Save the Maplenol Dairy Barn at Valley High School began as a Facebook Community Page on January 4, 2011. In response to a newspaper article by the Des Moines Register entitled “100 year old WDM barn near Valley High School to be razed,” the page has grown to become a group of over 2,100 concerned individuals in support of saving the barn from being razed. An online petition has also been created for those interested in saving the barn to sign. As of April 2011, over 1000 people from 43 states and 5 countries have signed the petition.
The Maplenol Barn is a 1930?s dairy barn that once was a part of Good Farm, established in the late 1880?s. It is located on the campus of Valley High School, near 39th Street and Ashworth Road in West Des Moines, Iowa. Sadly, the West Des Moines Community School District, in an effort to gain more greenspace has decided to demolish the barn. The demolition permit was issued on January 3, 2011.
Friends of the Maplenol Barn was formed in February 2011 as a non-profit organization with the purpose of historically preserving the Maplenol Barn. It evolved from a core group of volunteers to formally organize the “Save the Barn” cause.
About the Barn
Maplenol Barn sits in the middle of suburban West Des Moines, Iowa on a grassy tree lined street. It is situated on the southwest side of Valley High School Campus at 3650 Woodland Avenue. The barn sits back from Ashworth Road near 39th Street and can be seen from both streets. Historically, it was connected to the farmhouse at 3901 Ashworth Road and had a silo and other smaller agricultural buildings on the farm site. Today the barn is the only agricultural building remaining and is separated from the farmhouse by 39th Street. Residential development covers much of the west side of 39th Street. Northeast of the barn is the high school. A track and a football practice field lay to the east while the south is bordered by an open grassy area.
The barn is approximately 36.5 feet x 60 feet and has a gambrel roof. All four load bearing walls are constructed of hollow structural clay tile. The tile is in good condition with little damage. The colors are rich and varied; greens, ambers, reds, and purples create an attractive random pattern. There are several tiles that are cracked and at least one that is missing. This broken area of tile is on the east side towards the north end where there is stair step cracking in the mortar. The tile damage does not affect the structural soundness of the barn and is mainly superficial. Although the barn is in good structural condition, without intervention, it is in danger of deterioration.
The exterior view of the barn shows a gambrel roof in good condition with modern asphalt shingles. The modern shingles date to the 1990’s. All of the windows are either covered with boards or filled in with concrete block. The east side has one wide entrance, a smaller door, and six windows. The north side has a hay hood, and seven covered windows. On the western side are nine windows. On the south side, visible from Ashworth, there are seven windows and another entrance. This entrance leads up to the loft through wooden staircase in the southwest corner of the barn. One stair, third from the top, is cracked and partially missing.
The loft of the barn is large and open. Four ventilation shafts run from the lower level up along the roof, meeting at the top. These shafts connect with the two cupolas on the roof to provide one means of ventilation. Four square skylights provide natural light. The space was used for storage of marching band gear and football equipment up until early January 2011. The open nature of the loft is achieved through the use of the Shawver truss systems. There are four Shawver truss pairs in the middle of the barn and an additional pair of trusses on each end. The trusses are in excellent condition with no evidence of sagging, bowing, or deterioration. There is still a tall shaft in place on the south wall that was once used for hay delivery.
The entire first floor of the barn has four gutters and a casted concrete floor with a concrete pad built up, most likely for a feeding trough. There are stall shaped markings on the floor, but the actual use of the barn and relationship to the dairy operation is not known at this time. Further investigation, including inspection of the barn by a farm historian, and family descendant interviews should be done to glean more information. At one time, there was electricity, but that is now unusable, broken and rusting throughout the lower level of the barn. All of the windows on the lower level have been filled in with concrete block. There is no natural light in the lower level.
An interesting feature that requires further investigation is the use of 3 long metal beams running lengthwise in the supportive structure of the loft floor. At first glance they appear to be steel I beams, but upon further inspection look similar to railroad track. One beam examined was slightly curved along the top and has a stamp on it that says, “Buffalo 700”. Further investigation should be done on these I beams to determine whether they are in fact railroad tracks repurposed for the barn. It would be important to discern this information due to extensive involvement with the railroads in local history.
Maplenol Barn is a well built, attractive barn in good condition and adds interest and charm to the suburban setting.
Historical Significance of the Barn
As of January 19, 2011, the Maplenol Barn has been established as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for architectural significance due to the well preserved examples of the Shawver trusses as well as hollow structural tile. It was also deemed eligible because of its connection with a local founding family, the Good family, and connection with local farming methods in the 1930’s. With further research it may shed light on the local dairy farming methods prior to the establishment of pasteurization laws in Iowa. In addition, the entire Good Farm became an example of suburban development as a portion was developed as Maplenol Estates and another portion became Valley High School grounds, lending itself to a reminder of how West Des Moines became what it is today. Of course, the barn also holds a high place as a community landmark and a symbol of farming in the history of West Des Moines and Polk County.
