An architect's campaign to preserve Michigan's old barns

Sep 3, 2014

An old barn
An old barn
Credit User: kendoman26 / Flickr

When is an old structure worth saving? And when does that structure become something that’s dangerous and needs to be torn down?

Those questions are being asked after the city of Ann Arbor recently tore down a 19th century farmhouse and barn that it had purchased in 2003. Some would say it's ironic that the barn was located next to the city's recycling center.

Architect Chuck Bultman is with the Michigan Barn Preservation Network and the National Barn Alliance.

Bultman said it’s unfortunate that some barns are ordered to be torn down, just because "tearing down" is the safest answer.

Bultman’s passion for barns was inspired years ago when he was asked to design a house with barn. Through the project and many other ones after that, he learned the different kinds of spaces that can be made with an old barn frame.

“When we use an old barn, there’s a beautiful story to be told. Whether that story is that we take the barn down, move it to another location and give it another life … or restore it and bring it back to the property,” Bultman said.

That’s what happened to an old barn in Dexter, dating back to 1837. It is now an event space after restoration.

*Listen to the interview with Chuck Bultman above.