The following article describes an exciting journey into the process of preserving an historic treasure: the Campbell Carriage Factory in Sackville, NB. I hope that, upon reading this newsletter, you will all appreciate the process, time and effort that were required to save, document, and establish this museum of national and international significance, always with the intention of ensuring its accessibility to the general public. I will take as little newsletter space here as possible in order to ensure available space for all the necessary text and photos which make up this fascinating adventure in historical conservation. I simply close by encouraging you to visit (maybe once more!) the site when it officially opens in June. Hopefully, upon reading this newsletter, you will fully enjoy and appreciate this very special historic structure even more had the information herein not been available to you. And to all who contributed financially toward this project, it would not have been possible without you! It has been a grand adventure! Read on, learn and…
Campbell Carriage Factory
The Early Years of Establishing the Museum (1995-2003)
By Al Smith, Rhianna Edwards, and Paul Bogaard
February 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the Tantramar Heritage Trust’s acquisition of the Campbell family’s derelict carriage factory on Church Street, Middle Sackville, NB. With the donation of the building, contents and grounds, the fledgling Trust organization embarked on its inaugural project – the establishment of Sackville ’s first museum. This article will chronicle the endeavours that led up to the official opening of the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum in June 2003.
In 1992, a small group of Sackville citizens began discussions centering on aspects of Sackville’s history. Two years later, the group was organized as the “Preserving Our Human Heritage” sector of Sackville’s community development organization, Renaissance Sackville. In 1995, at a public meeting of all Renaissance Sackville working groups, the Human Heritage sector announced that one of its major objectives was to establish a not-for-profit charitable Heritage Trust. The process of establishing the Tantramar Heritage Trust (THT) took about a year with its incorporation on 9 September 1996, and the founding meeting the next month.
For some time, there had been suggestions that the Middle Sackville derelict carriage factory building, owned by Will and Barb Campbell, should be saved; however, no action had been taken. The need to act became critical in summer 1995 when Will Campbell (who was Sackville’s Mayor at the time) confided in Town employee Mona Estabrooks that he was going to demolish the building due to concerns over liability issues. In fact, the factory’s original blacksmith shop and the elevator/storage building had already been demolished. Alarmed, Estabrooks asked for a tour of the factory, realized its potential value and contacted Colin MacKinnon who was also given a tour. Mackinnon concurred that the former factory was an extraordinary treasure on a national scale. It was the only remaining carriage factory in Canada and only one of two in North America! Active as a carriage factory for about 100 years (circa 1853 to 1951), the building still contained over 6,000 artifacts ranging from tools and equipment to handmade patterns, wheels, and all the component parts of carriage manufacturing. It even contained one Campbell-made sleigh.
Realizing there was a short window of opportunity to generate interest to preserve the structure and its contents, MacKinnon invited Darrell Butler, Chief Curator of Kings Landing Historical Settlement, to provide an assessment of the significance of the former factory and to advise if it was salvageable. Butler visited the site on 13 October 1995, and four days later sent a follow-up letter enthusiastically advocating its preservation. He stated: “It is rare to see a craftsman’s work building preserved in such a relatively untouched condition,” and that it was the best example that he had ever seen. He described the factory as “an above ground archaeological site which should be carefully documented, catalogued and photographed in depth.” Especially relevant was his statement that, “It is important to the heritage community of New Brunswick and Canada that every effort is made to preserve and thoroughly study and document the Campbell Carriage Factory. I would strongly recommend that you consider applying to have it designated a provincial historic site and a national historic site.” Butler’s letter was immediately passed on to the Campbells and helped stave off any further thoughts of demolition. This was just the advice and encouragement the newly incorporated Tantramar Heritage Trust needed to move forward to attempt to preserve the building and its contents and to develop it as a museum.
At the Trust’s second Board meeting on 12 November 1996, the executive was authorized to undertake exploratory talks with the Campbells, seeking donation or other arrangements to preserve the carriage factory. The first meeting took place on 10 December when options for preservation of the site were explored. The letter from Darrell Butler and its steadfast insistence that the building must be saved settled the issue in the minds of the Campbells. It was agreed that the Trust would prepare a document to outline the specific options that had been discussed. A draft CCF Restoration and Research Plan was compiled and it proposed that the Trust acquire ownership of the factory and warehouse buildings, contents, and six acres of land, via donation. It was presented to the owners in January 1997 with a request for a follow-up meeting.
