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"The return of the Barnstormers Tour" - Frederick News Post, June 14, 2009

Frederick County, Maryland

Originally published June 14, 2009

By Susan Guynn
Frederick News-Post Staff

In 1864, Ignatius Waters Dorsey was at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, where Confederate General Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded. After the war, Dorsey returned to Frederick County where, around 1870, he built a handsome brick house and barn on Detrick Road.

That's the story as told by a neighbor to Jeff England, who now owns the farm. Except for the addition of metal siding and modifications to the parlor over the years, Dorsey would still recognize the barn. It still holds cows and hay. The two layers of oak floorboards are still tight and straight.

The England's bank barn, called the north barn, and a second barn built some 60 years later, called the south barn, are two of nine Green Valley area barns featured on the third annual Barnstormers tour, sponsored by Frederick County Landmarks Foundation.

The self-guided driving tour is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and concludes with a reception, exhibit and sale of paintings of the barns created that day by artists working "plein-air" at each barn. Docents will also be at each barn to tell its story to visitors.

The tour begins and ends at the farm of Mike and Lisa Gaver, of Gaver Tree Farm and Pumpkin Patch on Detrick Road. The Gavers also farm 1,000 acres with soybeans, corn and hay. "Granddad bought it in 1950," said Mike, who is the third generation to farm the land.

A few years ago, Mike Gaver built a metal pole building -- the next generation of barn construction -- to accommodate the tree farm and pumpkin business. That barn is not part of the tour.

"It's the way to go. You can put them up fast and they're economical," Mike Gaver said. "The old barns are still useful, but there's a lot of maintenance to them. New barns are pretty much maintenance free." The original bank barns are still used to store hay and straw, he said. After Christmas tree season, the new barn is used to store machinery.

Both barns on Jeff and Judy England's farm were in bad shape when they bought it about 30 years ago. "We did some things to try to save it," Jeff England said of the north barn, including a new roof, metal siding, repairing timbers and stabilizing the foundation. Functioning rain gutters are essential in preventing water damage to the foundation, he said.

The circa 1930 milking parlor was gutted and turned into a maternity barn for calving. "Now that we're not milking, it's used for winter housing," Jeff England said. "(Barns are) not just buildings. They are dual purpose, for equipment and hay storage above and animal housing underneath. You can't get that with a metal pole building."

Jeff England said he considered replacing the south barn with a metal building, which would have been less expensive than saving the circa 1940 barn. It was built on the foundation of an earlier barn that burned in the '30s when a fence row fire spread out of control.

The two barns are about the same size, but the south barn has less bracing inside and the bridge is level, making it easier to get machinery in and out. When it was built, tractors were coming on the scene. After World War II, there was an "explosion" in farm machinery production, Jeff England said.

The bridge wall, a short span that connected the bridge (earthen ramp) to the barn's stone foundation had failed due to water damage and required extensive work, Jeff England said. "It was almost the demise of the barn."

Old barn, new purpose

Syl and Vicki Schieber's barn is a woodworking shop where he creates fine 18th-century reproduction furniture as a hobby. Surrounded by the homes of The Meadows at Lake Linganore and the lake, Syl Schieber said the barn and the house were a symbol of the hope the original owners had. "The Civil War was going on all around here," he said, noting the house was built in 1861 and the barn in 1864. "There was a homestead being established here. These people had real hope."

The Schiebers bought the property three years ago. Design discussions with Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction began in January 2007, the work started nine months later and continued for about 15 months.

The structure was stripped to its skeleton, as the pine siding was planed to remove the paint and reinstalled inside the barn. New poplar siding was installed outside and a new roof system was built. The stone and frame parlor wall under the cantilever was rebuilt and extended eight feet to better support the weight of woodworking machinery on the threshing floor above.

"We had to replace about 40 percent of the structural beams," Scheiber said. "We tried to salvage everything we could."

New lofts with winding staircases were built where the hay mows once were. One is Schieber's office, the other a recreation room for family. His son is also a woodworker, specializing in more contemporary furnishings, and his daughter-in-law is a luthier, making violins and cellos.

The design incorporates unique elements, such as a geothermal heating and cooling system and door systems that make the barn airtight, that help the barn retain its barn appearance outside and functionality inside. Hardwood floors were installed throughout the woodworking and loft areas of the barn, where Syl Schieber also displays (and uses) his collection of hand planes, some dating back to the Civil War.

Architectural treasures

Each of the barns on the tour is different, said Birch Hotz, chairman of the Barnstormers committee. "People fall in love with the barns," she said. "They are so big and so quiet like other buildings that contain large areas of space, like cathedrals."

Many of them are still used for agriculture, including a fifth-generation dairy farm. One has a blacksmith's shop that is said to have been a resting stop for the Union army enroute to Gettysburg. Some have unique features such as roof rafters hewn from lodgepole pines and antique railroad rails.

Anne Gibson Snyder is expecting about 40 artists to participate in plein-air painting at the barns. The morning of the tour, artists will randomly select their barn and return to the Gaver farm in early afternoon to frame their work for the exhibit, which includes refreshments and music. It begins at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Proceeds from the sale of art will be used in barn-related programs sponsored by Landmarks.

"Part of the reason we included the artists," Snyder said, "is to try and get people to see the barns as architectural treasures."

Click on images below to view at larger size.

The structure was stripped to its skeleton, as the pine siding was planed to remove the paint and reinstalled inside the barn. New poplar siding was installed outside and a new roof system was built.

The structure was stripped to its skeleton, as the pine siding was planed to remove the paint and reinstalled inside the barn. New poplar siding was installed outside and a new roof system was built.