BARN RAISING: Amish crew rebuilds century-old barn on Charlottesville farm

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An Amish worker climbs a ladder against the frame of a century-old barn that he and his colleagues are reassembling near Charlottesville. The barn is originally from near Fort Wayne. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — An Amish crew from Ohio made the two-hour drive to Charlottesville multiple times this week to rebuild a century-build barn.

The driver they hired napped in their red passenger van as the crew got to work on Tuesday.

Speaking mostly in Dutch, the crew of seven toiled under sunny blue skies, putting back together a barn they had recently dismantled on a farm in Ossian, just south of Fort Wayne.

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Dean and Charla Fout were thrilled to watch the work unfold on their 90-acre farm on Grandison Road, just off County Road E. 100 North.

Friends and neighbors drove down their long gravel drive to take a closer look throughout the week.

The Amish men stood perched atop the framework of the 31-foot-tall barn, skillfully hammering each piece into place.

Dressed in dark pants with suspenders and light blue button-down shirts, with straw hats shielding their eyes from the sun, the crew worked methodically to resurrect the 60-by-36-foot red barn.

The previous owner had been looking for someone to dismantle and haul the barn away, preferably someone who wanted to reconstruct it elsewhere, so the old barn could continue its purpose somewhere else. She said it had been in her husband’s family for generations.

Fout, who had been looking to expand the calving operation on his Charlottesville farm, was happy to oblige.

His herd of 22 Angus cattle had outgrown the 24-by-12 foot barn he’d been using for calving. When he found the old barn listed on Facebook, he quickly set into motion a plan to build a walkout basement on his property to set the base for the barn’s new home.

He was thrilled to find an Amish crew willing to both dismantle and rebuild the barn, knowing they’d do a fine job of resurrecting the piece of Hoosier history on his property.

“It’s amazing to watch them work,” said Fout, who works full-time as the security manager at Covance in Greenfield.

“They carve each wood stake by hand, whittling them down from a block of wood,” he said.

Crew leader Johnny Schwartz said the wood stakes driven into the old wood beams are stronger than contemporary metal hardware.

This was the fourth barn reconstruction project for Schwartz, who owns JB Roofing & Construction in Ohio. He and his crew typically do roofing work, but he loves the chance to rebuild historic old barns, he said.

“I think they’re a lot better, a lot stronger than newer barns,” he said. “These old barns are built with pride; they’re meant to last. They’ll last forever if they don’t leak.”

When dismantling Fout’s barn last month, Schwartz’s crew carefully labeled each piece — attaching a small white numbered tag to each one. They sketched out a map to show how each piece would fit back together.

Last week they arrived to lay out the pieces on the ground of Fout’s property. On Tuesday they reassembled the framing, tying a rope around each section before lowering them into place with a crane.

On Wednesday they once again made the two-hour drive to set the roof trusses into place.

BASC Construction, a Charlottesville company owned by Fout’s friend, Brad Henderson, is overseeing the project and will soon add a new metal roof.

Fout’s son Evan’s company, Fout Concepts, is overseeing the project design.

Fout will likely power-wash the original wood exterior and repaint it white, to match the other white barns with green roofs on his property.

“I want it to blend in while preserving its historic look,” said Fout, a lifelong Hancock County resident.

He and his wife have lived on the family farm since 1993.

Fout had no intention of becoming a cattle farmer until his sons Evan, 26, and Cole, 24, showed an interest in showing cattle as teens at the local 4-H fair.

“All 22 head of cattle we have came from the heifers the boys showed in 4-H and their offspring,” said Fout, who’s thrilled to move the growing calving operation into the stately historic barn.

He was also thrilled about the price tag.

Including paying the original owner $4,000 for the barn, the cost to dismantle, transport and rebuild it will cost about $100,000, said Fout, compared to building a comparable new barn for close to $180,000.

The barn should be complete in time for calving season in early January, he said.