October 28, 2002
Historic Thayer barn may yet get its place in the sun -Arts community envisions theater, public space
Framed in fall foliage, the Thayer barn on SR 203 in Duvall is the focus of local arts groups who want to preserve the structure and transform it into a community arts center. Lisa Allen/staff photo
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL-Susie Kozawa describes the Thayer barn "a wonderful space." Kozawa, a sound artist from Seattle, made a trip about four years ago to this once-farming town to investigate the feasibility of transforming the old dairy barn into a community arts center.
Kozawa, speaking to the City Council last week, said she had been asked by former city Engineer Elizabeth Goode to check out the acoustics of the barn, a massive two-story structure located on SR 203near the south end of Duvall.
Kozawa and a musical group actually hauled their instruments - a cello, two violins and an accordion, up the ladder to the loft where they played to an audience of old hay and barn boards.
"I was very excited," she said. "The sound was warm and the area is bright and homogeneous throughout."
Kozawa pointed out that the inside area, in order to continue to be musically friendly, must remain open.
"No walls," she emphasized. "With the personality and history of the barn, it is important to keep the space and remain flexible. Don't cover up the walls. Make it a movable feast."
Kozawa's speech was part of a last-ditch effort by the local arts community to save the barn which currently stands in the way of commercial development.
In order to be preserved it would have to be moved about 200 feet to the northwest at a cost of $200,000. Last week, members of the Duvall Foundation for the Arts pleaded with the City Council to back them up financially in their efforts to save the aging structure.
"We are poised and ready to move forward with the barn if we get approval," said Hilary Cash, president of the board of the Duvall Foundation for the Arts. "From our point of view, it is essential that the city be committed to the project. Without support it would be hard to leverage funds from grants. We hope our dream can finally move forward."
By best local estimates, the landmark structure was built in the early 1930s. Otis Thayer, who owned the farm, died in 1984. His son, Dick, remembers the barn held 42 cows in stanchions.
"Generally we milked about that many, fewer in the winter," he said. "Once we had as many as 70, but that was tops. It meant we had to milk some, then move them out to let the others in."
Dick said he does not remember when his father retired from farming, but it is apparent the barn has stood empty for decades. As the town grew and the barn and the land around it were annexed and sold for development, an attempt was made by the local arts community to save the barn for future use as an arts center.
Local artist and business owner Sunny Ruthchild told the council last Thursday that she and a half dozen other residents began their effort 10 years ago.
"We worked with Gary Jones (the current owner of the property)," she said. "We considered the barn a community treasure and wanted to keep its presence as part of the town's agrarian past. We built up a fair amount of steam but then got stuck."
Now, though, with development on the property in sight, this is the last chance to save the barn, she said.
"This is an opportunity to offer activities for children to dream and stretch," she said. "We could have dance, theater, an ice cream parlor. Resources are available to keep a piece of our soul and let history become legacy."
The barn sits on 31 acres, 12 of which are slated for mixed-use development. Called the Newhall-Jones development for a decade, it is now known as Duvall Village.
Duvall City Administrator Doreen Wise said that groundbreaking is set for spring.
"The development will include 150 condos, 28 live-work units and a gas station/fast food business," she said. "The barn would have to be moved in the early spring before they break ground."
Connie Zimmerman, Duvall Capital Project Manager, said the barn is sound and fully capable of being moved.
"The loft and main floor are 3,000 square feet each," she said. "A new foundation (since the barn would be on a slight slope) would add another 1,500 square feet for secondary use."
Zimmerman said 46 parking spaces would be included.
Lin McBride, a board member of the Duvall Foundation for the Arts, said the group is meeting weekly to investigate grants that may be available from the King County Office of Cultural Resources and the Gates and Paul Allen foundations, "but they have to know the city is financially committed to the project."
After concerns were expressed by Councilmember Will Ibershof over possible ongoing costs the city may be faced with later, which may include further remodeling, Eddie Hill, a grant writer now living in Duvall, assured the council that most dollars will come from grants and programs and the city would be expected to come up with only10 to 15 percent of subsequent costs.
Finally, City Engineer Steve Schuller told the council that Duvall should not be "Everywhere U.S.A."
This is not your typical suburb, he said, adding, "That $200,000 could be spent on something else. But why? If we don't move the barn, the city loses the property ... it goes back to the grantor. That was part of the deal the city made with the developer. But if we move the barn, we get a 4,500-square-foot building with a fantastic view."