Issue # 60, May 2013, ISSN 1913-4134
As I began preparations for this newsletter, it was (and still is!) wonderful to ponder that we have already reached the 60th issue of The White Fence . As the old saying goes: how time flies when you're having fun! It is certainly very fitting here.
We are at a very special time of our existence since the birth of the first issue of The White Fence in January 1997. Since the creation of the Tanramar Heritage Trust (THT) in the mid-1990s, we have established two museums in Sackville (Campbell Carriage Factory Museum and the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre) and, with the assistance of Heritage Canada, the Town of Sackville and special benefactors devoted to preserving the history of this beautiful Town, helped to secure and move the Anderson Octagonal House (previously a Tourist Centre and Craft Gallery) to a new site. As described in detail in The White Fence no. 59, this very special and unusual building was moved from the corner of King and Main Streets to become neighbor of the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre on Queen's Road. And once there, a new stage was reached: renovations!
Some renovations are more significant than others. Our latest endeavours to move and renovate the Anderson Octagonal House were especially significant activities. The 59th issue of this newsletter was devoted to "the move". And the present newsletter is to show and describe to you the many steps needed to bring this marvelous and beautiful structure to a new phase in its long life (i.e. "the renovations"). Please note that the article was not only compiled and written by the present THT treasurer (and former THT President) Dr. Paul Bogaard, but, more importantly, all members should be aware that Paul was also instrumental in making both the move and renovations possible. On behalf of all members: thank you Paul!
The renovated Octagonal House will not only be a very useful structure for meetings and historical presentations, it will also house interesting displays about the history of Sackville since its founding as well as a new Resource Centre which will open many new doors towards our further understanding of this fabulous part of the world known as the Tantramar Region. So, as the preparations of displays for the Octagonal House are being prepared for the upcoming summer months, do plan to someday visit this new and significant part of the Town of Sackville. Announcements will appear in the Sackville Tribune as the final touches are being applied. So dear friends, stay tuned and, as always,
— Peter Hicklin
An Octagonal Renovation
By Paul Bogaard
The renovation of the Anderson Octagonal House proved to be a mix of restoring what could be salvaged from its former lives and rehabilitating the rest to serve present-day purposes. Over the decades the house served as family home, widows' refuge, rental property, industrial storage, tourism bureau and now museum. Each of these stages can be seen in features of the house we were able to restore, including much from the 1850s when it was built by Captain George Anderson. About half restoration and half rehabilitation, as it turned out . . . a product of circumstance, generous support and thoughtful planning.
Earliest photo of Octagonal House (1931 McCully aerial)
It began with the decision to move the octagonal house back across town, for the second time (see "The Second Time Around" in: The White Fence #59, February 2013, pp. 4-6). The Town of Sackville was willing to donate the house but could not include the land on where it stood for the last 25 years since this piece of land was part of the Mount Allison campus. The Tantramar Heritage Trust was willing to take on this octagonal renovation but only if we could move it near our existing museum (The Boultenhouse Heritage Centre).
The challenge of renovating this eight-sided house prompted the Trust to formulate an eight-part plan. It has required a full year of reconstruction to carry out this plan (from the spring of 2012 through the winter of 2013) and it had taken a full year from the spring of 2011 to work out the plans and secure the funding required. By April of the year in which Sackville reached its 250th anniversary, the Trust knew that (with thanks to its loyal donors, the Town and the Province of New Brunswick) there would be enough support to match a major contribution offered by Canadian Heritage. Taken together, this would be sufficient funding to enable this project to proceed, and so the decision was finalized to begin the most expensive and most challenging project the Heritage Trust has yet undertaken. It also meant the whole project could become part of the 250th celebration and house a permanent display on our resettlement as a British township.
The eight-part plan, like the renovation itself, began with the move. If the old post-and-beam structure could be moved and restored, then it would need a proper foundation. Originally sitting on foundation stones, a full basement would be a completely new feature, and one which would come with very useful new space.
Similarly, the roof would have to come off to permit moving the building under power lines. This time the roof would need to be completely dismantled, and then reconstructed according to modern standards. This structural requirement, as it turned out, opened up an intriguing opportunity for much needed meeting space.
The hope for the main floor, as well as the exterior, had always been to save as much as possible and retain as many of its character-defining elements as possible where restoration was unavoidable. Where one crossed from restoring the old to replacing with new would have to be determined as the project unfolded; the expectation was that the main floor would serve as an extension to our museum space at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, featuring i) the octagonal house itself, ii) the Anderson family who had built and lived in it, and (iii) the story of Sackville's founding 250 years ago.
