(Photo: Bradley-Craig Barn, October 2015. Photo by Barry Gray.)
From a heritage perspective, moving the Bradley-Craig barn from Hazeldean Road to Munster is only a slightly better option than turning into firewood.
The big barn has been a bright red beacon in Stittsville for over 140 years. The owner, Richcraft, has asked the city for permission to dismantle it piece-by-piece and ship it to Saunders Farm.
While I’m sure the Saunders family would be excellent stewards for the structure, the barn’s heritage value would be lost.
The gist of Richcraft’s argument is that the barn no longer fits into the character of the surroundings (strip malls and suburban housing), therefore it’s out of context and they should be allowed to remove it.
But that’s not how heritage designation works. Preserving the traditional character of a community is exactly why we need to preserve heritage buildings in their original location.
Whether surrounded by cows or by chain stores, the big red barn continues to be a landmark in this area: architecturally interesting, historically significant, and a tie to the past.
About a year ago, our city councillor told me that structurally, the old bones of the barn were in good shape. There must be a creative architect who can come up with a way to include it as a viable part of the new development. Similar barns have been converted into restaurants, residences, bed & breakfasts and assembly halls. Often the cost to renovate is comparable – or even less – than new construction.
To me, the issue here is as much about the future of Stittsville as it is about preserving the old barn.
Rather than tear it down because it doesn’t fit in with banal big box stores and strip malls, I suggest to Richcraft that they keep it intact, and let it inspire their architects and planners to raise the bar on suburban design. Create something that we can all be proud of for years to come.
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