Historic Cravenhurst Barn clings
to posterity as fundraising efforts
begin to save it
The Madison, Ind., structure was built around 1870
by the Cravens family
October 2019 Cover
(October 2019) Dan Kichline grew up in the “Slate Belt” of Pennsylvania, so called for the beautiful, durable blue-gray rock that seemed to be everywhere. He learned how to manipulate the rock and craft it into roofing, taking him on a journey that has led him to the historic Cravenhurst Barn in Madison, Ind.
Indiana has a rich agricultural heritage of which this barn is a significant piece. Kichline, 55, was asked by Indiana Landmarks to repair the slate roof on the Cravenhurst Barn. Founded in 1960, Indiana Landmarks is a nonprofit organization that restores and repurposes historic buildings such as houses, barns, bridges, churches, schools, downtown districts and vintage neighborhoods.
Kichline grew up on a pig farm in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania known as the Slate Belt. This area was historically known for its coal industry, but a smaller section of the region became known for its massive amount of slate.
One day a roofer came to town and asked how much Kichline’s father was paying him. When Kichline replied “five dollars,” the roofer offered to up the amount. “I’ll give you six dollars,” he told Kichline, who asked his father about the job offer. He father replied that being a slater (local term for quarry worker) was “a rough job.”
Photo by Sharyn Whitman
Dan Kichline of Pennsylvania works on shoring up the foundation of the Cravenhurst Barn in September.
Kichline said that “slate is cut in massive blocks with diamond saws, but the tiles are still chiseled by hand.” Those who have this task, often workers following in their fathers’ and grandfathers’ footsteps, sit and patiently chisel the tiles.
According to Kichline, the Slate Belt area of Pennsylvania used to have 38 quarries but is now down to only three: Bangor, Wind Gap and Pen Argyl. Originally, there were various uses for slate due to its durability and resistance to wear and tear – blackboards, slate gravestones, classrooms – but it was used mostly for the production of roofing tiles.
He said of the Cravenhurst Barn, “This roof is very ornate. Some slate tiles have to be cut and trimmed on the corners.” The slate on this barn is from Vermont.
Kichline makes a wooden pattern to go by to replicate the cuts on the tiles. He writes the date on the wood pattern, and that becomes the pattern number.
The process is not complicated but time-consuming to get everything just right. Each piece of slate is trimmed by hand with a cutter. Slate is cut from the backside, so the chipped edges show on the front, said Kichline.
There is also a punch in the handle that will punch holes into the slate for the roofing nails that are needed to hold it in place. Slate tiles come pre-punched, which makes an indentation for the galvanized roofing nail head, he said. Kichline sometimes uses screws if needed.
Preserving history is in Kichline’s blood. He once lived in a circa 1850 farmhouse he had restored in his home state. The house was damaged four times by vehicles running off the road and into it. The last time this happened, the home was hit so hard it was jarred off the foundation.
Kichline received an insurance settlement of $43,000 (although the house had $80,000 damage) that he used to purchase an old church in Derby, Union Township, Perry County, Ind. He bought an additional nine acres in the nearby town of Magnet. He plans to restore the church for use as a shop.
Photo courtesy of Historic Madison Inc.
?A drone aerial photo shows the Cravenhurst Barn from above. – Photo courtesy of Historic Madison Inc.
Greg Sekula, Southeast Division Director for Indiana Landmarks, said “We connected him (Kichline) last year to several owners who have buildings with slate roofs. We also worked with him on the Joseph Cone House in North Vernon, Ind.”
Currently, Kichline “has done most of the work he can do right now on the barn,” said Sekula. Structural repairs need to be implemented before he can complete the roof work. The project will be completed in stages.
The barn was placed on Indiana Landmarks’ annual list of the state’s “10 Most Endangered Buildings.”
The combination of building materials – weatherboarding, sandstone and slate – make it a spectacular barn that many want to see preserved and not torn down.
The barn needs to be stabilized and lifted, with additional shoring work completed. Rhonda L. Deeg, Director of Programs for Historic Madison Inc., said that by April 2020, Rick Collins, owner of Trillium Dell, a timer frame construction company in Galesburg, Ill., hopes to begin work on stabilizing the barn along with other necessary work. Collins led some workshops in September 2018 for HMI. The nonprofit, preservation organization owns and operates several museums in Madison.
Deeg said Kichline is scheduled to complete preliminary repairs such as “covering holes, putting the ridge cap on and keeping water from coming in. No major work will be completed until the building has been lifted.”
