ORLAND — As log trucks and cars carrying tourists headed for the coast barrel by, a blue shingled barn with a reddish-brown roof stands sturdy, transformed from the days when its walls sagged and its windows were broken or missing.
Covered in tin signs and painted animals, The Love Barn is a time capsule of sorts — both a utilitarian building and roadside attraction.
Built in 1835 as a stable for animals, the barn is owned by Mark MacLeod, a grizzled man with a gruff voice who uses it as a showroom for the antique wood stoves he refurbishes.
“I almost tore it down, but I just couldn’t bear doing that,” MacLeod said of the mid-sized barn.
These days, the barn is plastered with signs that offer visitors a glimpse through Maine’s history. One harkens back to the days when a six-pack of Ramblin’ Root Beer only cost 59 cents; others feature ads for sandwich bread or gasoline.
When he bought the barn 30 years ago, MacLeod said the structure was almost a total loss. It hadn’t been used in decades, other than to store trash and old hay.
The 30-by-30-foot building soon became a labor of love and inspired an official name for the structure and business: The Love Barn.
“People used to say to me, ‘You must really love this barn,’ and I do,” MacLeod said. “People think there’s more to the story, but that’s the honest truth.”
He made many changes, including electrical outlets, new siding, a new roof and a set of stairs, but plenty of historical features still can be spotted throughout. Bent iron rungs formerly used to tie up animals are clustered in one corner, and two curved beams forming “L” shapes made from the roots of a tree stabilize the roof.
MacLeod also kept most of the hand-hewn structural beams and wooden pegs intact. They are weathered and grey but still strong. He added a new roof, windows he purchased from various auctions and a heart-shaped cutout that lights up at night. The sliding barn door, which still is used to close off the front entrance, came from a nearby outbuilding turned garage and completes the “historic barn” look.
In recent years, the barn has been a stop for tourists and Mainers alike who are intrigued by the signs. Some don’t even bother coming inside, MacLeod said. Those who do come in often ask whether they can buy one of the signs, but they’re not for sale. MacLeod knows the history of each; and while he may not admit it, it’s clear each holds a place in his heart.
“I don’t go looking for signs — they just come to me,” he said.
The Love Barn has been featured in a handful of magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times. But MacLeod seems humble, preferring the media focus on his barn and not him. After all, he says, that’s the story.
“Each barn has a personality,” he said. “Each barn has a life.”