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Farm buildings last vestiges of rural roots

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A small remnant of St. Vital’s pastoral past could soon disappear for good.


A former dairy operation located near the corner of St. Anne’s Road and Bishop Grandin Boulevard will soon make way for a new seniors condominium development.


The quiet property at 539 St. Anne’s is long and narrow, stretching back to the Seine River just north of the power lines along Bishop Grandin. It was a working farm until the 1950’s. The animals are long-gone, but a tiny, beaten-down barn and chicken coop remain.


George Doney is a long-time resident in the seniors’ complex next door. The 82-year-old says he and his neighbours recently learned the barn and chicken coop would be torn down to make way for a new condominium development.


Doney will be sorry to see them go, but acknowledges that’s the price of progress. "It was bound to happen," he says. "It’s a choice location."


Bob Holliday, president of the St. Vital Historical Society and Museum, says the small dairy operation used to belong to the Bigourdan family. He should know — Holliday grew up in the area and says he used to walk by the place every day on his way to school.


"They had cows and chickens and pigs. It was farm territory," he says. "Every morning, after the milking, the cows would be crossing the road to graze along the power lines."


The cows didn’t tie up traffic in those days because, as Holliday says, "there wasn’t any."


"This was back in the early ’50s, when St. Anne’s was two lanes of gravel," he says.  "There were very few motor vehicles, and still a lot of things being drawn by horse."


Holliday says basically everything south of Fermor was farmland at that time, but it was only a few years later that the market gardens dominating St. Vital were consumed by urban sprawl.

He believes the old Bigourdan farm could be last place like it on St. Anne’s.


Doney says he and his neighbours will miss the old farm buildings when they’re gone.


"Lots of people in here like it because it reminds them of the old days, the way it used to be," Doney says. "There’s also all these beautiful elm trees, and we’re all hoping (the developers) don’t touch them. They can’t be replaced."


While she only moved in recently, Jean Zapski says she has enjoyed having a green space next door.


"As soon as there’s any empty space, they throw up a condo," she says. "Really, it’s kind of a shame."

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