Van Horne barn

The Van Horne barn was built in 1898 for a cost of $20,000, which today would be more than $500,000 US. (Ministers Island Facebook)

The historic two-storey barn attached to the Van Horne estate on Ministers Island is in urgent need of repair.

Ministers Island, lying just off the shore near Saint Andrews, was the summer home of Sir William Van Horne, the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Much has been done to restore the main house, but the massive livestock barn that dates back to the 1890s is one major storm away from falling apart.

Volunteers who look after the site launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise $30,000 to do emergency repair work on the structure's massive turreted silos.

Volunteer Brian Usher said the foundation is going to rot if emergency caps aren't placed on the barn's roof before the spring.

"We've got slats on the roof but the water has come down through that structure and it's penetrating the rest of the building," Usher said in an interview on Information Morning Saint John.

"With the [Hurricane] Arthur storm coming through there's been a lot of extensive damage, things that were just hanging on have gotten even worse … and the silos of the barn are ranked as a top priority."

Tourism potential

A full restoration of the barn, part of the non-profit board's five-year goal, will cost $261,000. The group wants to open up more areas of the barn to the public and eventually host weddings, general meetings and cultural events.

Usher says the estate has great tourism potential for the Charlotte County area.

"In 1900, the kinds of innovations [Van Horne] put in place are significant, and the board would like to see the island become the centre of innovation," said Usher.

"We're at the edge of a spot where we say, if we can get this barn back online and reflecting its past but also going forward into the future we think it'll make a significant contribution to the tourism industry."

The group set up its crowd-funding campaign through the National Trust for Canada site, Donations can also be made by contacting the board directly at

The Van Horne barn was built in 1898 at a cost of $20,000, which today would be more than $500,000 US. The barn is 25 metres high, 46 metres long and 17 metres wide.

Van Horne kept his prize-winning Dutch Belted cattle and Clydesdale horses there. The barn manager's office was recently turned into a gift shop.

The New Brunswick government bought Ministers Island in 1977.