Future brightens as barn gets new bones

For more than 84 years, the big, old barn on the Fluet farm just east of Mosside, Alta., has been part of the scenery.

It has stood out as a landmark that many people may not give more than a glance.

But there is a lot of history to it, some still being learned, and it is now getting a new lease on life.

Sonja Steinraths lives near the barn and one day decided something had to be done or the old barn, like many others, would crumble from disrepair.

The barn was built in 1932 for her father, Omer Fluet. As well as a farmer, Fluet owned and operated a sawmill in the area north of where the town of Barrhead is located.

The barn is a huge building, with an equally huge hayloft.

Steinraths has photos of it under construction, of hay being hoisted into the loft and many memories of it as she grew up working in it, helping with chores and milking cows.

The barn held several teams of horses, plus cows, and in later years, the west side was converted to a hog facility, with slatted floors and a pit beneath for the manure.

Steinraths also recalled working in the milking parlour attached to the northwestern corner of the barn.

But she still has more questions than answers, in spite of the fact she grew up there.

The barn was built by Rusty Roberts, proven by the fact that on the two large wooden air ducts leading up from the main floor through to the two cupolas on top of the barn there is writing on all four sides of each.

The writing proclaims: “Rusty Roberts Builder,” in faint but discernible handwriting.

Steinraths said she wondered if Roberts built other structures in the area and she is working on learning more about the man.

“I think this builder was exceptional,” she said.

The barn appears extremely well built and obviously was developed from a detailed plan. Steinraths said the structure is in a style more common to barns in Wisconsin.

Her father came to the Barrhead area in 1906 from Massachusetts. Roberts came from Wisconsin in 1912.

Steinraths noted there is a story about Roberts in the Barrhead history book that indicates he was also a writer.

Steinraths said today it is evident that the years have taken a toll on the barn. It has sat essentially empty for years. The roof and other repairs were needed, but she was unsure how to proceed.

Finally, Steinraths said she decided to “bite the bullet” and fix it, rather than watch it crumble with time.

Repairing the roof is the first major job. It is being completely reshingled with fresh cedar shingles, a huge undertaking considering the size of the barn.

Once that is done, other repairs will be carried out as the job progresses.

It will take considerable time, but once all repairs are complete, Steinraths expects to repaint the barn in its original red and green colour scheme.

What are her plans for the future of the Fluet barn after that?

“I really don’t know,” she said.

For now, she is operating on the thought, “build it and they will come.”

The important task in her mind is to get it restored. Once complete, there will be a lasting legacy to the life of Omer Fluet and his barn, as well as to Rusty Roberts.

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