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Al Purdy A-frame Association receives ACO Special Jury Award

The Al Purdy A-Frame Association received the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Special Jury Award earlier this month at the 17th annual Heritage Awards, honouring leaders, projects and initiatives worthy of provincial recognition for their contributions to architectural conservation in Ontario.

The Al Purdy A-Frame Association had been nominated in September for for the Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award but it was not presented this year. Nominations are submitted for particular awards, but at the discretion of the jury, nominations are sometimes moved to another category.

This year, nominations were received in 10 categories from 11 communities across the
province. To learn more about the recipients, see below and visit www.acoheritageawards.ca

* * *
Al Purdy A-frame Association nominated for ACO Heritage Award

Poetry readings at the Purdy A Frame in 2015 – Sue Capon photos

SEPT. 21: The Al Purdy A-frame Association has been nominated for an Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) Heritage Award for its efforts to restore the historic property and writer’s retreat in Ameliasburgh.

Alex MacKinnon, program co-ordinator with the ACO says the Heritage Awards to be held Oct. 12 in Toronto include the Al Purdy A-Frame Association nomination for the Margaret and Nicholas Hill Cultural Heritage Landscape Award.

That award recognizes effort to preserve and to raise awareness of and appreciation for a significant Cultural Heritage Landscape as defined by the Ontario Heritage Trust.

In the ACO’s description for the association, it states:

“Writer Dennis Lee eulogized Al Purdy as ‘the greatest poet English Canada has produced.’ The resurrection of his lakeside A-frame on the south shore of Roblin Lake, Ameliasburgh in Prince Edward County, is a remarkable example of preserving cultural heritage. The rehabilitation and restoration of the storied A-frame, preserving its vernacular architecture, was and is a project undertaken to support Canada’s literary heritage. It is the only writer’s retreat in eastern Canada, and one of only two in the country that offer a stipend for young writers to rest quietly in a remote setting in order to create.”

When Purdy (1918-2000) was in residence – most summers from the late 1950s to when he died – the A-frame became a stop for many of Canada’s literary figures. Halfway between Montreal and Toronto, its callers included Margaret Laurence, Michael Ondaatje, Milton Acorn and dozens of others.

Writer Jean Baird and publisher Howard White established the Al Purdy A-frame Association in 2008 and began to raise funds to purchase and restore the property… and “preserve it as a place for writers to write.”

The AGO nomination states “She didn’t want to restore it to honour Purdy’s memory. She wanted to honour his memory by putting writers back under its roof. The result has led to the establishment of a new and multicultural generation of Canadian voices.”

Al and Eurithe Purdy

“Working on my own A-frame we pounded nails
and sawed boards, cussing and sweating a little
without money for electricity or plumbing
three lamps together and you might read a book
chopping thru winter ice for water”
– Al Purdy, “In Search of Owen Roblin 

Al and wife Eurithe bought the property on the south shore of Roblin Lake in 1957 and with Jim Parkhurst (Eurithe’s father) began construction.

The A-frame Association website shares that Eurithe says Al was always his most productive at the A-frame. “Despite the caviar receptions and gold accolades, he always returned to this jury-rigged little A-frame tacked to a low-slung, leaning bungalow. The whole edifice, he observed, ‘bent a little in the wind and dreamt of the trees it came from’. Here, he could observe all his poetry’s recurring themes: love, death, ego, ‘the glories of copulation.'”

Purdy was born in Wooler and raised in Trenton. He published 33 books of poetry along with a novel, autobiography and collections of essays and correspondence. He died in 2000 in Sidney, BC. He is considered one of Canada’s greatest poets.

“So we built a house, my wife and I
our house at a backwater puddle of a lake near Ameliasburg, Ont.”
                                                          — Al Purdy, “In Search of Owen Roblin”

Find out more about Purdy, the A-frame association and writers in residences at https://www.alpurdy.ca/

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