The Campbells had some reservations about the proposal but on 4 September made a counter proposal: they would retain ownership of the warehouse building but would donate the factory building and the lands immediately surrounding it. In addition, an agreement was reached with the Campbells whereby the Trust was allowed to use 2/3 of the warehouse building including a “right of first refusal” to purchase it. With these understandings in place, the Trust’s Board created a Project Advisory/Management Committee led by Al Smith. Rayworth Surveys was hired and by October 1997 had completed a subdivision plan to separate the six-acre site into two parcels and an application was submitted for re-zoning it from R3 to Heritage designation.
Finally the pieces were in place and during Heritage Week in February 1998, three members of the THT’s Board stood in a snow bank in front of the old factory building and received the deed transfer from the Campbell family. Thus began the formal process of establishing Sackville’s first museum.
Public interest in the project was greatly enhanced by several articles in Sackville’s Tribune Post and on 25 October 1997, an in-depth article written by Meddy Stanton and entitled “History on Wheels,” appeared in the New Brunswick Reader (Saint John Telegraph Journal), garnering a lot of attention and support for the project.
Rescue and Registration of Artifacts
On 10 September 1997, the Trust’s Board of Directors had their first look inside the Campbell family’s carriage factory building. All were dumbfounded as the doors swung open. The periphery of the room was lined with workbenches and upon them, under them, hanging above them, and leaning against them, was a jumbled array of artifacts – made of wood, metal, paper, leather, and glass. Wooden components were stowed above straps between the ceiling joists, wall shelves were laden with tools and boxes, the wooden floor – the part still intact – was covered with objects of all shapes and sizes, cardboard boxes had split and the contents were strewn about and many fragments of deteriorating paper and cardboard littered the surfaces. And this was just the Benchwork Room; the main floor also had a Mill Room, and it and the Assembly Room, as well as the Paint Room upstairs, were all similarly full of materials.
With ownership of the site now transferred to the Trust, the objective for the summer 1998 project was to catalogue, remove and safely store all the artifacts residing in the factory in order for restoration of the building to start in spring 1999. Leader Rhianna Edwards consulted experts, wrote a procedures manual, applied for grants, sourced supplies, recruited volunteers, and hired and trained summer staff.
Recognizing the importance of documenting where artifacts were found, Edwards approached Chris Turnbull, the NB provincial archeologist, for advice. He sent two staff members to the site in April 1998 and they provided detailed procedures for cataloguing the artifacts. Their key message was that registers had to be kept to record the exact location from which individual artifacts had been removed, along with their relation to each other. The end product was to be a highly detailed account of the as found location of the entire building’s contents.
As had been suggested by both Butler and Turnbull, this contextual information was going to be critical for the interpretation and exhibit-creation phase of the project because none of us at this early point had any understanding of how a vehicle was built, what tools were used in what phase, or how and where the various components were assembled to either produce or repair a carriage, wagon or sleigh. Careful retention of the contextual information would preserve crucial evidence of the use of each artifact and how the layout of the building functioned to support vehicle assembly.
Our staff, John Holton and Christine Filion, began work on 2 June. To their credit, and despite the poor environmental and climatic conditions of the building (not to mention the scope of the task), they and many capable volunteers, cheerfully tackled the job.
The procedures were time consuming and complicated. First, each room, floor, ceiling, wall, workbench and shelf has to be assigned a location code. Then, starting with the Benchwork Room, each location code within in each room had to be gridded with fluorescent tape. The grids were to measure 6′ x 9′ (walls) or 6′ x 6′ (floors and ceilings) with allowances made for doorways, windows, and other obstructions. Once a grid was set and given a unique grid number, volunteer Ralph Stopps took a photograph of the grid that showed all the artifacts in situ, and then staff or volunteers sketched each artifact to scale and in relation to the others within the grid. Then each artifact in the grid was given a number (A1, A2, etc.) and tagged with the location code and artifact number. Only then could an artifact be removed from the grid. Each artifact was then photographed by staff, given a light cleaning and a catalogue record was made. The cataloguing record provided detailed measurements, type of material, proper name, function, etc. Finally, the artifacts could then be placed in a carton, which, along with larger items, was stored on shelves built in the Mill Room. Holton kept a detailed daily log of progress made.
