DVHS Speaker Series | Hugh Fraser, Hidden in Plain Sight: Surprising Stories About Niagara's 1800s Swing Beam Barns

The first Dundas Valley Historical Society seminar of the new year is “Hidden in Plain Sight: Surprising Stories About Niagara’s 1800s Swing Beam Barns” by Hugh Fraser, an enthusiastic expert and author on old barns. Free admission, 7pm.

Swing beam barns were built for the wheat industry between about 1820 and 1870 in Upper Canada, Canada West, then Ontario. Although they were built all over the Province, the majority of barns still standing are in the Niagara, Haldimand, and Hamilton areas. The unique feature was the huge wooden swing beam, which provided a wide open-concept area for farmers to thresh wheat with a flail on the threshing floor. Some swing beams were mammoth, with cross-sections of 24 inches by 12 inches. In the picture, the swing beam runs above the (non-original) fridge and bar.

Hugh is from a dairy, has worked with farmers his entire career, and continues to work with them in semi-retirement. He also is a director with a relatively new non-profit organization called Ontario Barn Preservation. His book about 50 swing beam barns in the Niagara area is 275 pages of colourful photos, schematics, and engaging stories about the barns’ historical owners. Copies will be available for $65 (tax included).