Farm Heritage Award Winner
Year of Award: 2004
Original Use: Cattle, Grain, Hay, Horses
Current Use: Equipment Storage, Straw
Leo Fitzpatrick of Beaverton, Michigan, can talk at length about the value of old barns and how much they mean to his family history. "The farm would not look the same without the barn that Grandpa built so long ago. It stands like a beacon light at the center of the farm now operated by his great-grandsons," he says. The 88-year-old barn is now used for straw storage, as well as housing for machinery and tools.
His renovation project took nine years of careful planning, labor, and some strategic investment. By doing much of the work himself, he held costs down to $14,000. A new building of such size and utility would run much more—as much as $50,000 or $60,000, he says. Though the Fitzpatricks' old barn had well-served four generations, by 1990 it showed signs of wear and tear. "Like many barns, repairs and a new roof were long overdue," he says. "The roof in one place was settled down by 17 inches." After gaining elevation with stacked bales, Fitzpatrick raised the roof, using as many as 10 car bumper jacks at a time. He set the jacks upside down, hooking them onto a new purlin, jacking against the rafter. "You'd have to keep working each jack a little at a time until you could let the new leg drop in place," he says. "You had to spread the stress and gradually take it all up evenly."
All the time and attention to detail has paid off, Fitzpatrick says. "The barn is a lot stronger now than when it was new." And, as a board member of the Michigan Barn Preservation Network Fitzpatrick says, "I want to set a good example and inspire other people to preserve the old barns."