MONCTON – Danny Lagacé served in the Canadian forces for more than 25 years. Coming from a long line of lumberjacks and woodworkers, when he retired, he spent time on his hobbies – working with wood and finding old things to save and refurbish. He’s now trying to save some of the province’s old churches by turning them into cottages, putting in his own handiwork in the details.
Lagacé is originally from McKendrick, a community near Campbellton. He said it’s a picturesque place with lots of mountains.
“I missed that place over the years, as I traveled back and forth from my postings all over the place in Canada or overseas,” he said. “Every time I come home, I would always notice a lot of changes. I don’t feel we do a very good job in New Brunswick at retaining our old history, our old buildings…I always thought it would be cool if we could save some of these buildings.”
For now, Lagacé and his wife Jo-Anne own two such properties under the brand Old Church Cottages. One of them is in Boundary Creek just at the edge of Moncton, and one in the Restigouche area.
The one in Restigouche is expected to open this summer, but the one on Boundary Creek has been taking guests since spring 2019.
The building was initially built in 1842 and used as a Baptist Church for 151 years before being deconsecrated in 1996. Once closed, it was mostly used for storage for two decades until the Lagacés bought it in 2016.
The property backs up onto the Jones Brook and borders a cemetery dating back to the 1800s. Danny said the area formerly known as Harris Corner has a lot of history related to English settlers and Acadians.
Over the years, the church has been renovated five times, and in the 1970s a new foundation was put in. But much of it, including its body, fixtures, floors, some cast iron covers and windows are 19th-century originals.
“At first I was just going to use [the property] as a workshop for myself, a place where I could tinker and work on my little projects and try to re-purpose some of my items. But after a while, and after working in the building, I had to pivot because of insurance, building code and all that stuff,” he said.
He also wanted others to be able to enjoy the space “and imagine what it could have been back in those days.”
So, with the help of family and friends, he turned it into a cottage and multi-purpose event venue that could be used for everything from corporate retreats to family gatherings to space for wedding guests and tourists to stay. The one thing he doesn’t allow is parties.
The place has three bedrooms and can sleep eight people. It has a large kitchen with basic necessities like tea, coffee, condiments and pasta. They’re trying to be as sustainable and as local as possible with what they use at the cottage, Danny says. The building also has a covered patio overlooking the brook, complete with a barbecue.
It costs $650 a night to rent the whole place. For events, the space fits up to 60 people, but Danny is planning to expand it, aiming to fit up to 99 people. It costs approximately $550 for an event that lasts eight hours there.
Danny has renovated the building in a way that maximizes the space, having half a second floor instead of a full one. The place is full of custom furniture, many re-purposed by Danny himself. The beds are antiques from the 1800s that Danny widened to fit a Queen size. But it also has modern amenities.
“It has all the bells and whistles that a brand new building has,” he said. That includes high-speed internet, big-screen TVs, rain showerheads, and high-end finishes in the rooms and bathrooms.
“We’re in love with the place, we’re passionate about it. We hope it shows in all the attention to details that we’ve put in the place,” Danny said.