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Hillcrest Tree Farm is situated on a 100 acre former dairy farm dating back to the 1800’s. When we purchased it in 1987, the farm consisted of a white clapboard farmhouse, gambrel roof dairy barn, milk house, drive shed, henhouse and pigsty. All the buildings were in very poor condition after sitting empty for many years and the fields were badly overgrown. We thought the old farm on the crest of a hill was a beautiful spot, and kept the former name confirmed by a newspaper photo from the Rideau township archives.
Our original idea was to open a bed and breakfast and we estimated it to be a ten year project. We started cleaning up the grounds and renovating with the help of friends, family and eventually some very necessary local professionals. Not ever considered a possibility for restoration, the house was mostly rebuilt with a large addition. Several sections of the old house were torn down, as well as the milk house and henhouse, leaving essentially the foundation and frame and the aspect was changed to southern rather than western.
We moved in during construction of the house in 1991, and with our DIY spirit still strong, set out to put the rest of the property in order. The drive shed still stands and our Belgian horses live in the converted pigsty. The top of the old barn had to be taken down, and although Mother Nature is rapidly taking back the rest, we still hope to make some use of it eventually. The ten year estimate (completely unrealistic from the start) and the B&B went out the window long ago, partly because we decided to start planting Christmas trees halfway through the building project. We had no idea how much extra work would be involved, but the tree farm is a good use for this property and we continue to develop it as we go along, still with help from family and friends.
Hillcrest Tree Farm was established in 1993 and opened to the public in 2000, using a small section of the drive shed for a shop and a pickup truck for a mobile field office and pay booth. In 2002, we added a 40 x 60 foot Coverall building to serve as an indoor tree lot. We’ve come a long way since then and have enjoyed meeting the many people that have visited and we look forward to the continuing adventure.
Dave and Bronwyn Harper