Monday, November 17, 2008
Echoes of the Past
About five years ago, an extension to the Mendocino County Museum was completed, crowned with this big barn-like structure called the Engine House. The large matching doors on front and back reveal a punch-through of full scale railroad tracks that connect all the way back to the Roots of Motive Power restoration shed, and their now completed loop track. Roots volunteers were highly instrumental in getting the county to build the structure, and they themselves laid all the track through it. They also bring various pieces of rail equipment into the space for display and special events like the Steam Up I showed you in September.
Back when this building was done, I got talking with a former director of the museum about the structure. He said the design integrates elements from an old barn just on the west edge of town, from nearly a century ago. A then-young man named Mark Walker built the earlier barn with a tilted square window and clerestory section on the roof. Walker died in about 2001 at the age of 107, but had been a rich resource of local history and folk art for the museum's public historians up until then. It was in honor of his contributions that the architecture was made to reflect some of his work. I recently decided to get some photos of the old barn, to compare with the engine house.
The old barn still stands, but like many agricultural buildings of its generation, it is finally deteriorating and may not stand for many decades more. The owners of many of these barns could correctly claim that they were constructed from a single redwood. The ancient trees were gigantic, and redwoods are famously resistant to rot.