Brunson Barn

2020 Barn of the Year Award for Adaptive Use – Nonprofit

2020 BoY Brunson Barn in Glen ARbor

Before and After – Brunson Barn in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Rural Historic District:

National Park Service, preservationists and volunteers save barn

The formerly tattered barn on Thorson Road in Glen Arbor, MI was once dubbed “Grace” because it was only “by the Grace of God that she still stands.” Over the course of time, the barn had been scavenged by those who wanted the wood, a souvenir, or hoped that by taking critical timbers they could be present to watch it fall.

Built around 1900, the 40 x 60 gambrel roof barn is the only remaining structure in the original farmstead of Joseph and Margaret Brunson in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. The Brunson Barn and more than 300 other historic farm buildings were acquired by the National Park Service in 1970 when Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was established.

Local residents witnessing the barn’s decay implored the Park Service to repair and stabilize it. Advocates for the barn challenged park management to live up to its stated mission of preserving historic structures.

The restoration came about through a cooperative effort made possible by generous donors, federal grants, public volunteers and repair workshops (including some offered by MBPN). The National Park Service secured funds to install a new roof and re-side the hemlock boards. Teams recently reinforced and upgraded the barn’s floor.

The entry for Barn of the Year was submitted by Kimberly Mann, NPS historical architect, who leads annual volunteer barn restoration efforts in the Port Oneida Historic Rural District. ( Her next Sleeping Bear Dunes barn workshop is scheduled for June 15-19.  See MBPN Events Calendar.)

Currently the Brunson Barn is being used to store materials needed to restore other farmsteads within the Port Oneida Historic District. “This barn that was saved is now helping save other structures throughout the National Park,” notes Eric Winkelman, the neighbor who championed the cause.

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Eric and Barb Winkelman, the Glen Arbor neighbors who advocated for the barn’s preservation, accepted the award on behalf of the Park Service, nonprofit preservation groups and community volunteers who made it happen. They are congratulated by Keith Anderson, Barn of the Year awards chair (L) and Tom Irrer, MBPN president (R).