This barn is located in Johnston, IA and owned by the Johnston Historical Society. The following was written by Mary Jane Paez, who tells the story of how the barn became a resource that is now shared with the entire community.
Founded in 1993, the Society had been looking for a home for quite awhile. After looking at various options, one of the members shyly suggested that their family had a house that might be suitable. It was a six bedroom farmhouse built in 1902. As President of the Society, I made contact with the Simpsons to work out the details of the transfer. After we discussed the house and its history, I was reminded of the farmhouse and barn that my grandparents built in the same era in Minnesota. I asked the Simpsons if they would consider donating the barn along with the house. After consulting with their sons, they agreed. They also threw in the windmill.
The negotiating with the Simpsons then began. There were deadlines (a little less than a year and a half), mowing requirements, condition of the site after removal of the structures and insurance and tax requirements. This agreement with the Simpsons was signed in March, 2001. Next came the panic of how we would accomplish this gargantuan task.
The next negotiation was with the City of Johnston to move the structures to a city park just west of the beautiful modern library. There were more deadlines and more requirements.
Starting in July, 2001, many Society volunteers descended on the house to clean out, disconnect utilities, and prepare the structure for transport. Once the house was just about ready, the barn was next on the list. Fewer Society volunteers signed up to help with the barn, which had been built as a dairy barn in 1936. The first barn built at the turn of the century was all wooden and was a victim of fire. The latest version had clay tile walls and a unique loft with diagonally sliding hay doors. The Simpsons bought the property in 1955 and converted the barn to accommodate their love of horses. This meant that there were many horse stalls, a tack room, and an office on the ground level. The loft was filled with 30 year old hay about a foot deep. To clear the hay, there were two 4 foot square doors at each end that had to be the exit for the hay. With pitch forks and snow shovels and wearing goggles and bandana masks, it took three weekends to clear the mess. We all came out looking like coal miners after an explosion.
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