BROOKVILLE — Old barns are a common sight in Jefferson County where farms have played an important role in the county’s economy and its history.
Many, while well worn, are still in use today. Others are no longer the center of the hustle and bustle of busy farm life but stand as a marker to the generations of hardworking families who toiled the ground or raised dairy or beef cattle. These barns have stood the test of time, and while weather worn, are still viable structures.
It is these long-standing barns, and cabins, that are being salvaged today to be used in a variety of ways. Some may be rebuilt and renovated for use as new homes, others may have their large beams or wood planks incorporated into a modern home’s decor.
For people who follow this trend, there is one television show that comes to mind – Barnwood Builders on DIY Network. The Barnwood Builders crew takes down and rebuilds these structures better than anyone else. Based in West Virginia, the guys from Barnwood Builders travel across the United States salvaging antique barns and cabins.
Crew boss Mark Bowe and his crew – Johnny Jett, Sherman Thompson, Tim Rose, Graham Ferguson, Travis Ferguson and Alex Webb – recently visited the area to salvage an 1853 barn belonging to Norma Schuckers and the late Don Schuckers, of Emerickville. The 90 plus-acre farm had belonged to Don’s great-grandfather. They raised beef cattle, Norma Schuckers said, as well as the hay and more for feed.
Schuckers said she was contacted about selling the barn last year and reached out to her son to see what he thought about it. He told her not to do anything until he got back to her, she said. He then reached out to the Barnwood Builders to see if the show would be interested in the barn. Soon there was a return call and a barn inspection last year to make sure the timbers were salvageable.
Chiara Hollender, one of the producers on DIY’s Barnwood Builders said, “the Schuckers barn is in incredible condition for an 1850’s barn, which isn’t always the case when you’re dealing with antique material.”
“That simply means that it was in very good shape and just what Bowe is looking for when he scouts out barns and cabins to salvage.
Schuckers said she was told that the barn likely had a few years before it would have begun to deteriorate if nothing was done to preserve it. She didn’t want to see it become like some old barns that deteriorate and fall down but likes the idea of someone new being able to use this structure, which has seen generations of the Schuckers family and is filled with memories.
As the roof of the barn was taken down, Schuckers noted that the experience was “bittersweet.” She’s happy that someone else will use the barn for generations to come but it was hard to see it being taken down. Family members gathered to watch with some of them shedding tears as the roof was taken down and only the four corners remained standing. By the time the crew was finished, even those last timbers were taken down and hauled away.
One has only to watch the crew as they work to know the skill and knowledge these seven men bring to their work. They removed the sides of the barn one week and the roof and corners of the barn a couple of weeks later. The board and beams were hauled to the “Boneyard.”
The “boneyard” is a work site where the crew will rebuild the structure, making whatever repairs are needed and making sure the structure is solid. The wood is processed so that there are no bugs or dirt or anything to prohibit its re-use in a modern day structure, Hollender noted. Once the structure is rebuilt in the boneyard, photos are taken and it is put up for sale. Once a structure is bought, the Barnwood Builders crew dismantles the structure again and transports it to its new location and rebuilds it there.
The demand for repurposed antique barns and cabins has grown so much that the Barnwood Builders are opening a second boneyard in Roundtop, Texas, Hollender noted. The barn, no matter if used as a barn or repurposed into a house, will create memories with a new family. It “ties the past and present together and people together.”
When on a work site, Bowe will travel around the area to see what other barns or cabins are located there, Hollender said. It was noted that this area of Pennsylvania has a lot of barns, many of which look to have been well maintained and are still in use.
The show also looks to celebrate local people, craftsmen, in the areas they visit, Hollender said. While in Jefferson County, they visited The Hardwood Mall in Emlenton that offers hardwood floors, trim, molding and more.
Barnwood Builders first aired on the DIY Network on November 1, 2013. This summer it marked its 100th show. Anyone seeing the camaraderie of the seven men as they work together may think that it can’t be real, but Schuckers said they were some of the nicest people she has ever met, calling them “genuine” and “caring.”
When they would take a break from working on the barn, several members of the crew would stop and talk quietly with some of the Schuckers family members. Jett paused to talk with one family member who had gotten a little teary eyed as the crew took off the barn’s roof. One can see just by observing them that the crew members understand how difficult the process can be for family members watching a piece of their history go away.
This will not be the last time the Schuckers family see their barn. While it is not known at this time where the barn will end up, Schuckers said they would be told when it is sold and where it’s going and eventually they will be able to see what it becomes.
The Schuckers barn episode will premiere on the DIY Network at 9/8C on Sunday, August 18.