FRANKLIN – Work began Thursday to dismantle a two-centuries-old barn that had residents disagreeing for more than a year on what its fate should be.
The structure is a bank barn that was built in the early 1800s. It is so-called because one side is constructed against a hillside so early farmers could enter the second floor from that direction.
The barn was originally part of a working farm, and at one time was occupied by the family – the Kembles – after whom the Village of Kemblesville was named. It currently sits next to the Franklin Township municipal building.
In February 2012, the supervisors determined the building should be either removed or rehabilitated, and they offered the Historic Architecture Review Board four months to develop a case for rehabilitation.
HARB Chairman Paul Lagasse said the board and other advocates for rehabilitation recommended supervisors not proceed with removal because its architecture is consistent with the other structures that represent the founding of the Kemblesville Village. Additionally, it could be rehabilitated without cost to taxpayers, and it would be an appropriate base for a large township building or museum, they said.
Lagasse cited several other locations in the region where old barns have been converted for nature and historic centers and said the location of one along Appleton Road would nicely house a center associated with the three nearby watersheds: Christiana River, Elk Creek and White Clay Creek.
Lagasse said proponents had gathered pledges of $30,000 for the beginning of a restoration. He said they believed they could get grants for a complete project that would not cost the residents anything in taxes.
He criticized supervisors for not working with the preservation group.
“They made no attempt to work with us. Any rational person would say that a (certificate of appropriateness to tear down) was not appropriate. When we asked for additional information on the application, we received no clarifications,” he said. “A lot of us are going to be heartsick for a while.”
Supervisors' Chairman John Auerbach said the building was in poor condition for an extended period of time. The roof, siding and other parts have been failing in, and the structure has deteriorated, he said.
Although the vision of restoration proponents was to rebuild or reconfigure the barn as a township office of community center, it would have cost almost $1 million, which he said would have been prohibitive for the township.
“Donations, events and grants cannot come close to funding a project of this scale. Only direct funding by the township appears to provide the amount of funding required,” Auerbach said. Still, the current process of dismantling is being called “re-purposing” because the materials will be reused or recycled.
The barn is made of wood with protective steel on the roof and aluminum on the side. The company chosen to perform the re-purposing is The Barnyard Boys. They are doing the work gratis and paying the township $1,000 in return for taking the materials, which include aluminum siding, steel roofing and wooden frame pieces.
Another contractor, Bill Thompson, has offered to remove the silo and take away the trash and rocks for $3,000, Auerbach said.
“I take no joy in taking this thing down. I have sympathy for the HARB and the historical society. (But) it would have become a money pit for the township,” he said.
When the overall work is finished, probably in the winter, the concrete pad on which the barn sat will be used for mixing salt and no-skid materials for application on the roads in icy weather.