Building Renewal

‘Barn Again!’ workshops returns
to provide preservation advice

Speaker Collins to teach methods
for saving old barns

(March 2013) – To ensure the survival and prosperity of their new farms, homesteaders arriving in Indiana Territory often built their barn even before considering plans for their house. Barns today still evoke such a strong connection to the past that they have become a central theme for greeting cards, paintings and quilts.
But, what does an owner do when the barn has aged poorly or no longer serves its purpose? Rick Collins, owner of Dell Trillium Timberworks in Knoxville, Ill., has the answers. Collins travels internationally helping owners of barns and outbuildings either restore their barns to historic condition or adapt them to new uses. “We want the buildings we build to last as long as the trees that grew them,” says Collins.

Rick Collins

Collins offers insights to farmers, museum caretakers and public property owners on how to do just that. He brings his expertise to Madison, Ind., as the guest speaker for the second annual “Barn Again!” preservation workshop, set for Saturday, March 23, at the West Street Art Center, 301 West St. in Madison, Ind. The workshop is being planned by state and local preservation groups and will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The event offers practical solutions from a variety of experts on how to restore barns to their historic state or to adapt them to new uses.
Greg Sekula, Southern Regional Director for Indiana Landmarks, said he hopes to “attract folks who own historic barns and are looking for good technical information on how to make repairs, to adaptively reuse a barn or to retrofit their barn for continued agricultural use with modern equipment. This workshop will equip them with some of the know-how to achieve these goals.”
Farmers, hobby farmers, living museum coordinators and public property caretakers will all benefit from the expertise available for making use of these historic structures. Members of the Indiana Landmarks Historic Society attend for $30. The price is $45 for non-members and it includes a year membership in Indiana Landmarks.
Rhonda Deeg, Program Director for Historic Madison Inc., notes, “Our speakers will offer practical, hands-on tips for preserving and using barns and outbuildings. Attendees will leave with packets containing a lot of information they can use – techniques on evaluating their barns, information on tax credits for restoring barns, and resources available to help owners. We’ll also have a resource table of books and other materials they can purchase. Plus, the tour of barns lets people get inside the structures they want to see.”
Sekula also notes that the afternoon tour of local barns offers the opportunity to see how the morning’s information can be applied to actual barns in the area. The workshop will include tours of the carriage barns across from Lanier Mansion, Cravenhurst Barn, the Green Family Centennial Farm and the HMI-owned Saddletree Factory. Deeg said she particularly looks forward to the tour of Cravenhurst.
“Now that Michigan Road has been declared an historic by-way by the United States Department of Transportation, there is even more reason to preserve this barn (located on Michigan Road on the Madison hilltop) because of its significance to Madison’s history,” says Deeg. She notes that Boy Scouts from Troop 721 will guide the tour of Cravenhurst Barn, hoping to involve the community in the preservation of this barn, which is their meeting place.
Collins is known internationally for his expertise in restoring and adapting historic structures. He will share his passion and tips with all those attending Barn Again!.” “We look at barn restoration from a macroscopic view,” says Collins. “We will cover timber frame repairs, masonry restoration and the overarching restoration process. We’ll also address siding, windows and doors as well as the structural issues.”
Collins focuses on both period restoration and adaptive reuse as alternatives for preserving aging structures. He allows the audience to guide his presentations to ensure he addresses members’ specific concerns and questions.
When asked why preserving an old barn is preferable to simply building a newer structure, Collins offers a variety of reasons. Primarily he focuses on “capturing embodied energy. Resources went into the construction of this building. We don’t want to waste that energy. Restoration retains that energy thereby reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.
Collins also notes that restoration or adaptive reuse allows owners to retain historic or ancestral values of older buildings to retain an agricultural record of how people constructed buildings in the past and to enjoy a better building than modern construction typically offers. He says the motto of his company is: “We want the buildings we build to last as long as the trees that grew them.”
Collins notes that many of the trees he uses are 150-200 years old. “We know we can build barns to last that long because we have 200-year-old barns. An owner would go through about six pole barns in that time. Restoration captures the energy originally put into the barn and keeps the barn in shape for the next 200 years.”
Through his discussions at the workshop, Collins will help owners think about their barns in new ways – outside the box. He notes that “do-it-yourselfers” benefit from the pointers they will receive on what to do or who to call to help with the work.
“We can tell people what is possible,” says Collins. “We also have people who have plans outside the norm – people using their barns for pottery studios, gift shops or boarding facilities.”
Collins helps them see how to adapt their old structure to a new use. He also works with outdoor museums to restore barns to either the period in which the barn was actually built or an era the museum would like to portray.

• The workshop is sponsored by Historic Madison, Inc., Indiana Landmarks, Cornerstone Society, Historic Southern Indiana, Moose Lodge, and West Street Art Center. To register, visit: www.barnagainmadison.eventbrite.com or call Historic Madison Inc. at (812) 265-2967 or Indiana Landmarks at (812) 284-4534. Deadline for registration is March 15.


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