For 100 years, the Gribble Barn stood on the side of Highway 170 south of Canby. And now it's gone, torn down by the Gribble family after they spent the last 20 years trying to buy the land under it.
Joann Gribble, widow of Joe Gribble, the last owner of the barn, told an abbreviated story of the structure's history while sitting in her kitchen next to a stack of letters Joe wrote over the years trying to save the barn from demolition.
The following account of the barn is contributed to by Bruce Johnson, a Canby-based writer and photographer who made it a point to publicize the barn, and Peggy Sigler, who worked for 10 years for the Oregon field office of national historic preservation and as an historic resource planner.
The Gribble family was an Oregon Trail pioneer family that received 640 acres of land in their original federal land grant.
"They had a fine herd of registered Jersey cows after Oregon got settled," Joann Gribble said. "There were nine children in that family and the original house was right across from where the barn (stood). Another house is there now but it's in the same location as the original house."
The barn was built in 1908 to house the Gribble's prize-winning cows, which were shown all across the region, and to store the livestock's feed. Sigler said that at that time dairy farms were prevalent across the area, known then as Gribble Prairie, and that remnants of that era can still be seen today, just with much smaller-headed cattle herds.
Many years ago the Gribble family sold their farmland and Joe and Joann relocated, but moved back to the area 20 years ago — today, Joann lives on Highgate Farm just outside of Molalla — and Joe decided to purchase the barn to fix it up. But there was no real plan for what to make of it, and the Gribble's could not get the landowners to sell the land under the barn.
"Joe saw people taking pieces off of the barn and talked to the owner and ended up buying it back, but we never could get any of the land under it," Gribble said. "The owner just didn't want to sell it. We tried everything we could think of. There were several iterations of moving the barn and tries at that, but it seemed impossible — people would always back out of it."
Sigler remembers talk of turning the Gribble Barn into a farm craft school or a farm store, but the land is zoned exclusive farm use.
"There were efforts to turn it into an historical landmark," Sigler said. "I thought it was registered and that (special) permits would be needed to tear it down."
Turns out Joe Gribble had the paperwork in order when he passed away but it never was filed.
"In the olden days, county staff would do all of the research to declare it historical, but today you have to do your own research and prove it is historical," Sigler said. "It was so distinctive. People who don't even live around here knew about the Gribble Barn."
One of the reasons it attracted so much attention was due to an advertisement painted on the side back in the 1990s. And contrary to popular belief, the ad was not part of a Burgerville or Burger King ad campaign; it was put there by Chevrolet.
"It was an ad for Chevy cars," Gribble said. "Chevy had an ad campaign called 'Leaning on a Chevy.' They had an airplane that flew by the barn in one of the advertisements. The people that owned it at that time were responsible for that ad. One of the things we wanted to do with the barn was re-paint the logo. That's what most people remember it for is that logo."
Johnson, who has one of his Gribble Barn photographs featured in the collage of Canby at the local McDonald's, said the final demolition of the beloved landmark is due to "current times."
"It was far too expensive to consider taking it down and moving, and it's a sad story in a way," Johnson said. "The barn was an historical landmark, whether officially designated or not, and there were many efforts over the years — I put a vinyl sign on it that said, 'Save the Gribble Barn' that stayed up for a long time, years — but nobody had any real money to do what was ultimately needed. That just killed the barn."
Gribble said the wood from the barn will be recycled and hopefully used in new environmentally-friendly construction projects, and that some of the artifacts, like the old Canby horse watering trough that sat outside the barn for more than a decade, are being saved but have yet to find a final home.
"When my husband was 12 years old he helped build that barn," she said. "His brother and that generation of the family were the ones who worked in the barn and helped with the cattle and so on. They had a lot of feelings for it."