Houses of the Gatineau Hills

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the July 29, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

From sawmill to recording studio to family home

by Jonathan Migneault

In Neal Ford Sundet's home, it's okay to rock out near the kitchen. That's because Sundet's white, unassuming home in Farm Point doubles as a recording studio. The Meech Creek Recording Studio takes up a good portion of the home he shares with his wife Melanie, and his two children.

The American ex-patriot has always had a love for music. When he was a teenager he worked at a guitar shop in Minnesota that counted Bob Dylan as one of its customers. Sundet's mother grew up in Ottawa and he came back to visit the region often.

It was on one such visit that he met his wife Melanie, who is from Gatineau. It was the natural beauty of the Gatineau Hills that led him to make a life there eight years ago.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Neal Ford Sundet's home in Farm Point also houses the Meech Creek Recording Studio inside. Jonathan Migneault photos.

"I was looking for a place where I could build a studio," said Sundet. "When I found this out."

It was the waterfall in his backyard that initially knocked him out. He joked that after he saw the waterfall he didn't even need to see the house. Sundet was also attracted by the strong history tied to the place.

He said the oldest part of the house, where his studio now sits, was built in the 1890s. There was a busy sawmill there at the time, and Sundet found out through some local archives that the cook lived in the same space where he records music today.

There were more additions to his home made in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s. Today the 2,000 square foot, two-storey home can comfortably accommodate his family of four. The top floor offers his family plenty of space with five bedrooms and a bathroom.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Neal Ford Sundet poses in front of the waterfall in his backyard. The Meech Creek Dam stood in that spot before it collapsed in 1929. Jonathan Migneault photos.

To Sundet, the most interesting bit of history about his property was the Meech Creek Dam. Construction on the hydroelectric dam started in 1912. In the spring of 1929, however, the dam collapsed and took out a number of houses with it.

Because it happened on a Sunday, though, most of the locals were at church and escaped almost certain death.

While no one died that day, one worker from the dam was injured when he was thrown into the creek below after the collapse.

Sundet recorded the history of his home and property in a song he wrote called "Crossing Water." The song takes its name from Freeman T. Cross, the man who built his home more than 100 years ago.

Houses of the Gatineau Hills
Neil Ford Sundet rocks out with drummer Jean-Marc Meunier at his home studio. Jonathan Migneault photos.

Today, a few slabs of concrete are all that remain from the dam. Sundet's land is very serene compared to what it must have been like when, the dam and sawmill were in full operation. "This place has really nice vibes," said Sundet.

It's those nice vibes that make it ideal for a studio. He said that above all, it's important that any artist he records feels comfortable in the space.

All it takes is a short walk to the waterfall in his back yard to clear his mind and focus on his art, he added.

Sundet said that in a few years he would like to move to another house in the region and make his current place a fulltime studio.

If you would like to get in touch with Sundet to record in his home you can reach him at sundet@hotmail.com.

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