Looking Back: Inside Archaeology at Haney House

July 18, 2018

The history of Maple Ridge cannot be summarized in one part of town, a single person, or solitary building; but the legacy of Haney House and the memories contained within its walls come close.  With assistance from the Province of British Columbia through the Canada 150 program and the City of Maple Ridge capital fund, 135 year old Haney House has received some much needed repairs and renovations.  New windows, doors, and roof grace Maple Ridge’s own Victorian heritage house museum.  Not only did the house get much needed repairs, but it was a perfect opportunity to do some in-depth research and exploration of the house itself.  Haney House was a family home of the Haney and Hawley families from 1883-1979 before it was donated to the city and turned into a museum, leaving a centuries worth of history for the historical society and volunteers to peel back and discover. 

A study of the wallpaper from several rooms and closets in the house revealed wall coverings dating back 135 years to the original.  Carefully peeling back one layer at a time, much like an archaeological excavation, we discovered layer upon layer of wallpaper, updated time and time again to match the latest styles.  Something as simple as wallpaper can show changes in in style, taste, and artistic design connecting Haney House, and Maple Ridge, to international artistic movements. 

Curator Allison in her safety gear while exploring the cabinet under the stairs for newspaper and wallpaper samples.

While completing the wallpaper study, a surprise discovery was made in the attic, original cedar roof shingles painted with iron oxide red paint.  Apparently, the roof was originally painted red, which was a common style in the late Victorian age.  While uncovering the final layers of the original wallpaper in spots all over the house, we discovered that the original walls were not lath and plaster, as originally thought, but horizontal wooden boards covered in muslin, newspaper, and finally wallpaper plastered on top. This came as a huge surprise and, like the wallpaper styles and roof paint, add to our understandings of how the house was built and updated throughout a century of use. 

Because Haney House was occupied from 1883-1979 the house had been lived in and updated throughout the century.  These updates can be seen in the addition of electricity, clearly visible in fixtures and wires running along the outside rather than the inside of walls.  It can also be seen the addition of centralized heat, with original pipe fixtures still visible in ceilings and floors.  When restoring and renovating old homes there are always surprises and discoveries to be made, but at Haney House we were privileged to have our discoveries be meaningful not only for to the house, and the Haney family, but also our city and its rich history. 

Wallpaper from the 1800’s found at Haney House.