A major restoration project underway at the Shelburne Barrel Factory on historic Dock Street will ensure the tradition that began in 1917 continues for years to come.
The building, which is partially original, has been lifted to allow for a new cement foundation to be poured. Shelburne contractor Nick Stewart Concrete Work is “the foundation guy.”
“It’s quite the project,” Stewart said.
Using I-Beams, the building was lifted on March 15 and blocked up to allow workers to build the new foundation. It was expected to take a week to complete.
Once the building is lowered back down, the exterior will be re-done, the roof shingled and a new wood floor installed, says Donna Rhuland, who has worked at the barrel factory for 41 years and was co-owner with her husband Raymond until last year.
Now she is working with the new owner, George Vandermeer, a semi-retired certified contractor from Ontario who moved to Shelburne County several years ago.
Rhuland says with global warming and rising sea levels, “every year we seem to get a flood so the best move is to lift the building up.”
Rhuland says they expect the project to be completed before the end of April.
“We hope to be back and running by the end of April making trawl tubs,” she says, adding the factory is kept busy making barrels of different sizes, trawl tubs, planters, and buckets, and race tubs like the ones used by the Scott Timber Family.
“If you want to work at things, you can be busy,” she says.
The barrel factory was originally built in 1917 by Chandley Smith.
In 1994, when the movie The Scarlet Letter – starring Demi Moore and Gary Oldman – came to town, some waterfront property owners were approached about alterations to their buildings to fit the movie set. Those who said yes were given the option of a temporary build or having it built to code.
“They tore half of it down and rebuilt this section here,” Rhuland says. “We had the option to get it built to code and we did. It made sense.”
The restoration project is attracting lots of lookers, especially owners of The Cooper’s Inn bed and breakfast, Pat and David Chute.
“It’s just so exciting to see the building saved,” says Pat, after shooting a video of the project for their Facebook page. “Even though it’s not that old, it has such character and blends in” with the rest of the waterfront’s historic properties, she says.
The barrel factory is directly across the street from Coopers Inn, which was the home for Chandley Smith, his wife Blanche and their 12 children.
The original cooperage, which is a small building behind the main inn, operated from 1904 to 1917. It now houses four guest rooms.