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Chicken barn preserved thanks to grant support
Bill and Janis (Barrett) Skubi stand with beaming faces next to the wooden structure.
They completed restoration work on their wood-shingled brooder house with the help of a matching grant from the Ebey’s Forever Fund, and they said they couldn’t be happier with how things turned out.
“We’re really pleased,” Bill Skubi said. “We really feel supported by the community.”
The farm cluster, including the brooder house, has been in Janis’s family since 1910. Since taking ownership of the property from her grandmother, the couple has been working to save the old buildings.
In 1995, the couple restored the 1890s farmhouse, the main structure on the property. At the time, the grant program did not exist to assist owners of historic buildings.
Their latest project – with the help of the grant – tackled the 12 foot by 16 foot outbuilding that kept young poultry warm when they hatched in the Spring.
This is the only brooder house in Ebey’s Reserve with a concrete heater of this configuration. It made use of an old wagon spring.
The structure was also used by Janis’s grandfather as his rock shop, to cut and polish stones.
Because of the Skubis’ preservation efforts the buildings will be around much longer.
“In tearing history down, we would have nothing concrete to visit,” said Janis, sharing why she will choose the expense and labor of restoration rather than demolition when it comes to aging buildings.
Janis stressed that in her family’s efforts to preserve the past, they are also creating a future. The buildings are repurposed and used, she said.
Donors contribute from all over the country to fund the one-to-one dollar-matching program that assists owners with restoration and preservation efforts of nationally significant historic structures within the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.
The Skubis are one of five grant recipients who recently completed their project. They received $990 from the fund to repair the Bearrs/Barrett brooder house, and matched it with a $3,273 investment in cash and labor.
Arborist Bob Bailey Jr. of Coupeville removed trees that had grown up to engulf the building on two of its sides, and trimmed the remaining trees nearby.
The non-historic chicken rooster addition was demolished, followed by the lowering and regrading of the site.
The grant program instructed the couple to keep track of any artifacts that they might uncover during excavation around the building’s foundation.
The couple uncovered ax heads, barn hinges, glass objects, pottery shards and a bed rail - all clues that tell about how people lived several generations ago.
Bruce Berg of Berg Construction in Coupeville milled a Douglas fir on location to replace portions of the damaged walls. Flooring was replaced as needed and the roof was cleaned and treated.
Berg’s backhoe also saved the day. The excavation that Bill expected to be easy, demanded the professional equipment. The clay soil was hard to dig through, said Bill.
Bill and Janis also worked hard on the restoration efforts. Bill spent in excess of 100 hours working.
Projects at Penn Cove Pottery, owned by Steve and MaryBeth Eelkema, the Kinney House owned by Bill and Mary Ethridge, the Keith Outbuilding, owned by Rosehip Farm, Linda Bartlett and Valerie Reuther, and the Leach House, owned by David and Dianne Binder also were completed.
“These local stewards deserve our thanks for their stewardship efforts,” said Ebey’s Reserve Manager Mark Preiss about the grant recipients.
The Skubi’s restoration work at the farmhouse complex, however, is not complete. They plan on putting a new roof on the barn, an expensive proposition.
But with the public’s generosity in a future grant cycle, they may be able to preserve this structure.
“I want to thank the public for investing in our efforts to save these buildings - for shouldering some of the burden,” Janis said. “Without the donations, we wouldn’t be able to do do this.”