Around 1981, this barn in the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie was featured in a Manitoba Co-operator series on rural buildings. The original caption for the photograph is given below:
This 76-year-old, 12-sided structure located about three miles east of Macdonald reaches 65 feet in height. The original structure was designed with about 20 horse stalls along the perimeter wall and a central feeding and hay lift system. A Mr. Hill moved to the area from Iowa in the early 1900s and, in 1905, brought a carpenter from his native Iowa to construct the 12-sided barn with fir framing and cedar siding. He told local people he preferred the design because it withstood prairie winds better than the conventional English or Saltbox designs. He sold the farm a few years later and returned to Iowa. The farm has now been with the Bruce family for almost 40 years and is currently operated by brothers Reg, Russell, and Melville Bruce. They report that regular repairs have kept the structure in good condition although the main plates on the upper level have shifted somewhat. With a diameter of 60 feet, the interior was long ago altered to accommodate a cattle operation and also allows a walkway around the perimeter wall. The central beams as 10 inches square and in sound condition. However, hay is now loaded to the upper areas through several exterior doors located high on the 20-foot high walls, rather than the central lift that is difficult to reach. The Bruce home is about as old as the village of Macdonald itself. A log structure of more than 100 years, it has been bricked over in recent decades. Named in honour of Canada’s first prime minister, the village was originally called Drumconner.
Before returning to the United States, Kansas-born Armand R. Hill (1882-1958) sold the property to local farmer Harold E. Batters (1890-1969) who resided there with his family until selling it to the Bruce family in 1943. Also on the site is the former Belle Plain schoolhouse, brought here for use as a workshop. The 12-sided barn, still standing at the time of a July 2014 site visit, is now structurally fragile.
Historic Sites of Manitoba: Manitoba Co-operator Rural Buildings Series
Historic Sites of Manitoba: Belle Plain School No. 46 (RM of Portage la Prairie)
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
“The last barn standing” by Robin Dudgeon, Portage Daily Graphic, 25 February 2012, page 12.
Armand R. Hill (1882-1958), Odd Fellows Cemetery, Fresno, California, Find-A-Grave.
Burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Doug Love and the Bruce family, along with Shirley Batters Christianson, for providing information used here.
This page was prepared by Bob Hainstock, Ed Ledohowski, and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 28 June 2019
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