Barn-raising preserves piece of history $50,000 project relocates structure to museum site

March 22, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Farm Museum plans an old-fashioned barn-raising in May, when an Amish construction crew will re-erect a 19th-century structure that's being moved out of Westminster to make way for a housing development.

Amish workers are dismantling the peg-and-post style bank barn, which has stood for more than 150 years at Uniontown Road and Route 31. The crew from Henry Stoltzfus' W.W. Builders of Christiana, Pa., will raise it again at the farm museum, outside Westminster.

The barn was erected on 93 3/4 acres of farmland purchased by Jacob Mearing in 1842 for $4,031.25.

Last July, Westminster's Common Council approved a zoning change for 45 of those acres -- the last land within the city limits being used as cow pasture.

Developer Jonathan Fink, of Triangle Realty and Construction Co. of Pikesville, plans to build 111 single-family homes on the property and to restore a stone house that also dates from 1842. Fink donated the historic barn to the farm museum.

"I've been watching 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' to get myself in the mood for the barn-raising," said Dottie Freeman, administrator of the farm museum.

The Amish crew began taking down the roof Monday but was delayed by the rain -- giving the structure a lonely look. The work will continue this week.

"Roofs tend to be slippery," Freeman said of the rain delay. "They have a couple more days on the roof before they start loosening the pins, then bring in the crane to get the great big beams."

The crane and operator were donated by a local businessman.

The numbered pieces of the barn will be hauled about three miles to the farm museum grounds on South Center Street, where a new foundation is being prepared.

The barn-raising picnic is planned from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. May 2, with a May 9 rain date. The farm museum will have food for sale, music and square-dancers, artisans, antique cars and guided tours of its 19th-century farm house.

Proceeds from admission fees and a fund-raising auction will go toward the cost of the barn-raising project -- estimated at $50,000. Contributions also are being solicited, Freeman said. The county and local businesses have donated building supplies, employees and equipment, as well as music and items for the auction.

"It's worth any headache," Freeman said of the moving logistics. "This is like the old-time camaraderie of a barn-raising. It's already been a real community effort, and it's what we're about."

The Carroll County native recalled a visit by her grandchildren to the museum when they were toddlers. Though accustomed to big-city traffic, the ocean, and a Rottweiler, they were "scared to death" when a lamb nuzzled them.

The museum draws 300 schoolchildren a day, primarily pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, from a 60-mile radius, including Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and into Pennsylvania.

Museum officials hope to use the 45-by-60-foot, two-story barn to exhibit seven of their over-sized antique farm machines that are in storage -- in a 1990s pole building -- and as a welcoming center for visitors, she said.

The barn could provide space for an orientation program and allow children to view the museum's film to understand better what they will see -- and to have more fun, she said.

"What it means to me is preserving a piece of the past for future generations who don't get to do what we did -- the innocent fun," Freeman said.

"Most people these days would just bulldoze a barn and put up an aluminum building, or just set fire to it. When I received the letter, I thought, this is great.

"It's hard to place a value on something like this."

She said the first discussions about the developer donating the barn came in the fall of 1996.

Fink sought approval for the housing development in July 1995, but city planners rejected his initial plan. The revised proposal eliminated town houses and reduced the number of homes from 156 to 112, which includes the old farm house.

The stone house was built about 1842 and is of "fairly rare"construction for Carroll County, according to Kenneth M. Short, historic planner in the county planning department.

But the barn is of greater historic interest, he said, because it is "virtually a pristine example."

"Overall, it's in really good condition. Because of changes in farming practices, a lot of barns that are still being used have been altered -- timbers have been cut out so you can put big balers and equipment in," Short said. "This barn still has almost everything."

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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