An icon-turned-eyesore in North Point Douglas is on track for a long-awaited revamp, with federal funding in place to help turn the burnt shell of Barber House into a seniors' centre.
And the summer fire that razed part of the rundown heritage building has turned out to be an unexpected blessing for the people trying to preserve it.
The federal government has announced more than $270,000 in Heritage Canada funds will be provided to help restore Barber House. Sisters Initiating Steps Towards a Renewed Society (SISTARS), a community group that was given ownership of the home and property by the city this past summer, still needs to match that figure, but the group has promises of funding from other sources, said board member Chris Burrows.
A fire in June destroyed the roof and second storey of the home at 99 Euclid Ave., which dates back to the 1860s and is believed to be the city's oldest home on its original property.
"We were completely devastated," said Burrows.
But the blaze didn't eat through the sturdy frame of the house, a rare remaining example of Red River frame construction. The roof and second floor were torched, but they would have been dismantled regardless, said Burrows.
In fact, the effects of the fire meant the group's revised request to the federal government asked for less money than they'd sought previously.
"It's almost unheard of that people would do that, so I think it drew even more attention to us," Burrows laughed.
Work on the house is expected to start in short order.
The exterior should be finished by the end of December, said Burrows, while interior work is aimed to be finished by April 2011.
The revamped home will be true to historic form on the outside, said architect Wins Bridgman. The traditional Red River construction will be left visible inside, he said, with no plans to hide places where wood has been burned or replaced in past fires.
"We believe part of the story of the Barber House is that it has survived for so long, and we don't want to erase that long history of its restoration," he said.
Bridgman's firm, BridgmanCollaborative Architecture, also designed the $1.3-million daycare currently being built on the same property. The daycare and seniors' drop-in centre will be connected by a glassed-in 'playtrium' usable by both groups, said Bridgman.