Prior to 2019, the Concrete House was a thriving cultural hub in the Centreville area. Between the organizations founding in 1996 and 2019, the Concrete House hosted community picnics, musical events, art exhibits, and even a home to a family that was displaced by the flooding of the Cornwallis River.
Starting in 2019 the most of the building became unusable due to constant water damage from a leaky roof, poorly designed drainage system, and lack of heat. The increased moisture in the house resulted in interior walls, ceilings, and floors covered in mold. Because of rotting wood in the roof structure animals nesting became a constant problem. The animals combined with the moisture and mold created an unhealthy interior environment. Due to these ongoing problems the organization had to eliminate any activities in the Hazelwood Gallery and access to the second floor.
Our goal is to save the Concrete House for future generations and to update systems so that it is a functional year-round.
3 PHASES TO COMPLETION
After 100 years the original wood supporting the concrete roof had completely rotted and the secondary roof was also in need of repairs and re-shingling. The ingress of water over many seasons was starting to destroy the tops of the concrete walls. Phase 1 of our rehabilitation plan was to address these issues and create a structurally sound and waterproof roof to protect the concrete house for the next century.
Phase 1: Removing water damaged walls, ceilings, and floors; replace roof beams, eaves, and gutters; remove annex roof; repair main house and annex roof: seal off all access from outside weather and animals; install part 1 of heating/cooling system. Completed in May 2023
Replacing the rotted wood under the original flat roof was challenging and required extensive use of temporary supports to hold up the concrete roof during the work. We are pleased to share that all of the rotted wood has now been replaced with new wood, and the areas of weakened walls have been repaired and improved. We owe a debt of gratitude to Larry Honey, a local structural engineer, who kindly donated his time to design and review the repairs, and Tait Graves and crew for their undertaking of this difficult work.
Now that the roof structure is complete, the is house sealed and stable our goal is to repair the exterior crumbling walls. Due to years of water seepage the exterior wall have suffered cracks and erosion. Through hours of research several engineers have come up with a system to insulate the exterior of parts of the building and repair the concrete walls.
Phase 2: Create new art storage system and room; insulate second floor ceiling; reinstall second floor ceiling; refinish second floor walls and floor; insulate, repair and refinish all exterior walls of the main house and annex.
Our goal is to complete Phase 2 by November 2023 so that we can move inside to work through the winter.
Once the exterior of the building is complete we will turn our attention inside. Working through the winter we aim to open the entire building to celebrate Charlie's 150th birthday in the spring of 2024.
Phase 3: Rebuild the Hazelwood Gallery; secure the aviary above the Hazelwood Gallery; rebuild the bathroom to be handicap access; rebuild the main galleries walls and hanging system' rewire the main house; reflow the entire downstairs; repair and/or replace windows and doors.
Read on to see what work we have undertaken since 2020 and where we're currently at in the Rehabilitation work.
WORK SO FAR
Phase one of the rehabilitation is wrapping up with the sealing of the newly revealed concrete roof over the aviary and the carport. The building will now be secured from rain and snow. Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers we had two work parties in June to complete the following; insulate the art storage room, paint and remove mold in art storage room, reinstall art storage room climate controlled environment, install new art storage system, paint the kitchen, repaired sculptures damaged from winter storms. This and too many small tasks to name were completed in time for our summer opening July 1.
Phase Two of the rehabilitation is to address the interior so that the building can once again be useful to the community as it was prior to 2019.
December 2022 - Phase 1 of our rehabilitation plan: After 100 years the original wood supporting the concrete had completely rotted and the secondary roof was also in need of repairs and re-shingling. The ingress of water over many seasons was starting to destroy the tops of the concrete walls.
September 2022 - Preparations begin for construction. During the month of September we have created a new art storage system, moved all of the artwork out of the construction area, cleared the second floor for construction, and stored away everything on the first floor. Let the repairs begin.
July and August 2022 - Our grants were successful! We will be receiving $75,000 from Canada Cultural Spaces Grant, $38,000 from Kings County Vision Grant and $10,000 from Nova Scotia Communities, Cultural and Heritage. We will add that to all fo the generous donations we have received from members of the community and our Labour of Love Raffle.
June 2022 - While we wait to hear about assistance from Cultural Spaces Canada we are moving ahead with the rehabilitation of the Concrete House. Keeping the rain and moisture out is our number one concern in trying to stop the decay and save this important building. Thanks to all of the generous donations of time and money from members of the community, contributions from the sale of John Neville's painting, 100 Who Care, and some amazing discounts from Rafuse Home Hardware we have made great strides in saving the building.
May 2022 - We have reapplied to Kings County Vision Grant, the Federal Cultural Spaces Grant, and Heritage Nova Scotia for emergency money to repair the roof of the Concrete House. This is crucial to saving the building. The generous support of the community has made our grant proposals stronger and we hope to have an answer in June.
May 2022 - In preparation for our new summer students and opening July 1 we have completely renovated our bathroom. Thank you to Refuse Home Hardware for helping us with the cost of supplies.
May 2022 - Thank you to Tait Graves and Larry Honey for helping us investigate the best way to repair the roof. During May problems have been revealed and solutions laid out.
April 2022 - In preparation for new summer students and opening this July we are renovating the bathroom. Thanks to the generosity of the Rafuse Home Hardware in Wolfville we are able to afford to make these much needed repairs and mark one more think off of our restoration list.