The photos we used here serve to illustrate how this project unfolded - an eight-part renovation - and, like the procedure for reconstruction, it began with the bottom and the top, and then filled in-between.
1 Providing a full basement for the house's foundation meant we were able to provide extra space. We have developed two museum sites, but both were desperate for storage and space for conservation work. Once the move proved successful, this needed to be the first step in renovation.
Construction of new roof with new reconstructed cupola
2 Once securely on its foundation, reconstructing the roof was the next priority. However, dismantling the old roof had left us with the original hip rafters and the upper octagonal ring, but little else that was re-usable. So, the roof required completely new materials and current construction techniques, allowing for up-to-date insulation and ventilation. And with careful planning we were able to refit the octagonal ring and hip rafters… giving us an eight-sided cathedral ceiling! To top it off, we replaced the cupola, originally part of the Anderson's octagonal house, although the new one is fitted with windows (not just ventilation louvers) filling the upstairs with light. Dismantling the original roof proved that most of it could not be reused. But we learned a lot about the old house. Fortunately, the upper octagonal ring and hip rafters could be salvaged, though getting them down was tricky. Once on its new site, new rafters and a new "ring" were constructed due to rotting of the original aged wood. As the new roof took shape, a drawing which had been made of the original cupola was used to establish the shape & size of the new cupola. Initially constructed inside, the new cupola was then re-attached onto the roof; with footholds & safety harness in place and the finishing touches applied.
3 By comparison to the upper half of the upstairs, the lower half, which includes the original floors and exterior "knee" walls, were fully restored (the interior walls having been removed in the 1980s). The dormer, the floor-level windows and banister were features of the original house…but all had to be rebuilt. The upstairs has become, as a result, a combination of restoring the old along with new construction, including the provision of a dramatically new meeting room - worthy of being called the "Great Room" - with space enough for a variety of uses.
The Great Room with its first guests on Heritage Day
4 On the main floor, the front entry, front hall and two front rooms with their bay windows were all original and could be restored. Some features had to be rebuilt (and the stairway had already been replaced 25 years ago) but most of the front half of the house was a matter of careful restoration.
Of the two front parlours, one has now been reserved for displays featuring the remarkable seafaring Anderson family who built this octagonal house and lived there for over forty years.
5 The other front parlour provided one entire room to house the Resource Centre which had already outgrown its cramped space above the Heritage Trust office. A special grant from the Crake Foundation made possible fully restoring and fully furnishing this space for researchers working on local history.
6 The front hall originally led to a hallway between two back rooms, and on through a rear door leading into an extension housing the main kitchen (and likely included a cellar). The rear extension is long gone, taken down with its chimney and the two main chimneys decades ago. Indoor toilets were added into these rear rooms at some point (along with a bathroom upstairs by the dormer) and all these contributed to considerable rotting of flooring and structural timbers. Although the exterior walls remain, keeping the octagonal shape of this house intact, much of the floorboards and supporting structure had to be completely replaced.
The hallway and the remains of these two rear-rooms have been transformed into a special space displaying the commemoration of Sackville's founding as a Township in 1762. The central portion of the rebuilt area has been reconstructed as the major feature of this display - the old tavern in which Sackville’s founding meetings were held.
7 Otherwise, this rear area of the house has been converted into washrooms and a small kitchenette, confining these contemporary functions into areas that had to be rebuilt, anyway. One washroom will meet the needs of anyone in a wheelchair and is next to the rear entrance now enlarged to accommodate wheelchairs.
Including both upstairs and on the main floor, about half of this renovation represents a restoring of original space with original floors and walls, right out to the octagonal exterior. The roof above, like the basement foundation beneath, however, are all new and able to meet current needs for security, insulation, utilities and so forth. Roughly half-restored and half-replaced has been a good compromise, both for the integrity of this octagonal house and for all the modern uses to which it can now be put.
8 The last portion of this octagonal renovation will be the exterior, much of which is already completed. The remainder will depend on what the weather will allow. The siding and roofing has all been replaced with materials that retain the distinctive features of this octagonal house.
Most of the doors, windows and trim were able to be restored from what was there originally, and everything now carries a new coat of paint - in the old colours revealed during this octagonal renovation.
The exterior of the new basement, and the deck and wheelchair ramp remain to be completed. The landscaping we hope to complete as weather permits and, while not original, it should complement the wonderful façade of this extraordinary Anderson Octagonal House.
