Restoration on the Palouse

Barns that have stood for a century or more hold a place of special esteem in the hearts and minds of barn lovers. And rightfully so. To be 100 years old means something. It means you are sturdy: the elements have a unique way of aging historic structures, and a barn that stands in the middle of a field for over a century is well built. It means you are resilient: livestock leans on you, maybe even chews you up a bit. You are flexible: uses vary over time, and additions may have been unceremoniously attached to you. Yet, you always come back to your original role of being a barn. Perhaps most importantly, it means people have cared enough to keep you around for 100 years.

This longevity of purpose and form on the landscape feeds in to the pastoral mystique we share regarding our rural heritage. So when the opportunity arises to preserve a centennial barn for another hundred years, it is good fortune when those with stewardship responsibilities step up to accept the challenge. The historic Paquet Place barn in Columbia County exemplifies this good fortune.

Sitting just outside Dayton in the beautiful, rolling hills of the Palouse, the Paquet Place barn represents a transitional phase in Washington’s barn building history. Built around 1910, it is a Dutch barn in form with a broad, sweeping gable roof extending just beyond the vertical plane of the side walls. Structurally, it consists of a series of bents: wooden members connected to form the primary building block of post and beam structures. Where barns dating to the 19th century are often true timber-frame buildings, the Paquet Place barn is a mixture of peeled half-round logs and saw cut dimensional timbers combined to form truss-like elements supporting the roof.

Architectural jargon aside, the owners knew they had something special. Hoping to extend the life of the barn, they applied for funding through the state’s Heritage Barn Grant program in 2015. After successfully receiving a grant award, they got to work. Unfortunately, midway through the project a windstorm, not uncommon to the area, swept through. Work at the time involved replacing structural posts, leaving the barn at its most vulnerable; it essentially crumpled on itself.

Stricken but undeterred, the owners kept faith that the barn could be re-built. Fortuitously, they found a new contractor who shared their belief in the resilience of hundred-year-old buildings. The contractors meticulously salvaged what they could, marking where specific structural elements needed to be placed as part of the reconstruction. Where replacement material was needed, the contractors utilized material salvaged from other area barns that could not be saved. Slowly but surely, the Paquet Place barn, known today as the Bar Z Ranch, assumed once again the form and shape it has held for the past 100 years. With continued care from the owners, a conscientious touch from the contractor, and support from the state’s Heritage Barn Grant Program, the Bar Z Ranch is poised for a bi-centennial celebration in about 90 years or so!

Grant funds through the state’s Heritage Barn Preservation Initiative were provided to support rehabilitation of the Paquet Place barn (Bar Z Ranch) during the 2015-17 biennium. The Heritage Barn Initiative is a program of the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP). Funding from the program has worked to preserve 83 Heritage Barns across the state. For more information, visit the DAHP website.


This article was published in the July 2018 issue of the Washington Trust’s quarterly magazine, This Place.

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