Barn renovation project moving forward

At last Friday’s meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, the group took up one item: the Kodiak Agricultural Experiment Station Barn, or more popularly known as, the Barn.

The Barn, first built in 1922 by the federal government as part of a plan to assess the agricultural potential in Alaska, sits next door to the city library. It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, and, according to a recent condition report, is in urgent need of rehabilitation.

With the barn turning 100 years old next year, making it the second-oldest structure on Kodiak Island, that probably comes as no surprise.

At the commission’s March meeting, Jason Swift, an architect hired to assess the barn, noted the condition of the building is at a tipping point.

“Basic structural systems seem to be in really good shape. It seems stable, intact. But you have a roof system that is on the edge of failing. There isn’t a lot of large leaks, but you’re right on that cusp of where once it does start leaking, it’s going to be a very rapid decline. And on the siding, the same kind of thing. It’s partially intact, but the siding has definitely started that rapid decline.”

The barn’s roof is in a state of rapid decline, so its wooden shingles will be replaced by asphalt ones. (ECI/City of Kodiak)

On Friday, the Commission finalized a plan with three components, as city engineer Matt Holmstrom explained: “We’re going to replace the shingles on the roof with new shingles. And then we’re going to replace the exterior paint. And we know we did a survey on the existing coating, and it’s lead-based paint, so when we remove that existing paint, we have to abate the lead. And then once we remove that existing coating, then we will repaint.”

The City has budgeted about $150,000 for this project, and while the renovations sound good, there is one more thing to keep in mind, according to commission chair Molly Odell: “With these upgrades we’re always just keeping in mind, keeping the historic character of the barn. We discussed that at the last meeting. The shingles wouldn’t be much different from what’s already there. We’re not making any major character changes to the barn. But that’s the main thing to keep in mind going forward with upgrades and changes: is it going to change the character?”

The new roof and new siding, though, is a short-term solution to keep the building from further decline. Depending on how the city decides to ultimately use the barn will determine any future upgrades.

Council member Charlie Davidson serves on the Commission and concluded: “I think it’s a jewel that’s been neglected for a long time.”

The project is currently out for bid. Work on the barn is expected to begin in August.

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