Saving the Barn

March 26, 2018
Bank barn, built in 1900

One of the most unique features of our Iowa homestead is our bank barn which was built in 1900. These types of barns are not common in Iowa and are becoming even more rare as they age. To my knowledge we have one of the two remaining bank barns in Dallas County, Iowa.

The defining characteristic of a bank barn is that it's built into the side of a hill, or bank. The result of using the landscape this way is a multi-story barn that is accessible from the ground on both levels. However, when livestock are removed from the barn, like in our case, the wall that is built into the hill eventually collapses due to expansion and contraction from the weather. Which is precisely what happened to our barn. This foundation trouble, coupled with at least forty years of neglect has left our beautiful barn in need of some serious repair.

Foundation damage

We have had a few contractors come to look at our barn to offer professional opinions and provide estimates for the work costs. It turns out that barn work isn't something that people (at least the people we're finding) just do all the time. So of the three companies that have come out to look, we have gotten only one estimate. And that estimate, for only the foundation issues, was $55,000. Unfortunately, we don't just have that much in petty cash at Sugar Grove Goods!

She needs a lot of love.

Hand hewn scarf joint

Thankfully since our old barn is so unique we are eligible for grants from the state of Iowa, and for various tax credits that accompany the costs of restoring historic buildings. However, the tricky part to getting this aid is proving that the structure is worth saving. I've been working on tracking down exactly who built our barn, and trying my best to learn as much as I can to help with the application process, since the very first part of this process is getting on the National Register of Historic Places. This will be a long, taxing, expensive journey, but so worth it to know that we've preserved a little bit of Iowa history.

Wooden pegs

I started making soap for two reasons: #1 because I no longer wanted to pay shipping for my goat milk face soap and #2 to raise money to fix our barn.

Our barn predates two world wars, the sinking of the Titanic, 20 U.S. Presidents, the first man on the moon, Beatlemania, all of the 1970's, and the 80's (because shoulder pads), and all of the other events that have transpired over the last 118 years. This barn has survived all of this time, a structure that is legitimately held together by wooden pegs, hand hewn beams, and scarf joints (I had to do a LOT of Google Image searching to find this term). We just can't be the people to let it fall down.

My husband often says that he feels guilty for asking people to “help” us with the barn, and I get that. But I tell him that we'll just have an open invitation for dinner to anyone who wants to help and finds themselves in the neighborhood!

Hagrid keeping watch
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