DURHAM, N.H. — A historic barn that could become a showcase home or provide ample space for a working farmer is available for no charge.
The only catch: Whomever claims the barn must pay to move it, which costs thousands of dollars.
So far, the offer has generated some interest, but no takers.
“There were a few people who expressed some interest but nothing that has come to fruition at this point,” said Michael Behrendt, Durham’s director of planning and community development. “We would invite anybody interested in cool, old 19th century barns to come take a look at it.”
“It’s post and beam and there have been some alterations to it,” he added. “It’s not in superb condition, but it’s in good condition.”
The free-standing barn is located behind 35 Main Street in Durham’s Historic District. Developer Orion Student Housing is planning to build a 52-unit student housing and commercial complex on 25-35 Main Street. The barn, which is located behind 35 Main St., was not incorporated into project plans.
Orion has offered it to anyone willing to haul it away, Behrendt said.
William Fideli, a principal in the Orion development, has declined to comment on the project until it receives planning board approval. A vote is likely Jan. 29.
Beverly Thomas, a program associate with the N.H. Preservation Alliance, said situations like this are not particularly unusual. Property owners either can’t afford to maintain the building or want to move it for one reason or another.
Efforts to save historic barns like this one have been under way in New Hampshire for some time. The N.H. Preservation Alliance offers grants for barn rehab, and state law allows local communities to offer tax incentives to help preserve historic barns.
“There is so much history in New Hampshire with farming. It was a huge part of our heritage,” she said in a recent interview. “Trying to save these barns is a part of saving our heritage.”
There are plenty of people in New Hampshire interested in old barns. Some farmers want additional storage space, while others see them as a potential home. Others still enjoy restoring the buildings to their former glory.
Often, the key hurdle to saving these structures is the high cost of moving them to another site.
For instance, a local farmer apparently expressed interest in the Durham barn but dropped the idea after learning it would cost between $250,000 and $300,000 to relocate.
Why is it so expensive?
Arron Sturgis, owner of Preservation Timber Framing in Berwick, Maine, said moving any historic structure is extremely labor intensive. The structures need to be taken apart piece by piece, loaded onto a truck, transported to the new site and put back together again. Its new owner also would need to lay a foundation.
Some components are likely too decayed to save, while others have lead paint or other hazardous materials which would need replacing, adding to the total cost.
“You are trying to determine the most structurally sound and historically-significant portions of barn, which are typically the frame, sheathing and perhaps the flooring,” Sturgis said.
Additional renovations to convert the structure into a home or business also would increase the final price.
Although interest in the Durham barn has been limited, there is hope that someone will claim it. If nobody comes along, the barn likely will be demolished or sliced up or sold off in pieces.
Town officials are spreading the word that the barn is available, and preservation advocates also are beginning to take notice.
Although Thomas has not toured this barn, she’s familiar with Durham’s efforts to find it a new home. She’s optimistic someone will claim it.
Sturgis also believes it might be saved.
“It has incredible value for right person,” he said. “That barn is really ideal for an organic farmer or it could be made into a lovely living space.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services