TOPPENISH, Wash. – The front wall of the old wooden barn was buckled, and the roof was bowed. It took two weeks just to straighten the structure.
But thanks to a $14,000 grant from the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the barn is standing tall again on the farm.
Established in 2007, the grant program assists with rehabilitation projects designed to stabilize and preserve designated Heritage Barns across the state.
Washington lawmakers have appropriated $500,000 for the next two years to support the next round of the program, and the state is gearing up to accept applications.
“Barns are iconic structures in our agricultural landscape, and farming is a huge part of our economy,” department director Allyson Brooks said. “This is our way of assisting our ag community, while preserving iconic structures on the landscape.”
The applications are competitive, and they must meet several criteria, including the historical significance of the barn, urgency of needed repairs and provisions for long-term preservation.
Priority is given to barns that remain in agricultural use, and barn owners must match grant awards dollar for dollar.
Stuart Parrish worked full time for seven weeks, along with three others, to refurbish one of the family’s barns, which sits on one of four main drags into Toppenish, a rural farm town south of Yakima with the motto “Where the West Still Lives.”
The Parrish family has farmed in Central Washington’s Yakima Valley for decades – raising cattle and growing everything from grapes and hops to corn and mint – and worked the property associated with this particular barn for 30 years before buying it about six years ago.
The barn was in sad shape, Parrish said. While the family could have built a new barn more quickly and at roughly the same cost, they wanted to restore the historic structure that had seen so much over the years.
Most recently, the 1920 barn stood in 3 feet of water during the Yakima Valley flooding of 1996.
“We tried to keep a lot of the details of the original barn,” he said. “And people were really invested in the project, stopping by all the time to watch the work.”
Parrish received a $14,000 grant for the project. He estimates the total cost at around $45,000.
Washington boasts more than 500 designated Heritage Barns in all 39 counties. So far, the program has reviewed nearly 240 grant applications since its inception, and more than 46 barns have been refurbished.
For the $500,000 the state has to dole out every two years, the state department receives nearly $2 million in applications, Brooks said.
“That shows a real need out there,” she said. “You cannot farm without a barn.”
And the money tends to stay in the local community, she said. Farmers buy local supplies and hire local laborers to do the work.
“For very little money, you’re getting all these great outcomes,” she said. We’re hoping to continue to help our working farms. It’s a great connection between agriculture and historic preservation.”
Historic agricultural structures listed in the Heritage Barn Register, the Washington Heritage Register or the National Register of Historic Places are eligible to receive grant funds.
To be eligible for listing in the Heritage Barn Register, barns must be more than 50 years old and retain a significant degree of historic integrity.
Grant applications are due Oct. 28, with grant awards slated to be announced in early 2014.