The Farmers' Bank of Rustico
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Restoration

 

Farmers' Bank

The Restoration of the Farmers' Bank

The Farmers' Bank of Rustico has stood as a symbol of strength and independence for the Acadian people for nearly 150 years. Based on the small people's banks of Germany and the predecessor to the North American Credit Union Movement, this institution had its origins in the determination and ingenuity of Rev. Georges-Antoine Belcourt. Father Belcourt, who began serving the Rustico parish in 1859, designed the building first and foremost as a parish hall but with the bank in mind to improve the economic prospects for local farmers. Father Belcourt designed the 60' by 40' building that housed the bank for 30 years and believed it to be the finest building on Prince Edward Island at the time. Despite the bank closing its doors in 1894 the structure has continued to serve the community as a parish hall, a community library, a dance hall and, since being fully restored in 2000, a museum.

Use, time and the exposure to the elements through the years took their toll on the building and in 1991 it was deemed unsafe for use and was closed to the public. The building was in such a state of disrepair, it was feared it could actually collapse in on itself. The support structure had deteriorated; there was considerable damage to the stones and mortar. The only thing truly holding the Farmers' Bank together was the sheer mass of its stones.

Restoration Process Begins

Knowing the historical and regional value of the building, the Friends of the Farmers' Bank began the long process of making its restoration a reality. The group began talks with Canadian Heritage/Parks Canada to see if there was a possibility of partnering in the large undertaking. Both sides agreed that something had to be done to secure the shell of the building to make sure it did not collapse. Initially the idea was simply to add support to the massive stones. The first stage of this included using large poles to bear some of the weight and prevent the walls from moving. The poles were set into the ground and braced against the masonry on the bank's south wall. As an additional measure, engineers suggested wrapping the building with airline cable to prevent movement in other areas of the structure. Parks Canada was willing to foot the nearly $10,000 cost of this. But with such a high price tag for a temporary and inadequate solution, the Friends of the Farmers' Bank decided that it would be better to push for a more permanent repair to the building. This began the long process to fully restore the bank to its original structural integrity.

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Farmers' Bank of Rustico building.  Circa 1950

Farmers' Bank was housed in the Parsh Hall. Circa 1950. Farmers' Bank Collection.

Side view of restored Farmers' Bank, 2000

Farmers' Bank of Rustico after restoration. Farmers' Bank Collection

side view of preparations of restored bank's re-opening activies. June 2000.

Grand re-opening preparation activities at the Farmers' Bank. Farmers' Bank Collection.

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