III. ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION (continued)
HISTORIC CHARACTER DEFINING FEATURES (continued)
Fort Plain was historically defined by a dense stand of conifers to the west, north, and east, and by the Columbia River on the south. This forest acted as a natural boundary, separating the site spatially and functionally from other areas of development. The developed area on Fort Plain consisted of the stockade, which acted as the core of the fort, with other landscape features radiating out from this center. Cultivated fields, pastures, the garden, and the orchard were adjacent to the stockade. West of the stockade was Kanaka Village where HBC employees lived, and to the southwest along the river was an industrial area. A scattered collection of service/civic buildings was located north of Upper Mill Road.
Stockade and Vicinity
On Fort Plain, the fort stockade served as the administrative core of the site with other features spreading out from this center. The stockade included a major living area for higher-graded Company employees, and a storage and service area for many aspects of fur-trading, industrial, and agricultural activities. In ca. 1846, there were twenty-five structures located within the stockade. In addition, there were a few buildings located outside the southeast corner of the stockade and additional structures located southeast of the stockade along the Columbia River. Roads radiated outward from the stockade, accessing features on Fort Plain as well as the river and outlying plains.
Development of the area in the vicinity of the stockade coincided with the new stockade's construction in 1828-29. Generally, the area was organized in response to functional needs, which also related to the existing physical landscape. Agricultural activities were located on cultivable land near the stockade for easy access. These agricultural features included: the garden and orchard to the north and northwest; cultivated fields to the northeast and south; and the prairies along the river and north of Upper Mill Road that periodically served as livestock pasture. Features established ca. 1829 included the garden, cultivated fields, the grist mill, and at least one barn. As the Fort's trading and agricultural influence increased, the physical development of this area also expanded. Between 1829 and 1846, the stockade doubled in size, more fields were cultivated, agricultural structures were added including a barn complex, the orchard (as distinct from the garden) was established, and more roads were constructed.
After 1846, Fort Vancouver's influence began to decline due to a variety of circumstances including the 1846 boundary treaty between the United States and Great Britain, Chief Factor McLoughlin's departure in 1846, the transfer of HBC administrative duties to Fort Victoria, and the arrival of the U.S. Army in 1849. By the mid-1850s, stockade buildings were poorly maintained and by 1860, most of the remaining twenty-two buildings were described as in "ruinous condition". In 1860, Fort Vancouver was abandoned by the HBC.
While the outlying plains of Fort Vancouver farm began to be etched away by pressure from American settlers and the army, an effort was made to maintain the area immediately outside the stockade. Documentation suggests that activities in the fields, garden, and orchard continued by the HBC, if only at a reduced level, until 1860.
Area North of Upper Mill Road
Documentation indicates the area above Upper Mill Road evolved gradually. In addition to the agricultural development that began in 1829, non-agricultural development began in the 1830s and included the construction of residential buildings associated with Kanaka Village. In the mid-1840s several civic buildings were constructed including a church and schoolhouses, along with a couple of privately owned structures. Most of the development occurred in close proximity to the north side of Upper Mill Road.
By 1846, the area north of Upper Mill Road contained scattered Hudson's Bay Company structures including the St. James Mission, two schoolhouses, a barn complex and employee dwellings; privately owned structures, Ryan's house and a stable; and a large cultivated field. The prairie north of the developed area was used periodically for livestock pasture. A cemetery was located on the west side of this prairie. The development was accessible from Upper Mill Road and the road to the Back Plains, which had a spur connecting it to the river road.
Between 1846 and 1860, this area experienced significant changes as the Hudson's Bay Company influence waned and the U.S. Army's presence began to dominate development. By 1860, the army had created a new settlement north of Upper Mill Road in the form of army barracks and associated structures, a large parade ground, and new roads. This area would remain the core area for Vancouver Barracks for many decades, with remnant features from its early development still in existence today.
West of the stockade and the river road, and south of Upper Mill Road, was the main portion of Kanaka Village, the Company's employee residential area. Much of the village was located on the relatively flat terrain that sloped slightly from Upper Mill Road to the river. The western boundary of the village was defined by the conifer forest. By 1846, the majority of the dwellings associated with Kanaka Village lay south of Upper Mill Road, and north of Lower Mill Road. In addition to this core developed area, a few dwellings were located north of Upper Mill Road, and a few in the river front area.
Detailed information about Kanaka Village remains unclear. Its development probably coincided with the stockade's move to Fort Plain in 1829, and possibly preceded this move. The number of dwellings reported in the 1830s and 1840s varied between thirty to fifty structures. From 1849 to 1860, the area was transformed from an active HBC residential area to the U.S. Army's quartermaster depot. The decline of Kanaka Village began in the late 1840s as employees left the fort in search of gold in California, and by 1850, much of the population had dispersed. This decline was hastened by the arrival of the U.S. Army in 1849 and the beginning of the quartermaster depot. The army development included dwellings, shops, stables, roads, and several buildings rented from the HBC. By 1860, virtually nothing remained of the HBC Kanaka Village, due to both the decline of the Company and the aggressive clearing and demolition of HBC property by the U.S. Army.
River Front area
In this report, the river front area refers to the historical complex of structures sited around a pond between Lower Mill Road, the lower portion of the river road, and the Columbia River. These two roads and the river were the primary circulation routes for the area.
The evolution of the river front area is understood only generally. Early development was probably related to transportation activities which changed with the relocation of the stockade in 1829. By 1846, industrial activities included shipping and storing goods, shipbuilding and repair, coopering, tanning, and for a time, distilling. Employee dwellings, sheds, and stables were also located in the area. The exact number and location of structures in this area remains unclear. The river front area, as with Fort Vancouver as a whole, gradually declined between 1846/47 and 1860. Documentation suggests several structures survived during this period including three dwellings rented by the army; a house used as a hospital; boat sheds; a bridge (possibly a second bridge built by the army); a distillery; and the salmon store and wharf. By May 1860, these remaining structures were also gone. The army was apparently responsible for much of this later clearing, beginning in 1857-58 and ending with a major demolition effort in March 1860. At that time, the river front became part of the U.S. Army's quartermaster depot development serving, much like the Hudson's Bay Company period, as a shipping and storehouse area.
Overall Organization Summary and Analysis
The landscape features of Fort Plain served as the core or "heart", both functionally and geographically, of the extensive Hudson's Bay Company operations at Fort Vancouver. Fort Plain was organized according to function and natural features. The stockade served as the hub with other landscape features expanding out from it. The garden and orchard were adjacent to the stockade for close access, the fields were located on easily cultivated land, pastures were located on the part of the prairies that were not as useful for growing crops, industrial activities were located at the river for easy river access, and employee quarters were sited to provide proximity to work areas.
Today, while the reconstructed stockade serves as the core of the interpretive site, there are no extant historic built features and few interpretive or reconstructed landscape features that lend an understanding to the historic site organization. East Fifth Street (historic Upper Mill Road) still acts as a strong organizing feature, and open spaces of the parade ground and Pearson Airpark can serve as a reminder of the spatial relationship of the stockade to the fields and pastures. The river and reconstructed stockade reflect their historic locations; however, physical and visual barriers greatly impact their relationship. 
Last Updated: 27-Oct-2003