prevent permafrost melting, to provide stable ground for the Depot and to protect the Octagon remains inside the ice. Some interior columns were replaced or repaired and the roof was coated with rubberized acrilic paint. Eavestrough was installed around the perimeter of the building and in the courtyard.
Readings from monitoring equipment installed during the work along with recent inspections of the Depot indicated that the building floors are still moving and the presence of water under the insulation was recorded. A new investigation is planned to determine reasons of present building and soil conditions.
The rubberized roof membrane painted over the original metal shingles requires yearly inspections and re-application every several years in order to work properly. However there is only a limited number of layers that can be applied to the historic shingles. Thereafter the coating will have to be removed. Considering the poor condition of the old metal shingles it is believed that they will not survive such an operation. A new investigation has been launched to determine options for the preservation of the existing metal shingles and upgrading the roof quality to prevent penetration of water into the building.

B. Lucki

York Factory NHS - front elevation of the Depot. (Photo by B. LUCKI)