By Holly Chamberlain previous story | next story | all stories
Created in 1883 from the eastern portion of Garfield County, Washington’s southeasternmost county, Asotin, was named after the Nez Perce word for eel: Has-shu-tin. These traditional Nez Perce lands were in tribal use until the mid-1850s, when part of the land was formed by the federal government into a reservation. The boundaries of the reservation were later shifted into Idaho, but substantial numbers of Native Americans remained in the area into the 1860s. A few Euroamerican miners and a merchant made temporary inroads in the 1860s, but settlement was not fully established until the late 1870s, more than 60 years after Lewis and Clark traveled through the area, and nearly a half-century since Bonneville’s mapping expedition.
Early endeavors included cattle ranching, and raising wheat and barley. By the early 20th century, irrigation had made possible fruit orchards, and the raising of vegetables and berries. The Lewiston-Clarkston Bridge of 1899 across the Snake River connecting the county to Idaho made transport and trade easier, as did the eventual construction of the Port of Clarkston in 1958. The construction of the Little Granite Dam in 1975 created navigable access to the port – making it the farthest inland port in Washington and the point of departure for many agricultural products.
The Floch, Delores, and Bolick Heritage Barns symbolize the role of agriculture as the primary economic activity in Asotin County from the earliest days of settlement. The gable-roofed Floch Barn with hand-hewn timber construction stands on property homesteaded in 1879 by Benjamin Floch; he and his brother John were the main builders. Local tradition holds that the Delores Barn was built in 1912 by a family of horse thieves; it currently houses livestock for Sunrise Ranch. The 1895 Bolick Barn, with a broken gable roof and octagonal silo, remains in fourth-generation family ownership, and has been used for cattle, horse, general storage, and grain storage.
Recognizing the rapid disappearance of historic structures representing Washington’s agricultural heritage, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included historic barns as a statewide thematic listing in its 2006 Most Endangered Historic Properties List. Subsequent advocacy efforts on the part of the Washington Trust and numerous stakeholders prompted the legislature to establish Washington’s Heritage Barn Program. Housed in the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the program is a focused effort to identify and preserve barns as well as other agricultural buildings. Through grants, the program also addresses growing concerns about the deterioration of these iconic structures, the expense of their upkeep, and challenges for continuing original or adaptive usage as agricultural patterns changed.
In addition to the Floch, Delores, and Bolick Heritage Barns in Asotin County, over 660 additional barns are included in Washington’s Heritage Barn Register. Acknowledged for their historic significance and the role each has played in shaping the agricultural heritage of Washington, there is at least one designated Heritage Barn in each of the state’s thirty-nine counties. With the support of the legislature, rehabilitation projects have been implemented on 65 barns statewide, including roof replacement, stabilization, foundation repair, and overall preservation of character-defining features. These barns sit on farms collectively associated with over 37,000 acres of land under active agricultural use.
The Washington Trust continues to support DAHP in administering the Heritage Barn Grant Program, funded by the state legislature to help rehabilitate Heritage Barns. In total, the Heritage Barn Advisory Committee has reviewed 392 applications, awarding over $1.8M in matching grants to 85 barns statewide. To learn more about the barn program, visit the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation website at at: dahp.wa.gov/heritage-barn-register
This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. Please consider making a special gift
to the Washington Trust in honor of our accomplishments as we celebrate this year together! Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.
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