At the outset we acknowledged that major donations needed to be secured to allow this project to proceed. But that is only half of the story. We also relied upon the talents of local artists, historians, graphics designers and many tradesmen. These workers all put much more into this project than was asked of them. Peter Manchester, Rob Lyon and Angelica DeBenedetti lent their artistry to our displays, as did Leslie Van Patter and John Crawford to their design and installation. A remarkable list of volunteers lent their time and enthusiasm to painting, cleaning and meeting endless small needs. Within the Heritage Trust, I was repeatedly assisted by Al Smith, Margaret Fancy and Kip Jackson. And then there was the skilled work of moving, restoring and reconstructing. For this we will ever be grateful to the tradesmen and women of MacDonald Movers, Pooley Electric, Heritage Wrought Iron, Sackville Plumbing, Fundy Environmental, and at the heart of it all: Energreen Builders Cooperative.
The Discovery Committee of the Tantramar Heritage Trust
By Dodie Perkin
In this issue of The White Fence , we would like to introduce you to our Discovery Committee. The Discovery Committee consists of Alex Fancy, Vanessa Bass, Lucy MacDonald, Rebekah Cant, and Dodie Perkin (chair). We have been a formal committee since the autumn of 2010, after the Trust received funding from Canadian Heritage under the Community Museum Assistance Programme to develop its Education, Outreach and Programming goals.
Our first task was to develop a policy to govern the educational activities of the Trust. After meeting regularly to discuss and formulate our policy, it was formally adopted by the Trust's Board in October 2011. The policy was presented to the 2012 Annual General Meeting of the Trust.
Since then, the Committee's focus has moved to improving and developing a range of exciting activities for our visitors. The Committee made a successful grant application to the Government of Canada's Career Focus Programme last year, and subsequently hired Charlotte Gleave Riemann as our first Education Intern. Charlotte worked in this capacity from January to August 2012. If you were at either museum last year, chances are that you benefitted from Charlotte's involvement with the Trust. Under the Discovery Committee's direction, Charlotte reviewed all existing programming and developed several new educational and programming activities. We are hoping to be able to receive funding to hire a second Education Intern to follow up on the work that Charlotte began.
Over the past couple of years, members of the Discovery Committee visited several museums in the Maritimes, and met with curators, programme planners, and other staff to discuss their experiences with educational programmes and best practices. In addition, we have assembled a large file of resources from other museums across the continent regarding programmes that they provide, and given some thought to adapting some of these programmes for our own needs. The Discovery Committee has been in contact with local teachers and organizations such as the Girl Guides and Scouts to explore opportunities for collaborating with them on specific themed programmes. In September, we hosted a group of Girl Guides at the CCFM for activities to help them meet requirements for their Heritage Home Skills Badge. The Trust is also eager to investigate collaborative projects with other groups in the area, and our committee has had initial conversations with several groups.
Plans for the future include the development of more children's activity books, developing activity planning kits (jackdaws) for each of the five founding groups of Sackville to be used in local schools, planning activities for school vacation days, creating a heritage-themed literacy event, developing special events featuring the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, developing space and interpretive opportunities presented through the acquisition of the Anderson Octagonal House and two marsh barns, and continuing to develop and codify all of the Trust's education, outreach and programming activities. We have recently gratefully received funding from the Mount Allison Faculty Association to assist us in creating a Discovery Loft on the second floor of the Campbell Carriage Factory. This loft will provide a welcoming bilingual reading and activity space for visitors of all ages, with chairs, books, and other appropriate activities. Finally, we are tentatively hosting a group of home-schooled children in the spring for a day of heritage activities, and we are very excited about that possibility.
We are excited by the potential that our sites have, but like many volunteer organizations, we are limited by finances and personnel. If you are interested in educational and programming opportunities at the Tantramar Heritage Trust, there are several ways to become involved. Our biggest need is for volunteer interpreters to run programmes throughout the year, with training provided by the Trust. We are also looking for donations of items (see inset). And of course, we are always looking for financial support to make our programming dreams come true!
The Discovery Committee is always open to hearing new ideas and considering suggestions. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact the Trust office. You can also speak with any of our Committee members for more information. We have much planned for 2013-2014. The next issue of The White Fence will summarize for you all the many changes and new activities the revitalized Discovery Committee (with new membership) have planned to initiate over the coming year (editor). Stay tuned!
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