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Death of a Landmark

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medium_round.barn_.2_0.jpg--April 26, 2002

DISAPPEARING FAST
Round barns. They're getting scarcer each year, it seems. Only a few short years ago, the Eastern Townships boasted eleven. Today there are eight. Back in the summer of 1995, Compton Station lost its round barn. Then, in 1999, a severe windstorm ripped the roof off of the Schoolcraft round barn in Stanstead East.

The spring of 2001 was particularly severe, and heavy snows took their toll on two more round barns in the area. The Holmes barn, in Barnston West, suffered serious damage when the weight of the springtime snow caused an interior beam to buckle. Fortunately the structure held out, and the damage has since been partly repaired. To do a thorough repair job, however, thousands of dollars will likely have to be spent. The Municipality of Barnston West has declared the barn a historic site, and if ever Quebec's Ministry of Culture can be convinced to do likewise, there might be a chance of getting at least some government funding for repairs. The Holmes barn was built in 1907.

medium_round.barn_.4.jpgCOMPLETE WRECK
Another round barn to suffer the ravages of 2001 was the Léo Therrien barn on Fairfax Road in Stanstead East. Built in 1908, this barn did not fare as well as its cousin at the Holmes farm. On April 7, the roof collapsed with a splintering crash. Tons of melting snow had once again dealt the final blow, but this was hardly surprising. The barn had been in a very poor state of repair for many years.

Surveying the wreckage a few days after the collapse, Therrien reminisced. "The farm has been in the family for years," he said. "My grandfather lived here; my father lived here; and now I live here with my two boys. When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike around the inside of the barn. I'd peddle 'round and 'round the circle of stalls. That's why my tires always wore out on one side." Therrien recalled that back in the 1980s, the government was more interested in restoring old round barns in the area. There was money available, he said, but they didn't cover everything. The owners' share was still "way too expensive."

medium_round.barn_.1.jpgDemolition of what remains of the Therrien barn is under way. Léo Therrien hopes to salvage as much of the timber as he can -- a sad but all too common fate for these proud old structures.

The round barns still standing in the Townships are all located within a fairly short drive of the American border. These include two near Way's Mills, one in Barnston, one in Mansonville, one near Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, one in West Brome, one near Dunham, and a unique 12-sided barn in Mystic. A ninth example, a replica, was built in the Coaticook Gorge Park in 1995, estimated cost -- $400,000.