Albert County volunteers work to revitalize Harvey Hall

·3 min read
Harvey Hall is located in Albert County. It was built in 1884. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)
Harvey Hall is located in Albert County. It was built in 1884. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)

After the doors of Harvey Hall opened in 1884, the wooden building was the heart of community events in Albert County for decades.

But its age caught up with the historic building in recent years — forcing those who managed it to shut the doors several years ago.

Now a new board of directors is making a push to revitalize the space, with hopes of bringing its charm back to the community about 18 kilometres northeast of Alma.

Ethel Duffy, a longtime resident of the area, has fond memories of Harvey Hall in its heyday.

The acoustics in Harvey Hall has made it a popular music venue.
The acoustics in Harvey Hall has made it a popular music venue.(Gary Moore/CBC)

"If someone should say there's a game of marbles going on at the hall — we would have quite an audience," said Duffy, the vice-president of the board of directors of Harvey Hall.

She said the building has been used for everything from concerts and theatre to weddings and elections.

"Everybody enjoyed coming to the hall," she said, adding that people would come from as far away as Moncton for events at the building.

Duffy said the two-storey building was built around the time when farming and shipbuilding were the main industries in the community.

Today Harvey Hall's age is apparent from the roadside. Inside, however, its original character stands the test of time, specifically the wooden floors, walls, stage and ceilings.

It's the interior design that made Harvey Hall a popular venue with musicians, who admired the building for its natural acoustics.

Ethel Duffy, left, and Melissa Wilbur are part of the group planning to revitalize Harvey Hall.
Ethel Duffy, left, and Melissa Wilbur are part of the group planning to revitalize Harvey Hall. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"It's very easy to see as soon as you come in and have a conversation in here — it kind of puts your soul at ease in terms of the sound, it's very relaxing," said Melissa Wilbur, the president of the board of directors.

Wilbur and the board, which formed in December 2018, hope to have performances back on the stage within a few years.

The performance space inside Harvey Hall is all original wood from the floor to the ceiling.
The performance space inside Harvey Hall is all original wood from the floor to the ceiling. (Gary Moore/CBC)

"Music was sort of a pillar of this hall for a very long time," she said. "We've had some amazing artists play here."

Wilbur said the board has a five-year plan to get the building back to code and for how it could be used in the coming years.

Besides using the building as a performance space, Wilbur said, the directors hope to use it as folklore school, to teach the next generation about the history of the area.

"What's the point of having a beautiful old building if you don't have the history to go along with it?" Wilbur asked, adding that people would be able to learn knitting, canning, gardening and art.

The pandemic has given the board of directors a sense of how important it is to have a community space like Harvey Hall.

"It's really just highlighted the fact that without community spaces and without a sense of community, people tend to get lost and don't have that sense of belonging," Wilbur said.

Wilbur added that the building was closed out of caution because of suspicions it was not as structurally sound as it should be to hold events inside.

The group has received provincial funding for an engineering report the will determine what work needs to be done to safely open the doors to the public again.

Once the directors get the results of that report, they will have a better idea of when the building can reopen.

Wilbur said the non-profit group is fundraising the money that's required to open the building, and will rely on events to help keep the building operating.