The Coldstream Barn, also known as the George’s Barn, is iconic to many within Killam and the surrounding area. The quarter section that the barn sits on was acquired by Leonard and Alexander George in May 1920 from W.E. Larson. The pair had come to Killam, Alberta in 1913 from Walla Walla, Washington.
The two George brothers farmed together until 1928 when they went their separate ways. When the operation was split, Lenard got this quarter section of land. The barn was constructed in 1925 by Gus Lee in order to accommodate the horses used in the daily farm operations. In time, as many as sixty horses were harnessed daily for field work; eight horses would be hooked to each plough and would have to be switched out for fresh horses often. It was said that crews of First Nations peoples helped the Georges clear brush in both the summer and winter to expand the boundaries of this farm. The George’s cropping operation was quite sizable in its day. Threshing was done with a Case tractor and a crew of fourteen men. Many of these men stayed in the farmyard in the loft of a bunkhouse.
The barn has a Gothic-arched roof; or a rainbow arch roof and a hay hood; it used to have two wooden cupolas with flared gable roofs. Each sliding door on the two faces of the barn and the one hayloft door have white “X” designs. The barn has six stalls on each side; enough for twelve horses on each side and twenty-four horses in total. The hay loft uses nailed trusses to create a large hayloft free of the usual interior braces. This allowed for greater storage of hay for the draft horses; additionally, two enclosed rooms on the main floor at the end of the stalls held grain as a high-energy snack for the working beasts.
The George family built a new Easton house in 1928; complete with four bedrooms upstairs and a lovely main floor with a large living room and kitchen. Lloyd George was born on December 22, 1928; he would take over farming on this property after Leonard George. After a time, tractors came to the farm and horses were not needed in such quantity anymore. The barn sat mostly vacant, save a few pigs and/or cows, until 1947 when Lloyd George had a new idea.
In 1947, the George family had the barn’s loft remodeled for use as a dance hall and had stairs installed on the eastern and western faces of the barn. The first dance was held on July, 16, 1947. The music that evening was provided by Charlie Merta’s Western Four. Leonard George organized the dances which were held between mid May to October, depending on the weather. Admission was 50 cents for ladies and $1.00 for men. It gave the attendee three and a half hours of dance time; the dances ran from 10:00 pm to 2:30 am with one hour break at midnight. The barn was decorated with streamers and other party supplies, lights were hung above the dance floor, and a strict rule of no loitering on the dance floor was enforced. Anyone who crossed the red line on the floor nearby the western entryway had to be dancing. The local church’s woman’s organization, the St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church Catholic Women’s League, supplied food to the attendees for a small fee to the organizer, but included in the price of entry.
A number of local musicians provided the music for the dances including the Blue Jays, Ruby Keehn, the Bennetts, Western Four, and Charlie Merta. Charlie Merta was the uncle of Joyce Niehaus, who also played at the Coldstream Barn in another orchestra. She began playing there in the tail-end of the 1948 dance season on a contract that let them play every second weekend and got $6.00 a dance.
Joyce has many fond memories of the Coldstream Barn and often smiles when she thinks of it; “It was a joyous place,” she says. She would meet Lloyd George while at one of the Coldstream Barn dances and the pair would marry on October 17th, 1951. They had planned to have their wedding dance in the barn’s loft but a heavy snowstorm came through the day before and the dance had to be moved to Killam as the barn was too cold.
1956, Lloyd and Joyce moved to the farmyard and lived there until 1982, when they built a new house across the road. Lloyd and Joyce kept a few pigs and milk cows in the barn while they lived there but also used the main floor as a granary for a while. The house was rented out in the years that followed.
In 1989, Lloyd and Joyce George’s son; Bob, would begin living in the farm yard with his wife, Karen. Bob and Karen George have mostly used the barn for storage and recreation; when their children were younger they would often play ball hockey or other games in the barn’s loft. Bob and Karen would remove the stairs from the western face of the barn as they had become unsafe for use.
Inside the loft of the barn, a stage area, a turnstile, and signage still remain, evidence of its use as a dance hall. The barn functioned as a dance hall until 1955. It was designated a Municipal Historic Resource on July 17, 2013.
George, Karen. Personal communication. 29 Aug. 2018.
George, Joyce. Personal communication. 31 Aug. 2018.
52.720399, -111.936942 NW 23-43-14 W4
Barn Condition: Fair
Construction Date: 1925
Features: Used to have two wooden cupolas, hay hood, carrier, and track
Roof Shape: Arched
Paint: Red with white trim
Decorations: White cross-shaped braces on doors
Roof Covering: Wooden shingles
Siding: Wooden clapboard
Additional History of the Property
The George Brothers
“The George Brothers.” Pleasant Country: Killam and District 1903-1993. 1st ed. Killam: Killam Historical Society, 1993. Print.