Barn restoration for one of Illinois' top barns

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
This barn located in Hamlet was disassembled in November 2008 and is being reconstructed a few miles down the road off of 135th St.

Rick Collins, co-owner with his wife Laura for the past 13 years of Trillium Dell Timberworks out of Knoxville, calls his company's most recent project historic. "A third of the building materials was hand hewn and floated down the rivers," he said. Collins said the owner, whose name he declined to give, chose this barn because he liked how it looked. "It's one of the top 10 barns in the state," Collins said. "He picked this building out without really knowing it."

He has some praise for restoring this particular barn. "When people renovate they are reinvesting in our cultural heritage - that's pretty cool and pretty important."

The barn that is being reconstructed is at a farm located down 135th Ave., about one mile west of State Hwy. 94 just about four miles north of Aledo. The barn was moved from Keith King's old place in Hamlet and was originally built for Graham Lee.

Collins invites anyone to come by and see the progress. "We encourage it," he said. "We've done this 100 times."

"We always encourage the public to come out and see things like this. People come out and get invested in it and it gets maintained."

His company always salvages as much as it possibly can. He estimated that the price tag for this kind of reconstruction work is high. "If you were to build a barn like this with new materials it would double the cost."

He said that his company mostly gets hired by municipalities, forest preserves or historic districts. Besides doing restoration work his company also builds with new materials. "We specialize in this kind of work, but we build new ones like this from new materials."

He describes some of the unique features of the barn, which was made of white pine. The building is 42-feet square with a clear span, a hip roof and has a "whole drive threshing bay that is 42 feet long and 16 feet wide.

The bulk of the timber in the structure is 12 x 12 x 30 feet or 12 x 12 x 42 feet, says Collins. He estimated that 90 percent the wood in the structure is from the original building, which he thinks was built in the 1860s or 1870s. "We didn't find a date in this building."

Re-erecting the frame began around the first of January 2009. He estimates that it would usually take from four to six weeks to reconstruct a building like this, however the weather has had an impact on the building's progress. "The weather hasn't been good." The deconstruction took three weeks. He said they took hundreds of photographs that helps make sure the building is put back together the same way it was built originally.

In the 1800s the lumber was "rafted down the Wisconsin River, then rafted down the Mississippi River, sawn in the Quad Cities and brought here by wagon. A third of the building materials was hand hewn and floated down the river as 12 x 12 x 30-foot or 12 x 12 x 42 foot pieces. "This is probably one of the first we've come to call the progressive farm barn." Progressive barns were being built in the late 1800s to improve farming efficiency. "It was the first real shift towards labor saving and better production."

He calls the quality of the work that went into building the original barn superior. "The quality is what you would see in churches and cathedrals, rather than what you'd see in barns."

This is an octagonal shaped boss pin that holds up the clear span roof system.