Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the March 28, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Masham country barn storehouse of family history

by Lucy Scholey

Not many getaway spots can boast a five-generation presence and room for 17 guests.

The Barn, a 75-year-old long-standing family homestead and weekend retreat in Masham that once belonged to Escott Reid, can. The diplomat, scholar and ambassador - as well as former chief aide to Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson - converted the building into his retirement home before moving out in the mid-1990s.

Since then, the Barn has been home to yoga retreats, quilting groups, Buddhist rituals and last-minute out-of-towners looking for a place to stay. With Reid's granddaughter, Hannah Reid, at the helm, it could see more guests - both family-related and not - in the near future.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Over its 75 years, the Barn has evolved from its typical farm usage, to a retirement home, to a 17-person weekend retreat. It once belong to diplomat Escott Reid and has stayed in the family over five generations. Lucy Scholey photo.

"It was his intention to have it passed down to generations," said the 47-year-old Reid, who just took over the property last January.

Her grandfather, with his wife Ruth Reid, bought the 75 acres of property in Masham that sprawls across what today is Rte 366. It touches Lac Gauvreau to the north and reaches to the La Peche River and Gatineau Park at the property's southern border.

The family mostly used it as a weekend getaway during the summer months. planting vegetable gardens and dabbling in cattle farming. But the couple eventually moved into the neighbouring farmer's house after Reid retired in the 1970s.

When he started writing books on politics and diplomacy, Ruth built a room in the barn for his own space. In return, he also built her a private room to listen to the radio, smoke cigarettes and gaze at the view of the farmland. Over the next 20 years, they added another floor to house their caretaker and winterized the building. Naturally, they moved in.

"There's a wonderful view from every window," Patrick Reid (Hannah Reid's father) remembers his mother saying.

Patrick, an 80-year-old former yoga teacher and economist who took over the property shortly after his father moved out, started renting out rooms to accommodate retreats.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Escott Reid and his wife, Ruth, imported the fireplace from Germany. Other international souvenirs, reminiscent of the couple's lives lived in the barn and around the world, decorate the building's halls. Lucy Scholey photo.

"It just grew organically," he said of the cottage-turned-business venture.

"I thought I had retired, but it turned out I hadn't," he joked, while on the phone from California, just north of San Diego. Until recently, Reid lived in a cottage he built on the family property near Lac Gauvreau in 1962. He's soon moving to British Columbia, which is the reason his daughter is managing the property.

If a family makes a house a home, then take off your shoes and feel free to help yourself in the kitchen. With five generations of use, the Barn is steeped in family stories.

It's in the turquoise-tiled fireplace, imported from Germany, on the bottom floor and the rust and orange-coloured rugs hanging from the walls. They are souvenirs from the late Reid couple's past lives lived in India and Germany, when Reid was the Canadian ambassador.

Hannah Reid grew up on the property in the summertime and remembers jumping down to the hay bales from the barn loft, which has since become the home's attic. She observed her grandfather's vegetable garden, now gravelled over for use as a parking lot. He did not like the noise from the new Hwy 366, so he installed a fountain on the back lawn that's still there.

Reid said her grandfather almost bought the Wakefield Mill back in 1946, but he chose the more secluded farm in Masham.

"My grandmother wanted something with a lot more privacy," Reid said. "So she chose this."

Still, the barn on the property evolved into a weekend retreat - albeit lesser known to Gatineau Hills folk - but Reid and her husband, John Gorjup, are starting to advertise it more in hopes of attracting more guests.

For added information, visit www.the-barn.ca.

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