Description of Historic Place
The Gillis Barn is a wood frame, gambrel-roofed, 2 ½ storey barn built circa 1924 in Miscouche.
The Gillis Barn is valued for its association with the prominent Gillis family, its architecture, its connection to Prince Edward Island's agricultural history, its importance as a community landmark and as a symbol of the economic prosperity of both the horse breeding and fox farming industries.
The Gillis family established a farm in Miscouche sometime before 1880. By the early 1920s, Urban, son of John the founder, had taken it over. A prosperous seed potato farmer, successful fox and horse breeder, and school trustee, Urban erected a large gambrel-roofed barn on the property that was shortly after destroyed by fire (circa 1922). In approximately 1924, he replaced it with this structure, based on a design provided by the Beatty Brothers Ltd. Barn Equipment Company of Fergus, Ontario. The parts and equipment to build the barn are believed to have cost upwards of $10,000, and were delivered to the farm by rail, convenient for the Gillises as they lived a mere few hundred feet from the train station. The barn was constructed by a Mr. Roberts of the Middleton/Kinkora area, and the "Beatty Brothers" stamp can still be seen on much of the equipment inside.
The Gillises were among those who capitalized on the success of the booming fox industry in the 1920s, operating the Lone Star Fox Ranch, as well as the Lone Star Stock Ranch, where horses were bred and table stock and seed potatoes were grown. This structure functioned as a stock barn for the latter operation, in addition to serving as a community stable - when roads proved impassable, people would leave their horses in the barn and travel farther afield by train. As well, it was also a popular gathering place for young men in the area. Today, the barn is used to stable racehorses.
Very few alterations have been made to the Gillis Barn since its construction. The original cedar-shingle roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles in two phases, with black shingles installed on the west elevation, and green ones later put in place on the east. A low, nearly flat steel-roofed structure of upright boards has been erected adjacent to the west elevation, running south, which is used as an animal pen. Repairs have been made to the dormers and ventilators over the years, although their original integrity has been maintained. In the 1990s, the Gillis family was given a heritage award by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation for its preservation of the barn.
The Gillis Barn is notable for being one of the largest main barns on the Island, as well as one of the last built with the use of funds obtained through the fox farming industry, and is indicative of the level of wealth that it generated during the 1920s. The farm on which this barn is situated has been held by the Gillises for a number of generations (over 125 years), and remains in the family today.
Heritage Places files, Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture, Charlottetown, PEI
File #: 4310-20/G11
The heritage value of the Gillis Barn is shown in the following character-defining elements:
- the overall massing of the barn
- the location of the barn on its original footprint
- the gambrel roof
- the square cupola ventilators along the roofline
- the wooden clapboard cladding
- the dormers on the front (east) elevation
- the atypically large number of windows on the front elevation
- the original door and window openings, with many original doors and windows
- the earth ramp off the back (west) elevation
- the large double doors on the west elevation
- the gambrel-shaped projection on the west elevation
- the wide eaves with tongue and groove board trim
- the concrete foundation
- the overall excellent preservation of the barn
Additional interior features:
- the bullpen with its own sewer pit
- the tongue and groove hardwood wainscotting in the horse stalls