No other work can really be accomplished until framing repairs have been completed, said Sekula. Additional funding in the amount of $25,000 to $30,000 must be raised as well.
Two grants, one for $12,500 and another for $7,500, have been awarded to HMI from the Efroymson Family Fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, said Sekula. Funds have been earmarked to the Cornerstone Society, a Madison-based preservation advocacy organization and affiliate of Indiana Landmarks.
Photo courtesy of Rhonda Deeg, Historic Madison Inc.
??Sonny Ash teaches participants how to properly point the stone with lime mortar during a workshop held last year at Cravenhurst Barn in Madison, Ind.
Sekula said that plans call for creating a “Friends of Cravenhurst Barn” group to “work solely to raise funds for the restoration of the building.”
He said the barn is “an important asset for Madison.” He said its condition is at a critical state. If someone doesn’t intervene or step forward now “to act to save the building, it will be too late. Basically, $30,000 to $50,000 needs to be raised to get the critical work done now.”
Deeg labels the project “a community thing. And we need community spirit to help get it done.”
She has been involved, along with Louis Shields, for about 12 years as a volunteer, a citizen of the community and now an HMI employee. Shields is a member of the Madison Moose Lodge, the entity which owns the barn and has its lodge building next door at 1340 Michigan Rd. on the Madison hilltop.
Deeg wants to help raise funds for the lodge to help with upkeep of the barn, since they have no other way of doing so. “Cost is included in the first phase,” she said. “We need to keep it from falling down. Another year and there will be twice as much to do.”
The expansive three-story structure was built in the 1870s by the Cravens family. In 1838 Rufus Gale sold the land it now sits on to prominent banker J.F.D. Lanier. The original house on the property was built in 1851 by John Brough, who bought portions of the property from Lanier that same year. The land was sold back to Lanier in 1855.
On May 26, 1855, Lanier and his second wife, Mary McClure, gifted the land to his daughter, Drusilla Ann Lanier (1824-1903). She had married John Robert Cravens (1819-1899) on Feb. 1, 1844, and that is where they made their home. John Robert Cravens became a well-known judge in the area.
It is thought the 2 ½-story barn was built in the latter half of the 19th century, probably around 1870. That same year, the farm of 127 acres was valued at $1,200.
The Cravens spared no expense on the Romanesque Revival architectural design style of the barn, with its semi-circular arches made of stone. This was a style popular in the United States around 1820-1900. It gained popularity in the Midwestern United States between 1880-1890.
It was a style often enjoyed by the wealthy and elite in the construction of their homes, not usually meant for an agricultural building constructed for practical farm use. Agricultural censuses from 1870-1880 show that the family owned dairy cows, horses, pigs, donkeys, sheep and chickens. They raised hay, corn, oats, potatoes and made butter. The barn had an interior silo, hay loft and built-in grain chutes.
When Drusilla Ann Lanier Cravens died in 1903, her daughter, Drusilla Lanier Cravens, inherited the farm from her mother’s will. It changed hands several times over the years, finally being sold out of the Cravens family.
The Madison chapter of the Loyal Order of Moose has owned the barn since Sept. 26, 1946. The organization bought the property for the adjacent farmhouse, which they wanted to use as a clubhouse. They remodeled and built extensions onto and around the house, making the original exterior unrecognizable.
The Craven’s family home is still intact and sits inside the Moose Lodge clubhouse on the same property as the barn, said Deeg. But since the lodge had no specific use for the barn, which is slowly decaying, they also never generated funds for upkeep.
Until several years ago, the barn was where Boy Scout Troop No. 721 held all of its meetings, but it has since become unsafe for use of any kind other than storage.
It’s sort of a hybrid bank barn, said Sekula. “It looks Romanesque with its arched stone opening.” It was constructed with stone on the bottom level and timber construction above.
Deeg said she believes it looks basically the same as when it was built, but it did sustain fire damage at one time. “We only have one historic photo to work off of,” she said. “I believe it has changed, but not much. The upper levels have gone through new uses over the years.”
Efforts are being made to place it on the National Register of Historic Places. A student, Evan Miller of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, researched the barn and compiled its history for the application that is required for inclusion on the register, said Deeg.
Applying for the National Register is a very detailed process that Deeg is involved in also. The next step is to complete measured drawings.
Future plans for the barn might include meeting or rental spaces and programs for educational purposes. “I’d like to see it restored to become an income producing property for the Moose Lodge,” she said. “It’s been 10 years just getting to this point and it’s finally happening.”
The newly formed Friends of Cravenhurst Barn group has created a Facebook page and a Go Fund Me page to help generate interest and money for the restoration project.
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