Demand rising for return of wooden barns

Monday, March 13, 2006

WESTON, Mo. -- As the first large wooden barn to be erected in Platte County went up, contractor Benjie Kent was vowing to encourage the trend, which he said brings back the feel of a "real barn."

The barn erected Saturday belongs to John Miller, who said he grew up with wood barns, which generally were replaced by barns with metal-sided pole barns.

"We just like barns," Miller said. "I grew up on a farm with them."

On Saturday, three bents -- about 10-inch timbers bolted together for the frame -- towered over a gray concrete slab that is a foundation and floor. The bents are long poles on the sides, joined with crossbeams and bracing to inner support poles. From the eave area, two more jointed beams rise to make a peak.

Joints that once were built with square nails and wooden pegs were put together Saturday with steel bolts that workers pounded through wood and quarter-inch-thick steel plates. Such bolts are a building code requirement, Kent said, although the old wood peg joints would probably be just as sturdy.

Kent thinks there's a demand in the suburbs and on farms for a barn with the aroma of slab-sawn ponderosa pine and oak.

"My goal is to bring back that ambiance and feel," said Kent, 43, of Kansas City. "The memories I have from childhood of playing in barns -- to me, you just can't get that from metal barns."

When Kent's crew of a half-dozen men finished bolting the bent together, a truck with a crane backed up on the concrete. The men hooked ropes on the bent. With slow starts and stops, the truck backed up and lifted the bent upward.

Steve and Kim Dominic of Kansas City, Kan., watched from lawn chairs.

"We're planning to build a garage, and we thought this might be an alternative," Steve Dominic said, "but not this big."

Miller's barn will be 80 feet long, 56 feet wide and almost 37 feet high when completed in about six weeks.

"This will have 45,000 board feet of lumber in it -- it won't blow away," said Len Dickinsen, who along with his wife, Jule Goeller, founded Sand Creek Post & Beam. They manufacture barn kits in Wayne, Neb., with pine from the Black Hills and oak from the Ozarks.

Kent is building the barn for Miller with a Sand Creek kit, and he has a local franchise. "I've developed a passion for big timbers and early construction techniques," he said.

Miller estimates he'll spend more than $100,000 on the barn and use it for cattle, an office, storage and a play area for grandkids.

Most Sand Creek styles are smaller and in the $25,000 to $65,000 range, Goeller said.

Miller plans to build a house between the new barn and the old one, which he will restore.

He labored all Saturday morning pulling weathered boards from the side of the old barn, which revealed a two-story log structure that probably dated to the early 1800s. Ax marks and bark are still on the oak beams.

"I just think it's really cool to have a barn like that," he said, gazing at the rising beams.

Information from: The Kansas City Star,

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