Barb Edmonston and Sylvester McNeil are preserving a piece of Cariboo history.
Edmonston owns a ranch in Big Bar, Firefly Ranch, that dates back to around 1889, over 120 years old. “There’s a little bit of history about it,” she said. “There are some interesting stories with this place for sure.”
Some of the original owners of the ranch were the Kerr family, who lived on the ranch circa 1917. One of the Kerrs, Helen Kerr, was inducted into the B.C. Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Edmonston said a home inspector, after looking over the property, told her there were no collar ties on the barn and it could blow over in the next big wind.
Edmonston contacted Sylvester McNeil, who restores buildings and structures under the name Log Home Restoration by Sylvester. He said he has worked on projects like this before, but this is the oldest one.
“I’m always excited about projects like this,” McNeil said, “This is what I do for a living almost.”
Edmonston said the whole ranch is historic. There are four buildings, including a slaughterhouse dating back 129 years, the same era as the barn, but it’s always been a cattle ranch. Edmonston said she likes the scenic surroundings of the historic ranch, which include the mountains to the south.
Some of the original owners also ended up opening a restaurant there, she said.
McNeil has been working on Firefly ranch for about a month, and Edmonston said the restoration is going quite well in the beginning stages. The archway has already been restored, but she said there’s still quite a ways to go to finish the restoration.
“We’re going to start with the big barn, from the 1890s, going to keep it looking like an old barn.”
“We’ll have to take the deterioration off, but it will look circa correct,” McNeil said.
“We’re just getting started on it, stabilized the roof, taking out logs on the foundation, replacing logs, sealing gaps between logs. Back in the 1890s, they used to use hay, sawdust and mortar, so we’re going to use the same.”
The project will take about two or three years to complete but McNeil said, “It’s a rewarding one. You’re saving history.”
“(Edmonston) is doing all this by herself. She’s a true cowgirl,” he said. “She’s very passionate about what she does, but also very passionate about restoring the building.”
McNeil said normally when he restores buildings and houses, they look brand new, but he doesn’t want that for this one. He wants them to look old but protective, and this will be, he said.
“When I started explaining to (Edmonston), we’re not going to make this new, we’re going to make this look old like I just see her eyes and face light up. I said we save everything, but it’s her passion. That’s why I took this job on,” McNeil said.
Right now, they’re concentrating on the barn, because McNeil said it’s iconic and front and centre. It should also be done first because the horses live there, and it has to be winterized.
“All of it was very historic and old and (the ranch has) been beautifully built, and I think it’s important to preserve for people to understand,” Edmonston said. “It’s kind of expensive to bring the barns back, but I think it’s worth it.”