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Still straight and strong

You can almost imagine Eugene Marshall's mind working, when in 1987 he looked out over his old barn, which had slowly but surely begun to return to the earth. "I'm a practical man, and that's an old barn. It's a landmark in the neighborhood, but I could put up a new building for the price of fixing up the old thing. Still, it does stand straight and strong..."


BEFORE:

By 1987, the 60-year-old barn had reached a crossroads. Though deteriorated, diagonal sheeting on the interior and cedar siding on the exterior gave the barn extra strength and helped make it a building worth saving for a modern ranch.


AFTER:

This barn restoration project turned a fading landmark into a modern cattle working and machinery storage facility. Rehab work included a wider door, steel roof, and interior structural changes.

And these are the basic thoughts he and his wife, Donna, expressed in their application for the 2002 BARN AGAIN!® awards program.

The Marshalls were the winners of this year's BARN AGAIN!® Farm Heritage award.

Each year, Successful Farming magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation present BARN AGAIN!® awards to farm and ranch families who have preserved their historic agricultural buildings and use them in their day-to-day operations.

Six Recognition Awards are also made in the annual contest, which is supported by Toy Farmer Publications.

As the Marshalls considered the fate of their big, hip-roofed barn in 1987, they admired the skills of the barn's builder. Originally housing stalls for horses and cattle, the barn was constructed with diagonal sheeting on the inside and cedar siding on the outside to give it extra strength and prevent it from leaning or twisting.

"We envision the man who built it as a particular person with a passion for buildings that would stand the test of time," Donna says.

The farmstead that the Marshalls purchased in Dawson County, Nebraska, in 1965 also included a two-story house and granary, as well as a "precision built" cave cellar and a brick smokehouse.

The house was remodeled in 1974 and is now home for ranch foreman, Wayne Enochs, his wife, Lisa, and their three children.

The big barn would await its fate until 1987, when the Marshalls were able to muster the finances to restore the building. The decision wasn't all that difficult in the end.

"It just got to a point where we knew we had to fix it up or let it be," says Eugene. "It's something you have to want to do."

The project included interior structural changes. The stanchions were removed, and the haymow floor raised to the 16-foot plate. A 16-foot-wide, 12-foot-high door was installed to allow clearance for machinery. Cement floors were poured in the front half of the main barn and for the floor of the lean-to.

Some foundation work was required on one side of the building, as well as replacement of part of the cedar siding. A steel roof and a fresh coat of white paint capped the exterior part of the project.

The crew hired to handle the work finished up in 10 days. Total cost for the turnkey job was about $15,000.

What really put the barn back to work was the installation of circle working facilities, a sorting alley, cattle processing pens, and adjacent to the barn, a loading chute.

Today, the barn is the busy hub of a beef operation managed by Eugene and Donna's son, Jeff.

The facilities are used to process a 300-head cow-calf herd and the 1,000 plus calves the operation feeds out. The building also has a shop and is used for machinery storage.

Another perk of a good old barn: The building is a great place for parties where family, friends, and neighbors can gather for birthdays, anniversaries, and dances.

"One of the good things about a barn party," says Donna, "is that it motivates everyone to keep up with repairs and cleaning of the building."

The Marshall family (from left to right) includes Eugene, Donna, Jeff, and Becky. They're 2002's BARN AGAIN!® winners.

The Marshalls rehabbed barn is centerpiece to a cow-calf, backgrounding and feedlot operation.

Fifteen years after being put back to work, the barn appears to be set for many decades more hard work, and the Marshalls have no regrets about their decision. "I don't know as I would change a thing," says Eugene.

The Marshall project is "another shining example of a practical, older barn, what the BARN AGAIN!® program is all about," says Barbara Pahl, director of the Mountain/Plains office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"The Marshalls saw new use for their old barn and brought it back to life as a practical symbol of productivity and beauty," Pahl says.

Photographs: Ted Schlaebitz

You can almost imagine Eugene Marshall's mind working, when in 1987 he looked out over his old barn, which had slowly but surely begun to return to the earth. "I'm a practical man, and that's an old barn. It's a landmark in the neighborhood, but I could put up a new building for the price of fixing up the old thing. Still, it does stand straight and strong..."

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