Wednesday, 05 October 2016 11:50

Harvest Stomp helps to fund restoration of historic Braddock Hall

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Wayne Christopher has been restoring Braddock Hall for the past three summers, and there are still many details that have to be completed. Wayne Christopher has been restoring Braddock Hall for the past three summers, and there are still many details that have to be completed. Matthew Liebenberg

The sounds of a feast to celebrate harvest will again be filling the interior of Braddock Hall Oct. 15, when the 3rd annual Braddock Harvest Stomp takes place to raise funds for the ongoing restoration of this almost 90-year-old building.

Wayne Christopher has been working every summer since 2014, when he acquired this building lot on the former Braddock town site, to restore the community hall to its former glory.
The harvest stomp revives a tradition that was started at a time when Braddock was a thriving rural community with two grain elevators.
“All the producers in the area would get together at the end of harvest and they’ll have a party just to celebrate the end of harvest,” he said. “It will be a potluck thing and people bring their instruments and they’d play and they’d dance and they’d eat and they’d visit.”
The fortunes of the town were closely tied to the railway line. The town site, which is located east of Wymark, was developed after Canadian Pacific Railway built a branch line and Braddock became the site of a rail stop.
The two grain elevators were constructed in 1924 and Braddock Hall was built in 1927. The community had a church, post office, general store and school, but when the railway tracks were pulled up, the community’s future became uncertain, and it ceased to be a town in 1964.
“When the railway quit coming through here, they pulled down the elevators,” he said. “Of course, people moved away, they died off, and it just stopped.”
Christopher grew up in Ontario and he worked in the construction industry in Sarnia until his retirement in 2013, but his family has a long association with the Braddock area.
“I’ve been coming out here every year since about 1954, with the exception of about 10 years in my teen years,” he said.
His great grandfather came to the area from Iowa and his grandfather provided the portion of land for the Braddock rail stop. He still remembers his childhood visits to the family farm.
 “I came out here when I was 15 with my grandparents for the summer and that kind of sealed my love for the place,” he said. “I just couldn’t get it out of my blood. It was the vastness of it, the beauty of it, the hardship of it, and just the living sky.”
He purchased a significant portion of the former Braddock town site in 1992 and it was also important for him to become the owner of the community hall, which is the only remaining building standing from that time.
“My grandfather was a principal in the construction of the hall,” he said. “So I couldn’t really see this place left to fall down.”
He still stays in Sarnia, but comes to Saskatchewan during the summer. Since 2014, all his attention has been focused on the restoration of the hall, which was used as a storage space for many years before he purchased it.
“So there was not a whole lot of maintenance done on the building,” he said. “The doors were barely hanging on, the windows were boarded up, but the boards were falling off. The old kitchen had that hole and it was so big, you could walk through it.”
Despite its poor shape: the kitchen, which was added to the original building in 1948, was actually helping to keep the hall from falling down.
“The building was leaning six inches to the east,” he said. “The northeast corner of the kitchen was all rotted out, and it virtually had no integrity left. That’s why we took it down. There was nothing left to save.”
The old kitchen has been replaced with a new one, and the hall has a new roof and siding. Most of the work has been done by Christopher and he has already spent about $35,000 on the restoration of the hall. Each harvest stomp is therefore raising funds to help him to continue with the work.
“It’s a good building,” he said. “It’s still got some life in it. So once it’s all done, it’s going to be available to whoever wants to do something. A family reunion or a quaint little wedding or whatever, maybe get the government involved and use it for a polling station.”
For Christopher, the restoration of the hall is an attempt to keep the history of an entire community alive.
“It’s a heritage thing,” he said. “It’s trying to keep something alive that once was. … I get the impression when I talk to people, whether they come by here or I run across somebody in town, that there’s interest in it again. I’ve talked to a few people who say,‘Oh, you’re the guy that’s doing the hall in Braddock.’”
The inaugural harvest stomp in 2014 was attended by about 250 people, but the turnout for last year’s event, which took place in September instead of October, was lower.
“We ended up with about 150 or 160 people last year, which was still a good turnout considering, and because we moved it back this year to October again, I expect we’re going to get more,” he said.
The upcoming harvest stomp on Oct. 15 will start at 4 p.m., and the serving of food will start between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. There will be a variety of meal options, including a non-alcoholic drink, at ticket prices ranging from $4 to $20. Beer, wine and liquor tickets, as well as raffle and 50/50 tickets will be available.
Musical entertainment will be provided by a number of performers and people are encouraged to bring along their own musical instruments for a jam or solo performance.
“We put a tip tub out front and anybody that wants to put in to tip the players, they can put a buck or two or three or five or whatever in the tub,” he said. “At the end of the night all the people who played divvy it up.”
Braddock Hall is located between Range Road 3111 and 3110, just south of Highway 721. For more information, send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Matthew Liebenberg