The year was 1838. Martin Van Buren was president, Michigan had just become a state, the Civil War was still over 20 years in the future and the cornerstone of my barn was placed.
For almost 170 years, it has stood proudly in Ross Township, Jefferson County, Ohio. It has weathered countless storms, housed innumerable loads of hay and has been home to untold numbers of cows, sheep and horses.
Still it stands, which is quite a testament to 19th-century workmanship and technique. The last 30 years, however, have presented the greatest challenge to its existence.
Deterioration. Rotting sills, a seriously sagging roof purlin and numerous missing support posts had transformed the once square and solid old barn into a sad sight. I have watched this gradual deterioration with a feeling of sadness, terror and mostly a feeling of helplessness.
How could I afford to fix all of this when so many other compelling expenses screamed for my money?
You see, my great old barn has a partner. It sits next to the 168-year-old brick house I inherited in 2004. I live there with my wife, Melody, and our two small adopted children, Haley and Heath. The house, too, suffers from the ravages of time and unwillful neglect.
My wife refers to the house and barn as an elderly husband and wife. One without the other would not be a complete set.
Over the last three years, we have concentrated on fixing all of the house’s problems – replacing the heating system, new wiring, new kitchen, insulation and other miscellaneous updates.
Worry. Every time I entered the barn, I would notice new things to worry about. More and more wet spots appeared on the floor where the roof leaked. The sags and gaps seemed to grow every time I went inside. It got to the point that I avoided even looking at it.
After every snowstorm I would lie awake at night wondering, “Is this the night the roof collapses?”
I was becoming a nervous wreck. How could anyone feel this strongly about an old barn?
I credit the decision to take the plunge and borrow the money to fix it to my wife, Melody. I think she just got tired of seeing me worry.
I called several contractors specializing in barn restoration. I was always left feeling even more frustrated. They wanted too much money for too little work. We just couldn’t justify that huge expense with so many other things and two little children.
Woodford Brothers. Enter the Woodford Brothers of Apulia Station, N.Y. I found out about them from a friend who encountered their representative at the Ohio Power Show in Columbus. I also found positive references for their business in a packet of information supplied to me by the Jefferson County Extension office.
I called Woodford Brothers and I was immediately impressed with their attitude and businesslike demeanor. The receptionist said their representative would be on the farm to estimate the job between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Aug. 7, 2007.
I was prepared to wait all day for his arrival as that just seems to be how things usually go.
However, at 10:15 a.m., Hugh Stone arrived. I was impressed.
He exuded the confidence I was hoping for and assured me that everything that needed done was “doable.” He gave me a reasonable estimate on the spot and promised the job could be done within a month.
Two weeks later, I got a call informing me my barn was next. Two fellows I only knew as Bill and Bob arrived at sunset, tired and hungry after a hard day on the road.
This is the only time I was a little worried.
The crew. When I asked when the rest of the crew would arrive, they informed me they were the crew. My worries soon evaporated as they proved to be the equals of a much larger crew.
They stretched and tightened cables and jacked the whole structure and the barn began to transform. All of the sags and gaps seemed to disappear.
They did an amazing amount of work in just one week from replacing posts deep in the ground and putting sturdy splints on beams.
My barn is now structurally sound. All that needs done are the cosmetic touches, which I am currently doing. I’m hoping this will motivate others to invest in these historic structures.
From a practical standpoint, these old barns may not seem worth saving, but they are a tangible part of our local history and as such, really deserve our respect and preservation.
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