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Al Purdy’s A-frame house saved from demolition

After several years of fundraising and public appeal comes word that Al Purdy’s A-frame house will be saved from demolition, and is on track to become the centre for a new writers’ residency.

Located in Ameliasburgh, Ontario, the modest cottage was built by Purdy in the late 1950s. It was the poet’s main workspace and a meeting place for his CanLit pals, including Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, Michael Ondaatje, and Margaret Laurence.

When Purdy died in 2000, his widow, Eurithe Purdy, hoped to sell the property with the intention of it becoming a writers’ retreat. Purdy’s former publisher Howard White and family friend Jean Baird took up the cause, campaigning for funds to undertake much-needed renovations and to establish an endowment for the residency program, which is expected to launch in 2013. Notable donors include Leonard Cohen, who gave $10,000, and former McClelland & Stewart owner Avie Bennett, who gave $25,000.

In 2009, White’s company, Harbour Publishing, produced The Al Purdy A-frame Anthology, a book of poems and personal stories from 20 Canadian writers, with all funds donated to the cause.

Baird told Montreal’s The Gazette that fundraising efforts will continue with a gala benefit and auction, planned for February at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. Some of the items to be auctioned off include a first edition of Cohen’s debut poetry collection, Let Us Compare Mythologies, and two handwritten letters by D.H. Lawrence.