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Key Number: HS 52106
Site Name: Sunnyslope Sandstone Shelter
Other Names: One's Man Castle
Schech Dugout
Site Type: 0501 - Farming and Ranching: Farm or Ranch House
0599 - Farming and Ranching: Other


ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
31 26 4

Address: 14 miles W & 2 miles S of Three Hills
Near Town: Three Hills


Type Number Date View


Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Basement: Full Below Ground Level
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Stone
Superstructure: Stone
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Domed
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Sandstone lined semi-subterranean dugout with a wooden door located in a cultivated field. Roofing is sod or earth.
Interior: The ceiling of the dugout is barrel-vaulted with a small opening, possibly for a chimney.
Environment: Located in a cultivated field. Access is possible along the south section line. Although Mr. D. Page is cultivating the field, he is not endangering the mound over the dugout. Site is threatened by human pillage; two sandstone pillars which once stood on either side of the door are dismantled.
Condition: Remarkable stable - interior masonry is intact. Stone stairway shows signs of deterioration.
Alterations: Apparent Alterations and/or Additions: None Site: Original


Construction: Construction Date:
Construction Started
Construction Completed
Usage: Usage Date:
Farming and Ranching: Underground Dwelling
Dugout, habitation
Owner: Owner Date:
George F. Schech
D. Reddekopp
H. Reddekopp
Wm Taylor
D. Page
B. Page
Architect: N/A
Builder: Mr. Stein
Craftsman: George Schech
History: In 1903 George Schech came to Alberta from Wisconsin and built an underground home of native fieldstone. He was a mason by trade.
Dwelling was 10' by 12'. Dome was 10' high in centre. Frame buildings were later built on the surface.

* * *
No known outstanding historical attributes. The dugout has some regional notoriety; articles about the structure have appeared in the 'Farm and Ranch Review.' This dugout is important because it is an unusual adaptation of a typical mode of habitation. Dugouts were often reinforced with log beams or constructed partially of sod. This dugout being lined by mortared sandstone is unusual; it may be a unique adaptation of the crude dugout style. It consists of a mortared underground chamber stone stairway, opening in roof, dirt floor and a wooden door (which may not be original). Entrance has deteriorated.

* * *
Dugout was constructed by homesteaded George F. Schech in ca. 1904.
Schech, a German immigrant from Montana or Washington, was reputed to be a stone mason. Successive owners were D. Reddekopp (1921), H. Reddekkop (1937), Wm. Taylor (1949), D. Page (1952), B. Page (1972).
This dugout is important for both its typical and its unusual qualities. Dugouts were frequently made by homesteaders and were used as temporary places. This dugout, being lined with mortared sandstone, is an unusual, perhaps even a unique adaptation of the crude dugout style.

* * *
Update: Schech did not build this dugout. Mr. Stein built it
Name changed to 'Sunnyslope or Didsbury Dugout'.

* * *
Alberta News Release
May 18, 1977 Edmonton, Alberta
An underground stone house is one of three new Registered Historic Sites recently designated by the Province.
The Honourable Horst A. Schmid, Minister of Culture, today announced that the Schech Dugout, near Didsbury, ... have been designated as Registered Historic Sites.
The Schech Dugout, or 'One Man's Castle' as it is locally known, is a unique example of the temporary living quarters early settlers built while they were clearing their new homesteads. The Schech Dugout, built around 1907, near Didsbury, was lined with mortared sandstone, had a mortared underground chamber, stone stairway, fan-shaped entrance, chimney and a sky light in its sod roof.
Through the years, vandals have damaged the entrance, but the dugout remains basically sound, a monument to pioneer George schech's innovative adaptation of what was once a common dwelling practice in early Alberta.
* * *
HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The significance of the Schech Dugout lies in its provision of structural evidence of the use of dugouts by some homesteaders for various purposes, such as temporary dwelling space, cool storage spaces for vegetables, or storage space for other supplies.

Description of Historic Place
The Sunnyslope Sandstone Shelter was built early in the first decade of the twentieth century. The structure consists of a small chamber with sandstone masonry walls and a barrel-vaulted, sandstone masonry ceiling beneath an earthen, grass-covered mound. The only visible portion is the west-facing, arched, sandstone entrance, which projects above grade. The stone archway over the entrance has been reconstructed and the wooden door and door jambs have been replaced, along with the metal hinges. The dugout shelter is located amidst productive, agricultural land, but is immediately surrounded by natural vegetation growth. It is situated on one quarter section alongside Township Road 314 in Kneehill County, approximately 24 kilometres west of Three Hills.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Sunnyslope Sandstone Shelter in Kneehill County lies in it being a distinctive, albeit unusual, example of a temporary, vernacular structure common during the earliest stages of settlement on the Prairies.
Dugout shelters were a frequently-used form of shelter in the earliest stages of the settlement period. Settlers required some form of shelter from the elements immediately after arriving at their homesteads. They often constructed rudimentary shelters using pre-modern building techniques. In addition to tents, sod huts and simple shacks, dugouts were frequently excavated for use as temporary shelters. In the region that would become Alberta, dugouts were typically below grade excavations or dug into existing embankments. Roofs were generally made from logs or sod and were usually supported by poles. However, a wide variety of dugout construction techniques existed and stone, while unusual in Alberta, was used occasionally.

It is not known who constructed the Sunnyslope Sandstone Shelter; it was likely built by homesteaders who migrated from the American Midwest to the Central Alberta region between 1900 and 1905. One of these homesteaders, George Schech, used the structure as a temporary residence until he completed a frame house on the same quarter-section, after which he used the dugout as a root cellar. Both George Schech and a previous homesteader on the same quarter-section were reputed to have been trained stonemasons, which may explain the unusual choice of sandstone as the main construction material. Both homesteaders came to this region after residing in the American Midwest, where root cellar dugouts were also used as storm shelters. Stone construction was common throughout the Midwest due to the overall lack of trees and the added protection stone offered from tornados and other violent weather experienced by that area. The Sunnyslope Sandstone Shelter consists of a single, barrel-vaulted chamber accessed by a staircase. The main chamber, which is covered by an earthen mound, has mortared sandstone walls and ceiling and a hard-packed earth floor. Oriented on an east/west axis, it is approximately 2.25 metres by 4 metres in size and has a ceiling height ranging from 1.7 to 1.8 metres. Light and ventilation is provided by a small opening in the south facing elevation. The staircase, which is located at the west side of the main chamber, is constructed of large, flat pieces of sandstone supported by earth and smaller stone chunks. The staircase is also covered by a vaulted, sandstone masonry ceiling. Access to the structure is gained through a west facing, arched entryway. The shelter is situated in a cultivated field and the arched entryway, which projects above ground, and the vegetation-covered earthen mound, which covers the shelter, stand out in sharp relief to the flat topography of the surrounding countryside.
Period of Significance
1903 to present (2009) - The structure still exhibits the same construction method, despite no longer being used as a residence or storage facility.


Status: Status Date:

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Registered Historic Resource
Provincial Historic Resource
Record Information: Record Information Date:
M. Philps 1992/11/02


Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0623
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