A Hand-Built Cabin in the Woods of British Columbia’s Hornby Island


| 2/2/2017 9:39:00 AM


The following post is an excerpt from Builders of the Pacific Coast (Shelter Publications, 2008) by long-time Mother Earth News contributor Lloyd Kahn. A continuation of Kahn's journeys into the creative processes of owner-built homes — their innovative techniques, use of sustainable materials, and essential dedication to the natural elements surrounding their designs — Builders of the Pacific Coast explores the aesthetics and techniques of three master builders in California, Washington state, and the rugged terrain of British Columbia.

Michael McNamara studied architecture at the University of Oregon in the mid-60s, and then got drafted for Vietnam. Like so many other sixties-era draftees, he headed north for British Columbia, where he found welcome asylum.

As I met Michael and other 60s immigrants to Canada, I realized how wrong the term “draft dodgers” is. Sure, they dodged the draft, but primarily, they believed the war was wrong, that Nixon and Kissinger were wrong, and that they didn’t want to end up killing Vietnamese people. Trudeau was prime minister of Canada then, and his policy was that the border guards could not ask an immigrant’s draft status. And so Canada got some of our best and brightest, including this one.

Michael applied for landed immigrant status and moved to Vancouver, where he got a job with architect Arthur Erickson. On weekends, he was on the ski patrol at Whistler Mountain. One day, Dean Ellis, one of his ski patrol friends, told him about a carpenter on nearby Hornby Island who was building unique houses out of driftwood, and Michael started visiting Hornby.



There was a serious back-to-the land movement going on in that part of the world then — he felt so sympático with it that he moved to Hornby. In a year-and-a-half, he bought 10 acres with two other people, his then-wife Kirstin and Dean Ellis, and has been there ever since.



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