UPDATE: On June 25, 2014 the Criddle/Vane house was destroyed by fire set by arsonists.
A couple of years ago I wondered when the vandalism in the Criddle/Vane house would get so bad the place would be shuttered and no longer open to the public. That time has arrived.
On my first visit of the year to the homestead yesterday I noticed the usual well-kept grounds, trails groomed and accessible, everything as expected except for one thing: the huge eight-bedroom Criddle/Vane house has been boarded up, as you can see in the picture above. All the doors and windows are now covered with plywood and there is no interior access to the house. The same is true of the second laboratory.
I have documented the interior condition of the house several times on this blog and YouTube channel. The vandalism is obvious and heart-breaking, especially so for Paul Criddle, one of the few Criddles still living in the area. (Paul is Talbot Criddle’s first born.) Paul, who lives in Brandon, said the vandalism required the house to be better protected. The parks people concurred and it was closed up this spring. Paul would like to see a seven-foot fence erected around the house as well. The picture above shows the house unshuttered and accessible.
The homestead is a provincial heritage park and thus maintained by the parks people. I commend them for their consistent work in keeping the site clean and mowed and also for the new signage around the park. By explaining the events along the trail, the signs give a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Criddle/Vanes and how exceptional these pioneers were. From the golf course to tennis courts, hybrid plant gardens to entomology labs, weather station to family cemetery, the new documentation details it all.
Although the house is inaccessible, it takes little away from the ambiance of curiosity and kindness that pervades the site. Walk the trails, relive the lives of nine children and three adults who spent their first Manitoba winter housed in two flimsy tents with little to eat, see the foundations of their first log homes, browse through the little family cemetery under the giant spruce tree and capture the essence of an era modern people find difficult to comprehend. The above picture shows the Criddle/Vane house in a dilapidated condition when the site became a provincial heritage park in 2004.
One way to still see inside the house is to take my 3:55 personal guided tour of the interior of the Criddle/Vane house. Watch it on YouTube.
A few miles south of the homestead in the Sipiweske Museum in Wawanesa you can see Percy Criddle’s telescope, some of the family’s elegant clothing, their home made golf clubs and balls, some of Norman’s original paintings and a raft of other memorabilia from a family worth remembering.
This painting of wild roses was done by Norman Criddle who usually painted out in the field or from memory. A replica of Norman’s entomology lab, the first in western Canada, stands at the homestead.