Two historic farm buildings in Central Saanich (including one built in 1887) are coming down.
Council (with Coun. Zeb King opposed) decided last week against temporary protection measures for two barns on the former Woodwynn Farms site after the new owners of the property, Tsartlip First Nation, submitted an application for a demolition permit for seven buildings. The First Nation assumed possession of the former farmer in late December 2020.
The public had heard earlier from staff that the so-called White Barn (built by William Thomson in 1887) was structurally unsound and the so-called Hay Barn was nearing collapse.
Chief Don Tom said Monday morning in a press release that Tsartlip First Nation would have liked to keep the buildings if they were not unsafe. But the First Nation explored all options and determined the best course is to remove the barns, as per an independent engineering assessment commissioned by BC Housing prior to the property transfer.
“We will salvage as much of the wood as possible for reuse in ways that respect and reflect the history of the barn,” said Tom. “And we will donate some reclaimed wood to the municipality, so the District of Central Saanich can also use the lumber in ways that acknowledge the past.”
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said it was going to be sad to see the White Barn come down, but thanked the Tsartlip Nation for their wood-salvaging and commemoration efforts.
Speaking last week, Coun. Bob Thompson called it a “tragedy” that previous owners allowed the buildings to deteriorate given their historic status and predicted the public will be shocked. Staff said the process did not require public notification. With these comments, Thompson echoed Coun. Gordon Newton, who called it a “shame” the buildings are coming down.
“They are part of our history in the community,” said Newton.
While both buildings appear on the municipality’s historic buildings inventory, council decided against a temporary protection order. The purpose of the order would have been to confirm the heritage significance of the building as part of an investigation that would have seen the municipality retain a heritage consultant to assess heritage significance as well as a structural engineer to assess structural integrity.
Staff recommended against such a move. “Based on the photos, (heritage conservation) of the hay barn is not realistic, and a temporary protection order on the larger barn is not recommended due to the condition, anticipated cost for repairs and potential compensation, and the lands being recently transferred to the Tsartlip First Nation,” reads a staff report.
If the municipality had given the buildings heritage designation, the municipality would have had to compensate the owner for any potential loss in value stemming from the designation, the public heard.
Tsartlip First Nation will document the work done onsite for historical reference and will share this information and photos with the municipality to be shared with the Saanich Pioneer Society Log Cabin Museum and Archives as a way for the community to commemorate the site. If the public would like to share photos or stories with the archives, email SaanichPioneerSociety@outlook.com.