You wouldn’t know by looking at it, but Meadow View Growers’ faded red barn at the north end of the property contains more than 200 years of history sealed within its sturdy beams. Constructed using lumber from a one-hundred year-old Medway barn that was taken down in 2013, Meadow View’s “Ole Barn” was officially completed this past summer, ending a two-year process of breathing new life into the antique timber.
Earl Robinson, who owns Meadow View Growers, invited me to tour the barn with him last week as he explained the methods used to reconstruct the old beams into a functional barn. He credited his son Scott for the business’ addition, saying that Scott was the “driving force” behind the entire project. Robinson said that Scott, along with David Rhodes and Rick Burnside were instrumental in the restoration of the barn.
“Rick is a pretty multi-faceted guy,” Robinson said of Burnside. “It was on his bucket list to repurpose an old barn.”
The term ‘repurposing’ is one heard often around the grounds of Meadow View Growers, as the business has gained notoriety among customers for the staff’s ingenuity in turning old things into new things—and really cool new things, at that. The garden center features an old piano turned into a stunning fountain, and their succulent section is laden with seemingly unusable junk items that have been turned into eye-catching succulent planters. While the Ole Barn isn’t as easily-identified as something old-turned-new again, Robinson hopes that people will come to recognize and appreciate the barn’s representation of hundreds of years of history.
Some of the larger beams used in construction are at least two-hundred years-old. By counting the rings from a cross-section of a larger timber, Robinson and company found that one of the trees was at least 117 years-old when it was felled. Add the tree’s 117 years to the one-hundred years that the original barn stood on the Harris Farm on Lower Valley Pike in Medway, and it all comes out to mean that certain beams have been around since long before The Civil War.
“Two-hundred and seventeen years…”Robinson said. “I think that would have been right around when George Washington was leaving office,” he said.
“If these timbers could only speak,” Robinson added.
The project began on Labor Day Weekend of 2013, when Scott Robinson and Davey Crowe began dismantling the old barn on the Harris Farm in Medway, where it had stood for one-hundred years. Scott said he learned that the barn would come down from a friend of his who lived across the street from the historic structure, and the Robinsons immediately began thinking about repurposing the old timbers. Portions of the original barn were then moved to Meadow View, and it was that fall when Rhodes and Burnside began laying out plans and installing piers for the footings.
The next summer, in 2014, Burnside and other workers started cutting, fitting, and bolting the timbers together, using the same “mortise and tenon” method that was used in the original barn’s first construction in the early 1800s. This method literally involves fitting square pegs into round holes. Robinson acknowledged the integrity of the hickory, oak, and other types of wood used in construction, noting how thick and sturdy it is, saying: “It would really take some force for this thing to come down.”
Finally, in August of 2015, the Ole Barn was completed with the addition of siding and a steel roof—the only aspects of the barn created not using original materials.
Robinson said he had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs. Frances Harris about the history of her family’s barn—information he said he really wanted to acquire before all records of the barn were lost. Robinson said he learned that Harris and her husband Robert purchased the 33.5-acre farm from Harvey Grimm in 1952, where the original barn was located, noting that Harris did not know who owned the farm prior to the Grimms, but thought it may have been owned by Mrs. Grimm’s side of the family. Harris then sold the farm house located on the property, along with a small piece of land just big enough for a yard, but kept the barn and the rest of the farmland.
The Harrises used the lower level of their barn for farm animals and the upper section for storing hay, which was then sold to local stables, even as far away as Yellow Springs, according to Robinson. He said that Harris told him of her husband’s longstanding suspicion that some of the lumber in the original barn had been used in yet another structure before that, citing “distinguishing cuts” in the wood that led him to that conclusion.
He said that the Harrises built a house on the remaining portion of their property in the early 1960s, where Harris still resides. She rents out the rest of the farm to a local farmer who grows beans and corn.
“It really tells a story,” Robinson said as he gazed proudly around the inside of the barn last week.
“I’m looking forward to sharing this little bit of local history and how the Ole Barn was able to be repurposed at Meadow View for others to see and appreciate,” he said.