ANNA — Part of Shelby County’s rural history will continue on in Fairfield County as a dilapidated, 150-year-old barn in Anna is being dismantled piece-by-piece and will be refurbished and rebuilt about two hours to the southeast.
The barn, located on a farm on Meranda Road, is no longer a safe structure nor can it be covered by insurance. It is on property owned by Margaret (and her late husband, Si) Luthman. Upon learning it could no longer be insured about two years ago, the Luthman family decided to tear it down, and the search began to find a crew to do the work.
Paul Luthman, Margaret’s son who is in charge of the arrangements for the barn, said after reaching out to several Amish builders that didn’t pan out, he found Raymond Friend, owner of The Barn & Cabin Friend, of Leesburg. The business “saves” historic, hand-built structures in Ohio.
“Roughly somewhere in the 1950s or early ’60s, Mary Ann Boyer inherited this farm (on Meranda Road) when her dad passed away. At that time there was no electricity on the farm,” Luthman said. “I spoke to Jim Boyer, (Mary’s son) from Greenville, last night, and he said, ‘Dad ran electricity back there, and at that time, we started raising steers in that barn. We would raise about 75 to 80 steers out every year. We did that for about three or four years. Some time after that, Dad converted it over to raising hogs.’ And then when they sold them out, they would go to Florida, and that’s kind of where we we came in. My wife and I moved into the house on the property, and we rented it for about five years after we got married.”
After Mary Ann Boyer passed away, Luthman said, his father bought the 123-acre-property about 15 to 20 years ago. His parents’ property was adjacent to the land they still refer to as the “Boyer Farm.” Of the three structures still standing on the farm, the barn and corn crib are being taken down; a pole barn will be the only remaining building, as the house was torn down years ago. Currently, the farmable property is mostly used to grow grains. Eventually the property will be sold.
Luthman said Friend came out last summer to look at the barn and agreed to take down the structure in July 2020.
“I’m a sucker (for antique architecture),” Friend said. “I like to keep (structures) in Ohio. This is their home, but I am about to go to Arizona (to relocate a building), and I have been to Louisville.”
Recently, after a bad wind storm came through Shelby County on June 11, Luthman said they lost part of the barn’s roof, so he informed Friend he may want to move up his timeline.
“(The barn) doesn’t look in great shape right now. It looks a little shady right now, but the frame work is in good shape,” Friend said of the barn, which originally was built in 1870 to 1880.
The Barn & Cabin Friend crew now is carefully dismantling the barn and “tags” each piece as they go along. Tagging the materials is important for describing what needs to happen with each piece as to whether it needs cleaned or repaired or is irreparable.
“That barn, we are going to tag it and take it down piece by piece, very carefully, almost the same way the people built it 150 years ago,” Friend said a week before he began the work. “We will take it down and drive out all of the wooden picks. We will take it down carefully, and it will go right back up in the same configuration that it is now. Now, are there pieces that are rotten and broken? Yes. And we will fix those with beams from other barns that maybe were not as in as good of shape.”
The crew will make several trips to transport compiled loads of the dismantled barn over the several days they are working to take it down. The dissembled pieces then will be stored at Friend’s workshop until September when the structure will be relocated and reassembled for a customer in Sugar Grove.
Friend, a former school teacher for 17 years, expanded his summer hobby of antique architecture into a full time business in 2017. He has been “rescuing, repairing, rebuilding and salvaging” barns and other historic buildings since 2006. He learned timber framing at The Heartwood School and has extended his skills and knowledge through involvement in the Timber Framers Guild and Friends of Ohio Barns.
“This is what I always wanted to do. I get to do what I enjoy doing every day,” Friend said of the transition of his hobby turning into a full-time business. “We get to save a few buildings and do neat things with the material we get out of the buildings. The best part is being able to save a building and give it a new life.”
The barn will be exactly what is now when relocated to Sugar Grove, Friend said.
“It will just be fixed, on a better foundation, and it’s going to be able to be used for the next couple of hundred years,” he said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.