Online Heritage Inventory

Finn Slough Heritage Area

General Information
Thumbnail photograph of Finn Slough Heritage Area
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Type of Resource: Heritage Area
Common Name: Finn Slough Heritage Area
Address:
Neighbourhood (Planning Area Name): Gilmore
Construction Date: 1928-mid 1940’s
Current Owner:
Designated: No

Statement of Significance
Description of Site
Settlers from Finland in the 1920s created the unplanned, unregulated collection of dwellings, boardwalks, net sheds and boats straddling the channel between Whitworth Island and Lulu Island on the Fraser River. Located outside the protection of the dyke, this small fishing community is ordinarily accessed either on foot or by boat.

Statement of Values
Finn Slough is the result of early Finnish settlers responding to social and environmental conditions in Richmond. The site provides an immediate and easily perceived link to the history of a closely-knit immigrant community which established a pragmatic hamlet with easy access to the river.
There is social and cultural significance in the story of immigration and settlement by Finnish settlers who brought their language and cultural traditions, and worked together to build a community with the security and sociability of very small, closely clustered residences.
The consistent massing and scale of buildings, and the rhythm of rooflines and related structures are important aesthetic qualities. Both tangible and intangible elements in combination create a unique sense of place and time in Finn Slough, which demonstrates continuity in its structure and an evolution over time.

Character Defining Elements
Key elements that define the heritage character of the site include:
· The linear layout of the boardwalk and the orientation of the structures in two rows on either side, connected by wooden bridges
· The orientation of the community as a whole to the Fraser River and its ability to be accessed by water
· The structures at Finn Slough are utilitarian in nature and demonstrate aesthetic quality through a consistent massing and scale of buildings, their clustering along the slough and along a central corridor, and through a rhythm of rooflines, dock structures, boats, boardwalk and hydro poles
· A consistency in building materials, mostly wood, and in the muted natural colours of the buildings and the landscape
· Small-scale elements such as pilings, wharves, docks, boats, railings, fences and planted gardens
· The presence of the natural environment in vegetation and water.

History
Settlers from Finland in the 1920s created the unplanned, unregulated collection of dwellings, boardwalks, net sheds and boats straddling the channel between Whitworth Island and Lulu Island on the Fraser River. Located outside the protection of the dyke, this small fishing community is ordinarily accessed either on foot or by boat.

Architectural Significance
Design Features
Significant buildings:
There are no individual significant buildings as such in Finn Slough. The importance of the built form in this area stems from the cluster arrangement of the structures, their history as a group, and their development over time. There are no exact dates available for the construction of the individual homes, only that the majority of them were built between the first settlement of the area and approximately 1940. New additions have continued the pattern of incremental development and have retained the overall vernacular character of the buildings.
Overall built form:
The site has a linear boardwalk spine on Whitworth Island, with houses on either side connected to the boardwalk by gangplanks. The buildings can be accessed by boat from the river or on foot by a wooden footbridge from the dyke to the boardwalk. Buildings on the north side are accessed from Dyke Road. The majority of the buildings are one or two storey wood frame dwellings and fishery-related buildings with fairly steep pitched gable roofs. Many of them are on stilts. They have evolved from the early “scow houses” which were rectangular structures on floating barges, and used as dwellings by local fishermen.
Aesthetic qualities:
Although the structures at Finn Slough are rough and vernacular in nature, they still demonstrate a degree of aesthetic quality through a consistent massing and scale of buildings, their clustering along the slough and along a central corridor, and through a rhythm of rooflines, dock structures, and hydro poles. As well, there is a consistency in building materials, and in the muted natural colours of the buildings and the landscape which makes the area particularly attractive.