The time it would take to complete full registration on all the artifacts had been badly underestimated and, as the summer wound down, it became clear that procedural and staff adjustments would have to be made in order to get all the artifacts out of the building while still retaining the critical location information. Holton’s work term was extended by four weeks, Sandra Cant was hired part time for nine weeks, and the full registration process was abridged.
All of the approximately 6000 items were coded by location but only 800 received full registration. At least one more summer project was going to be necessary to revisit and complete the artifact registration and cataloguing. Finally, carton after carton of artifacts, as well as the larger items, were moved on 3 October to a 55-foot trailer, provided by Baughan’s Transport, and set on the property to provide temporary storage. The building was thereby cleared and made ready for restoration work to begin in spring 1999.
A grant allowed us to immediately rehire Filion for 12 weeks. She entered artifact registration data in the database she had designed, working from home on her own computer. Once the grant was exhausted, she continued the task on a volunteer basis.
While building restoration work started in spring 1999, THT again successfully applied for grants and rehired Christine Filion, as well as two students: Erin Balser and Erich Guthrie. They worked out of the Campbell’s warehouse building and completed registrations for approximately 3,000 artifacts. In October, with the building restored and its concrete floor finished, all the items stored in the trailer were transferred back to shelves set up temporarily in the Mill Room.
During summer 2000, Erin Balser and Erich Guthrie returned to work at the factory, along with a new worker, Marc Hamilton. By the end of the season, about 1,600 more registrations were finished. It is likely that the registration would have been completed during this summer but for a major mold problem that developed. Measures were taken to stop the infestation and clean the artifacts, but it was time consuming and very discouraging.
It took another couple of summers to fully complete the registration and cataloguing and to put all the information on the database. Erin Balser and Matthew Hickling worked on it in 2001. In 2002, the remaining data was entered by Colin Busby as part of his Heritage Assistant duties while Ian Alexander spent the summer in the Carriage Factory helping put artifacts back in their original locations. But this takes us well past the next two crucial steps: figuring out how to restore the carriage factory building and how we could possibly pay for it.
Capital Campaigns and Government Programs
The Tantramar Heritage Trust quickly recognized that developing the Campbell’s building as a museum was going to be an expensive proposition. From the outset, enthusiastic local supporters had donated the thousands of dollars necessary to make a beginning. In addition, as noted above, government programs that subsidized wages were successfully applied for and they were crucial. But despite this, it was clear that much more money was going to become necessary for the wages, materials, utilities and consultant costs associated with the restoration and interpretative phases of the project. As a result, two Capital Campaigns were launched. Beginning in October 1998, “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” was developed to offset restorations costs; it was followed by “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star” in 2001 to meet the costs of constructing exhibits.
With donation revenue from its campaign giving evidence of strong community support, the Trust was able to secure assistance from the Town, Renaissance Sackville, and the Crake Foundation and to continue to access employment and development programs through Heritage Branch and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Between 1997 and 2003, the Trust raised $164,000 to meet expenses. For a fledgling organization launching its inaugural project, this was certainly a major achievement!
Simultaneous with artifact registration and the launch of the Capital Campaign, the Project Committee, this time led by Blane Smith and Paul Bogaard, began to develop a strategy to restore the building. The Trust’s Board and Project Committee had members with experience in modern construction methods, but Kings Landing provided experience and advice specific to heritage building restoration. By the spring of 1999, through government programs, the Trust hired Chris Murray as foreman along with Troy Lorette and Tim Wells as his two-man crew.
The carriage factory building had been neglected for almost 50 years and while the front side sat on fairly stable ground, the back side (to the northeast) had sunk into the wet marsh muck. The first task was to permanently drain the water away from the building; the ground floor was cleared and rotted flooring and brick chimneys removed. Murray’s team then hand-dug drainage ditches and the Town brought in loads of shale.
Once the water issue was resolved, a way to reset the building on a solid and level foundation had to be found. Kings Landing advised that substantial concrete footings right near ground level would be sufficient, but the building would have to be lifted from its crumbling foundation in order to install them. It was simply too long to lift all at once; fortunately, the old timber-framed building had retained its structural integrity. Its joints were flexible enough that half its length could be lifted at a time using tall “cribs” of heavy timbers and strong 30-ton hydraulic jacks with diagonal cables and turnbuckles to keep the building from twisting further out of shape.
With the building suspended, the old foundations, rotted sills and lower portions of posts were removed. Concrete footings were then poured, original foundation stones returned, sills replaced and posts repaired. The 160-year-old timber frame could then be lowered onto its new, sturdy foundation. It creaked and groaned, loudly complaining while cables were tightened, but the timbers settled back into their intended places so effectively that the building regained its shape along the whole back side and up through the rafters. The building was level for the first time in many years and no further adjustments have ever been needed. Those old timber-framers knew what they were doing!
The most challenging part of restoration completed, it was a matter of re-cladding the building with board sheathing, exterior shingles, and clapboards. The back end of the building had been seriously damaged when an “addition” (from a century ago) had been torn off in the 1960s, requiring more work to restore the wall there than elsewhere. Anticipating the concrete floor that would be poured later, almost 2 feet of shale and 4 inches of new gravel were tamped into the old floor area. Soon thereafter the Town’s fire department brought a pumper truck to hose down the entire interior, especially upstairs and in the rafters, ridding the building of the filth that had accumulated over the years. Finally, after a bit of roof repair, windows (many of them rebuilt by Richards & Son of Amherst) were reinstalled and all the doors were replaced with new ones, built by Murray in the old-style way, including clinching over squareheaded nails. By the fall of 1999 the concrete floor was poured and the surrounding grounds re-graveled.
Except for wooden floors to be mounted on the concrete (and electrical cables distributed
underneath –- which did not get done until the spring of 2001), this part of the restoration was complete. Marking that occasion, as noted above, on 16 October 1999 a volunteer crew, including a number of Mount Allison students, removed all the stored artifacts from the trailer and reset them on temporary shelves in the Mill Room (shown above).
One day Paul Bogaard heard a scream from within the building and saw one of the workmen running out. Trying to fit a diagonal brace to steady the tall “crib” that had just been assembled, when the workman pulled the brace back out of the ground to reset it, he saw the sharpened end was covered with blood! Fortunately, it was not blood; when Bogaard asked colleagues at Mount Allison to analyze the dark red liquid, it turned out to be a tanning solution made from ground Hemlock bark. One of several tanning vats hidden beneath the carriage factory floor for 145 years had been relocated!
From Factory Building to Interpretive Museum
With artifact registration on-going and with the building (itself an artifact) largely restored, it was time to begin the most intellectually complex phase of the project: determining how to display the artifacts and to astutely choose panels that would provide context for what took place in the carriage factory over time. This would be the key to turning what had been a derelict building into Sackville’s first museum. As a first step, it was necessary to figure out what each artifact was used for and how each artifact related to all the others in the production of horse drawn vehicles. Furthermore, it was important to determine where in the building each phase of this process took place.
The second step was to think through, carefully and strategically, how to present this knowledge to museum visitors in a way that was easily understood and visually appealing. For this, the Trust was very fortunate in being able to bring in consultants Greg Silver and his team from Cardinal Communications who had professional experience in the design and layout of museums. Charles Allain of the provincial Heritage Branch arranged to hire this firm and for the ACOA funding that made it possible. Allain, Bogaard and the Cardinal team met monthly through much of the year 2000 and into 2001. The Trust surely would have faltered at this point with so little experience in actually setting up a museum. Cardinal’s task was to determine the strengths of the artifact collection, identify themes and elements of the carriage factory story that should be told, outline short, medium and long-term steps and to give advice on the way interpretive panels might be used. Their enthusiasm and their sense of the issues and the opportunities and challenges they could see was most invigorating.
However, the first step, mentioned above, proved more difficult. The Cardinal team knew as little as the Trust did about how carriages were built and how manufacturing and assembly was conducted in this workspace. What they could do was lay out the steps that should be followed and the kinds of research that would be required, but in 2000 there were still so many unknowns. For instance, most of the artifacts that would provide knowledge remained in cartons or were pushed into corners; there was not a single wheeled vehicle to display and there was no sense of how the horse mill operated nor how machines lined up with the belts and pulleys. And although several years later an addition, warehouse and blacksmith shop would be added, at this point the Trust still only had the main factory building. Compounding the problem was the discovery that there were few, if any, reference sources that explained typical carriage factory work.
Nevertheless, encouraged by Cardinal and extending over the next several years, Bogaard led the effort to pull the artifacts out of storage and to begin replacing them where they had been found. Only then did it become increasingly clear that all the effort put into recording precise, as-found locations was not uniformly informative: items found in the middle of the floors must have been moved around, perhaps repeatedly, and, while some items on benches seemed to be left where they had been used, many things piled on top seemed to have been strewn around haphazardly. Fortunately, templates and tools up on the walls and up in the ceilings seem to have been left where the workmen last stored them.
Of particular value was the growing awareness that amongst the items found in the factory were examples of almost every component required for a vehicle and that many of these were in different stages of completion. They gave an almost step-by-step understanding of manufacture and they could be tied to tools and templates and to the different kinds of work-stations found within the factory building. Bogaard also learned a great deal from interviews, early newspapers, reaching out to Mennonite carriage builders and by talking with folks at other museums. Gradually, an appreciation of the pattern of work began to emerge. This slow process of accumulating information continued over many years
Provincial Recognition and Opening the Museum
By April 2001, the Province had agreed that the Campbell Carriage Factory deserved to be designated a provincial Historic Site and, on the 30th of that month, the public was invited to an unveiling of the bronze plaque the Province had provided. After the ceremony, everyone reassembled at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church hall, just across the street, to hear Greg Silver present the findings and recommendations that Cardinal had developed over the preceding year.
In September 2001, another Open House was organized, this time inside the factory itself. By then the wooden flooring was in place and an Express Wagon, which had originally been built at the factory, was on display; it had been donated by the Johnson family who had purchased it there decades earlier. Happily, that marked the beginning of many other tools, machines and vehicles returning to their home at the Campbell Carriage Factory.
And, finally, by 21 June 2003, the restoration and interpretation was far enough along to hold an Official Opening of the museum. The grounds had been cleaned up, the Town had helped establish a proper parking lot and Ray Dixon and his crew of volunteers had not only laid the wooden floors but had built some entry decks. The objectives of the new museum were still far from completion (and that remains true today!) however, it was time to celebrate what had been accomplished thus far. A large crowd gathered, speeches were made, a symbolic wagon wheel was rolled back from the entry way, cake was served, and from that moment on, those who had achieved so much in such a short period of time could look with satisfaction onto the historic Campbell Carriage Factory Museum, a prized landmark of the Town of Sackville’s history.
Enjoy with us, once again, what these delightful photographs invoke. Be sure to visit the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum where you never know what exciting new discoveries you will find!
It has been an exciting voyage.
Wednesday, April 18, 7 pm
Dramatic Reading: “Beaubassin Tavern” by Dick Beswick
Each act is a day in 1755. The first depicts a day in the time of relative peace between Fort Lawrence and Fort Beausejour, the second after the successful siege and capture of Beausejour by the British and the third day is after the first Acadian Expulsions. The play’s object is to portray the sequence of events in that year and the views of the Acadian, British New England militia and the Mi’kmaq in those times. Anderson Octagonal House, free admission, light refreshments.
Wednesday, May 30, 7 pm
Annual General Meeting
Anderson Octagonal House. Guest speaker: TBA. All are welcome. Light refreshments.
Sunday, June 17, 12-5 pm
Official Opening of Campbell Carriage Factory Museum
Opening for the summer. Entertainment, games, blacksmithing demonstrations and the very popular annual Plant Sale.
Sunday, July 1, 2-4 pm
Canada Day Strawberry Social
Boultenhouse Heritage Centre. Join us for games, tours, music, and delicious homemade strawberry shortcake.
Sunday, August 12, 12-5 pm
Heritage Field Day
At the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum. Blacksmithing demonstrations, live music, dancing, snacks, artisan demonstrations, tours and much more.
Make It Workshops
Our popular heritage-themed workshops for children will be available during July and August. Watch for details on our website, and follow us on social media.
Under the Sky Events
Community events held at the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum and Boultenhouse Heritage Centre are once again being organized for the summer months.
Check our website for details, and follow us on social media.
f you would like to keep up with Trust activities and events by email, please contact our office and we’ll add you to our mailing list: firstname.lastname@example.org or (506) 536-2541