Annual Conference

Adaptive Use: Creating Memories, Events and Museums

Feb. 24, 2024

Barn lovers enjoyed a day of camaraderie and informative presentations at MSU’s Kellogg Center. (Photo by Steve Stier)

This year the conference focused on new uses for old barns. Several speakers told of the challenges –as well as the joys– of converting their barns into event spaces and wedding venues. Other adaptations involved dismantling and moving an old barn to a county fairgrounds and a municipality that was willed a farmstead and turned it into a museum complex.

2024 Conference Schedule

9:00      Welcome and Announcements (Coffee and Refreshments)

9:10      Annual Membership Business Meeting

10:15    Presentation – Ruth Stahl, Stahl Event Barn (Missaukee County)

11:15    Presentation – Bob Griffin, Ogemaw County Fairgrounds Barn (Ogemaw County) Click here to see his aerial video of the barn reconstruction.

12:15    Lunchtime for fun and networking and MBPN Annual Auction Benefit

1:30      2024 Barn of the Year Presentations

2:15      Presentation – Sharon and Warren Conley, The Olde Stone Porch (Ionia County)

3:15      Presentation – Pat McKay, Van Hoosen Farm Museum (Oakland County)

4:15      Wrap-Up

The Speakers and Their Projects

Ruth Stahl – After discontinuing dairy farming in the mid-1990s, Ruth and her husband Ivan decided to do everything possible to save their vintage barn. It was built in 1901 on the original 80 acres homesteaded by Ivan’s great grandfather in 1882. Following years of renovation work they officially opened the Stahl Event Barn in 2014, and over the last 10 years have hosted approximately 200 events — retirement and anniversary parties, graduation open houses, proms, reunions, celebrations of life, fundraisers, musical events and many weddings. Designated Barn of the Year in 2016, the Stahl Event Barn is located in McBain in Missaukee County near Cadillac.

Bob Griffin – He says he’s not a builder, but Bob Griffin Jr. has restored many barns, including three in just the past year. An early 1900s barn acquired by his family in 1982 has been restored as a tribute to his recently deceased father. Because of the structure’s condition and unfavorable location, Bob Jr. decided to disassemble the 60′ by 40′ gable-roofed barn, transport it to a new site and then put it all back together.  Designated Barn of the Year in 2022, Griffin Barn is now located at the Ogemaw County Fairgrounds in West Branch.

Sharon and Warren Conley – When they bought a 1850s-era barn and distinctive farmhouse in Ionia County in 2021, Sharon and Warren Conley intended to make only rudimentary fixes to the barn. But once they began the work, the whole family fell in love with that old barn and knew it needed to be repurposed to create new memories. The rehabilitated and preserved barn has been given a new life as part of The Olde Stone Porch wedding venue. Named a Barn of the Year in 2022, it is located halfway between Lansing and Grand Rapids in Ionia.

Patrick McKay – Manager at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, Pat McKay has led adaptive reuse projects to convert several barns into year-round facilities for a local history museum. The farm property acquired by Rochester Hills in 1989 includes 5 barns, 2 houses, a schoolhouse and 16 acres of gardens and grounds. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is visited by 60,000 people a year. Located in Oakland County in southeast Michigan, barns on the property received awards from MBPN in 2014 and 2022.

See recaps from MBPN Annual Conferences in 2023, 2022, 2020 and 2019.