Northwest NEWS

June 11, 2001

Front Page

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'Barn Again' in the Snoqualmie Valley

County program aims to save old farmsteads
   by Lisa Allen
   Valley View Editor
   It's been said that a barn begins to die when the animals that were sheltered in it are no longer there. Barns, like people's homes, need the warmth of living and breathing bodies to fend off decay.
   For over a century in the Snoqualmie Valley, dairy farming was a thriving industry. Barns were full and times were good.
   But over the last 10 years, for financial, regulatory or other reasons, more and more farmers have called it quits. Dairy barns once alive with the sounds of bawling calves, the clatter and hiss of milking machines and children at play, now stand empty or maybe shelter a horse or two.
   That worries historic preservationists, who fear that each barn lost is history gone forever. Concerned that the area was losing too many of its precious old dairy barns, preservationists encouraged King County officials to create a program to save at least some of them.
   The "Barn Again" Program is the result. The King County Landmarks and Heritage Program inaugurated the program on June 1 in North Bend at a meeting of the State of Washington Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
   The council focused on four historic dairy properties located in the Snoqualmie Valley and near Auburn which were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by the King County Landmarks and Heritage Program. The Advisory Council members came from throughout the state to review nominations for placement on the National Register of Historic Places the nation's official list of properties which are significant in the country's history.
   "We invited the Advisory Council to hold its meeting in King County because we want to highlight the plight of these icons of the valley historic dairy barns," said Leon Leeds, chair of the King County Landmarks and Heritage Commission. "We are losing them faster than ever if we don't do something soon, we'll have nothing left to remind us of the great dairy history of this valley."
   The county's Barn Again Program is modeled after a similar program developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
   Julie Koler, King County historic preservation officer, said the program is there to offer help to owners of those barns.
   "We are putting together an advisory team of experts to look at how best to support these property owners," Koler said. "We are looking at financial incentives, low interest loans, tax breaks and other possibilities, including zoning ... any avenue we can take to support people in restoring these old barns."
   Koler said the county hopes to get the program "up and running" before the end of the year.
   "We already have an incentive program in place that we want to expand to focus on agricultural buildings," she said. "We are going to do some aggressive marketing to achieve that end."
   LynnD Stiles, owner of the historic Allen farm in Duvall's Cherry Valley, said she was delighted that her farm was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places and the Barn Again program.
   "The farm is beautiful and so historic," said Stiles, who has been researching the background of the 65-acre farm. "It's an incredible place."
   The twin white dairy barns on the farm, which can be seen from Cherry Valley Road, are a longtime area landmark.
   "The idea is to provide money for preserving these structures so they don't decay," she said. "Dairying was a way of life that was really important in the Pacific Northwest. The visual evidence of that is rapidly disappearing. Barns that once dotted the landscape are crumbling. Farmers can't afford to maintain them, and if we don't do something now, there won't be anything left."
   Stiles' farm, now called Stonebrooke, was first farmed by Laura and Horatio Allen who bought the place in the late 1800s, arriving in the Valley by riverboat. Originally over 200 acres, it stayed in the family until the 1950s when the last of the purebred Jersey herd was sold. The dairy barns were built in the 1920s with lofts that hold up to 500 tons of hay.
   Currently, Stiles and her husband board 21 horses and have four of their own. They have constructed stalls in the barns, although the horses live most of their lives outside, where they enjoy the green pastures.
   "People who board here want their horses to be horses," said Stiles. "They don't want them cramped in stalls. Their owners enjoy riding the trails here. It's very low key."
   The couple gave both barns a fresh coat of white paint last year. Considering the age of the structures, they are in remarkably good condition.
   Some unexpected help came last year from a film crew who made a movie there. When the crew left, they had built a porch on the house and did some repairs and painting to parts of the barns.
   "That porch looks like it came with the house," said Stiles. "It fits perfectly."
   The house, built in 1922 in an English manor style, has also been restored to its original look.
   The other properties nominated are the Hjertoos farm in Carnation owned by Roger Thorson; the 115-acre Estella and William Adair Farm, also known as the Broadacre Farm, also near Carnation; and the 60-acre Mary Olson Farm in Auburn.