Historical Society Mobilized to Prevent Barn Dismantling

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, February 18, 1987

By Michael Landauer

Shocked that the city is considering a proposal to dismantle the historic Pickering barn, the Issaquah Historical Society is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.

Historical Society chairman Greg Spranger said he wants to be sure Issaquah administrators know exactly how strongly the society feels about any mention of dismantling the barn.

“We’re going to do anything we can do to prevent the barn from being taken apart and lost in the shuffle,” he said. “we need to make sure the city council is aware of the graveness of the situation, so we’re not just waiting for it come before them. We’re mobilizing.”

The barn is one of the few remaining structures originally built by early Issaquah area settlers, Spranger said. It was fashioned from Douglas firs harvested by two carpenters and their families camping on the current barn site around 1878, he said.

“Pickering made this a progressive area. Because of him, this was turned into an agricultural center, the milk shed of King County.”

Concern over the dismantling of the barn surfaced in late January when workers began taking plywood walls down that served as stalls for horses. Langly Associates, developers of a proposed 138-acre business park which would include a restoration of the barn, began the work before securing a demolition permit from the city. This prompted the city to issue a stop-work order February 2.

A the time, Langly president Lang Sligh said workers were careful not to disturb any of the historic building materials. He also said at the time nothing was done to upset the structural integrity of the barn.

City Code Administrator Scott Thomas said it does not appear that the removal of the plywood hurt the structural integrity of the building. He said a letter was sent to Langly explaining that the city believed temporary corrective measures would be advised to shore up the barn. “In the meantime, I would ask that you replace any materials that have already been removed and contribute to the barn’s stability.

Eventually, plans do call for the barn to be dismantled and put into storage until a foundation for the structure can be poured and other modifications can be made to strengthen the sagging structure. With barn restoration complete, it would be converted into retail space and possibly a winery.

Instead of dismantling the barn, however, Spranger said a better plan would be to shore up the existing structure until money becomes available for restoration.

But in a letter to the city, Sligh said “Let me first state that we do not plan to spend money to reinforce or stabilize the existing structure and then at a later date take it all apart.”

In the letter, Sligh said he felt the city was “making far too complex an issue of dismantling the barn.” He said two choices are open to the city: “Carefully document, dismantle and store the major elements of the structure. . . or take no action and risk structural failure, in which case the opportunity to rehabilitate the barn may be permanently lost.”

Spranger fears, however, that by dismantling the barn now it will become “out of sight, out of mind.” Because barn reconstruction is not planned for the first phase of site construction, he said the longer the barn is in storage the more likely people will be to forget the structure.

“What happens if it’s put away somewhere for 10 years? The longer it’s out of the public eye, the less likely it is that it will ever be put back together.”

Sligh said one way to insure barn reconstruction is to make Langly post bond or other monetary assurances that would make it cost prohibitive to keep the structure torn down.

The historical society meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 19 at 7:30p.m. in the Gilman Town Hall Museum, 165 Andrews Street.

The city council expects to make a decision on the proposal March 2.

This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission