SHERBROOKE – It’s taken eight months and a million dollars, but Historic Sherbrooke Village has managed to paint the town red … and green … and brown … and, indeed, every restoration colour the living museum can conjure to bring tourists back in a post-pandemic world.
Frankly, with visitation and revenue from visitation down by 80 per cent in 2020, compared with the previous year’s season, it’s not a moment too soon, notes Executive Director Stephen Flemming: “Visitor volume was very low in 2020, with all of our events, learning programs and public activities halted due to Covid-19.
Still, he says, “It was a great year for site improvement and for this we owe a world of gratitude to all levels of government, our staff and our contractors, who assisted in this major undertaking. This 50th anniversary project is being completed on time and on budget and has fulfilled all objectives.”
Last June, the Village received $1 million from the provincial government to renovate its world-renowned heritage properties by the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2021. Since then, the grant – part of a province-wide, $228 million community stimulus package designed to offset the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – has been used to repair and upgrade many of the living museum’s roughly 90 vintage structures, and complete work on a new community park.
“I couldn’t be more pleased to see that they’ve succeeded during these very difficult times,” says Lloyd Hines, MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie and Minister of Transportation and Active Transit (formerly Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal), who represented the province at the announcement ceremony in June. “That wonderful facility was in urgent need of some major capital upgrades for sure, but I knew all along that they had great management.”
Perhaps, but it was no walk in the historic park, either. Completed – or very near to completed – projects include: new roofs for Cool House, McMillan House, the nature centre, maintenance storage shed, courthouse, telephone office, boat shop, guide office and shed, the jailhouse, and Exhibit Centre, which also received major bathroom upgrades with accessibility components and outside work.
The tearoom was fitted for a new roof, front and sides. St. James Church underwent a full renovation, receiving a new bell tower roof, front window replacements and glass, and an exterior paint job. The woodworking shop sported new windows and doors.
Add to this: new LED street lights, 12 heat pumps throughout the Village, re-topped chimney flues, an expanded courthouse bathroom, and a new wheelchair-accessible park replete with gazebo.
“Something like this does not come along every day,” says Rodney MacDougall, director of maintenance and restoration at the Village. “There were many challenges along the way … where you are put in charge of organizing a million-dollar budget, and making a village beautiful again. [But] I would absolutely do it again.”
So would, it’s fair to say, Mark MacIsaac, who owns and operates MacIsaac Construction, the local construction firm contracted to manage much of the roofing. “It was great to see the historic architecture,” he says. “How well they did stuff back then … The quality of the work was amazing.”
Says Lynn Hayne, the Village’s event manager: “Funding from the Canadian Heritage, COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Culture and Heritage and direction from Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal allowed us to add an extra week of work for much of the Village staff and purchase cabinets and window coverings to preserve displays and protect the provincial heritage collection against sun damage and fading. In addition, it covered the purchase of electronics to catalogue and record collection items.”
According to Flemming, all stimulus funds were spent in Nova Scotia, “with the vast majority spent close to home. This project created jobs and extended seasons for crews and created a major economic stimulus in our community at a time when it was dearly needed. Sherbrooke Village is ready and able to help with recovery from impacts of Covid-19 on tourism along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia.”
Prior to the outbreak, Historic Sherbrooke Village was one of the province’s must-see destinations, attracting an average of 25,000 visitors a year from across Canada and the world.