CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) – It took a few years and a lot of work. Sunday afternoon, the Five Mile House Foundation was finally able to dedicate their 140-year-old barn. They originally hoped to dedicate the barn last year, but the pandemic put those plans on hold. It was moved over three miles away from its original home.
“It makes people see houses and barns that are falling down and what could be done with them,” board member Kathy Hummel said.
The Commodore Perry Davis Barn was built in 1880. Then, over the past several years, it was rebuilt. Hummel said this project has been about “bringing history to life.”
“It’s been a bonding experience for all of us. The right people have come along at the right time and gotten things done,” she said.
The Five Mile House Foundation needed to raise around $220,000. That’s how much it cost to take the barn down, move it, re-assemble it and put on some finishing touches.
“Even in 2019, when we just had the frame up, and we didn’t have the siding on yet, we had our summer programs. And then each time they would see a little more progress,” Board President Tom Vance said.
Luckily, there was an outpouring of support from Charleston and beyond. Vance recalls running into a few familiar faces while he was at a restaurant one day.
“They said, ‘well, how’s the fundraiser going?’ ‘Well, we’re $6,000 short.’ They pulled out a checkbook and wrote one for $6,000 on the spot,” Vance said.
He said about 40% of the original barn was able to be saved. If you look hard enough, you can find it – there’s ax marks in the old wooden beams, bricks that were made in a historic brickyard, and several large stones that used to be the foundation of the structure.
“Thinking people were able to build this kind of barn without any electricity and just human labor and non-electric machines… it’s just awe-inspiring to know what they did without our modern technology,” Hummel said.
They’ll be hosting blacksmithing and spinning classes over the summer, and continuing to give children the experience of living history.
“There was no hardware store to get your tools, and they made them. So it really helps them appreciate what they have,” she said.
They’re dreaming of even more uses for the barn. Hummel said they hope to rent it out for weddings someday.
The File Mile House Foundation has plenty of events lined up for this summer. You can visit them during one of their “Living History” open houses, or attend a scheduled event, like a spinning and blacksmithing demonstration on June 12. You can find their full event schedule and more on their website.