Town hopes to salvage soon-to-be-demolished farm buildings

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The abandoned buildings that rest conspicuously alongside U.S. Route 2 at Mahan Farm will be taken down in the next six months to make room for a new fire and rescue facility. However, a town official hopes the buildings can be removed rather than demolished.

Public Works Director Neil Boyden said he has begun to investigate whether someone might be interested in preserving the buildings, which include a house, one storage building, one barn and two silos.

Boyden said, in the past month, he has received two serious inquiries about the long red barn, including one informal offer for acquiring the building. Boyden said the barn might be the best candidate for restoration. He does not expect the silos, for instance, to draw much interest.

“We’re hoping to get some good proposals for removing at least the red barn,” Boyden said. “We think that definitely still has some value to it. We’d like for everything to be saved.”

Boyden said salvaging the buildings has some appeal from the standpoint of not wasting the structures. Preserving the buildings, which total 20,000 square feet, could also prove less expensive than demolition, Boyden said. The town has $90,000 budgeted for the removal of the structures — $25,000 for environmental clean up and $65,000 for demolition and removal.

Boyden said he hopes finding other uses for the buildings would cut into the costs, though he acknowledged: “There’s a whole lot to getting rid of buildings. It’s kind of new territory for myself and my staff.”

Second Harvest Antique Lumbers, a Jeffersonville business, plans to take a look at the buildings. John Wilson of Second Harvest said he had not yet seen the Mahan Farm facilities, but said complete restoration is the No. 1 goal of salvage operations.

“The goal is to be able to put it together just like it was,” said Wilson, who seemed particularly interested in the house. “Every piece can be saved sometimes.”

Wilson said even when an entire building cannot be put back together, different parts of buildings are often salvageable and useful. For instance, Wilson said Second Harvest occasionally sells floor planks to a California business that uses them for the construction of movie sets.

It is unclear whether the long red barn lends itself to the alternate uses — house, artist studio, restaurant — into which abandoned barns are occasionally transformed. It is metal and the newest of all of the structures on the site, so it does not carry the vintage cachet. Its most likely future use would be the same as its former and current uses — as a barn or storage building.

The Mahan Farm buildings are one of four sets of abandoned buildings close to U.S. Route 2 between Taft Corners and the village. Other boarded buildings are located at the Pecor farm, which is owned by Ray and Jeanie Pecor; the Goodrich farm, which is owned by the Snyder Companies; and the Chase property, which is owned by Al Senecal.

Boyden does not believe the barn and silos lend any rural charm to the drive into the village.

“It’s become a pretty good eyesore,” Boyden said. “It continues to deteriorate and get in worse shape. And there’s some liability with it, too.”

Boyden said some vandalism had occurred at the property over the years.

The town received the Mahan Farm property from the developers of Maple Tree Place. The property was tagged to serve as a wooded buffer between the development of Taft Corners and the village. The site of the buildings was deemed ideal for the new fire and rescue facility.

Boyden said he believes it will take between four and five weeks to prepare the site for construction of the fire and rescue building. Boyden said Town Manager Rick McGuire has given him a Nov. 1 deadline to have the site cleared for construction.

One challenge will be removing the items currently housed in the long red barn. The town, the Williston School District and the state Agency of Transportation each use the building for storage, and, at least in the town’s case, there is no obvious place to put its equipment.

Boyden said the town will discard some items, but others, like tractors and the library’s bookmobile, will need to find new homes.

“That’s going to be an issue for us,” Boyden said.