A-frame Association Nominated for Heritage Award

The Al Purdy A-frame Association has been nominated for the Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award for their efforts to restore the historic property and writer’s retreat, an important piece of Canadian cultural and literary heritage. The award is one of several annual heritage citations by Architectural Conservancy Ontario (ACO). Award recipients will be announced October 12. Following is the text of the nomination.

Writer Dennis Lee eulogized Al Purdy as “the greatest poet English Canada has produced.” The resurrection of his lakeside A-frame on the south shore of Roblin Lake, near Ameliasburgh in Prince Edward County, is a remarkable example of preserving cultural heritage. The rehabilitation and restoration of the storied A-frame, preserving its vernacular architecture, was and is a project undertaken to support Canada’s literary heritage. It is the only writer’s retreat in eastern Canada, and one of only two in the country that offer a stipend for young writers to rest quietly in a remote setting in order to create.

Writer Jean Baird and publisher Howard White established the Al Purdy A-frame Association in 2008 and began to raise the funds required to purchase and restore the property. To return it, in Baird’s words, to the “poetic retreat” it had been and should continue to be. Architect Duncan Patterson and local contractor Matti Kopamees had to contend with a dwelling that more or less occupied a flood plain. Drainage and engineering became the first of many tasks as the job of reclaiming the A-frame shifted from raising funds to raising beams. Delicately, they went about recreating the A-frame as it had been in Purdy’s time but without turning the building into an artificially preserved showpiece. Baird’s vision had always been to “preserve it as a place for writers to write.” She didn’t want to restore it to honour Purdy’s memory. She wanted to honour his memory by putting writers back under its roof. The result has led to the establishment of a new and multicultural generation of Canadian voices.