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Saying 'goodbye' to a Wilsonville landmark

Little known about history of century-old red barn


by: JOSH KULLA - The bowing of this exterior wall shows how close the red barn is to collapsing. Destruction often precedes growth.

And in the case of Brenchley Estates, a 58-acre residential development in central Wilsonville, it is especially true.

In this case, it means another longstanding Wilsonville landmark will be coming down, replaced by new homes amidst a new subdivision off Parkway Avenue.

The century-old barn that still bears the Thunderbird Mobile Court logo is slated for demolition within the next month, according to Brenner Daniels, development director for Holland Partners, the firm that owns much of Brenchley Estates.

“It’s structurally sound right now,” Daniels said. “But we have done some pretty significant shoring work to make sure it’s safe until it does get taken down.”

Holland Partners has applied for a demolition permit from the city of Wilsonville’s building division, and within the next few weeks the structure likely will be torn down.

In the barn’s place will come a new access road to the planned Active Adults at the Grove senior apartment complex, as well as lots for new single-family homes planned as part of the same development.

Owned since the early 1960s by Roger Ash and his family, the barn once was a symbol of early Wilsonville and the Thunderbird Mobile Court. Over the years, however, the sprawling wooden structure fell victim to the elements, despite plenty of work being put into subdividing the interior as well as the addition of wooden siding on the exterior walls. by: JOSH KULLA - A long-unused office sits in one corner of the old barn, strewn with discarded papers and other materials.

Despite its age, which Wilsonville Director of Current Planning Blaise Edmonds estimated at more than 100 years old, the barn is not registered as a historically significant building. In fact, Edmonds said, research into the background of the 58-acre site failed to turn up any information about the barn’s history.

“In my research of the barn, I’m pretty sure it dates back to the last turn of the century, that is, the 19th century,” he said. “And when I wrote the staff report for the master plan for Jory Trail at the Grove and for the Terrene Apartments I couldn’t find any history from Clackamas County history of anything to do with the barn.”

Boones Ferry Historical Society member John Smith echoed this assessment.

“To my knowledge it didn’t have a lot of, as I can recall, historical significance to the community, so I don’t know anything about it,” Smith said. “We did get some things from Thunderbird, like street signs and that type of thing, but there is no real archive of materials other than that. I wish I knew more about it.”

He added that the historical society is looking for places in Wilsonville to put up historical markers and the barn might be a candidate. by: JOSH KULLA - This interior shot of the old barn that once belonged to the Ash family shows how it has been divided into small rooms underneath a cavernous roof and ceiling. The building has no electricity and all light comes through cracks in the walls and roof.

“We have quite a few up in Old Town and down Boones Ferry Road,” he said. “There’s one in front of what used to be Aden’s Store, one in front of the (former Methodist, now owned by McMenamins) church still, a couple of places down there.”

The lack of documentation could be a result of the structure becoming a depository for a huge array of materials, chemicals, construction supplies and landscaping equipment over the years. This has led to significant environmental contamination, Daniels said, and along with structural issues is a big reason why the building cannot be salvaged today.

“There’s some pretty severe contamination,” Daniels said. “There’s lead paint, fluorescent tubes shattered and some other things. The exterior has been replaced with T1-11 siding, and there’s not a ton of salvageable wood in there. But what we’re going to do is try and save some of the wood from the beams and incorporate that into the (Active Adults at the Grove) project.”

Daniels added that Holland Partners wishes to at least create a historical footnote for the structure in order to connect past and present Wilsonville.

“We’d also put a plaque up as well, which would reference the historical significance of the barn,” he said. “We want to show people that we understand the significance of the barn and we’re not just tearing it down, that we will have some heritage for the barn.”



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