All posts by Sarah Woodall

Malabar Sugar Shack – September 2019

Malabar Farm, 25th Anniversary

There was a tragic fire on April 4th of 1993.  It completely consumed the large dairy barn at the Malabar Farm State Park where Pulitzer prize-winning author Louis Bromfield had created a model for sustainable agriculture that gained national attention.  After his success as an author and Hollywood screen writer he chose to return to his roots in the rolling hills of Pleasant Valley where he bought the farm in 1939 and expanded the existing home over the next 18 months into the Big House, known by many as the heart of the farm.   He continued to write novels and entertain Hollywood elites such as his friends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who were married there in 1945.   Sustainable farming increasingly became his primary focus and he became recognized as a pioneering conservationist.  And while the Big House was seen as the heart of the farm, the Big Barn, built in 1890 and vital to the farm’s operations, was its soul.

Following Bromfield’s death in 1956 his children gave the farm to a conservation foundation which in 1972 deeded the land to the state.  Subsequently, Malabar Farm became a state park in 1976 where she received thousands of visitors every year.   Shortly after the barn fire of ‘93, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, knowing that a new barn needed to be built, was made aware of the need to build an historically accurate structure, one employing traditional mortice and tenon joinery held together with wooden pegs: a timber frame.  The call was made to Rudy Christian, founding member of the Timber Framers Guild of North America, and an active builder of timber frames in Burbank, Ohio, or as he and his wife Laura Saeger know it, the center of the universe.

After convincing the good people at the ODNR of the right way to build this new barn they granted Rudy the job.  Well aware that this monumental task would require a bit of help he put the call out to the Guild.  They responded with enthusiasm and workers from all over the country began work on newly cut timbers to help restore the soul of the farm.  R.G. Beer worked as the general contractor to build the barn’s new foundation and its decks in preparation for the barn raising which took place over the Labor Day weekend 25 years ago.  Governor George Voinovich and his wife, Janet, flew in for the dedication ceremony.  Louis Bromfield’s daughter, Ellen, well-known barn historian Chuck Whitney and well over 50,000 folks from all over Ohio stopped by to watch nearly 200 Guild members and volunteers erect the new barn, truly a lasting labor of love.  Beloved Canadian Guild member Doug Lukian gave the command “Un, deux, trois, VOLEZ!” to commence the hand-raising of the barn’s bents.  All went well, no one was injured and the public was invited for a traditional barn dance on Sunday evening.  From the Big House, looking over to see the barn frame all lit up with lights, listening to the live square dance music as it led the crowd to the stomping of feet and the rhythm of the warm night one might think that this is how it once was and how it should always be.

Now, on this 25th anniversary, a recognition of that historic weekend was in order so Rudy got together with Malabar Farm officials and decided to build another traditional timber frame, albeit a bit smaller.  The need for a Sugar Camp Shed, where traditional maple sugaring would be demonstrated to the public each spring sounded like a good idea.  A workshop was put together and sponsored by Friends of Ohio Barns and the Timber Framers Guild and supported with donations from Christian & Son, Inc., JCM Timber Works, Hochstetler Timbers, McKay Gross, and Yoder Family Roofing.  Lunch was provided by volunteers with the Malabar Foundation.  The new timber frame, signed by all who participated, was raised by noon and its siding and roofing completed just a couple of hours later.

Out of the ashes something good has arisen.  The Malabar Farm barn, its soul, was reborn.  Beyond this singular achievement it is important to recognize what the barn and the farm represent to all of us in Ohio.  Our past is agrarian and surely Louis Bromfield recognized that.  (He would have been proud of the community that gathered together to rebuild his barn.)  The collective contribution of our farmers to our national fabric should be celebrated for we stand on their shoulders.  Barns are an

iconic representation of our roots and have even been recognized just this past December when Governor Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 86 which designates Ohio’s barns as the official historical architectural symbol of the state.  They help tell our story and it’s a legacy that we should all cherish for generations to come.

