Bottle Houses of Treherne

There are bottle houses all over Canada; one in Prince Edward Island made of plastic bottles, another in Redit, Ontario that appears to be more concrete than bottles, and the classic embalming-fluid-bottle house in the East Kootenays at Sanca, B. C. It’s a big one made of 500,000 square-shaped bottles, but who wants to be in a house made of bottles that contained a product for after death?

The bottle structures of Treherne include a house, a wishing well, a church and an outdoor toilet.

Then there is the bottle house of Treherne, Manitoba. Actually, this is a collection of structures: a house, a wishing well, a church and a working outdoor toilet! Dora and Bob Cain, with the help of their friend Fred Harp, built the house out of 4,000 bottles between 1979 and 1982, followed by the church of 5,000 bottles, then the wishing well which only took 500 bottles and finally, due to the swelling numbers of visitors, a working outdoor washroom made of another 1,000 bottles. 

These bottles are nothing as boring as plastic drink bottles or a boring collection of embalming fluid vessels. These are good old fashioned booze bottles of every description, from wine to whisky to exotic foreign liquors contributed by friends. Now don’t get the wrong impression. It wasn’t that Bob and Dora, or even Fred, were big boozers. They got 90 per cent of their collection from the Legion on Roblin Boulevard in Winnipeg. Another 10 per cent, give or take a few, came from the socials held in and around Treherne. Some of the bottles are antiques, too, now encased for posterity in the cement mortar that thinly holds the bottles and the structure together.

The church contains a working organ, donated by the Anglican church in MacGregor and the stained-glass windows came from the Anglican Church in Cypress River. The pews were rescued from Winnipeg and cut in half (seating for eight) to fit the space. 

As for that outdoor toilet, well it actually flushes and there is a sink to wash your hands in. Bob’s son Joe is a plumber who made the magic happen after 7,000 people visited in one day all wanting to use the washroom—in the family home. You see, all this was originally constructed on the farm. Later the town of Treherne raised $43,000 to move the whole collection to the corner park at Railway and Alexander Streets.

Treherne is about 110 kilometres west of Winnipeg on Highway 2. At high season, it costs $3 to get in. It is worth the visit.

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