'Barn Again!’ Preservation Workshop

Indiana Landmarks workshop
designed to help save structures

Event to include tour of
Cravenhurst barn on Madison hilltop

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(September 2012) – From the outside, the Cravenhurst Barn appears to have seen better days. But, head up the narrow, wood stairway to the spacious upper floor, and the years melt away.
The high, vine-covered walls, solid wood floor and open windows of the second story take visitors back in time. Louis Shields, steward of the barn, motions to the large silo, grain bins and chutes for grain and hay.

Louis Shields

Photos by Brandilyn Worrell

Louis Shields is the caretaker of
the Cravenhurst Barn, located behind
the Moose Lodge on Michigan Road.

“This chute sends grain to the first floor where they kept mules and horses. This other one goes to the basement for feeding the cattle,” he says.
As he explains how the special features of the barn eased chores, visions of cows and horses munching on hay in the still-present mangers while work-hands mucked out the stalls fill the imagination. Each facet points to the experiences of the early settlers.
“We need people to join us in saving this barn,” says Shields. “This is our history.”
Any drive through the country features rolling hills, corn fields, and barns. Lots of barns. Rhonda Deeg, Director of Programs for Historic Madison Inc., notes, “Barns have been critical to rural life. Barns were typically the first structure built on a new farmstead. Families would settle for a small, rustic shack for sleeping; the first focus was a tight, well-built barn to protect equipment and livestock.”
Yet, what happens when the well-built barn begins to deteriorate or can’t fit a new tractor?
A workshop is being planned from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 14-15 called “Barn Again!” Host Indiana Landmarks has designed the workshop to help barn owners maximize use of vintage barns and historians appreciate barns’ unique contribution to historic understanding.
On Friday, speakers will cover various aspects of barn history, restoration and adaptive use. Friday concludes with a visit to local carriage barns and the Saddletree Factory in downtown Madison. On Saturday, attendees will travel to five local barns to explore the range of techniques used.
Cost of the workshop is $45 for members of Indiana Landmarks and $60 for non-members. The two-day package includes lunch at the Moose Lodge and features a tour of Cravenhurst Barn, the focus of historic preservation efforts. Friday’s session will take place at the West Street Art Center in Madison. Saturday’s tour will begin at the Broadway Fountain.
Duncan Campbell, 67, long-time preservationist and retired Director of Graduate Studies in Historic Preservation at Ball State University, will offer his life-time of insights into both restoring and adapting aging farm structures. Campbell boasts extensive experience in historic preservation of farm structures.
Campbell put this experience to use when he purchased a farmstead near Bloomington, Ind., which came with an 1850s-era barn that was near collapse.
“Most people told me to just tear it down and put up a pole barn,” says Campbell.
But Campbell wasn’t satisfied with that option. Nor did he have the funds to fully restore the barn to its original condition.
He devised a strategy to save significant aspects of the structure while putting it to modern use at a fraction of the cost of restoration. “That’s what I’ll discuss in the workshop,” he said. “Some consider only two options – tear down or fully restore. There’s a range of other options. People who attend the workshop will learn how to adapt old buildings to practical uses for today while keeping the best from the past. I’ll show people strategies for saving their buildings.”
Deeg stresses the importance of saving the buildings. “These barns contain history we can’t get anywhere else. Barns tell us about the wood used, the geographic area, and the history of the people. They offer clues into the different ethnicities of the people who located here.
“The German barns are very different than the Danish. The techniques for building these barns are written only in the handiwork of the builders – not in any diaries or documents. History is written in the wood, glass, and metal of the barn and how these were put to use. If we lose the structures, we lose the history.”
Other speakers include Rick Collins, master timber framer of Trillium Dell Timberworks. He will share his insights on traditional timber frame techniques and on rehabbing barns for adaptive use. Dr. Darrin Rubino, biology professor at Hanover College, will demonstrate methods of dating barns. Deeg and Anne Fairchild, Director of Education at Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, will discuss the historic connections of barns. Finally, Betty Manning, owner of Stream Cliff Farms in nearby Commiskey, Ind., will describe how she adapted older buildings for a modern tea room and winery.
Saturday features hands-on exploration of local barns – most significantly Cravenhurst. “This barn is a storehouse for local history,” says Deeg.
The original farm was owned by J.F.D. Lanier, who gave the property to his daughter, wife of John Cravens. Cravens served not only as state senator but also as engineer of the incline for the Madison Railroad. The stones forming the first story of the barn are believed to have come from the excavation of the incline. There is also evidence bolts from the railroad were used in the construction. “The barn is connected to two major families of Madison. The barn’s construction is very unique with the lower story of stone, the upper story of wood, and the archways. It was made both as a good looking architectural piece and a solid barn. This is a special part of Madison’s history,” says Deeg.
Shields hopes “Barn Again!” will sell Madisonians on saving Cravenhurst. About 20 years ago, Shields tried to buy the barn. He planned to tear it down the reconstruct it on his farm. When the Moose Lodge opted to keep the barn, Shields spearheaded efforts to restore it.
“If I can’t have it, I can at least work on getting it ready for others,” says Shields. He, along with other Moose Lodge members, anticipates restoring the barn for use by Boy Scout Troop 721 and as a tour stop to educate the public about the history captured in the structure. Shields said he hopes “Barn Again!” brings Cravenhurst back to life.

• Register for the “Barn Again!” workshop at www.barnagainmadison.evenbrite.com.

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