Monday, September 28, 2015

A Barn By Any Other Name ...

134 Montague Road, North Amherst aka The Mill District

Over the course of its 100+ year history almost everything made of wood -- which is to say the entire post & beam barn -- has been repaired and/or replaced on the big structure that's impossible to miss in North Amherst.

So is it still an original historic structure worth spending many times over new construction costs to preserve, protect and maintain the iconic view it provides to travelers passing by?

Over a year ago the Amherst Historical Commission thought so and ordered a one-year demolition delay, which expired back in mid-July.

But that is the extent of their power to preserve the barn at other people's expense -- in this case -- W.D. Cowls, Inc, the largest private landowner in the state.

Interestingly at the Historical Commission meeting last week discussing the last remaining carriage house contributing to the South Amherst Common Historic District, much was made out of the fact that over the years most if not all of the original structure had been replaced piecemeal.

The Commission decided not to even bother holding a Demolition Delay Hearing, thus the structure can be vaporized at any moment.

As could the historic old red barn at 134 Montague Road.  But that's not going to happen.  At least not before trying to come up with an economic reuse that justifies the high cost of maintaining the iconic image that so dominates the landscape.

Click photo to enlarge
 Barn (right)  is close but not attached to new Atkins North (note roof damage)

According to Cowls Vice President for Real Estate and Community Development Mollye Wolahan:

The demo delay has been over since mid July. We have no plans to remove the barn at this point. On the day of expiration we removed a dangerous window and a couple pieces of siding that we were prohibited from removing during the year-long demo delay. Barn is still being used as a commercial structure as it is warehousing company equipment and materials (though not on the leaky south third so much as before) as it has for many decades now. The barn is leaking profusely on the south third and an interior beam has fallen, a couple others are about to. The south third is structurally shakey. With the opening of Atkins, we have put a fence around the perimeter of the barn to keep the public at a safe distance from the structure.

Ms. Wolahan concludes optimistically:  "My hope is to start the public process this month — sharing information with the neighbors and starting the zoning process that can allow the barn to be reconstructed, retaining the same iconic image that is there today with an exciting new use to further support our neighborhood and the Mill District."

Barn currently hosts art project


Anonymous said...

Concert hall.

Larry Kelley said...

Neighbors might not like that.

They were complaining at the Planning Board hearing about Atkins North wanting to do "live entertainment" once in a while.

Anonymous said...

How much of Ironsides is original?

Anonymous said...

I think it would be great to spend public resources on this or anything once everyone in town is confident they will have food and housing for the rest of their lives - otherwise perhaps it is inappropriate to take their needed financial resources by force to spend on someone elses building. Ironically, the town is the biggest barrier to folks being able to stay in their homes when the humans get old taxing them right out on the streets, but this is Amherst, humans die, buildings live forever and young yuppies are the only constituency that matters and young yuppies like old buildings and young yuppies like spending other peoples' money on what they like most of all.

Anonymous said...

Lets have an old fashioned barn burning and build something new.
Don't forget the weenies and beer.

Anonymous said...

You can burn down your house and have new fashioned collectivist BBQs on your own property, that is if you get permission from your parents, eigh, I mean the town. Or you can not get permission and they will come anyway.