Rebuilding History

An exclusive five-home subdivision near Calgary is built from reclaimed timber, combined with the latest energy-saving products and techniques.

Written by: Connie Adair
Photos by: Jason Stang

In the 1980s, Douglas Stevens saw an episode of This Old Housethat would change his life. “I’m a history and old stuff nut,” says Stevens, president of Kings Barnes Developments Ltd.

“Ever since I saw Bob Vila renovating an old barn in Massachusetts on This Old House, I was hooked. I love the way the timber frame creates the warmth of a wood home without being as overpowering as a log structure. The character of the hand-hewn beams is the icing on the cake.”

For his latest endeavour, Stevens looked at almost 50 properties in the foothills west of Calgary before choosing a treed 35-acre lot for an upscale subdivision of five homes.

The topography and character of the lots had to be just right for the Kenilworth Barnes development, which will consist of five reclaimed historic buildings. The buildings have footprints ranging from 1,100 to more than 4,000 square feet, and buyers can decide how much loft space to create on the second and third levels.

“The goal is to have each house different than the rest,” says Stevens. They are priced from $750,000 to almost $2 million. The two-storey model home, with 3,465 square feet of living space, plus a 1,900-square-foot walkout basement, took almost 18 months to build. Depending on the level of detail, it could take up to two years to build each of the other houses, he says. The timbers used in the model home’s construction are from a barn in Lebanon County, Wisconsin. The timbers were cut down 155 years ago from trees ranging from 250 to 400 years old. “They were acorns sprouting when Columbus sailed over on the Santa Maria,” Stevens says.

The Zupke/Witte Barn was named for the two families who owned the land and barn since it was built. Census records show that Frederick Witte emigrated from Prussia some time between the birth of his son William in 1947 (in Prussia), and son Herman in 1852 (in Wisconsin). The barn would have been built before the house, around 1850, Stevens says.

The old-growth oak, hand-hewn timber frame barn was carefully documented, drawn, and the components were numbered before being dismantled and shipped to Calgary. “Some structural changes were needed for new local codes, but the footprint and shell remain as it was originally built 156 years ago,” says Stevens.

The company’s goal is to preserve heritage/antique buildings that would otherwise be lost to progress, to build energy-efficient homes, and to offer timeless designs and those that are historically accurate. The timber frame is surrounded by insulated panels that also act as a sound barrier, and the home has a radiant heating system. Recycled and reclaimed features include fir flooring, recycled multi-species random roof decking, reclaimed cast-iron bathtubs and an original Victorian castiron fireplace surround.

The three-bedroom, four-bathroom home has twotoned plaster walls to lend an aging mottled look. The kitchen has custom cabinets, granite counters that are more than 15 feet long and a walkout to a balcony.

There’s also a formal dining room, a den and a library. The master suite has a fireplace, views of the grounds, walk-in closets and cathedral ceilings. Stevens’ favourite feature of the home is the timber frame. “I like how we have made the exterior look like an actual barn. When people come into the foyer and see the huge open space, they are always blown away,” he says.

His favourite “room” is an 800 square foot back deck. “We watch the deer and moose go across the meadow. We sit out there in the winter, having a morning coffee and watching the sun come up. It really makes you feel connected to nature,” he says.

Building energy efficient, historically sensitive homes with green methods and recycled materials is a company goal, but Stevens says that, “Green does not preclude pleasing aesthetics.”

Stevens is applying for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the home, which offers a high-efficiency European heating and air handling system, low-e windows, and water and energy-efficient appliances. LEED is a voluntary, national standard for high-performance, sustainable buildings. It recognizes achievements and promotes expertise in green building through a comprehensive system offering project certification, professional accreditation, training and practical resources.

The property also offers a 21⁄2-car carriage house with an attached one-bay carport, plus a 750-squarefoot suite/office over the carriage house. All of the lots have conifer and deciduous trees and are designed so none of the houses are visible from the other. A 1.25-mile walking path surrounds the fenced perimeter and makes its way through three acres of environmental reserve that is part of the subdivision.

The homes are less than an hour from downtown Calgary and about 80 minutes from Banff National Park.