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Ebey grant gives barn new protection

Workers install a new roof on Smith Farm at Willowood Farm in Central Whidbey. Located in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, it’s believed to be more than 100 years old, is one of the parks signature structures and favorite of photographers. - Justin Burnett photo
Workers install a new roof on Smith Farm at Willowood Farm in Central Whidbey. Located in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, it’s believed to be more than 100 years old, is one of the parks signature structures and favorite of photographers.
— image credit: Justin Burnett photo

A community supported grant program is giving one of Central Whidbey’s most recognizable and historic structures a new lease on life.

Workers recently began installing a new metal roof on the Smith Barn at Willowood Farm, which is located about one mile south of town in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

According to farm owner Georgie Smith, the project was made possible due to grant money received from the Ebey’s Forever Fund. The pot of money is generated from local donations and is awarded to owners of threatened historic structures.

“We would not have been able to afford to do this without it,” Smith said, of the grant program.

The exact age of the Smith Barn is unknown, but Smith says it’s believed to be at least 100 years old. She said she can’t be sure but thinks the barn was constructed sometime in the 1880s.

“I’ve never been able to find an actual date but we’re confident it’s before the 1900s,” she said.

Better known is the age of its roof. Bill Smith, Georgie Smith’s father, said he remembers it was installed just after the great Columbus Day Storm of 1962. Shingles from the old roof had just been taken off when the West Coast was hit by the famous blow, a storm that killed dozens of people.

“We had about 100 mph winds,” Bill Smith recalled.

New metal sheeting went up shortly afterwards but that was 50 years ago this year. Over the years, that shiny new roof turned brown with rust and had begun to leak badly.

According to Georgie Smith, a new roof was expected to run at least $30,000, a hefty bill for a small-town farming family. So they applied for Ebey’s Forever Fund money, a program that has only been around for two years, and was awarded a grant.

“We knew we couldn’t afford it from the get go,” she said.

That money was then leveraged for a Heritage Barn Grant, a program administered though the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, which was used to replace the structure’s old doors.

Altogether, the Smiths’ received about $29,000 from the two funds. Both grants required a 50 percent match from the Smiths, bringing the total investment, or reinvestment, to about $58,000.

According to reserve manager Mark Preiss, this was an incredibly important project.

Not only is the Smith Barn an old structure that speaks to an important chapter in Central Whidbey’s agricultural history but it’s also a working barn, he said.

It’s an integral part of Willowood Farm’s daily operations and the new roof and doors will allow the Smiths to continue to use it into the future.

The reserve is not a museum but a working landscape, he said.

Also, with a breath taking backdrop of the Olympic Mountain range, it’s one of Central Whidbey most commonly photographed locations and one of the reserve’s signature structures.

“Clearly, when you look at the Smith Barn, it’s one of those iconic viewsheds,” Preiss said. “It would be hard to imagine that setting without it.”

Georgie Smith said she has been contacted by several people interested in purchasing the old roofing material.

For more information, email her at willowoodfarm@gmail.com.

 

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