Making a Difference

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Barn, to go: High taxes and an offer from Wal-Mart
led Keith Benedict to sell his farm in 2004.

Credit: Jan Corey Arnett

Four years ago, when Battle Creek, Mich., ­resident Jan Corey Arnett saw Wal-Mart bulldozing a nearby farmstead for a superstore, she decided to take on the big-box giant. Noticing that the 86-year-old barn at Benedict Farm was still standing, she wrote a letter that appeared in a local newspaper warning of the imminent threat to the structure. As a result, a Wal-Mart official offered to work with her to save the building. "I guess I was just too determined," Arnett says.

Thanks to her diligence and a little persuasion from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Wal-Mart allocated $150,000 toward relocating the barn.

"We were most pleased that Wal-Mart decided to mitigate the impact of their store and kept their word to make saving much of the barn possible," says Peter Brink, senior vice president at the National Trust.

Last fall, after the Michigan Barn Preservation Network vetted proposals for reuse, a crew dismantled the barn and moved it to a site 70 miles away, where the strongest beams, rafters, and floorboards will become a smaller "teaching barn" for kids. Now Arnett plans to reconstruct another old barn on her property. Why? "So that children have an opportunity to see these wonderful places," she says.

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