The former stage in the Black Cat Barn

The old Black Cat Barn, at 9440 Lower Valley Pike, is set to be demolished.

In past years, the building has been a barn, a speak-easy and a dance hall.

Gess estimates that the barn was built between 1840 and 1860.

“I understand the sentimental and historical value, but it’s a safety hazard,” said current owner Shawn Gess. “It would take $60,000 to $80,000 to rehab it, and there’s no business venture that could recoup that investment.”

Gess said the wood from the building would be salvaged. “This is centuries old virgin timber and is quite valuable,” he said.

He said some of the timbers are as long as 47 feet, and most still show the marks where they were hand-hewn with axes. Some of the timbers still have the bark from the trees.

The building of the barn was a tremendous feat considering the lumber came from trees in the area and put in place with block and tackle and horses.

The tongue-and-groove flooring is still solid. “It was so well built that the contractor cannot dismantle it without damaging it,” said Gess.

The stone walls at the base are two feet thick and still solid throughout part of the building. The major problem is one corner where the stone and concrete are deteriorating and creating the safety hazard.

“I have had 70-year-old ‘hippies’ come by and tell me ‘I used to play here when it was a dance hall,’” said Gess.

He also said that local legend has it that Jonathan Winters performed there in his younger days. “It makes sense,” he said. “WIZE and WING would sponsor dances here, and Jonathan’s mother worked for WIZE.”

The barn also has a small apartment that recently has only been home for raccoons and other animals in the area.

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