Phrae Missionary Houses

old house on stilts

The Phrae missionary houses

Phrae was an important mission station of the American Presbyterian Church in North Thailand. Two Phrae missionary houses remind of those days. Missionaries built the two houses in the late 19th Century on the Yom River. The architectural style is different from other old buildings in the province. It is a unique American colonial style mixed with local traditional style. Chinese workers probably constructed the houses as there were Chinese writings on many pieces of timbers. Both houses are on Charoenrat Road. With funds of the US Consulate in Chiang Mai, one of the houses was renovated.  This house is on the grounds of the former Christian School. The second house is in deplorable condition. It is on the grounds of the old Christian Hospital, almost next to the other house.

restored missionary house in Phrae
Missionary House in Phrae after restoration

Lucy Starling’s story

Lucy Starling was a missionary teacher of the Presbyterian Church who worked in Nan and Lampang. She visited Phrae in 1912 on her way to Nan. Both houses were located on the Yom River, outside the city walls of Phrae. In her book “Dawn over Temple Roofs” (New York, 1960) she later wrote:
“The two bungalows were huge, barny structures, built of teak, with long, wide porches. In each of these, about twenty people camped.” The Yom River had changed its course though and was now cutting into the banks. “A new site must be chosen, and the buildings moved before they drop into the river”….. “The buildings on the old site were to be torn down, the planks numbered, and put again in order.”

Conservation and Restoration

There were already plans to restore the house on the hospital grounds back in 2011-2012, but they never materialised.  A couple of years ago, the US Consulate started showing interest in the conservation and restoration of the two houses. Both were in a bad state. Plans were made to restore both houses and turn them into museums. US Consul Michael Heath visited Phrae in 2015, and US Ambassador Davies came in 2016.

Veranda in poor state
Old Missionary House veranda

Unfortunately, the second house is in a terrible state and will collapse if nothing is done within the next few years. A budget of around 20million THB is needed to restore this house that is earmarked to become a medical museum. We will follow developments concerning both Phrae Missionary houses and hope they will become part of Phrae’s architectural heritage. If you want to have the option to visit the Phrae Missionary Houses on this tour: