40 for 40: Okanogan County
Olson Long Barn

By Kelsey Doncaster previous story | next story | all stories

The Okanogan Valley, unlike other parts of Washington State, was not settled until the early 1900s long after other regions such as the Puget Sound had been developed. For over 100 years, there were more cattle than people in Okanogan County. Even though the county was sparse in population it was not without its share of natural disasters like the flooding of 1948 and the 2015 the Okanogan Complex Fires. These blazes consumed over 304,782 acres of land and over 120 buildings while forcing the evacuations of numerous towns in their paths in North Central Washington. One of those towns first evacuated was Conconully, located northeast of Omak, and near to the historic Olson Long Ranch Barn, which was the first Okanogan County barn listed on Washington’s Heritage Barn Register. It was also one of the first recipients of a matching grant from the Heritage Barn Grant Program for its preservation in 2008. Thankfully, the Olson Long Ranch escaped being burned when the winds shifted and the flames of one of Washington’s worst wildfires moved in a different direction.

This barn was built circa 1887 by Tom Roberts for a cattle ranch that he was homesteading on Silver Hill high above the booming silver mining town of Salmon City. Later renamed Conconully, the town was the county seat from 1888 to 1914. As this gable-roofed wooden barn was for a large cattle operation that would serve the local area it is 122 feet long by 61 feet wide. Since its construction, the vertically-clad barn has been used for hay storage and livestock shelter. One of the unique features is its timber and rock cribbing supporting the barn on the north side. The farm complex also includes a chicken coop, two houses, machine shed, outhouse, and a granary.

By 2008, the approximately 121 years of wear and tear had caused parts of the barn to fail. Through the oversight of the Heritage Barn Grant Program by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation the owners of the Olson Long Ranch repaired the collapsed rock cribbing and stone foundation, replaced broken posts and braces on the livestock wing, repaired the doors and re-hung the north door, installed a new ridge board, repaired and replaced wooden flooring and exterior cladding and repainted the barn. This rehabilitation will enable the Olson Long Ranch barn to survive for another 100 plus years.

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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