Reincarnation of a 134-year old barn

ALLIANCE, Ohio – During the late 1800s, men rode horses down what is now Beechwood Road, south of Alliance, Ohio, and saw a triangular name plate hanging high on the side of a barn that read, “W. Byers 1868.”

Now that name plate of the barn’s first owner sits in Allan Swift’s garage and nothing but grass will soon be where the barn once stood.

As for the barn, it will be resurrected in Wadsworth, Ohio, next spring.

Dismantling it. The decision to take down the barn wasn’t an easy one for Allan.

About five years ago, high winds tore out the southwest corner of the barn and Allan didn’t know what to do. It would cost too much money to fix and the barn had been deteriorating since his children were too old to take 4-H livestock projects.

His friends suggested turning it into a dance hall or storage unit, but that would cost money that Allan didn’t have.

Scrap wood. Finally, he decided to tear down the barn and salvage some of the wood. Allan didn’t know it, but a Wadsworth businessman, who wants to remain anonymous, was interested in turning a barn into his home.

The Wadsworth man’s architect contacted Carl Steepleton, who owns a barn restoration company in Alliance.

Steepleton told the man about Allan’s barn. After visiting the barn, the man saw its dynamic space and rigged frames and told Steepleton he wanted it.

Family history. Four generations of the Swift family has lived on the eastern Stark County farm.

Allan’s grandfather, H.L. Meyers, bought the farm in 1950s, but lived a few miles away, then Allan’s parents, Victor and Ruth Anne, moved on to the farm 10 years later.

Tragic accident. After Allan grew up and moved off the farm, his younger brother, Barry , continued to live on the farm as he cleaned barges, a dangerous job, in East Liverpool, Ohio. One day, tragedy struck. Barry’s respirator failed and he suffocated while cleaning a barge.

After Barry’s death, Allan’s mom wanted the farm to stay in the family so Allan, who sells school buses for Myers Equipment near Canfield, Ohio, and his wife, Judy, moved to the 100-acre beef farm.

Allan and Judy raised three kids on the farm: David, 30; Jonathan, 28, who still lives on the farm; and Michael, 25. Jonathan and his wife, Nikki, have two children, Collin, 3, and Christopher, 15 months, who are the fourth generation to live on the farm.

Tearing down. Piece by piece. Board by board. Starting in June, it took Steepleton’s five employees a couple of weeks to dismantle the barn. They worked around rain and intense heat.

From the floor to the rooftop, each piece is marked with a number and a letter and stored until it can be rebuilt as the Wadsworth man’s home in spring 2003.

“It will be taken down and put back up just like a big jigsaw puzzle,” Judy Swift said.

Bad barns. Steepleton, who has been working in the barn restoration business since 1960, said neglected barns are the hardest to save.

“Frost and water are two of the major culprits for the demise of the barn,” he said.

Water rots the wood and can seep along the barn’s walls and the ground, pushing it off the foundation. Steepleton said the only major damage to Allan’s barn was the corner that high winds ripped out.

Allan’s barn is 60 by 80 feet and Steepleton estimates it contains between 80 and 100 tons of stone, which will all be ripped out and sent to Wadsworth when it is rebuilt.

Putting it back up. As each piece is taken from the barn, its letter and number combination is written on several blueprints.

When the wood is shipped to Wadsworth, the crew will follow the blueprint, picking from almost 1,800 pieces and putting it up the opposite way it came down (bottom to top, instead of top to bottom).

The barn is post and beam construction and consists of a poplar, pine, maple, oak and beech wood, which Allan said was cut at an old sawmill on Hartzler Road, which runs parallel to Beechwood Road.

Soon, there will be no trace of the double-center barn, which once held 100 head of cattle, 10,000 bales of hay, a family of raccoons and Allan’s children’s sheep and hog 4-H projects.

Allan said he will visit the barn when it is rebuilt next spring, but he is sorry to see it go.

“At least it’s going to be reincarnated as a barn,” Allan said.


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