Special to The Morning Star
The Norman Bell House was built in 1916 and is located at 3405 26th St. in the heart of lower East Hill by Norman Bell.
He was a resident of Vernon for more than 40 years, where he practiced the skilled craft of blacksmithing, and was a well-known businessman.
Originally a native of Montreal, he travelled overland in a Red River cart drawn by a mare.
The Bell family were real pioneers, homesteading on the Prairies, and from the age of 16, he apprenticed as a blacksmith and was advised by his teachers to marry early, and never to “beat his way on the railway.”
After applying himself to numerous occupations up and down the West Coast, he eventually settled in Vernon were he married, and built his home.
He practiced his trade of blacksmithing at his shop which was one of Vernon’s early landmarks. His shop was located in the vicinity of the present-day Fisher’s Hardware Store.
He is quoted as saying, “Wealth is not measured in dollars and cents, but rather in good health, kind friends and contentment in the present.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bell lived in the home they build on 26th Street for more than 40 years.
The Norman Bell home was built using rounded-notched logs, which remain virtually unaltered today.
The style was bell-cast, hip-roofed bungalow, known as a colonial bungalow with a central dormer and inset veranda.
The home was situated facing west on a larger lot which was subdivided.
A unique stone wall frames the sidewalk at the front of the house and the original wrought iron gate, still in use today, was made in Bell’s blacksmith shop.
In 1955, the home was bought by Gerald Niemi and family.
Jan Polanski (nee Niemi) and some of the extended family still live in the much-loved landmark and have called it home for more than 60 years.
Polanski tells us that the home had two fireplaces. They burned sawdust, and had a coal furnace that was converted to gas.
The leaded-glass windows are the original windows. The floor plan was spacious and large, almost 1,600-square-feet, which would be considered a large home when it was built.
Polanski, knows the neighbourhood well and has watched Vernon, grow from a small town to the city it is today.
As a child growing up, she remembers sleeping out on the verandah when the summer was hot, and remarks that no one locked their doors. You knew all of your neighbours and it was an easy going place to live.
Vernon’s official community plan has identified the lower East Hill as a designated heritage area.
As you drive around the neighbourhood, you will enjoy seeing many heritage homes which have been well preserved and continue to be loved by the families who live there.
The OCP outlines the vision and growth strategies planned for Vernon’s future.
The city encourages the public to review and comment on proposed changes to the OCP and how these changes will affect neighbourhoods and how we want our city to grow. Most importantly, what part of our history is worthy of respect and identification?
This Heritage Corner article is written by Linda Jenkins, edited by Bill Hamilton and Shelagh McGinn, members of the City of Vernon’s heritage advisory committee.