A lot of people see old farm buildings and machinery as a form of art, so they’ll have a picture of a barn or perhaps place an old tractor on their property.

Robert and Tammy Belanger had much loftier ideas when it came to renovating their 1940s-era barn.

However, there were times during the three-year project when Robert was wondering if he was of stable mind when it came to his beloved barn.

“Many people thought I was crazy and after a while I thought maybe I was crazy,” Belanger said with a chuckle.

“I’m not a carpenter by any means, but it was just a labour of love. I’d be out there at 2 a.m. with no heat and my Ski-Doo suit on … I was burnt out in the end. It was a long journey.”

Belanger grew up in Selkirk and has always loved the outdoors. Over the years as a game warden he developed an admiration for old rural structures.

There was just one problem with the big old barn that really grabbed his interest — it was situated across the road from his home in St. Clements. He and Tammy acquired the barn from their neighbour in 2006, but they still weren’t sure what they would do with the 3,000-square-foot building.

It was a project in itself to move the 50X30 barn over a snow-filled ditch across the road to their eight-acre property.

“If it wasn’t restored, it would have fallen over in a couple of years,” Belanger said, adding the shingles were gone and it was rotting away.

The Belangers eventually settled on the idea of giving it a second life as Hawthorn Estates — a rental facility, primarily geared toward hosting weddings and anniversaries. Part of the renovation challenge was bringing it up to code as it was no longer being used for hay and animals.

Once it was re-engineered as a year-round commercial venue, complete with heat and air conditioning, Hawthorn Estates hosted its first wedding in August and had its grand opening last month.

“The main level was all cattle stalls and I have some old pictures of the poop-filled stalls,” Belanger said. “When you look at what we did in there today compared to what it was, it is truly a restoration and transformation.”

The barn’s exterior was originally red and white, but it’s since been tastefully covered in metal siding. Tammy, an interior designer, led the project inside with a “rustic elegant” theme, mixing modern-day amenities and huge chandeliers with the original timber throughout.

“A lot of people who come say they’ve never seen anything like it and that’s nice to hear,” said Belanger, who has been busy booking weddings into next year. “The bottom line is the barn was rescued and it didn’t fall over like so many have.”

Hawthorn Estates, named after the many hawthorn trees on the property about 30 minutes from Winnipeg, gives brides and grooms something more than just a hall, Belanger said.

“We’ve got a beautiful marriage hill that the bride and groom can get married on, so it’s like a one-stop shop,” he said.

“They come in, spend the day, get married, take pictures on our beautiful treed property by the creek, then have the reception.”

Sounds like a great idea Robert. Guess you weren’t so crazy after all.

For more information or bookings, find Hawthorn Estates on Facebook, call (204) 482-3050 or email at [email protected].


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