Landscape Significance
Design Attributes
Cultural traditions:
As well as their language, the settlers of Finn Slough brought with them their cultural tradition of sisu, or determination, to persevere in constructing and protecting their community.
Circulation and open space:
Circulation through the site is across bridges and along wooden boardwalks which give access to the homes. Vehicular access is from Dyke Road. The slough provides an important access and circulation route via boat. Open space is mainly created by the circulation routes, the slough itself, and small wharves which provide boat moorage and outdoor space related to the residences.
Vegetation:
The native and natural vegetation is a critical component of the Finn Slough development. Although in earlier times the area would have maintained a more open character, today the dense vegetation is a reminder that historically the community has developed within a natural landscape.
As well as the natural vegetation, there are small cultivated gardens on the decking and naturalized ornamental plant species.
Views, vistas, perceptual qualities:
Views to the site reveal a tangle of natural vegetation with small dwellings and structures within. Moving across the footbridge, the view opens up east and west along the slough channel, and the spatial organization of the community is comprehended. The view closes in again quite dramatically moving along the wooden boardwalk on Whitworth Island. The sounds and smells of the river and wetland are also important qualities which reflect the character of the place.
Water bodies or water features:
The slough and the river are the major water bodies in this area. They are important to the form of the area as the Finn Slough community developed their dwellings and access and circulation patterns based on these water features.
Small-scale elements:
There is a prominent sign along Dyke Road identifying and telling the history of the Finns at Finn Slough. The two footbridges shown on the 1936 plan are in the same locations today as historically. As well, pilings, wharves, dock, boats and railings contribute to the heritage character.

Integrity
Condition
Overall, Finn Slough has a high level of historic integrity.
Location:
Finn Slough maintains an integrity of location as this is the original location of the Finnish community who built and maintained Finn Slough.
Design:
The original (or rebuilt) elements that form the space, structure and style of the area are still present; therefore there is integrity of design.
Setting:
The original physical environment that characterized the development of this area is still present, although modified by human activity.
Materials:
Finn Slough has integrity of materials as there still exists a majority of natural and original materials, particularly wood, that give the area’s built form its unique character.
Workmanship:
There exists integrity of workmanship as the existing environment has been fashioned here for the functional purposes of fishing and dwelling.
Feeling:
Finn Slough expresses both an aesthetic and historic sense of place and therefore possesses
integrity of feeling.
Association:
There is a conditional integrity of association. Finn Slough has an immediate connection to the ethnic group that constructed it, although the area is no longer dominated by Finnish culture, and there is no direct evidence of that culture.

Lost
No

Documentation
Evaluated By
Denise Cook BLA, PBD (Public History)

Date
Friday, August 10, 2001

Documentation
Jacobson, Ron. “Finnish Pioneers of Richmond” in Historical Vignettes of Richmond, Richmond Centennial Society, 1979, Richmond Archives.
Lyons, Cicely. Salmon, Our Heritage, B.C. Packers Ltd./Mitchell Press, Vancouver, 1969.
National Park Service. “Defining Boundaries for National Register Properties”, US Department of the Interior, 1999.
Reid, David J. The Development of the Fraser River Salmon Canning Industry, 1885 to 1913, Federal Department of the Environment, 1973. Location #6159, Richmond Archives.
“Rich heritage abounds in Finn Slough”. Richmond Record, October 12, 1986. Clipping File, Richmond Public Library.
Richmond Heritage Inventory Phase I, 1984.
“Richmond’s Finns toughed it out in slough”. Richmond Record, October 19, 1986. Clipping File, Richmond Public Library.
Ross, Leslie J. Richmond, Child of the Fraser, Richmond Centennial Society, Richmond, B.C., 1979.
South Arm Slough District Research File. Richmond Museum, 1991.
Tanod, Lynn. “Finn Slough Teeters on Brink”, in Beautiful British Columbia Magazine, Summer 2001.
Historical Photographs:
Location and Type of Plans Found:
Plan Showing Sloughs in Sec: 1, 2 ,3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, & 15. Block 3N. Range 6W, and Property Adjacent Thereto, 197-?. Misc. Planning Department Maps (Municipal Records), Item #1987 25 28, Richmond Archives.
Sloughs and Streams in Richmond c. 1985. Misc. Planning Department Maps, Item #1986 25 19, Location Maps 25.
Sloughs and Archaeological Sites of Richmond, City of Richmond Planning Department map, 198-?.
Geological Survey of Canada. Fraser River Investigation: Topographical Maps 1923, UBC Special Collections.
Waterworks Atlas Map of Whitworth Island and the area around the south end of No. 4 Road, 1936. Municipal Records, Item #1991 40 85, Richmond Archives.
Municipality Sheets of Richmond 1925. Misc. Planning Department Maps, MR SE 520, Richmond Archives

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