Preserving the barns of Clark County

State initiative to register agricultural history helps farmers’ restoration work

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More photos of the barns.

Did you know ?

• Since 1935, the number of farms in America has decreased by more than 4.5 million, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2010, more than 9,700 farm and ranch owners in Washington said they owned a barn built before 1960.

• In 2007, the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation created the Washington Heritage Barn Register with the hopes of saving some of these historic barns that represent the agricultural heritage of Washington.

• State Architectural Historian Michael Houser encourages barn owners to list their barns on the registry. “I think it’s a great way to honor the agricultural history of the state of Washington,” he said. “It’s a way to formally get things documented before they are lost.”

• Before 2007, 40 barns were on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, more than 480 barns joined the state registry; Clark County is home to 17 of them.

Historic barns

Clark County barns on the state Heritage Barn Register, with date they were built:

• Birrer Farm, 8612 N.E. 119th St., 1953.

• Carlson Farm, 217 N.E. Hayes Road, Woodland, 1941.

• Century View Farm/Hazen Barn, 121000 N.E. Grantham Road, Amboy, 1888.

• Friendly Haven Rise Farm, 20309 N.E. 242nd Ave., Battle Ground, 1918.

• Grinnell Road Farm/Olson Barn, 15211 N.E. Grinnell Road, Woodland, circa 1925.

• Heisen Farm, 27904 N.E. 174th Ave., Battle Ground, circa 1898.

• MacPherson Barn, 1013 N.W. 389th St., Woodland, circa 1946.

• Nickels’ Farm, 2929 N.W. 199th St., Ridgefield, 1939.

• Old Schwartz Farm, 6505 N.E. 209th St., Battle Ground, circa 1917.

• Paradise Acres, 19712 N.E. 83rd St., 1938.

• Plas Newydd LLC/Columbia Lancaster Farm, 33415 N.W. Lancaster Road, Ridgefield, circa 1915, circa 1880.

• Roth Dairy, 21310 N.W. Roth Road, Ridgefield, 1917.

• Pomeroy Farm, 20902 N.E. Lucia Falls Road, Yacolt, circa 1930.

• Gallagher Farm/Angus Taylor Barn, 33718 N.E. 60th Ave., La Center, 1924.

• Sims Farm/McCormick Barn, 29117 N.E. 10th Ave., Ridgefield, circa 1915.

• Folkerts Farm, 12902 N.E. 87th Ave., 1910.

• Kempe Prune Dryer, 16516 W 41st Ave., Ridgefield, circa 1907.

Could your barn qualify?

To find out if your barn might be eligible for the Washington Heritage Barn Register, ask questions such as these as a starting point:

• Was the barn built before 1960?

• Is it exceptionally large (over 40 feet wide and over 60 feet long, not counting wings or sheds)?

• Is it an unusual shape?

• Did an important event (such as a farm protest meeting) take place there?

— Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation

ON THE WEB

More information on the Washington Heritage Barn Register.

They’ve been used and abused for more than 50 years, and remain an important reminder of Clark County’s agricultural roots. This is a story of three of the county’s historic barns.

Heisen Barn

photoAbove, Chris Eckels holds his 8-month-old daughter, Mary, as he shows off the barn at Heisen House Vineyards in Battle Ground on Dec. 22. Owners Eckels and Michele Bloomquist received a grant that helped them restore the barn. At right, the Heisen barn in 2010 before restoration.

(/The Columbian)

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Michele Bloomquist knew the barn was special when she bought the historic Heisen Farm in 2002. Considering that its builders most likely used little more than axes to construct it in the 1890s, the craftsmanship is exquisite, Bloomquist said. She wanted to save the dilapidated barn, knowing it was one of the oldest in the county still standing, if not the oldest. But she didn’t know how.

Then she read an article about the Washington Heritage Barn Register and registered her barn. She was turned down for a grant to help restore it, but tried againduring the next round of applications, and when she was awarded a Heritage Barn Preservation Grant in 2010, began a flurry of fundraising.

The $30,000 matching grant to restore the historic barn required Bloomquist to come up with an equal amount in cash and donations within two years. She was also expected to pay the restoration costs up-front before the grant would be disbursed. During the year, she held an old-fashioned barn-bash, a Sunflower Festival, a Lavender Festival and a Crush Festival, all asking for donations to help restore the barn.

