Out on the Airport Access Road used to sit a barn, an historical old barn that was constructed some time between 1900 and 1920.
Over the years the wind, snow, sun and other elements wore on the barn, slowly degrading its structural integrity. A few months ago the inevitable happened; the barn fell over. A piece of local history crumbling to the ground.
The property that the barn sits on is a familiar one to many, it’s the first property you drive by on your way to the airport. Its history is rich, it was there before any through road was constructed, first owned by the Clark family. With the exception of Marysville, Wycliffe was the nearest settlement to Kimberley from 1900 to 1930.
Steve Foster bought the property in the late 80’s and since then, things have changed some. What used to be a tiny old house is now land, and his new house sits behind where the remainder of the barn is.
Foster walked around the property recounting memories, donned in his Canadian tuxedo; blue jeans, a jean jacket, and cowboy boots.
“The Clark family owned this whole property, and all of the land across the road up to Wycliffe,” he explained. “They were wheat farmers. You’d come out of the house to the front yard where the barn is. That’s where it all started. They started constructing the barn in either 1901, or 1920, I’m not too sure exactly but it took them ten years to build it.”
In Foster’s basement two photographs of the barn and surrounding property hang on the wall. One, taken by a local photographer, won a competition and now a 4 foot by 4 foot version of it hangs in the House of Parliament, says Foster.
The barn’s foundation is still there, with piles of materials surrounding it, organized by size and material type.
Michael Gerrand and his team from Salvage Solutions in Alberta have been working on reclaiming the materials from the barn.
Gerrand estimates that at least 80 per cent of the materials will be salvaged, re-used and repurposed. After all, that’s how he makes a living.
“Whether it’s barn wood or dimensional lumber, we have respect for the uniqueness and history of the material,” said Gerrand, who has been working with Foster for the past three years on a plan. The barn sat, tilted, for quite some time. They knew it would one day fall over.
He says that all of the materials that have been salvaged were purchased locally and will be incorporated into a period building in the future.
Gerrand explained a bit of the history behind the barn as he walked through the various piles of materials.
Pointing to a pile of old wood, that was once blue but has since faded from many years of sun, Gerrand explained that most of the materials were salvaged to build the barn in the first place.
“This pile here, this was from the original Cranbrook hotel,” he explained, walking over to another pile, much larger and laden with tar.
“This wood here was taken from the old McPhee bridge. We had no idea how we were going to tackle that 20 feet by 60 foot bridge deck up there. It was covered in tar. We thought, how are we going to get that down without ruining it? Its been a process,” Gerrand said, smiling with pride.
Amazingly, each piece is in great condition, with little evidence that it was taken apart by crow bars and hammers. His team painstakingly takes each nail, each piece of hand-forged steel, each piece of wood and carefully deconstructs it. They save as much as they can. Gerrand believes that many of the other pieces his team has salvaged also came from old buildings in the area.
“There’s a great deal of history that was in these walls, this wood,” he said. “With each nail that is pulled, we are reminded that this is wood with a story to tell.”