November 25, 2002
Thayer barn preservationists seeking community support - Doorbelling campaign is last-ditch effort to promote barn as community center
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
DUVALL—The Thayer barn, which has stood empty and forlorn for decades, was once full of life. Under its sheltering roof, dairy cows produced hundreds of pounds of milk daily among the mixed smells of hay and silage, and the gentle, rhythmic sounds of milking equipment and the chewing of cuds.
Those days are long gone, but local arts supporters envision the barn full of life and energy again, this time as a community center and performing arts facility, replacing the sights and sounds of the barnyard with the smell of grease paint and the roar of the crowd.
Time, though, is running out for the Thayer barn. Those who hope to save it have been scrambling to drum up public support for the proposal before the city passes the 2003 budget next month.
Over the last couple of weeks, arts supporters and community members wanting to preserve the structure have been trying to get out the word by stationing themselves at storefronts and going door to door with petitions.
The City Council will pass the town's 2003 budget on Dec. 12. To preserve the barn, $200,000 will have to be budgeted for the initial phase of the project, which would include moving it approximately 200 feet to the northwest.
Newhall Jones, the company which donated the 70-year-old former dairy barn, favors the proposal and has given the city almost another year to move the structure. The City Council though, must declare its support for the project in order for it to move forward, say barn activists, who point out that the building is irreplaceable.
If the city is not solidly in favor of the plan, supporters say, it will be difficult to apply for grants or funding for the extensive remodeling and new roof the building will need.
But at the Nov. 14 council meeting, there was little encouragement from council members. Only two - Pat Fullmer and Mark Cole - stood firmly behind the plan, as did Mayor Becky Nixon, who doesn't have voting power on the council. Jeane Baldwin, although she said that she felt the money could be used better elsewhere, favored using the extra time to look for more funding. Council members Tom Loutsis, Julie Benjamin, Will Ibershof and Greg Von Tobel stated they would rather put the money into infrastructure.
The barn, which sits on the west sid of SR 203, must be relocated to make room for the building of Duvall Village, a 12-acre mixed-use development which will include condos, live-work units and a gas station. Groundbreaking is set for spring.
At the meeting, council members saw for the first time the Thayer barn schematic design proposal drawn and presented by architect Stephen Lee of Bumgardner Architecture of Seattle. The designs were commissioned and paid for by the city so the council could better evaluate the proposal.
Lee told the council the designs are for a "usable, occupied community center with a performance area in the upstairs loft."
Lee said important items to be considered include making the building structurally safe, complying with building codes and calibrating the project to see how much it would cost. Actual moving costs have been estimated at $40,000.
At the budget hearing that evening, Hilary Cash, president of the Duvall Foundation for the Arts, explained to the council what the barn could contribute to the city.
"I am aware the city is in a budget crunch," she said. "But it is important to keep the barn for the cultural and financial benefit to the town. This center would draw people to events. It is also a benefit to neighboring communities. In the long run saving the barn would be very beneficial."
Councilmember Fullmer agreed.
"This is our only chance to have a barn like this," she said. "I am very passionate about this and I know what it brings to a community. Duvall would have a chance to retain its uniqueness to be a draw and a destination place. This is not a 'pie in the sky.' I see a strong economic draw. It will cost $40-50,000 to get it moved. I would like to see it left in the budget and I think the (arts) group will raise the funds."
Cole said he was also in favor of the proposal.
"It is a great deal," he said. "We shouldn't let this opportunity go."
But Ibershof said his big project is the sewage treatment plant. "We are asking citizens to pay additional fees to compete with a vital thing."
Mayor Becky Nixon, though, stated firmly that the sewage treatment plant "is not the answer to everything. No amount of building will fix the budget We need a draw to this town. This is an opportunity to have something unique."
In a letter from the Duvall Historical Society that was circulated at the meeting, President Tove Burhen wrote, "The members of the Duvall Historical Society wish to extend their support for the movement and restoration of the Thayer Barn. Preserving and utilizing historic buildings is of concern to the Society and the plans for the Thayer Barn meet these concerns. We are looking forward to the success of this project."
Arts Foundation member Houston Barclay noted the city has received a grant of $70,000 from the King County Office of Cultural Resources to go toward the barn project.
Construction would proceed in two phases. Phase 1 would move and stabilize the barn. Phase 2 would finish the job. Phase 2 estimate summary of construction costs provided by the architects indicates a building area of 2,880 square feet on the main level, with the same number of square footage in the loft and a basement area of 900 square feet, adding up to a total square footage of 6,660.
Construction estimates that include the costs of the foundation, roofing, superstructure, interior, mechanical, electrical, engineering and other expenses total $787,796.
Excluded in the estimate were furnishings and equipment, acoustical upgrades, toxic material removal, theater seating, etc., stage, orchestra platforms and sound/video systems.
The future of the Thayer barn is also included in the city's visioning process, which is currently underway. The visioning process will help planners decide what will fit into the city's future. The next visioning meeting is set for Dec. 10 at 7 p.m., location to be announced.