Phrae Missionary Houses

Front of a Wooden Phrae Missionary Houses
Man standing in the garden of old wooden house in 1925

The Phrae missionary houses

Phrae was an important mission station of the American Presbyterian Church in North Thailand. 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. They were built in an American colonial style mixed with local traditional style. It is believed that the houses were constructed by Chinese builders as there were Chinese writings on many pieces of timbers. Both houses are now located on Charoenrat Road. With funds of the US Consulate in Chiang Mai one of the houses was restored.  This  house is on the grounds of the former Christian School. The second house is in deplorable condition and is located on the grounds of the former Christian Hospital, almost next to the other.

Front of a Wooden Phrae Missionary Houses
Restored Missionary House in Phrae. Picture by Frans Betgem

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 torned down, the planks numbered, and put again in order”.

Teakwooden House on hospital compound in Phrae

Conservation and Restoration

There were already plans to to restore the house on the hospital grounds back in 2011-2012 but they never materialized.  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.

Sign in front of Missionary House in Phrae
Looking down the veranda of Old Missionary House in Phrae
Front of Missionary House in Phrae
Restored Missionary House in Phrae. Picture by Frans Betgem

Unfortunately the second house is in very bad 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 really hope they will become part of Phrae’s architectural heritage. Both houses can be visited during our Authentic Lanna Tour.

Steps leading to the Old Missionary House in Phrae
Stairway of Old Missionary House in Phrae. Picture by Frans Betgem
Old missionary house in ruins Phrae
The second unrestored Missionary House in Phrae. Picture by Frans Betgem
Looking down the veranda of old teakwooden House
Veranda Old Missionary House in Phrae. Picture by Frans Betgem