Potton group recognized for preserving unique round barn

By Taylor McClure Special to Brome County News


The committee responsible for La place de la Grange-Ronde in Potton has been recognized by Action patrimoine as the recipient of its prestigious Remarkable Project-Preservation award for its preservation of  Mansonville’s round barn. Along with the award, the group also received a grant from the MRC to update the round barn’s facilities. The Potton Municipal Volunteer Group (GBMP) extends back to 2010 when it was responsible for taking care of Potton’s hiking trails, its unique covered bridge, and its historically significant round barn. With a lot of work under its belt, the group shifted its focus to saving the round barn, a unique structure with only a handful left standing in the Eastern Townships. GBMP’s efforts have finally been recognized and they have helped ensure the survival of a space that will be beneficial for the local community.

“The volunteer committee was created by Mayor Jacques Marcoux because the barn was too big a job for municipality to take over,” said Edith Smeesters, volunteer on the committee. “We thought it wasn’t so complicated, we just needed to change the foundation of the barn. We had volunteer architects that evaluated the job and it was kind of at a standstill until 2018 when we finally got a big grant from Heritage Canada of $210,000.”

Work was done on the round barn in 2011 and 2012, but it continued to deteriorate and the group was dependent on the grant. “There was expertise done by an engineer to see if the barn was safe and they put some new metal posts in the basement in the stables and some cables to bring it back to its shape. It was kind of safe for a few years until 2017 when the inspector said we can’t enter that barn anymore.”

With the grant from Heritage Canada, the group got to work. “We started in late October-November 2018 and that winter was just awful, but we had to do the job before the spring because there was a leftover budget. The cost was rising because of the weather and we had to heat the place.”

GBMP decided to seek out other donors to support its initiatives and by the end of 2019 had raised over a million dollars. “We raised money from the MRC, Caisse Desjardins, and big donors in the area. We had ten donors give between $20,000 and $50,000.”

With that, they lifted the barn, excavated the entire cement foundation using steel beams, and brought the barn back to its original round shape. “The barn was twisted and it was bending on one side so it was a real chance to put it straight again without breaking everything. That was the main job and now it’s safe. What remains to be done now, is the fire exits. It’s a public building now and you need fire exits and handicap access too. We need toilettes inside.”

Luckily, the group received a grant from the MRC totalling $49,950 to help complete the round barn’s renovations. “Last year we had a positive answer from MRC to do fire exits and bathrooms and things like that, but contractors were just not available and it was just crazy the prices of materials were skyrocketing.”

The roof and the basement also need a little TLC to allow the space to thrive. “We finally managed to open it for the last two years with some existing exhibitions, but the basement is not being used at all. That could be used for community events, but we need to see what will happen.”

After years of hard work and volunteers nearing retirement, the final touches to La place de la Grange-Ronde are being taken over by the town. “We are very glad the town is taking over and I hope they do what is for the best because we need new energy.”

Despite no longer spearheading the project, GBMP is proud of its achievements and for being recognized by Action Patrimoine. “We are very proud because there were lots of projects. In our category, there were 10 projects. There were lots of other candidates and prestigious ones. What really put the balance to our side was that it was a volunteer project.”



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