Okanagan Falls starts work to preserve landmark chimney

Oldest piece of modern history in Okanagan Falls has now been nominated for inclusion on a community heritage registry.

Thelma Detjen of Okanagan Falls at the site of a small cabin where all that remains are some timbers and what's left of a rock chimney. There is an application in to have the chimney dedicated as a historic piece.

Thelma Detjen of Okanagan Falls at the site of a small cabin where all that remains are some timbers and what's left of a rock chimney. There is an application in to have the chimney dedicated as a historic piece.

What’s believed to be the oldest piece of modern history in Okanagan Falls has now been nominated for inclusion on a community heritage registry.

Known simply as Michael Keogan’s chimney, the stone structure, a few kilometres south of the community, is believed to have been built in the 1870s’ by its namesake, according to a statement of historical significance prepared for the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Keogan built a cabin served by the chimney to “prove up” his claim to the land, which he was later granted by the Crown. The report explained. The Irishman was the first white settler in the area to receive such a grant.

A few timbers from the cabin remain at the site, now a field that’s part of a highway right-of-way, but little else has survived, other than the chimney.

Thelma Detjen, treasurer of the Okanagan Falls Heritage and Museum Society, said she’s “very concerned” about protecting the stone structure.

“That’s the only remaining physical (part) of any (original) settlement here,” she said, adding the society has been trying for years to have the area around the chimney declared a heritage site.

Tom Siddon, the RDOS director for Okanagan Falls, said he too is eager to see the site protected and enhanced, perhaps with a chain around it, plus an explanatory plaque and picnic area.

“It’s not going to become a Grist Mill. We’re not going to restore it or anything. It’s just there to be a little memory,” he said.

“It tells a story a story of how the community got started.”

The ranch that Keogan later operated near the cabin was rededicated in 2008 as the Keogan Sports Park. The RDOS board is expected in October to officially add the chimney to its community heritage registry. This could open up grant opportunities to pay for upgrades to the site and further protect it from development.