Wood pavilion helps Wildwood remain local

We have to beat this thing together with big, blunt blows.” Dave Brook hefts a giant mallet made entirely out of wood with a head the size and…

We have to beat this thing together with big, blunt blows.”

Dave Brook hefts a giant mallet made entirely out of wood with a head the size and weight of a cinder block.

“If you try to do it with a sledge hammer, you’re going to leave marks because it’s too small,” he says.

The handle is longer than his arm.

“The handle is made of willow. Willow’s got real strength to it.”

Brook is a local carpenter from the Mount Lorne area.

He and his colleague Mike MacDonald are two of a rare breed in the Yukon.

They practise the art of timber framing — an age-old style of construction that joins giant wooden posts and beams like a jigsaw puzzle.

The posts are whacked in place by a mallet and held together with intricate joints and oak pegs.

Brook puts down the mallet and walks past his arsenal of planers, saws and chisels laid out on tables and along the floor.

He exits the Lorne Mountain Community Centre hall and heads into the shadow of a brand new timber-frame creation.

Towering above him is a solid wooden “performance pavilion” with a peaked roof that reaches 10-metres up.

Eighty thick pine and spruce beams have been fitted with painstaking precision to house a square stage and a wrap-around veranda.

From the outside, it looks like a glorified gazebo.

Brook and MacDonald, along with a knife-maker and carver named Tony Painter and more than a dozen teenagers from the area have been working non-stop since June to have the pavilion finished for the grand opening of the Wildwood Festival.

Taking place today and tomorrow, Wildwood is a bi-annual event that provides Mount Lorne residents the opportunity to celebrate the local economy in art, music and food.

This year’s events will focus on the prized pavilion, which was an initiative of the Lorne Mountain Community Association.

The price tag for the structure was about $123,000, paid mostly by the territorial government’s Community Development Fund, according to the community association’s president, Shiela Alexandrovich.

The association had found the community centre hall, able to hold less than 100 people, was just too small for many of its events, Alexandrovich said.

“Things like barn dances in the winter always sell-out and there’s always people that can’t come,” she added.

They deliberated on ideas for a new building for months, consulting different builders and engineers.

One day, they came to Brook to ask his opinion.

“He immediately thought timber frame,” said Alexandrovich.

And so the plan was put in motion.

Construction began in June, and the Yukon’s Crime Prevention Fund paid the wages of more than a dozen local kids, who came to work on the site throughout the summer along with Brook, MacDonald and Painter.

“It gives the kids an opportunity to be involved in building something for their community,” said Alexandrovich.

“It felt like a summer camp,” said Brook. “It had a real bustling atmosphere.”

When designing the stage inside the pavilion, the association spoke to performers, musicians, choreographers and theatre folks to make sure it was useful for all purposes.

Made of Douglas fir imported from Kilrich, BC, the stage floor is built to withstand almost all weather.

“The stage will be sprung so you can actually do dance performance on it,” said Alexandrovich.

“And it will have wings, so you can do theatre performance.

“There are kids in the neighbourhood that are quite interested in theatre and there are lots of young musicians, so it’s a place to showcase the young people coming up,” she said.

The pavilion will play a central role in the Wildwood festival, as it is to be the site of many of the weekend’s activities.

Live local music and local food buffets will adorn its interior throughout Friday and Saturday.

The big event will happen Saturday night, when Mount Lorne residents jump onstage in unison for a big ol’ barn dance.

For the dance, they managed to grab Nova Scotian fiddler and caller Gordon Stobbe.

“The caller we usually use is away for the summer, so we just happened to snaggle on the tail end of this arts camp happening in Whitehorse right now up at the art centre,” said Alexandrovich.

“(Stobbe) is very keen to come out and call the dance for us.”

The festival will also include the exhibition and sale of artwork, felting workshops and scarecrow building.

“It’s all about connecting people who want to make things with people who have sources of things and are producing products here, trying to get us more local,” said Alexandrovich.

And this local Wildwood philosophy is represented by the pavilion itself.

Although the floor is made from imported fir, Brook and MacDonald made a great effort to obtain the rest of their wood locally.

The pine is from the Marsh Lake area and the Sitka spruce is from Haines, Alaska by way of a mill in Haines Junction, said Brooks.

Pinned to the very peak of the roof is a lone pine branch.

“It’s a European tradition to put a branch at the highest point of the building,” said MacDonald.

“It’s to appease the tree gods for using their wood.”

Standing in the middle of the stage looking up, it’s easy to see the structural support beams as pieces of art.

The roof is supported by a series of wooden “hammer bents” that stepladder up from the sides.

The unique engineering technique, seen in old European bridges, is able to maintain the extreme pressure of the roof, while at the same time leaving open space underneath.

It’s a setup that “even structural engineers have a hard time understanding,” said Brook.

“Every joint has its specific angle.”

The pavilion is only the second full timber-frame building Brook and MacDonald have built.

Almost all of their work for the past 15 years has been installing timber-frame sections in custom-made houses throughout the Yukon.

They hope to get the opportunity to build another full building soon.

MacDonald envisions having a pavilion, similar to the one in Mount Lorne but four times as long, along Whitehorse’s downtown waterfront.

“That would be really amazing,” he said. “It could hold shops and galleries.” 

Alexandrovich agreed.

She said it could be used as part of the Fireweed community market, which she participates in every week.

“Boy, we could sure use something permanent that wouldn’t blow away every Thursday,” she said.

“With a bit of planning it could be used by all kinds of groups. I think it would be a great idea and it would suit the area.”

For more information on the Wildwood Festival visit www.mountlorne.yk.net or call the Lorne Mountain Community Association at 667-7083.

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