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Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 30, 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Yeehaw, we got ourselves a barn

Century-old barn completes the Fairbairn homestead
by Ben Bulmer

It couldn't be too big or too small, it needed to be at least 100 years old and preferably in pretty good condition, and after a year of searching, the Fairbairn House has finally found what it wanted - an old barn.

"All farmers built a first shelter, a log cabin, then, when they could afford it, they built a second home," said Fairbairn House president Michael Cooper, "and then a barn."

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Secured with a harness La Péche councillor Christopher Harris helps with the dismantling of his barn. Another barn was donated by Shawville resident Mike Smiley, together between the two structures a barn will be assembled at the Fairbairn House in Wakefield. Photo courtesy Micheal Cooper.

Cooper said the search for a heritage barn began a year ago. With help from the National Trust for Canada to start a crowdfunding campaign, the museum raised $9,000 in just seven weeks. From there, word went out that it was looking for a barn, appealing to landowners who might have one to give away. Several offers did come in, including one for the barn that sits on the corner of Carmen Road and Hwy 105 in Chelsea. Cooper said that, unfortunately, it was too big for the Fairbairn site.

A barn was then found outside of Shawville, and its owners were happy to hand it over. Cooper said it took four days to take the barn down, with most of the mezzanine and big timbers being saved. The age of the barn is unknown, but Cooper estimates it probably dates back to the 1880s.

La Péche councillor Christopher Harris also donated an old barn, so between the two, Cooper said, they'll have enough wood to rebuild.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
From left: La Péche councillor Claude Giroux, Liberal MP for the Pontiac Will Amos and Fairbairn House President Micheal Cooper celebrate their success. The museum received a grant of $26,000 from the federal government and La Péche has given $5,000 towards the project. Ben Bulmer photo.

The assembly of the 'new' old barn will start in July 2017, with predictions that it will take around a month to finish and the musuem will have to fundraise about $10,000 to see the project through. Cooper said the addition to Wakefield's Fairbairn House will complete the museum's heritage homestead.

Cooper said when a barn was originally built, the whole community would have come out and raised the structure in a day, during what was known as a barn bee. Cooper hopes to invoke some of the spirit from those times by getting the community involved in the project.

During a press conference at the Fairbairn House on Nov. 24, Member of Parliament for the Pontiac Will Amos, acting on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced a federal grant for $26,115 is being awarded to the Fairbairn House. "It's a symbol of our entire community's determination to preserve an important part of our heritage," said Amos. The Pontiac MP praised the work done by the Fairbairn House in showcasing the region's history.

The Municipality of La Péche also donated $5,000 plus the use of a crew and a backhoe to install the new foundation next spring.

Cooper said the barn will serve as a place to showcase a wealth of old farming machinery the museum has been given but currently has nowhere to display. He also hopes the space can be used for school groups visiting the museum and may even hold the occasional barn dance. For more information go to: www.fairbairn.ca


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