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.

14 comments:

Tash said...

Excellent photos! Love the comparison & the bit of history. 107 - wow. I hope they were happy.

Babzy said...

love wooden structure and buildings the old barn is beautiful ,i like to see the effects of history on it .

Laurie said...

I love these structures. And that window is just too wonderful. Thanks for these shots, Elaine.

Bibi said...

Both barns are lovely. I like it when at least someone takes pains to rebuild/renovate the way something really was. 107...woweee.

angela said...

Both buildings are so beautiful. I think it's a pity though that the old barn wouldn't be restored. Interesting post to read. Thanks.

Knoxville Girl said...

beautiful entropy.

JM said...

I allways associate wooden barns with US countryside. Never seen one as I know very little of North America (only cities), but, from photos and movies, I find them fascitating, the older the better! :-)

Kym said...

Those are lovely, Elaine. And I enjoyed the history that went with them.

Hilda said...

It's a beautiful building and a lovely tribute to Mr Walker. The people in your county sure are nice!

Joe Cottonwood said...

I love old barns. They're like architectural folk art. Thanks for showing us that one.

Dina said...

A whole barn from one tree?! Wow.
Both of these are beautiful.
I learned to love old barns at Heifer. They have soul.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

My aunt had an old barn on her almond farm in Modesto. It was a regular stop for the water color classes from the local college. Seems there is also a market for the wood from these barns. I'm not sure of what thats all about but once hers finally fell to dust, she was able to sell it.

Petrea said...

As pretty as the new building is, it doesn't compare to the old one for me. That's probably just because the old one is old. I love its age, and the moss growing on the doors.

Surrounding my Illinois home town, many of the old barns are deteriorating. They have a sad beauty; the farmers are quitting, the business is too hard. They leave the barns to die on their own.

USelaine said...

Wow! Thank you all for coming 'round to see this engine house, and its original inspiration. A tidbit of knowledge like this needs a place to live, and I've never seen it written down anywhere else. You are my witnesses.

I'm running behind these days, but I hope to get back to individual responses soon. You guys are great!