Taking down a part of local history, piece by piece

Published on Tuesday, 09 January 2024 08:10

A hallmark of Dauphin’s history is coming down and it couldn’t be in better hands.

Troy Angus of The Den is currently on site at the Lt. Col W.G. (Billy) Barker VC Airport dismantling one of the hangars originally erected as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan’s #10 Air Service Flying Training School, which operated locally from 1941 to 1945.

The Den, based in Pierson, Man., is a supplier of authentic barnwood sourced from rural resources. The business sprang from Angus’ reverence for old structures, their stories and the resources they provide.

“Authentic barnwood that’s my business. We’re just into sourcing, salvaging and reclaiming of antique wood,” Angus said, adding he uses those resources, and his expertise, to supply the do-it-yourself market. “And that’s what will lead us to buildings like this wherever they are. It’s the experience, it’s the adventure.”

When it became obvious the building, a portion of which was collapsed, had to come down, its owner approached Angus after learning about his business through media reports on projects such as the dismantling of The Lake of the Woods Milling Company grain elevator in Elva, Man., which stood for 125 years.

“In his research he came across our website and contacted me and from there, we worked through a deal to make this actually happen,” Angus said. “It was getting into pretty rough shape.”

In fact, when he first saw the building, there was a 9,000-square foot section which had collapsed.

Given that, some might think that bringing in some heavy machinery, demolishing the structure and hauling it to the landfill might be the easiest solution to disposing of them.

In Angus’s opinion, however, such an approach would almost be criminal. In his mind, deconstruction is the only way to go.

“You just can’t get (wood like) this, so that’s why. It’s a limited supply,” Angus said. “We’re trying to save every board.”

Angus has been on site since early December, cleaning up the collapsed section of the building and getting ready to begin the process of bringing the structure down, piece by piece.

“I wanted it to look good from the highway at the very least, because there was just stuff everywhere,” he said.

The clean up has resulted in some piles of quality wood he hopes to vend locally.

“It was sort of a slow start to clean up that collapse site and get ourselves ready. And out of the collapse site is what we’re ready to set up, a small wood market on site. We have wood on the ground that we’re hoping will satisfy the local wood market for do-it-yourself type stuff,” Angus said. “This is where the seed money is coming from to make this thing happen.”

There is some quality wood in the building, Angus added. In fact, he can identify where the wood originated based on milling marks he has found. The wood used in the hangar came from the now closed Youbou sawmill, which was situated on the shores of Lake Cowichan in British Columbia.

“I can say for sure that is where wood came from,” he said.

And milling marks aside, Angus is learning about the history of the building virtually everyday through the stories of locals visiting the site.

“I call the gate the story gate because if I leave that open I’ve got stories coming in,” he said. “Someone will pull in and be like ‘hey did you know in 1941’ and out come some facts.”

But there is not a lot of time to talk as Angus hopes to have the project wrapped up in four-to-six months, meaning things at the site will be quite busy. Especially since there is a learning curve to this sort of project, as every one is different, Angus added.

“The roof is kind of the conundrum here. We have got 14 plans, we’ve just got to get them down into one. There’s so many ways that it can be done,” he said. “There’s 91 sections of the roof left. Once we get into the 15th or so, it should be clockwork. So we’ll just go piece by piece.”

Angus is currently working solo, but will be joined by his partner and one other employee when things kick into full gear, with the possibility that other workers could be added and subtracted as needed.

“We’ve talked with the job banks looking at some people that maybe haven’t worked for years to come out here, give them something to do and some pocket money, and maybe something on their resume. I can be a reference for them, or my partner. This is a short-term project, so maybe we can kind of light a fire and help someone. But we’ll just go day by day on that,” he said. “Anything more, the skilled stuff, special talents, we’ll just bring that in as we need. There’s just a small core of three of us and then the rest are kind of auxiliary. We’re going to try and be as lean as possible, that’s the only way to make this profitable.”

And nothing will go to waste, Angus added, as he has already been offering as firewood pallets of material that is not suitable for anything else.

“And what I’ve asked is just a donation. I don’t care how much it is. If you like my story give me a lot, if you don’t give me a little,” he said, adding those proceeds will be used to dispose of the things which cannot be recycled such as the asphalt and tarpaper from the roof.

In the end just how profitable things become is very much up in the air.

“We don’t know until it’s down and in stacks. I mean you can guess all you want, but there’s a lot of things that can happen and a lot of risk trying to take this apart,” Angus said. “So whatever we get, we get and we’ll know when the dust settles.”

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