Over 12 months, Bloomquist was able to match the grant through a combination of donations of cash, labor and materials. “It was definitely a community effort,” she said. Whenever a need came up, someone would show up with a solution. Such as using reclaimed lumber from the disintegrating barn at the historic Kapus Farm in Ridgefield. Often, support came from people she’d never met.

When her first contractor didn’t work out, Bloomquist thought she might lose the grant money. Not many people know how to work with historic properties and old-fashioned construction techniques.

But Bert Sarkkinen, owner of Arrow Timber Framing, does. So when he learned she needed help, he called Bloomquist.

The company specializes in construction that doesn’t use nails — mainly mortise and tenon. They jacked the barn up, removed the rotted wood, and replaced it using similar construction techniques as the original.

Sarkkinen, a member of The Timber Framers Guild, said the most difficult part of the project was figuring out how to join the timbers and address the rotting posts while the structure was still standing.

The project was finished in June. “Now the risk of the barn falling has been eliminated,” Bloomquist said. “Our next goal is to raise money to replace the roof, which has been on for over 50 years.”

While Bloomquist originally hoped to use the barn for the winery she owns, “the plan is that the barn will remain the barn” to park the tractors in. Retrofitting it would have been cost-prohibitive.

She feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to do the amount of work on the barn that she has. “I feel like it speaks to the taxpayers of Washington that this building is still standing.”

Friendly Haven Rise Farm

photoJoseph and Jacqueline Freeman stand if front of the barn at Friendly Haven Rise Farm. The barn, built in 1918, is listed on the Washington Heritage Barn Register. (The Columbian Files/Zachary Kaufman)

(/The Columbian)

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Jacqueline and Joseph Freeman of Friendly Haven Rise Farm in Venersborg listed their barn on the registry in 2007, as well.

“It was a rather enjoyable process,” Jacqueline said. She first learned about the registry through the WSU Clark County Extension service. “Part of the application is taking photos of the barn and that made us look at the interior details more,” she said. “We even found records they kept of the cows’ milking status, written on the wall.” When the barn was built in 1918, the wood was taken from the farm’s forest. It was owned for around 90 years by the Moberg family.

The barn is built into a hillside and the foundation is dirt; over the years, it’s shifted so it’s no longer square.

“We have the intention of pouring a concrete foundation and hiring a contractor with a crane to square it back up,” Freeman said. But not until the recession runs its course, she said. “The upper part of the barn needs work, too, but the big job is getting the foundation under it first. Once the base is solid we can straighten out the frame and get everything back in square.”

They applied for a grant this year, but the budget was lower due to the economy and they didn’t get approved.

While immediate plans for the barn include keeping their cows and goats in it, their long range plans are more sentimental. When the barn was built, only wood without knots was used in the flooring, so it would stay smooth and even for dances, she said.

Someday, Jacqueline wants to bring the tradition back. “My dream is to have an open community barn dance in it,” Jacqueline said.

Every year the farm, which the Freemans bought in 2001, presents an Heirloom Apple Tasting at the Venersborg Schoolhouse. Some income from the event goes to the newly formed Venersborg Historical Preservation Society to care for the little schoolhouse, but the rest is dedicated to the barn restoration project.

Grinnell Road Farm

photoKen Giles works on his Grinnell Road Farm barn restoration project. The barn is a 1920s vintage structure originally constructed as a dairy barn. Now it’s used for hay storage and shelter for three horses. The siding was a salvage donation from the Washington state Historic Buildings Program and came from a demolished barn.

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The barn at the Grinnell Road Farm, owned by Julia Anderson and her husband, Ken Giles, is on the list as well. The structure, part of a historic farm site from the 1900s, came with the property when Anderson bought it 20 years ago, along with a hand-hewn log cabin.

Last year, on their own, the couple shored up the west-facing walls of the barn with new support beams and footings. Through the heritage barn program, they were able to get donated wood salvaged from another barn that was torn down.

“We have put hours and hours of sweat equity into this,” Anderson said.

It occurred to them to apply for a grant through the barn program. They put together a proposal and recently received a matching grant of $4,980, which will help them begin work on the east wall and put in a drainage system to divert water away from the barn — it’s on a slope and over the years has been creeping sideways.

“This program of the state is remarkable and essential for creating a feel for Washington state,” Anderson said. She says it’s an important program. “We’re never going to build these buildings again. They enhance the community.”

Clark County barns on the Washington Heritage Barn Register