By Shelby Pendowski, Enterprise intern
Volunteers working with the National Park Service and the Michigan Preservation Network restored the Lyle Schmidt Barn located three miles south of Empire on Norconk Road.
“Fifteen years ago a loud mouth showed up to the park and said ‘you aren’t taking care of the historic buildings,’” Eric Winkleman said.
Since 1997, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park has been working toward preserving as many historical buildings as possible and restoring at least one barn each year through a restoration workshop.
“I do one annual barn workshop every year,” said Kimberly Mann, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park’s historical architect. “They obviously need work, so between myself and Michigan Barn Preservation Network, we look at topics we want to teach.”
The MBPN works to preserve historical barns throughout the state. The Lyle Schmidt barn located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, was chosen for its architecture.
Volunteers started the three-day barn restoration project last Thursday.
“The intent, whenever possible, is to make it like it was during that time period,” said Karen Wells, a volunteer.
The Schmidt barn was today’s pole-barn for the 1920s. It was a secondary barn to the farm and the low rafters indicate it was used for storage.
“If you think about it, it was more of a Chevy barn, rather then a Mercedes,” Wells said.
Throughout the barn there are poles made of local trees. Instead of replacing the dilapidated parts of the barn with modern-age material, the team of volunteers used supplies from the early 1900s.
Many iron features such as door hinges and latches that were too damaged to repair were refurbished at the black smith ship in Glen Haven. Support poles were replaced with local trunks and as much of the original lumber was re-used to repair the holes and rotting sections.
Some of the volunteers at the workshops had previous experience, and some were new to the construction. On each of the restoration days, volunteers were taught different techniques, along with some history on the barn’s architecture.
The crash course in construction taught the basics about how to conduct a structural and load analysis, where to properly place support posts and beams, how to install loft floor joists and a wood plank floor, how to construct a proper door and install it and different safety techniques when using tools.
“I am a retired high school shop teacher,” Harrand said. “So this was right up my alley.”
Muskegon volunteers Roger and Dee Barber make the trip to the Lakeshore as often as they can to help out with restoration projects.
“We have worked on other projects,” Dee Barber said. “It is just really cool and it needs to be preserved and taken care of.”
Once restored, the NPS will use the site as storage for general maintenance items by the park service.
“For the Park Service it is part of our resources,” Mann said. “We are trying to teach the public barn restoration whether it is for their own interest or for an agriculture building they are trying to maintain.”
For more information on other Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park projects visit www.nps.gov/slbe.