Campbell Carriage Factory Museum – It’s Early Years
Twenty years ago this week the Tantramar Heritage Trust acquired title to the derelict Campbell Carriage Factory building, contents and grounds in Middle Sackville. The Trust was embarking on its first major project, one to establish Sackville’s first museum. That was during Heritage Week 1998 and this year the Trust will be presenting a comprehensive “flash back” look at those early development years of the Museum leading up to its opening in 2003. So on Heritage Day, Saturday, February 17th, 2018 the public are cordially invited to attend the presentation in Sackville Council Chambers starting at 2PM.
Heritage Day, February 1998: Deed transfer via donation from the Campbell family to the Tantramar Heritage Trust; left to right are Barb Campbell, Erin Campbell, Mary Campbell, Brian Campbell, Will Campbell, Trust President Al Smith, Trust Director Phyllis Stopps and Vice President Colin MacKinnon
Very early on the founding members of the Trust realized that the Campbell Carriage Factory was an historic treasure on a national scale. It was the only remaining Carriage Factory not only in Sackville but in all of Canada, and only one of two in North America. Active as a carriage factory for nearly 100 years (c1850-1951) this abandoned and rapidly deteriorating building contained over 6000 artifacts ranging from tools and equipment to hand made patterns, wheels and all the component parts in carriage manufacturing. It also contained a few Campbell made sleighs, but unfortunately by that time no wheeled vehicles.
The Tantramar Heritage Trust was incorporated in September 1996, held its first Board meeting in October, and in November 1996 launched into its first major project – to acquire and restore the Campbell Carriage Factory. The story of rescuing this national treasure, however, goes back to the summer of 1995 when Mona Estabrooks was working at the Town Hall in an office across from Mayor Will Campbell (whose family owned the Carriage Factory). Mona learned that Mayor Campbell was seriously considering, for a number of reasons, having the old factory demolished. Acting quickly, she arranged to view the interior of the building and contacted Colin MacKinnon who visited the site along with Barb Campbell. Quickly realizing that every effort had to be made to head off any demolition plans Colin contacted experts from Kings Landing Historical Village to visit. Chief Curator, Darrell Butler and Kings Landing Director Bob Dallison toured the factory on October 13, 1995. Both were awestruck by the significance of the site and Butler quickly followed up with a detailed letter to Colin urging preservation of the building and its contents as it was of both Provincial and National historic significance. That letter was presented to Will and Barb Campbell and any thoughts to demolish the building were called off.
The Trust was just into its second year as an organization when it took possession of the Factory and all realized that it was a major project with huge challenges, both financial and organizational along with acquiring expertise to undertake the task. The summer of 1998 so devoted to making a start at inventorying, describing and recording the 6000+ artifacts – a function that actually took several years to complete. Major restoration of the building was planned for 1999 so all the artifacts had to be removed and put in storage in the fall of 1998. With guidance from experts from Kings Landing the major aspects of building restoration (foundation, walls, windows, doors, siding etc. were completed by the fall of 1999 and the artifacts were moved back in. Over the following three years the restoration process had to be completed along with arranging the artifacts within their functioning factory space which, along with information panels, told the story of how the factory actually functioned. Establishing the exhibits required a huge amount of research in order to understand the process of carriage manufacturing.
Today the museum is an extremely rare example of 19th century manufacturing. The Tantramar Heritage Trust is most grateful to the Campbell family for their donation of the property and extremely proud to have had the opportunity to rescue this unique building and present to the public the story of its glory days. Dozens of volunteers and many organizations contributed. It is an historical treasure not only for Sackville, but for the entire nation.
Please plan to join us on Heritage Day, February 17th, 2PM at Sackville Town Hall for an in-depth look at the complexities of the early years of the Campbell Carriage Factory Museum. Presenters will be Rhianna Edwards, Paul Bogaard and Al Smith.
The afternoon session will begin with short presentations by three Grade 8 students from Samantha Wood-Hicks’ Marshview Middle School class who did research at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre last fall. Light refreshments will be served in the lobby following the afternoon program.