By Deborah Chapman, museum curator
Something exciting happened last week at R.J. Haney Heritage Village. Fedex delivered a package from Ontario. It contained four pieces of tin, samples for the Montebello Museum’s Bedford Pharmacy and the pool hall. The excitement had been building. It started with a discovery in the archives room.
We had been looking for a treatment for two buildings in the Montebello Museum. The two were representations of Bedford’s pharmacy on Hudson St. in 1909. The thing is, the building had multiple lives and we were choosing two businesses to tell the story. Prior to Bedford’s moving in, the building had been a stationery shop owned by SH Lawrence. The merchant had figured he was peddling one of life’s necessities. Every developing community had a general store, a postal outlet, a livery and, of course, absolutely needed a stationer’s shop. Covered with stucco and fortified with concrete, the original building still stands on Hudson. Staff at the museum had thought the building was clad with Insulbrick, a product that looks like a patterned roofing material. It is sheeting, coated with tar and a granular material. There are better imitation products on the market nowadays and Insulbrick is no longer available, partly because it really isn’t a very pretty cladding and also because it contains asbestos, a carcinogenic material.
A still-standing, Insulbrick building was photographed and staff at Haney thought about “fauxing” it. A faux finish didn’t seem right. We had carefully researched all the other known sidings or claddings in the Montebello Museum. Then researchers made a discovery! The 1910 fire insurance plans were pulled out of the map cabinet. The plans were blown up. We knew exactly what the building was sided with. When Albert Bedford was in residence, the surveyor working for Goad’s noted an “iron clad” finish on the front of the building. We re-scanned the photograph at an even higher resolution and found, down near the base of the building, an edge of the metal cladding. Someone had caught it and torn the siding. The non-galvanized tin had rusted a pattern into the wood behind it. This was the project’s eureka moment.
Fast forward and consultation with the international museum community and Ken Bosch at Hermanski Architects Inc., and we found two sources. One in the Nevada, Mo., WF Norman Corp, was a manufacturer of ceiling tiles. The American company’s block pattern didn’t match up with Bedford’s. It was costly to ship and the US dollar had to be taken into account.
The second “find” was Brian Greer’s Tin Ceilings in Petersburg, Ontario. Brian’s company had a specialty page. The #307 was made for historic Corbetton Church in Mulmur, Ontario. It was a perfect match for Salmon Arm’s own pool hall photographs.
We also needed a corner block, something Greer didn’t have. It was twice the size of the other bricks and square. It lined up with the cornices on the original building. Greer quoted $4,000 to make the pattern, or die, but would charge us half the fee to create it.
Two donors, Doug and Donna Adams, agreed to fund the project above and beyond their existing contribution to the Montebello project so we ordered the tin with optimism.
There is an opening to be ready for. Will you join us July 9th?
-Deborah Chapman is the archivist at the Salmon Arm Museum.