Skip to main content

Volunteers from the Timber Framers Guild work on the final beam during a barn raising at ClearWater Farm in Georgina, Ont., on Aug. 24, 2018.

Christopher Katsarov

Sawdust filled the air of a small Ontario township on a sunny Friday afternoon, as cranes operated by a team of more than 45 volunteer builders from across the continent lifted heavy planks of timber while they put the final touches on the frame of a barn that is set to transform a community.

“You can just feel the love,” Annabel Slaight said. “This is a very special project.”

Ms. Slaight is the founding chair of the Ontario Water Centre, a not-for-profit organization that is leading the barn-raising in Georgina township, 45 minutes north of Toronto. The project has brought together more than 150 volunteers, all to work on a structure that is signifying a new beginning for Georgina on its 200th anniversary this year. The original barn, which had stood for 112 years, accidentally burned down two years ago.

Story continues below advertisement

The reimagined barn will serve as a multipurpose event space and educational hub for children, and is part of a larger vision for Clearwater Farm, owned by the township and leased by the Ontario Water Centre, to promote environmental sustainability for neighbouring Lake Simcoe. It is set on farmland that once belonged to the Reed family, who were among the first settlers in the area over 180 years ago.

“It ties the history we have with the future,” Naomi Davison, the town’s deputy mayor, said of the project.

The original barn, which had stood for 112 years, accidentally burned down two years ago.

Christopher Katsarov

On Thursday, the barn’s frame, made of Douglas fir, was raised before more than 100 onlookers who dropped by throughout the day to check out the progress, Ms. Slaight said. The town will gather Saturday for a festival to mark the official unveiling of the structure.

“The building of the barn has really brought people together,” said Judy Cameron, a local and volunteer who organized more than 1,200 meals for the building crew throughout the nine-day construction period. Many residents have also opened their homes to serve dinner or provide volunteers with a place to stay.

The barn-raising is the first phase of bringing the space to life; the completed barn is set to open by the fall of 2019. The next phase will be the completion of the 2,450 square-foot structure, which will have two floors – the first serving as an educational space for children in the community, equipped with a kitchen and a learning area that will feature a large sculpture of a turtle as a nod to First Nations’ stories of creation, done in consultation with the Chippewa people in the region, Ms. Slaight said. The second floor will serve as a multipurpose event space, complete with a terrace and view of the lake.

The overall cost is an estimated $1.9-million, Ms. Slaight said. Around half of that amount has been raised so far with the help of local businesses and members of the community. The Ontario Water Centre is also applying for federal grants to further fund the project.

The Timber Framers Guild volunteers for the project have come from as far as Boston, Vancouver Island and even California.

Christopher Katsarov

“There’s an attitude that nothing happens here," Ms. Slaight said, but she is hopeful the barn will add a new excitement to Georgina. She said the barn was planned with community’s children in mind, many of whom were consulted on what they envisioned the new space would look like. A key point for the children, Ms. Slaight said, was preserving the history of the barn that burned.

Story continues below advertisement

In line with the children’s wishes, Ms. Slaight enlisted the help of the Timber Framers Guild, an international, not-for-profit organization based in the United States that takes on projects across the continent, with the aim of preserving this traditional building method. Rob Geoghegan, project manager and a member of the guild, said volunteers for the project have come from as far as Boston, Vancouver Island and even California.

Last Friday, Joe Darby flew in from Roseville, just outside Sacramento, to be part of it all. While he joined the guild to learn more about traditional methods of timber framing, he said the town’s excitement toward the project has brought more meaning to his involvement. “I’m always surprised that people open up their homes to 30 total strangers from all over the place,” Mr. Darby said.

Ms. Slaight said some of the barn’s original pieces have been preserved, and will be reworked into the new structure, including “beautiful” hand-cut stones that once served as the base of the older barn.

“We can never bring the old barn back,” Georgina Mayor Margaret Quirk said. But, she added, "you try to turn a tragic event into something that is positive for the community.”

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter