2023 – What a whirlwind of a Year!

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AlgomaTrad and its founders and artistic directors Julie Schryer and Pat O’Gorman hit the ground running at the beginning of 2023, ramping up the interior renovations of the Main Hall begun at the end of 2022 with $500K of funding from Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor) and $250K (part of a $1million grant) from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC), as well as funds raised from our supporters through the “AlgomaTrad Grows” campaign.

General Contractor Stobie Mechanical and Welding took apart the kitchen, washrooms, mezzanine, and upstairs dorms, replaced decayed sills, cut extensive channels in the existing cement slab,  laid all new plumbing and drains, and brought all rooms, ceilings, and walls up to health and fire safety codes. Electrical services were updated throughout and a new panel and service were installed in a repurposed “mechanical” room on the second floor. The washrooms were converted to one all-gender facility with individual lockable stalls and communal sinks, and a hallway was created from the washroom to the Dining Hall. A new walk-in fridge and vegetable washing area were installed in the kitchen, as well as beautiful custom-built hickory cupboards and stainless steel countertops by local cabinet firm, Island Enterprises.

The mezzanine was extended to make room for a safe exit from the second floor, and gorgeous wood railings, stairs, and floor were built by Sam Speer and his crew from Handcrafted Timber Homes; Sam and his team have been a major force for AlgomaTrad, instrumental in the construction of the timber frame Pavilion in 2018/19, upgrading the structure of the Main Hall with timber cross-ties and iron rods in 2022, providing lovely custom-made wooden vanities for the new washrooms, building a 16×20 timber frame workshop pavilion in 2022, and constructing new exterior fire exit stairs on the Main Hall. Other local craftspeople contributing to the finer details include: Hans Wesselius and Michelle Forrester of It’s in the Wood“(bespoke wooden doors and towel dispensers for washroom stalls and kitchen); Dorian Nelson (mirrors), and blacksmith Denis Frechette (forged hardware).

Due to supply chain issues, Main Hall interior renovations that were hoped to be completed by April continued into the summer but were done in time for the annual AlgomaTrad Family Camp in August. In the meantime, Stobie Mechanical was further engaged to insulate and install a new roof on the Main Hall and insulate the building from the outside, work that continued through the fall. New windows and exterior cladding will be part of items to be completed in 2024.

A local Mennonite crew took the Barn down in June, in preparation for the Dan’s Hall construction planned for 2024, and it was re-assembled on a new farm not too far away, near Desbarats – the Barn lives again as a barn! (The following video about the Barn de-construction was made by videographer Aaron Gowlett, who was hired at the beginning of 2023 through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and led several video and streaming workshops for AlgomaTrad staff and volunteers).

As part of an Ontario Trillium Foundation Resilient Communities Grant, two workshop gazebos and a new bunkie, for use as a first aid/isolation hut or simply as summer accommodations during camps, were completed. The new shower house was designed and the foundation begun at the end of the year just as the winter began to set in. Plans are also ongoing for a new septic system, which we are hoping will get started during the winter months. You can see the progress of the AlgomaTrad Centre development in this 7-minute video.

In other great news in 2023, Canadian Heritage awarded AlgomaTrad $2M in funding through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.  (Read the funding announcement HERE). Most of this funding is slated for the construction of Dan’s Hall, the new, timber frame performance/dance building that will also contain flexible studio spaces and washrooms on the walk-out lower level. Currently, AlgomaTrad is in the design phase for this signature building, the construction of which is also supported by NOHFC funding. AlgomaTrad is currently working with the Timber Framers Guild of North America to organize a community build of the frame for the new hall. Learning workshops in traditional timber framing will be available to the public.

Stay tuned for another busy year of construction in 2024!