As much a landmark in Ionia, Mich., as the Statue of Liberty, a 1922 barn seemed doomed to fall for a Wal-Mart. Now a nearby YMCA is reconstructing the red barn to use as a living classroom.
Four years ago, Michigan farmer Keith Benedict sold 35 acres and the barn his father had built to Wal-Mart. Developers tore down the farm's main house, two machine sheds, and a corn crib to make way for a Wal-Mart and Taco Bell, built in 2005.
When locals—led by self-described "Barn Lady" Jan Corey Arnett—heard about the barn's potential demolition, they bought the structure from Wal-Mart, promising to move it. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Midwest Office, along with the Michigan Barn Preservation Network, encouraged the company to save the building.
"Real estate managers within Wal-Mart honored their agreement and even, at times, offered encouragement," Arnett writes on her Web site.
Wal-Mart paid $150,000 to relocate the Benedict Barn out of its parking lot, a five-week process that began in October.
This month, the barn is being rebuilt—almost—on the grounds of a YMCA in Augusta, Mich., 70 miles away. The YMCA plans to salvage the best wood from the 40-by-109-foot barn to construct a 30-by-80 structure, where it will offer hands-on classes and house farm animals.
The YMCA plans to complete the barn by this summer.