March 2022 - In early March our Society was nominated to pitch our project of saving the Concrete House to the Valley's 100 Who Care Giving Group. Four times a year, this group of caring individuals invite three charities to pitch their projects, and one would be selected to receive the group donation. Our board member Isabel Luce had just 5 minutes to share why we should save the Concrete House, and we're so happy to report that we were successful! That means that we will receive around $5600 to assist with our Rehabilitation Project!
March 2022 - On March 5th, we announced that Nova Scotia folk artist and master printmaker John Neville was generously donating all the proceeds from the sale of his newest painting "Lucky Catch" (2022) to the Charles Macdonald Concrete House Rehabilitation Project. That same day the painting sold! We are so pleased that from this fundraiser, we were able to add $8000 to our total amount raised in 2022!
February 2022 - Since our campaign launch date in December 2021 to now, we have raised $6,856, which means we are 7.61% of the way towards our goal of $90,000 in 2022! Every donation gets us closer to saving this beloved Annapolis Valley landmark. Thank you to all of you who have contributed so far. If you’d like to donate, you can do so through Canada Helps: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/charles-macdonald-house-of-centreville-society/campaign/save-the-concrete-house/
February 2022 - We also received a $5,000 grant through the Reopening Fund for Heritage Organizations under the Museum Assistance Program with the Department of Canadian Heritage!
January 2022 - Thanks to December donations we were able to install a new heat pump in the downstairs gallery at the Concrete House. This is phase one of our climate control system and will go a long way in helping preserve the building. We also submitted a CUA Community Investment Grant application and completed our grant applications to help us hire student guides this summer.
January 2022 - We have started a capital campaign to raise $90,000 to continue the Restoration of the Concrete House.
December 2021 - We welcomed prominent Nova Scotia folk artist John Neville to our board of directors and board member Isabel Luce was interviewed about our Rehabilitation Project on CBC Radio’s Information Morning. We began our capital campaign to raise $90,000 to continue the Restoration of the Concrete House.
October 2021 – We hosted several successful programming events at the Blue Cottage geared towards bringing together artists and photographers in the local community, and closed another successful season at the Blue Cottage. (there’s a period missing here)
September 2021 - A representative from Nova Scotia Communities, Culture, and Heritage came out for a site visit at the Concrete House.
August and July of 2021 - Despite COVID and parts of the Concrete House being closed to the public, we opened parts of the museum to visitors for guided tours and had a successful summer season. Our Rehabilitation Project was also documented in Kirk Starratt’s article in Saltwire entitled “‘Dire straits’: Government funding needed to save Centerville’s historic Concrete House.” https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/dire-straits-government-funding-needed-to-save-centervilles-historic-concrete-house-100622922/
July 2021 - We submitted an ACOA grant to help with the Restoration of the Concrete House.
June 2021 - Our Kings County Vision Grant was successful for the sum of $63,000 over the next 3 years. The Grant is contingent on both the Federal and Provincial Governments support.
May 2021 - We began removal of water damaged and moldy drywall and sub flooring from the Hazelwood Gallery.
May 2021 - We submitted a Cultural Spaces Grant to the Federal Government.
May 2021 - We submitted a completed Grant to Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage.
April 2021 - Volunteers removed the dysfunctional bathroom form the second floor of the Concrete House revealing an unknown mural by Charles Macdonald.
April 2021 - Volunteers completed carpentry work to repair the cabinets in the kitchen.
February and March 2021 - The building committee met with various local contractors and completed a budget for the three year project to Restore the Concrete House.
September and October 2020 - We received our 2020 Kings Vision grant money and were able to patch the roof and remove the problematic trees. We also received the finished Architects Report. At this time we had an outdoors open house to tell people about the problems and let them read the Architects Report. This stage of our Rehabilitation Project was documented in Ashley Thompson’s article in the Satlwire entitled “Charles Macdonald concrete house in Centreville in need of major restorations.”
July and August 2020 - We employed two summer students and were able to open the Museum and gardens to the public. We have not been able to open the Hazelwood Gallery as the moisture and mold was too severe.
May and June 2020 - We concentrated our efforts on the gardens. With the help of community volunteers, we did a major property clean up, cleaning out years of leaves and overgrowth, planting new gardens, purchasing picnic table, installing outdoor art installations in preparation for a COVID friendly summer.
April 2020 - We were advised by Nova Scotia Communities, Culture, and Heritage to apply for a grant to hire a heritage architect to properly assess the building. Our grant was successful ($3000). We also applied for a Kings Vision Grant to help with the cost of an architect’s report, remove problematic trees, and patch the roof. This grant was successful for 2/3 of what we asked for. With the support of the local community and in-kind labor we made up the difference and accomplished what was laid out in both grants ($11,000).
March 2020 – By this board meeting, we had begun to research funding to save the building. We began conversations with all three levels of government about funding to save the Concrete House. At the federal level we have been in contact with Cultural Spaces Grant, at the Provincial level we spoke with Heritage Nova Scotia, and at Kings County accessing information about the Vision Grant.
February 2020 — A board meeting was held to vote on selling the Concrete House as it was in such great disrepair that our meager budget was no longer able to maintain it properly. We voted to research funding possibilities to save the Concrete House