By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
EVERETT — Right now, the barn smells of vinegar.
Mike Scoleri figures it’ll take a couple of more months to finish rehabilitating the 125-year-old barn, one of Snohomish County’s oldest. Scoleri is using vinegar and steel wool to scrub and give a weathered, aged look to the replacement lumber being used in the barn’s interior.
The best guesses of everyone who might know figure the barn went up in about 1888.
A European immigrant named Bernard Walther built the board-and-batten structure for his dairy cows. The old-growth Douglas fir he used probably was felled on the property, located in the Snohomish River valley between Lowell and Larimer.
One of the crossbeams in the 40-foot-tall barn is a 60-foot, 12-inch-by-12-inch massive hunk of fir.
Even more impressive is that the barn’s posts and beams are held together with mortise and tenon joinery: notches and hand-carved wooden dowel pins. No nails.
“Even when the wind kicked up, you couldn’t hear a creak,” Scoleri said. “The barn is solid and the men who built it were craftsmen.”
Scoleri figures the post and beam arches of the barn were built on the ground and pulled into place by horses.
Arnie Hansen, 66, of Snohomish, grew up playing and working in the barn. His parents, Carl and Lois Hansen, bought the Walther farm in about 1937.
The youngest of three children, Hansen remembers that loose hay was loaded into the barn’s loft from a truck driven right into the building.
It was about 1960, after Carl Hansen died, when Lois Hansen sold the family farm to Al Craven, and his sons, Bill and Larry “Stub” Craven.
The Cravens, who also had a dairy, put on the corrugated metal roof, which probably saved the interior of the barn, and laid a new concrete floor and foundation, Scoleri said.
“Bill Craven stopped by the other day and told me how pleased he is that we are saving the barn,” Scoleri said.
Hansen said he, too, is happy about the restoration project.
“It looks like they’re doing a decent job of it,” Hansen said. “It’s one of the oldest barns around, and the wooden pegs that hold it together make it unique.”
Another family owned the farm for a few years, Hansen said, before it was sold in the mid-2000s to Larry Jensen, a Skagit County farmer. The farm now grows blueberries and is home to an equestrian bedding supply company called Full Circle Natural Products, run by Ken Goehrs.
Goehrs, 56, went to Cascade High School with Scoleri, 55. Goehrs was aware that about 10 years ago Scoleri repaired and restored an old Arlington barn on Highway 530 that now is home to Mark Lovejoy’s Garden Treasures farm.
“I told Ken I would love to rehab the barn on Lowell-Larimer Road,” Scoleri said. “When I got in there in January, however, the temperatures were barely above freezing and I wondered what I’d got myself into.”
Barns built without rain gutters were prone to rot at the bottom five feet, and that’s where they first start to crumble, he said.
Scoleri set to work pulling off the bottom 10 feet of the barn and replacing it with Douglas fir milled at Fritch Mill in Maltby. He built new windows, shored up all of the posts except one and installed interior cable reinforcements.
“We retained all of the original rough-cut wood that we could,” Scoleri said. “Some of the beams still have bark on them. They are beautiful. When it is done, this barn is going to be a show place.”
Watching Scoleri work the past three months are two barn owls that perch at the peak of the barn roof. Scoleri hopes to maintain a residence for the owls in the barn, allowing them to fly in and out of a high window.
The cost to save the old Walther barn is approaching $75,000, Goehrs said.
“It’s worth it,” Goehrs said. “It’s a classic barn, and in a few years very few will remain. After we get it painted red again, we’ll plan on having an open house. We might use it later as a farm store or a place people can rent for weddings or other events.”
People have been driving by, honking their horns and shouting “good job” as Scoleri works, he said.
One of those people is Everett Public Library’s resident historian David Dilgard, who drives Lowell-Larimer on his way to work.
“Thank God the owner of the barn understands why these buildings should be saved,” Dilgard said. “It’s great to someone lovingly repairing it.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Walther barn on Lowell-Larimer Road is on the Washington Heritage Barn Register. More information is at www.dahp.wa.gov/heritage-barn-register and at HistoryLink.org.