Just north of Deer Park stands the Swallow’s Nest Barn, the pride, joy and delight of owners Monte and Kathlene Moore.
About 12 years ago, early in their marriage, they wanted to move out to the country from Spokane. “I wanted 5 acres and a barn,” said Monte Moore. “The house was less important.” So he set out looking.
They wanted a barn for normal barn purposes, but also one with an area that could be converted into an art studio. When he saw the Swallow’s Nest Barn at 5410 W. Bridges Road, he knew it was the one.
The Dutch Gambrel saltbox-style barn is officially listed as having been built in 1930, though possibly earlier, according to information gathered from an elderly neighbor. It was the heart of a dairy farm that was set on 100 acres, with a milking shed in a wing along the east side that held 16 stanchions.
Wood to build the barn apparently came from land to the west owned by Ruth Everdahl, who had been born in 1921. Moore said she told them she remembered the barn from when she was a small child. And she also recalled for them some of the previous owners, one of whom was “a Bohemian” from Europe, she told them, with a wife who worked in a brothel in Seattle, coming home to visit her husband from time to time.
Other, less-colorful residents worked hard to maintain and care for the barn, according to Everdahl, who has since died.
When the Moores bought the property, it was set on 10 acres (five more than he had hoped for) and, in addition to the barn they wanted, it also contained a house, garage and another smaller barn that was in the process of collapse. It was perfect.
The first job was to clean out the waist-deep straw and manure from the main section of the barn. “Our assumption was that previous owners had all kinds of sheep, chickens and llamas that were housed inside for the winters, and when the bedding froze, [the owners] never cleaned it out and just added more straw on top,” Moore said.
Much of the original floor planking was saved, and a concrete section was poured in the middle section of the barn, where the planks were decayed. The beams in the main barn remain in remarkably good shape, Moore said, and they plan to paint the exterior at the end of the summer.
The main barn had been separated from the milking parlor by a wall, and Moore divided the parlor into two sections with a dividing wall, resulting in an art room in the southeast corner and a glass studio in the northeast corner. Windows were missing along the entire east wall, so Moore located some old barn windows at a salvage facility. He installed and also decorated them. They also saved planks from the exterior walls of the old collapsing barn nearby to use to create inside walls in the art and studio areas.
Moore has been a glass artist since 1974. He created four windows at Unity Church on Spokane’s South Hill and a glass depiction of the Monroe Street Bridge in the Starbucks at the Davenport Grand Hotel, among some of his work that can be seen publicly. He has retired twice from teaching – once in 2000 from Spokane Public Schools and finally “officially” retiring in 2009 from the Mead School District. He remains connected to Arcadia Elementary School in Deer Park, attended by daughter, Hattie, 11, by working with students there on a 4-foot-by-10-foot artistic piece depicting three fawns playing – all made from 4,000 bottle caps.
Kat Moore, who worked as a nanny previously in the Mount Rainier area, also does her own art work inside the barn. They are both arts advocates and would like to make the space available for art-related activities and have even done some trial runs with groups of 15 or so.
With a whole bunch of chickens and two draft horses (which Kat rides and which are also used for clearing snow in the winter), the Moores make their home out in the country, just as they had wanted – with a lot of that time spent in the barn, now on the Washington State Heritage Barn Register, where Moore works in his studio year-round. Even though he has a small wood stove there, it’s often 35 degrees inside in the winter.
“But even so, you just have to experience a barn,” he said. “Barns are magical for me. They always feel nurturing, tied to the land. They are personal and have personalities.
“When the wind blows, a barn creaks and talks to you. It’s got a story, its own story.”