Historic barn is a fixer-upper

In an attempt to keep part of the landscape of Central Whidbey Island alive, a construction crew is working on a barn in the heart of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. Rather than an extensive renovation effort, the crew is working just to keep the barn standing.

On Fort Casey Road, between the homes and the fields, is a barn that has been empty and neglected for years. The roof has holes, the red paint is chipping off and and one of the walls toppled several years ago. On a sunny day, light streams through the rafters, making the building look more like a corn crib from the inside than a barn.

To save the old barn, Rob Harbour, manager of Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve, applied for and received $70,000 in emergency stabilization funds from the National Park Service.

"The priority is to get a roof on it," Harbour said.

Currently, the beams supporting the roof are visible from the roadway. The new roof will keep within historic designs and will use cedar shakes. Harbour hopes the work will be done in early November.

The barn is of a similar design to at least three other barns in the area.

The three-person work crew that will put the barn back in serviceable condition comes out of the North Cascades National Park. They gained experience by restoring fire lookouts and old cabins hidden away in the North Cascades trail system, said Craig Holmquist, trails foreman for North Cascades National Park.

Workers from North Cascades have been working on reserve structures for the past several years.

During the past two years, one other Ebey's Landing structure has received some repair work. Ferry House near Ebey's Landing had its roof replaced and foundation rebuilt.

The barn presently being restored was built around 1940 by Gus Rueble, who bought the farm and land from the Gillespie family in 1935.

In 1979, Reuble sold the property to Robert Engle. Three years ago the Reserve purchased the farm outright to ensure the land retains its agricultural purpose.

Harbour said the barn's future use is uncertain. The barn is too small to store farm machinery but Reserve officials are considering other uses.

"It's kind of up in the air," Harbour said.

The barn, and the future of the Reuble and Engle Farm, are topics that the Reserve is dealing with as it maps out a general management plan that should be complete sometime next year.

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