The section of land that Maplenol/Good Farm occupied originally was purchased from the United States by Miles White, January 12 1850, certificate of purchase #31019. From there it changed hands several times until 1880 when Charles H. Good purchased the farm from the Osborne family. (Good Farmhouse Abstract) Charles H. Good was an 1846 Iowa homesteader, who became a business owner, and eventually a local philanthropist. (Fredrickson, p 22) Charles H. Good donated land to various local projects such as Good Park and The New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ. Clarence Good’s father Charles Henry acquired the farm in 1886 when Clarence was 4 years old. As an adult Clarence went by the name C.T. Good. According to the last will and testament of Charles H. Good (found in the farmhouse abstract), upon Charles H. Good’s death in 1925, the farm was inherited by Adeline, wife to Charles. C.T., who had presumably been farming the land prior to his father’s death, was made legally in charge of the land, but didn’t become owner until 1929. (Good Farmhouse Abstract)
Maplenol Farm has had several names since its beginning. Other names throughout the years were Good Farm, Maplenol Guernsey Farm, and Maplenol Dairy. The Maplenol Dairy or Maplenol Guernsey Farm operated from the late 1920’s to the WWII era when it closed due to competition. (Fredrickson) It’s also possible that the newer pasteurization methods that were not yet law, became prohibitively expensive for a small dairy to utilize. (Soike) The farm was known for its production of Golden Guernsey Milk sold in Valley Junction. An advertisement dated to the 1920’s has been found for this milk, as well as various milk caps and bottles. There are also family photos showing C.T. Good in his Maplenol Farm truck in 1928. (Fredrickson, Good family photos: Roberts collection)
The Maplenol Barn was built in 1932 by C.T. Good, based on the testimony of family and community members as well as the construction methods utilized. The tile is typical of hollow tile construction found in the 1930’s. According to a letter to the Des Moines Register, there is a “sister” barn built in 1936 after the owner admired the Maplenol Barn and wanted to build one similar to it. (Braland) The barn was built during a time when modern farming dictated that farmers build solid, clean, and spacious barns for their animals. At that time concrete floors were often selected due to cleanliness, durability, and the ability to be built on-site. (Harper, Wooley) It is likely that the hollow structural clay tile was selected due to these modern rules, with an emphasis on cleanliness, rat-proofing, sturdiness, and fireproofing. The necessity of this barn being fireproof was underscored with the destruction by fire of a previous Maplenol Farm barn on the existing site. (Fredrickson) Hollow clay tile was made by kneading clay into proper pressing consistency, then pressing it into shape and baking in a kiln. Hollow tile was more expensive than other common methods of construction, but the durability made it a good material for a well-constructed barn. (Paulson) Aerial photos and family testimony show that the previous barn sat on the same site as the existing barn.
The barn has a gambrel roof and was constructed with four pairs of Shawver trusses running down each side of the roof, enabling a large and open space for more hay storage. Shawver trusses are found in barns built between the 1880’s and the 1930’s. John L. Shawver developed the truss system as a lumber saving method that allowed a larger area for hay storage. In promoting his methods, Shawver claimed that his truss method used 40 percent less lumber and involved 30 percent of the usual time to construct a traditional “timber frame barn”. (Harper, Soike) In short, Maplenol Barn was built using some of the best methods of the time, and is a well-preserved example of these methods.
The corresponding farmhouse, built in 1886, currently sits across the street at 3901 Ashworth Road. The residence was occupied by Charles H. and Adeline Good, and then later by C.T. and Edna Good. Today, Valley High School campus sits back from Ashworth Road, across the street from the Good Farm house. Until 1940, however, the road went by a different name, White Pole Road. White Pole Road was a small segment of The Great White Way, which traveled from one side of Iowa to the other, Mississippi River to the Missouri River. The telephone poles along this road had 5-6 feet wide bands painted white and led to the name. (Fredrickson, p 20) White Pole Road is significant to local history and neighboring communities have celebrations based on the road’s significance.
Thirty-nine acres of the 160 acre Maplenol Farm were sold to Valley High School (C.T. and Edna’s alma mater, 1903 Valley Graduates) in 1962 at $3000 an acre for the construction of the new and still in use Valley High School. The total purchase was $116,136. 39th Street now separates the only standing barn from the farmhouse. The west side of 39th Street became a housing development developed by and the streets named for various Good family members. (Fredrickson, p22) Development pamphlets are found detailing the house plans available at that time.
More recently, Maplenol Barn made the local news, on January 3, 2011, when a demolition permit was issued for the West Des Moines School District to raze he barn. The barn is a significant community landmark to the city of West Des Moines and to the Greater Des Moines Area. The farm holds historic merit beyond its landmark status as well. Maplenol Barn is on public school land and could have significant educational value. The barn has seen many years of Valley High School students and is the subject of many stories involving physical education and football practice. As a community landmark, Maplenol Barn is fondly remembered by many VHS students and West Des Moines residents.
For more information, read here: Maplenol Guernsey Farm (Good Farm)- Home of Maplenol Dairy