If you saw a two-storey Queen Anne house being hauled from one part of town to another this week, that would have been a Kelowna professor’s heritage home.
Literature instructor Shona Harrison bought the J. N. Thompson House on Richter Street and Sutherland Avenue six years ago. It was derelict and in bad shape, with no functioning kitchen, live wires, insulation coming down from the ceiling and holes in the shingles.
But Harrison, who restores heritage houses in her free time, took on the project, spending over two years renovating and getting the house back to its original charm from top to bottom and inside out. Her restoration work even earned heritage society awards from the City of Kelowna and another one from the province.
“It just lit me up and I just felt like I have a special connection to that house,” she said.
“My heart, however, has always been in the country. I’m an avid equestrian and so I wanted to really have a horse at my backdoor.
“It was a struggle to figure out what to do with the house. But after being approached by a few developers and real estate agents, it became apparent to me given the size of the lot and proximity to downtown, the house was going to be demolished.”
She said she couldn’t bear the thought of the house being demolished, another piece of the city’s history gone to make way for new development. So instead of just leaving the house, she took it with her and moved it to Southeast Kelowna.
Moving the house was nearly a week-long process, with crews taking the roof, porches and front and back steps off before lifting the house off its foundation. After that, it was a matter of taking those pieces one by one to Harrison’s new acreage.
The main house, even without the roof, was so tall that crews had to keep stopping and lifting electric wires before the house could move forward and because the process was slow, transporting the house took place late at night and into the wee hours of the morning.
Through many nights of little to no sleep and the worry she felt about moving an entire house, Harrison said it was all worth it.
“This is one of Kelowna’s most unique houses, built around 1910-1911. John Thompson (the original owner) was an orchardist and a prominent businessman and so that’s really significant,” she said.
“Having a tangible piece of history I think is so crucial. This whole undertaking, I consider it an investment in Kelowna’s history.”