  • Dan Troth, Vice President


Sugar Shack Workshop at Malabar Farm, August 31-September 2, 2019

In 1993 the Big Barn at Malabar Farm State Park was lost to fire. For the 25th anniversary of the rebuilding of the Big Barn in 1994 the Malabar Foundation, headed up by Virginia Cochran, decided that a timber frame sugar shack would make a nice addition to the farm.  The new building will be the backdrop for Mark Sommer to explain the art of making maple syrup!  So, Friends of Ohio Barns and the Timber Framers Guild got together and sponsored a rendezvous type of workshop to get a frame cut and raised.  Jenny Roar, Park Manager of Malabar Farm and Laura Saeger organized the workshop.  Rudy Christian drew up an 8’ by 12’ frame and with the help of Laura Saeger, Ric Beck, Todd Herzog, Mary Speer,  Mark Schaeffer, Caleb Miller, Caleb “Junior” Raber, Dave Hamblin, John & Sarah Woodall and Ian Schwartz we made it happen.

The following donations were made:  Christian & Son, Inc – design, educational instruction and logistics.  JCM Timber Works – educational instruction, trucking and equipment.  Hochstetler Timbers – timber for frame.  McKay/ Gross – poplar siding and strapping.  Yoder Family Roofing – metal roofing.  And the Malabar Foundation provided the wonderful lunches for all the volunteers!

There were some off handed comments about how this frame could be cut and raised by one or two people in a weekend after seeing the small stack of timbers on Friday compared to some of the larger timber frame jobs some of us have been on.  But smaller is not necessarily easier and faster and of course we had some mistakes along the way and did some fixing on raising day, but it all went well and it truly took all the people listed above to make it happen. Malabar provided workshop space in the working farm barn, so we were on the regular tourist loop of the farm wagons. Lots of our member brochures were handed out, our banner was prominently displayed and lots of new folks were exposed to Friends of Ohio Barns.

-Sarah Woodall and Laura Saeger

first bent goes up!


XX Barn Tour is sold out but Saturday conference is still open

Due to overwhelming interest we are sold out on the Licking County Barn Tour but we still have room for you at the Saturday Conference at the Virtues Golf Club!  You can sign up online or print a registration form using the link in the post below.  Please email us at [email protected] or call Sarah at 330-550-6982 if you have any questions.

Thank you for your understanding.

Registration is now open for the Ohio Barn Conference XX in Licking County!

Register Securely Online for the Ohio Barn Conference XX and Barn Tour plus Barn Detective Pre-Conference Workshop

Important Information Regarding Registration:

This year we have another pre-conference Barn Detective Workshop (see below).  We can only take 30 people for this event.  Members can register online by clicking on the Event Calendar at the top of the menu column to the left on this page and you will then see both the Barn Detective workshop and the Ohio Barn Conference XX & Barn Tour registration boxes.  You have to register for the events separately due to the limit on the Workshop.  When registering for the Conference and Barn Tour select your type of registration on the first page knowing that you will be able to sign up your guest/spouse on the second page where it has a button to “add a guest” at the guest/spouse reduced rate. You can also find a registration page here to print and send with your check payable to Friends of Ohio Barns at PO Box 203 Burbank, OH, 44214.  If you are registering by mail for the workshop please call ahead to make sure there is still room.  If you have any questions or difficulties please call Sarah Woodall 330-550-6982.  All mail in registrations must be postmarked by April 17th, 2019 to be considered.  Online registration ends April 19th, 2019.

Ohio Barn Conference XX – Licking County

Time is getting near that we will be open for registration!  But in the meantime let me give you some tidbits as to what to expect.

We are celebrating our 20th year anniversary!  Hard to believe?  I don’t think so as we have a very supportive membership base and a hard working Board of Directors.  So here is a snapshot of what we are planning.  Please check back for updates and watch for your newsletter in the mail.  If you are a member please know that you will get an email notifying you that registration is open ahead of the general public.  It will be your chance (only chance?) to secure your spot on the tour bus!

Barn Detective Workshop – Thursday, April 25th, 2019  1 to 4 pm  Pre-Regsitration required.

This registration is separate from the Barn Tour and Ohio Barn Conference.

