Terry O'Shaughnessy

Hudson

The Macaulay barns pass into history

And so the historic Macaulay barns, bulldozed last week, are no more – and it’s probably too early to know what has been learned from the loss of an important landmark that no one seemed able to rescue.

The pedigree of the site as the birthplace of the modern-day Holstein bloodline was never in question. Their importance, and possible reincarnation, as protected landmark buildings was also never in doubt. But in spite of opinions and arguments; plans and pipedreams (not to mention appeals for money at both the provincial and federal levels), the iconic red barns came crashing down last week on Hudson’s Mount Victoria.

Denuded of the buildings that were in dire need of repair, the 30 acres or so of land will now be carved up into perhaps 10 residential lots.

Sadly, it’s hard to know, at least yet, what could have been done to save them — because there seemed to be a will to do so at many levels, at different moments. Or at least, a reluctance to allow their destruction.

The town approached the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture and the federal government for restoration funds, but was turned down. The site was also a safety worry. There were also questions about whether taxpayers would even want to shoulder the burden of the continuing maintenance of a site that didn’t have a clear purpose or mandate.

What does seem to have lingered, though, is a sense that something important has slipped through our fingers. A queasy sensation that we never came up with the bigger idea — that the solution requiring a bit of visionary thinking was never achieved.

The Ottawa papers ran coverage on the demolition last week, and a heartfelt story that ran in January in The Bullvine (a dairy breeders’ magazine) put it this way: “A monument of Holstein history unrivaled by any other will be destroyed. No Holstein exists in this world that is not a descendant of the great Johanna Rag Apple Pabst, TB Macaulay’s foundation sire for Mount Victoria.”

I’m not writing about blame here — it’s too late, in any case, to do a thing about the Macaulay barns.

But I think we should use their demolition as a reminder of what can happen when we fail to have the largeness of mind required when in possession of rare treasure.

 

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