A-frame Association Wins Ontario Heritage Award

The Al Purdy A-frame Association has won a 2023 Special Jury Award bestowed by Architectural Conservancy Ontario, “for their efforts to restore the historic property and writer’s retreat, an important part of Canadian cultural and literary heritage.”

The award was announced at the ACO gala held in Toronto on October 12. Representing the APAFA at the gala to accept the award was A-frame alumnus Paul Elter.

Canadian artist Paul Elter at the awards gala.

The restoration of Al Purdy’s lakeside A-frame in Prince Edward County is a remarkable example of preserving heritage. It’s also a story about art and how Purdy’s legacy continues to inspire young and emerging Canadian writers.

The rehabilitation of the storied A-frame, while 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 Canada that offer a stipend for young writers to unwind and 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. Delicately, a team went about recreating the A-frame as it had been in Purdy’s time, without turning the building into an artificially preserved showpiece.

But it’s what followed the renovations that matter most. The A-frame Residency Program, supported by public donations and launched in 2014, ensures that the cottage will now be occupied by Canadian writers. The concept is a restoration in the truest sense of the phrase, returning the A-frame to a time when it was a welcoming retreat for young writers.

The residency program has led to more than 40 published works, multiple literary prizes, including Governor General’s awards, and the establishment of a new and multicultural generation of Canadian voices.

The Purdys’ historic hand-made house is in excellent condition thanks to extensive upgrades. However, built “on the flood plain” from mostly found materials, the passing years and rising water levels have resulted in damage to the foundation.

In order to preserve the A-frame for the ages – so that the residency program can continue to serve the local and national community – the house needs to be raised and a new foundation completed at a total cost of $300,000. To date $145,000 has been raised.

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