The mammoth tobacco barn along Stout Road in southeastern Jefferson County – its architectural heritage evident in its thick hemlock beams drawn tightly together with round oak pegs – rose high above a Floyds Fork landscape once owned by Squire Boone, Daniel Boone’s brother.
The pale yellow beams glowed in the bright morning light; the exposed wood taking on a life of its own.
Some of the larger beams are 28 feet long. It almost seemed a shame to have to cover the frame – those perfectly aligned squares and rectangles totaling 45 feet wide, 88 feet long and about 30 feet high – with barn siding and a metal roof.
But such framing art had to give way to necessity. The building had to be covered. Who would want to attend a Turkey Run Park party or wedding reception in the rain?
Eli Stoltzfus was aware of all that. He was the head of a crew of Amish and Mennonite workers brought in from Pennsylvania – where the hemlock trees had been felled – to assembly those timbers, nail down that roof, and to be aware of his, and the barn’s history.
“It’s a European technique,” he said. “There are buildings in Europe made of post and pegs that have been standing for hundreds of years.”
His Lancaster County Amish roots go back 200 years. His great-grandfather was a farmer. His grandfather had a woodcraft shop where Eli first learned the trade at 14. He then moved outside to carpentry; framing and building barns and houses in several eastern and northeastern states.
He works with Mid-Atlantic Timberframes and B&D Builders of Ronks, PA., companies that use teams of Amish craftsman to fell and shape timber and build barns and houses across the northeast – and into Kentucky.
These days he’s mostly building houses. The tobacco barn that will stand at the Brown-Forman Silo Center in Turkey Run Park is the first he, and his crew, had ever built.
“It looked like a job we could do,” he said, smiling a little, without a hint of doubt, or chest thumping.
The reason for the tobacco barn, which will be called the Randy and Charlotte Hockensmith Barn, is to preserve Kentucky history; the crop has fallen out of favor but it sustained thousands of Kentucky farmers for many years.
The site is also the former Jean family dairy farm – a family that owned the property along historic Stout Road and Floyds Fork south of Fern Creek for about 170 years.
The early Parklands planning hope was to preserve an original Jean family tobacco barn – a concept developed by Jim Walters of Bravura Architecture, a lead designer in much of The Parklands.
But the old family barn was in such bad structural condition it wasn’t safe; it made more sense to tear down the old and build the new one. Other Jean family structures were saved and will be renovated to give future generations an honest look at Floyds Fork past.
So a cement floor was poured, the hemlock beams and oak pegs trucked in from Pennsylvania and Eli Stoltzfus, 39, and crew went to work – having seen the tobacco barn blueprint weeks in advance to gain a sense of the project.
Some of the stouter beams were eight inches by ten inches thick – and up to 28 feet long – statistics that required a large, upright hemlock tree.
“When we first got here we laid it all out on the floor to make sure all the posts were in the right places,” he said. “We assembled it all there and put the wooden pegs in the right place.”
Amish tradition limits the use of some power tools in some jobs, but here it wasn’t a problem. There was enough diversity in his crew to get the barn frame up and roofed in a little over a week.
“We raised the posts with a crane,” Stoltzfus said, “and knocked in the pegs.”
It all fit, those round pegs giving the barn its historic look, its special feel. The pegs – an inch or so thick and up to 24 inches long – were pounded into the precisely cut beams, the excess cut off flush with the timbers.
Amish pride – Stoltzfus’s work history – came into play here.
“It’s pretty awesome to have somebody else pre-cut the wood and ship it down here and have it work, “he said.
“When it all comes together it’s very inspiring. It’s like a piece of craft furniture fitting together.”
The barn roof is tongue-and-groove white pine – its exposed bottom stained a pale yellow to match the beams. A layer of pressed board goes over the pine, then the metal roof.
At the crest of the roof is a raised timbered vent almost 80 feet long. Its designed use would be to allow newly hung tobacco to dry; it’s effect on the new barn as a gathering place wonderfully ornamental.
Another crew will be responsible for putting the siding on that barn, the wood stained a darker color to match its Kentucky brethren.
Parklands project manager Kevin Beck said the barn will remain natural; no heating or air conditioning.
“It will be like a rustic version of the Gheens Foundation Lodge,” he said, referringto the enclosed, Parklands rental facility near the northern section of the park. “You can put on boots and jeans and have a hootenanny, or you can have a wedding inside the barn and go outside under a tent for drinks.”
Although the Jean family house on Stout Road has been torn down, other original farm buildings at the top of the hill remain to be repaired, readapted and reused as a permanent reminder of the family and its farming culture.
An old metal corn crib will be cleaned up and painted. What had been the pig barn will be refashioned into the “Pig-Nic” barn. A long shed with a feed trough in its middle will get a new roof and be turned into one long banquet table.
Another smaller tobacco barn on the old farm will be preserved – as a tobacco barn – that will serve as another reminder of the agricultural history of the area, and as an entrance to the nearby trail system. A grassy lawn at the center of the out buildings – with sidewalks – will connect all the possibilities.
Best of all, a spiral staircase will be lowered into the old silo with a crane giving park visitors the opportunity to climb to a rustic, rural observation deck on top.
The silo view will include much of the local Floyds Fork bottomland and the hiking and bicycle trails into the deeper woods along that section of The Parklands.
The automobile road below will connect lead visitors from Turkey Run to Broad Run Park, the southern entrance at Bardstown Road, or the other direction toward Pope Lick and Beckley Creek Park.
On a clear day you’ll be able to see a whole lot of Parklands.
Former Louisville-Courier columnist Bob Hill is a historian for The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He travels Floyds Fork writing of the people, the places and the history of the stream within the 20-mile park system - all of which is to be preserved in the Filson Historical Society. Some of Hill's stories appear in A Landscape and its Legacy, the commemorative book for The Parklands of Floyds Fork project. Hill has also compiled a Floyds Fork “Places & Faces” presentation that adds imagery to the words.
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