Heritage Barn by Jan Harder

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The future of the Bradley/Craig barn on Hazeldean Road in Stittsville was on one of the last Planning Committee agendas. People were passionate on both sides of the recommendation. Heritage staff said, “It’s important to keep both the original farm home and the barn”. The applicant said, “We will keep the house, we will re-purpose it and invest in it but not the barn. Saunders Farm has offered to take the barn so we will dismantle it with care and move it to Saunders where it can be enjoyed by many. We cannot fit it into our commercial development.”

You see when Richcraft bought the land there was no heritage designation. The Fernbank Community Development Plan includes these lands and the future it portrays includes keeping and saving the buildings or moving them ‘in the area’. Richcraft did offer the City the barn and were willing to move it to the new district park nearby. The City said no way – too great a risk and the ongoing maintenance costs would be huge. The arguments to stay “in situ” or move come from two camps: A) Moving it from its current location would ruin its heritage nature, and B) Leaving it at the site to be surrounded by retail buildings removes the context that made it a heritage building in the first place. This was a building version of a nature vs. nurture debate. The Fernbank CDP identified this land as a strip along the corridor that would support the high growth urban area with commercial/retail.

What is that ‘thing’ that makes a place notable, heritage worthy? Also, to what level of financial burden should owners be held to in order to maintain, restore, or adaptively re-use a property?

On my way to Toronto this past weekend for my grandson Jonah’s hockey tournament, with the Bradley/Craig barn, still fresh in my mind, I noticed how MANY barns there are along the 401 highway. I also noticed that they were all located on working farms in rural areas. As I pointed out at Planning Committee, if amalgamation had not happened, the Stittsville area would still be rural and the barn would still fit in with authorized uses on neighboring properties. If the OMB had not agreed with the landowners that the Fernbank lands should be included within the Urban Boundary, the story would be different as well. This is not “amalgamation was bad” rhetoric; it was an acknowledgement of the changing circumstances of communities and the impacts of urban growth. The context of the area and how it is zoned/planned for development does change the character of an area. This was the line of thought that led the property owner to the decision to relocate the barn.

The Saunders family has established local expertise in the relocation and rebuilding of heritage farm buildings. The Saunders farm has 11 heritage buildings, 6 of which have been relocated from other farms. Each of the heritage structures has a plaque that highlights the history of the building, and if relocated, when and where it was relocated from. To the Saunders’ the preservation of the Barn and sustainability of its heritage is their top priority. It also helps that the Saunders farm is still a working farm, so buildings are seen in their proper context if not in their original location.

Let’s be honest here folks, heritage buildings are not cheap to restore or maintain. There are not a lot of ways to find funding, but I have dug up a few and included them here in case there are any readers looking to restore a heritage building themselves. I hope that they may prove useful and helpful.

The City has a heritage grant of up to $5,000, on a matching basis, to assist owners of heritage buildings with restoration work. This is an annual grant, available to successful applicants every other year. Applications are accepted from the beginning of January until end of March. It is a pittance compared to sustaining heritage properties. Should the City support Ottawa’s heritage to a greater degree?

The National Trust for Canada is a non-profit organization that provides assistance in networking and education on how to successfully renovate/restore heritage buildings. Some of the tips include how to leverage funding, there is also the crowdfunding web resource www.thisplacematters.ca that has been successful in creating funding programs across Canada.

Finally, there is Federal assistance through Heritage Canada. Most funding programs are annual and are of different relevance to any particular project. Look through the opportunities available at http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1427741123839 and see if any apply to your project.

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