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Is our barn with oilman mural the most photographed barn in Ontario?

We’re not sure, but it easily could be. Visitors and media have been snapping photos of the unique barn mural at Fairbank Oil Fields for 38 years. This month, the County of Lambton is promoting the idea of snapping selfies with the mural and posting them online using #FairbankOil.

Inspired by the fun of the mural painting scene in the Joyce Carey novel A Horse’s Mouth, Charlie (Fairbank) decided in 1981 to have his own mural-painting party to celebrate 120 years of Fairbank Oil.

Charlie took an old logo of VanTuyl and Fairbank Hardware to artist Anne-Marsh Evans. She simplified the image and sketched it in chalk on the north side of the barn. Up went the scaffolding and string was stretched to mark one-foot squares.

Charlie and a large group of friends each painted designated squares in a big “paint-by number” party, with the afternoon topped off with a lamb roast. Photos of the event appeared in the London Free Press and the Sarnia Observer.

The mural image depicts a man on an oil wagon driving a team of horses. This image has been widely copied and you can see it in the window of the Oil Springs Post Office. We know the VanTuyl and Fairbank Hardware store in Petrolia used this logo on its stationary nearly 100 years ago, during the 1920s. John Henry Fairbank established his store in 1865.

Here is what it looked like on the stationary:

This is a sturdy barn and we found out just how sturdy in the summer of 2003, when it was lifted into more than a metre into the air for weeks, supported by I-beams, while the old foundation was ripped out and replaced. The barn was then carefully placed on the new foundation.

Wooden barns like ours our disappearing from the rural landscape. And this barn is certainly not used as a wedding venue like so many old barns today! In the winter, it’s full of our Suffolk sheep. The section where the lambs are born has heated water coils in the cement floor to prevent pneumonia in the newborns. Above the sheep is an enormous hayloft where hay is stored to feed them.

This 1913 barn, which replaced an earlier barn, is perched on a hill so it is easily visible from Oil Springs Line. Come on up Duryee St. and park in front of the barn to take your photos. You might meet Jack, our friendly donkey. Check out our Driving Tour tab to see more.