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This article first appeared in the December 22, 2011 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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News article.

Top hats, toboggans, tinsel at Fairbairn Victorian Christmas

By Lucy Scholey

The historic Fairbairn House may have seen recent renovations, but the 150-year old building will witness its first glance at the past in the afternoon Christmas Eve.

Fairbairn house
Jean laFlamme, dressed as Wakefield founder Wllllum Fairbairn, tips his hat as Ken Bouchard puls Delilah Shannon (front) and Maxim Oliver on a toboggun outside the Fairbairn House. Photo courtesy of Perry Zcvitz.

Anyone who stops by at its Wakefield covered bridge location will surely get the feel of a Victorian Christmas. People dressed in period costume join visitors in decorating the house with traditional tinsel and stringing popcorn around an outdoor Christmas tree. You might wrap your hands around a warm mug of hot chocolate after taking a toboggan run or a snowshoe tour.

Father Christmas will make a visit, but the star of the show will be the host himself, William Fairbairn.

Fairbairn, was a Scottish settler who, in 1838, built a mill that is now home to the Wakefield Mill Inn. He built the Fairbairn house, his second family home, in the 1860s. It has been relocated twice, and now sits on Hendrick park near its original location.

The Fairbairn House Solidarity Cooperative is raising money to restore the building and install a heritage centre. They finished the exterior last summer and are still working on the interior.

Michael Cooper, oo-president of the cooperative, said the group researched William Fairbairn's history and Victorian Christmas festivities to prepare for the upcoming event.

"For what we know of him, he had a big, extended family," said Cooper, about Fairbairn. "We know that he was a real family man. Consequently, he would have loved having children around."

Fairbairn house
(L to R) Members of the Fairbairn House Solidarity Co-operative Janet Long and Michael Cooper, Gatineau MNA Stephanie Vallee and members of the co-op Jean laFlamme. Anita, Rutledge and Luc Brazeau stand outside the Fairbairn House Dec. 16. Vallee donated $2,000 towards the restoration project. Photo courtesy of Luce Farrell.

The co-operative is organizing the Christmas Eve festivities in conjunction with Theatre Wakefield and the Wakefield United Church.

Jean laFlamme will play the part of William Fairbairn, and Theatre Wakefield actors will be on the scene in period costume. After the afternoon festivities, all are invited to take a candlelight walk to the Wakefield United Church for the 5 p.m. choir performance.

According to its website, the Fairbairn House Solidarity has a $525,000 fundraising goal. The building exterior is finished, with the interior still needing renovation work. Cooper says the house will include permanent and temporary exhibits about the Gatineau Hills history. Future visitors can expect an outdoors heritage garden, a gazebo for community use and resources for public schools.

"The co-operative wants the house to be a resource in the community," said Cooper.

According to the website, the project has raised a total of $180,000 as of Nov. 30, 2010. Gatineau MNA Stephanie Vallee donated an additional $2,000 Dec. 16. Cooper says he hopes the building will be fully renovated by the end of 2011, but that depends on fundraising.

As for Christmas Eve, Cooper is keeping his fingers crossed for agreeable weather. He's advising everyone to dress warmly because the house is not heated and he's also asking people to bring toboggans and snowshoes. Although treats will be provided, anyone is welcome to contribute a holiday sweet.

The event starts at 2 pm. and will end at around 4:15 p.m. in time for the choir-singing at the church.

For more information on the Fairbaim House project or William Fairbairn, visit www.fairbairn.ca.