The site of our Thursday afternoon workshop was chosen because it is (in the words of Sir Winston Churchill), “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.  James McDonald has offered up his barn for our pre-conference workshop this year.  We have termed it our “head scratcher” barn so come on out and find out why.

Barn Tour – Friday, April 26th, 2019   Pre-Registration is required.

We have four stops on the tour this year with several barns to see.  Our first stop is a registered centennial farm with several outbuildings. The main barn on this farm is a perfect example of how barns have been adapted to changing farming practices.  Our second stop also has several barns but the change in farming practices didn’t affect the main barn, instead there is a visual  timeline in that they built more barns to suit their purposes.  With that in mind we can walk through time and see the old and the new.  Our lunch destination will be the Virtues Golf Club (also the site of Saturday’s conference).  From there we continue on to the Graham farms where there is a barn that measures 54′ by 140′ and has three stories and probably a lot of stories to tell as well!  Our last stop will be the Crawford barn at the Longaberger Homestead.   Another enormous barn at 12,000 sq ft it is a fine example of the barns built during the era of “scientific farming”.  The reason why our barn tours are the best?  Because we have the Barn Detectives, Rudy Christian and Dan Troth, as well as several members that are extremely knowledgeable and extremely helpful in pointing out interesting aspects of the barns.  And, as always, we will have locally knowledgeable and charming docents on board each bus for additional entertainment value between stops!


Ohio Barn Conference XX – Saturday, April 27th, 2019 – The Virtues Golf Club, Nashport, OH

Pre-registration is required

Interestingly enough there a lot of full circles, twists, and what appear to be coincidences but aren’t in this 20th year of FOB conferences.  But that is newsletter fodder.  For now here is the rundown of what to expect on Saturday.  Pamela Whitney Gray will start us off with the President’s remarks and then straight onto Mr David Wilhelm, son of the late Dr Hubert Wilhelm, as our keynote speaker with a talk titled “what would my father say?”  Chris Klingemier, an architectural historian from Trumbull County will help us to see the “evolution of preservation”, our theme for the year.  Our own Tom O’Grady, historian extraordinaire,  will speak about the Ohio Native American Earthworks in Licking County.  During our lunch break we will have our Annual Member Meeting as well as our Awards Ceremony.   This year we are very pleased to be presenting The Hubert Wilhelm Cultural Heritage Educators Award to a very deserving person while David Wilhelm is present.  This award was created by Friends of Ohio Barns to honor Hubert G H Wilhelm in recognition of his pioneering spirit and outstanding achievement in promoting the appreciation, significance and preservation of Ohio’s historic barns.  We have a couple other surprises during the Awards Ceremony as well.  After lunch the Barn Detectives, Rudy Christian and Dan Troth, will entertain us with slides and commentary with regards to the Friday Barn Tour.  There will be a presentation on the House Bill 12 to Senate Bill 86 to the passage into law as we want to recognize and honor the Genoa School students for their work in helping make the barn the official architectural symbol of the great state of Ohio.  And what would an anniversary be with out some kind of “look back”?  So Rudy, Laura, Ric, Dan and Tom will reminisce in panel form.  The Silent Auction will go on all day and it will all happen at the beautiful Virtues Golf Club.

So please keep you eyes open for emails and the newsletter and sign up early!  Remember last year????  We have limited seating on the buses and they fill up fast!


The Law Passed! The Barn is now the State of Ohio’s Official Architectural Symbol!

Friends of Ohio Barns is so very pleased to announce that on December 19, 2018 Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 86 that contained a measure to add the barn structure as the official architectural symbol for the State of Ohio!

Kudos go to Sarah Gellner, Anna Borders, Rachel Kaufman and Adriane Thompson who started out with a dream of designating the barn structure as an official symbol for the State of Ohio five years ago while in 7th grade at the the Genoa Middle School in Westerville, Ohio.   Kudos also go to their teachers, Debbie Pellington and Caley Nestor Baker, who supported them throughout the process.  And many thanks go to State Representative Anne Gonzales, (R)-Westerville, for helping the teens navigate their idea through the legislative process.

Friends of Ohio Barns have been behind these students along the way hoping they would succeed.  Our hats go off to them for a tremendous effort!