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This article first appeared in the May 30, 2012 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Hendrick Farm flips old barn into modern-day office space

By Lucy Scholey

Everyone told Sean McAdam and Carrie Wallace to just tear down the old barn.

Light filtered through the old rafters, torn tin was peeling off the sides, cat skeletons and pigeon poop blotted the rotten wood and the whole building leaned. The 135-year-old Old Chelsea Road structure had seen better years.

Hendrick barn
You won't see any pigs in the Hendrick Farm's 135-year-old barn (but maybe you'll catch a glimpse of wildlife from the window overlooking 80 acres of land). The developers of the housing and commercial development have turned it into a fresh office space. Photo courtesy Carrie Wallace.

Where most people saw decay on the old Hendrick family land, McAdam and Wallace saw their new office space. It was fitting, after all, to have their working area overlooking their 110-acre Hendrick Farm housing and commercial development project. So the two developers set out to find workers and architects "as crazy as we were" to flip the barn into something usable.

Nearly eight months later, the 45-foot-high barn is like something out of a home decorating magazine. Cream-coloured walls brighten the upstairs common area, a punchy red table neighbours a couch and two chairs atop fresh hardwood floors. A painting courtesy of Chelsea artist John Ovcacik hangs from a wall.

Most strikingly, a large window overlooks 80 acres of the property, including the threeacre garden maintained by farmers. It was a last-minute decision, but Wallace and McAdam are the happier for it: the view is a welcome distraction from work.

The developer duo kept the barn's character. The wood ceiling is original, as are the heavy beams that frame the windows. The building sits on its original foundation, which means it has its quirks.

"The floor is level, the windows are level and everything else is crooked," said McAdam.

With a kitchenette on one side, a filing cabinet on the other and two smaller offices, it could easily be a home. In fact, it's where McAdam and Wallace spend 15-hour days working on the Hendrick Farm development project.

Hendrick barn
This is the hayloft of the old Hendrick Farm pig barn before the renovations. Light seeped through the rafters, it leaned (actually, it's still crooked) and there were cat skeletons found among the hay. Photo courtesy Carrie Wallace.

Their next phase is 34 homes and they hope to hit ground in July.

While their development moves forward, the Hendrick family farmstead remains. To Wallace and McAdam, it was crucial to keep it that way, since the barn is so integral to the land's history.

Their fresh office space was originally a hayloft that overlooked the pigs' enclosure. In 1953, landowner (and once the mayor of Chelsea) Vincent Hendrick built an additional barn structure for horses and cows. McAdam and Wallace have yet to decide on how they're going to use the space.

"Vince Hendrick knows how to build a barn," said McAdam, looking up awestricken at the 65-foot-high, cathedral ceiling. "He hasn't touched it (since) and it's rock-solid."

McAdam and Wallace bought the farm in July 2011 and started the roughly $100,000 renovation job last September (despite this recent purchase, they have had an agreement with the Hendrick family to develop the land since 2004).

Like Hendrick, McAdam and Wallace kept their construction and supplies local. Everything from the wood supplies, to the plumbing and even the cushions were acquired from their neighbourhood.

"It was a big Chelsea project," said Wallace.

Not only is it in line with their keep-it-local garden and commercial development, but it's also helped their project become "much more farm-centric."

"It's a great daily reminder of what this project is all about," said McAdam. For more information about the Hendrick Farm development, visit www. hendrickfarm.ca.

Hendrick barn
Vincent Hendrick built the bigger barn, left, in 1953. He added it on to the 135-year-old pig barn, on the right. Photo courtesy Carrie Wallace.
Hendrick barn
The old barn is looking a little sturdier these days, now that it's been turned into an office space for the Hendrick Farm developers. L. Scholey photo.