510 Hawkins: the kachelöfen Guest House

I appreciate meeting people who live their life philosophy. Suat Tuzlak is one such person.

I admire his philosophy about good wholesome food. I applaud his successful bakery adventure and organic food supplies.

But Tuzlak has another passion you might not be aware of. He has owned, renovated and refurbished a number of downtown homes over the years. He doesn’t tear down and start again; he nurtures the existing building.

One such house is at 510 Hawkins Street. Tuzlak owned the home in the late 1980s to middle ’90s. Some renovations took place under his careful eye: not only did he nurture the house, he transformed the yard.

He planted pine trees, crabapples and cherries. Eventually a park-like setting appeared, with the house nestled among the plants.

The most interesting addition, though, was the building of a kachelöfen.

A kachelöfen is a European ceramic-tiled woodstove, based on a technology more than 1,000 years old. Early records show craftsmen called Hafners (furnace setters) building the ovens around 900 AD.

The Hafner Innung (craft guild) began in Vienna, Austria, 766 years ago and is still active there as a professional association (http://www.vienna.net).

When humourist Mark Twain first encountered a kachelöfen, he is said to have asked, “When will America adopt these amazing and convenient heaters?”

During the time Tuzlak lived at 510 Hawkins, he owned and operated Alpine Bakery in a little space on Fourth Avenue. Then, as now, the bakery was a going concern, but space was limited.

Tuzlak tried an innovative solution. He hired a stone mason from Vancouver, who built a brick oven in the yard at 510. The kachelöfenwas housed in a separate building with 8-inch thick walls and a Yukon chimney.

In this cozy space, Tuzlak baked bread for the store. This worked for awhile, but having the baking done at a distance from the store proved too inconvenient in the end.

Plans were already afoot to expand the bakery and move it to its present location. The kachelöfenremained behind in the yard at 510 Hawkins.

My map from Land Titles shows this area of Whitehorse being developed in the 1960s. Hawkins, Hanson and Lambert streets all show individual properties between Fourth and Sixth avenues.

All the land in the downtown area was once the property of the Crown. After the Second World War, individuals began purchasing properties, lots were hived off, streets and a grid of homes developed.

From 1994 to 2006, the property at 510 Hawkins belonged to Jeremy Baumbach, who maintained the gardens Tuzlak had planted.

It is now owned by Roslyn Woodcock, who has an imagination to match Tuzlak’s. Under Woodcock’s ownership, the kachelöfen has found a new life. The tall, compact white building in which it sits now serves as a guest house.

True to its reputation, the kachelöfen itself provides lots of heat. A ladder stair takes the guest to a loft above the woodstove, where a comfy bed awaits.

The kachelöfen guest house looks out on the lovely gardens. In all seasons the vegetation has something to offer the human eye and soul.

Maybe the house at 510 Hawkins itself attracts imaginative people such as Woodcock and Tuzlak – people with the desire to capture beauty in older homes; people who live an environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

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