One of the most memorable barns in Pennsylvania has a new owner who plans to move the 1872 Gothic revival structure to a rural site and restore it as an "agricultural expo center."
Seven years ago, to protect the Star Barn and its ancillary buildings from encroaching development, the nonprofit Preservation Pennsylvania bought its 3.6-acre property, listed it on the National Register of Historic Places, and waited for the right owner.
On Friday, the Star Barn property will be sold to Agrarian Country, a nonprofit based in Middletown, Pa., three miles from the barn.
"The Star Barn is just part of a larger plan for Agrarian Country to establish a showcase for agriculture in Pennsylvania," says company president Robert S. Barr, who has restored other historic buildings in the area. "When we move it and convert to a commercial building, we'll fix it up so it'll be available for shows, dinners, banquets, and community theater groups," Barr says. "From the outside, it'll look identical."
Agrarian Country plans to dismantle and move the 14,000-square-foot Star Barn and three other buildings next spring. The property, which ceased to be a farm in 1986 and was subdivided for housing in 1994, also has a carriage house, pig barn, chicken coop, and a 1920s milk house and grain silo.
"One of the first things [Barr] said to us was that he intended to pick up the barn and move it, and of course as preservationists, we were a little concerned about that," says Melinda Higgins Crawford, executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania. "The barn is sitting in a very inaccessible site. It lost its agricultural context a long time ago. Moving it onto 700 acres is better."
Agrarian Country is seeking grants to move and renovate the barn, which Barr estimates will cost $2 to $3 million. He plans to build a conference center on the site, too.
"We have fielded many inquiries about the Star Barn; lots of great ideas, but not the right idea," Crawford says. "We just knew [Barr] was the right one. We are so happy we held it for all these years because we were holding it for him."