Breaking ground to rebuild a man's dream `log by log'

Ceremony marks group's efforts to fulfill deceased farmer's wish of moving 18th-century barn to Carroll Farm Museum

October 08, 2006|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,Special to The Sun

Log by log, a group of determined farmers plan to move an 18th-century barn from New Windsor to the Carroll County Farm Museum. First, they need to raise money to fund the move.

More than $112,000 has been raised for the Marlin K. Hoff Memorial Log Barn project, an effort led by some of the county's founding families to honor the dream of the dairy farmer who died two years ago.

Before his death, Hoff wanted to donate to the Farm Museum a 200-year-old log barn that stands on his family's Coldsprings Farms in New Windsor.

In 2004, his family and friends took up the cause, determined to raise $300,000 and the support of the community and county officials to finish the project.

Today, they will celebrate a groundbreaking ceremony at the barn's future site at the edge of the horse field on the grounds of the Farm Museum.

Hoff's widow, Kathleen R. "Kathy" Hoff, said reaching today's milestone is heartening and possible only because of the dedication and generosity of others.

"By myself, this wasn't going to happen," she said. "There used to be lots of barns like this, but they have either fallen down, burned or been dismantled to sell the logs. Marlin just couldn't see that - he came to the conclusion that this barn needed to be saved because there just aren't any around and when it's gone, you can't bring it back."

Compared to the barns that dot the countryside in western Carroll, the Hoffs' barn seems unremarkable. But the barn has been standing since about 1795 and is a testament to early agricultural construction techniques.

Built without nails, pins or hinges, it is constructed of 50-foot-long hand-hewn chestnut logs held in place by notches.

Kathy Hoff said the barn often draws the admiration of visiting historians and farmers.

"I'm 77 years old - I've never seen a log barn like this," said Bob Jones, a retired Carroll County farm extension agent who leads the project's steering committee. "It's a unique piece of our agricultural heritage, and we need to preserve it for future generations."

Over the next year, the project will begin with a reconstructed fieldstone wall at the new site. Once that base is complete, the barn's logs will be dismantled and transported from New Windsor to Westminster, Jones said.

"We'll do it just like Lincoln Logs - take it down and put it back up - log by log," he said.

As construction plans move forward, Jones and the rest of the steering committee will continue to solicit donations and apply for grants to make up the balance of the project's cost.

The group is also collecting items to put on exhibit in the barn, such as old harnesses, saddles and reins for horses.

Fundraising kicked off in 2004 with the auction of a pedigreed Holstein calf, which went for $2,050 at the Carroll County Calf Auction in Westminster.

With that momentum, the steering committee campaigned among local dairy businesses and associations that worked with Marlin Hoff, who was known across the country for his dairy breeding, said Melvin Baile Sr., vice chairman of the steering committee.

"Once it's gone, it's gone. And people realize that something like this doesn't come along very often," Baile said.

A dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. today at the barn's future site during Fall Harvest Days at the Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster.

Moving History

Cost of moving the Marlin K. Hoff Memorial Log Barn

$120,000 to tear down and reassemble the log barn, including replacing missing or damaged logs

$75,000 to disassemble and reconstruct stone foundation

$50,000 to replace the roof and siding with historically accurate materials

$30,000 to reconstruct the horse stables

$25,000 for site work, permits and consultants

Total cost: $300,000

[Source: Marlin K. Hoff Memorial Log Barn steering committee]

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