Barn be gone

An early 20th-century barn scheduled to be burned to the ground at the Greenbank Farm this month will stay up at least until September.

The barn, known simply as the H-Barn or Barn 3, has been used as an equipment storage building and shop since the public purchased the Greenbank Farm with Port of Coupeville and Island County money in 1997. One of just a few buildings at the farm that have received no renovation or updating during the past seven years, the H-Barn will burned, sold for salvage, or otherwise demolished this fall to make room for a planned commercial barn building.

Plans to burn the barn this month had to be postponed when Island County imposed a burn ban on Whidbey Island.

Laura Blankenship, executive director of the Greenbank Farm Management Group — the organization that runs the farm on behalf of the Port of Coupeville — said Monday that the H-Barn must be removed to make way for the grant-funded construction of the planned $650,000 commercial building. The money, which was given to the farm by the state Legislature, must be used to complete the new building by June 2005, or must be returned to the state.

Removal of the H-Barn is being favored over restoration, despite the fact that structural work on the structure was listed as a critical need in the Greenbank Farm’s June 2000 strategic plan. The plan calls for replacing the H-Barn roof and framing repair.

John Coyne said that assessment was overridden by an architect’s evaluation of the building, which recommended against renovating the H-Barn along the same lines as the farm’s other two large barns.

“Its structure was so poor that it made no sense,” he said.

Jack Husband, a Freeland structural engineer who looked into the possibilities of renovating the barn for public use several years ago, said renovating the barn would be difficult. Building codes would require the structure to not only hold the weight of people using the barn, but also to withstand wind and earthquakes. These last two factors were likely not taken into account by the barn’s builders.

“Let’s face it; it was supposed to be a barn,” he said.

Trash or treasure?

The farm’s Blankenship said that while there are salvageable materials in the aging barn, she said the Port of Coupeville and the management group decided to allow Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue burn it as a training exercise. She said the H-Barn must be removed by the end of September and, with no takers for the salvage wood, burning is the fastest way to get rid of the structure. Construction on the new building is expected to start in October.

“We need to have it gone,” she said.

Salvaging the barn seems to have been an option kept low key at best. The farm has not publicly advertised for individuals or groups interested in salvaging the wood. Even Goosefoot Community Fund, a South Whidbey non-profit that specializes in moving and reusing old structures, did not know of the farm’s plans to remove the H-Barn until July.

“We got involved with it a little late,” said Goosefoot director Linda Moore.

Moore said her organization was interested in moving the barn to 11 acres of property it owns at Bayview, but decided that the farm’s timetable to get rid of the structure was too far advanced. Had Goosefoot taken the barn, it would have needed extensive remodeling to bring it up to code and would have forced the organization to decide on how the old building would be used at Bayview.

Moore said the expense of remodeling the barn was not a factor in the decision, nor were the logistics of moving it. Goosefoot moved an old Sears kit house from the farm several years ago and restored it for use as an office at Bayview even though, according to Moore, it was in much worse shape than the H-Barn.

Though it has a swaybacked cedar-shake roof and peeling paint, the H-Barn is otherwise straight and intact. Both the farm’s Blankenship and Goosefoot’s Moore said Monday that there are old beams and other wood inside the barn worth saving.

Moore said the barn is worth moving and should not be burned.

“Failing that, it definitely should be salvaged,” she said.

David Price, a Bayview-area building designer, agreed with Moore. He called the Greenbank Farm Management Group when he learned the 1920s-era barn was to be burned, concerned the group and the Port were shirking their commitment to preserving the farm’s history. At the very least, he said, the barns contain wood beams and flooring that would be of great value if re-milled.

“It just seems like such a waste,” he said.

Burning the barn is still an option. Robert Spinner, a captain with Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, said this week that his agency is looking at tentative burn dates of Sept. 11 and Sept. 19. If wood is salvaged out of the H-Barn, he said, fire officials would have to re-examine what is left to determine whether burning the barn would have any training value.

The H-Barn is currently in the process of being replaced. The farm is building a $150,000 barn nearby to shelter tractors and equipment. A shop will also be located in the new structure.

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