Relocating the Dvorak Barn

By Mallory Q., Lopez Island Middle School Student

The Dvorak Barn on 22274 Russell Rd in Kent, WA represents the area’s agricultural heritage. It is slated to be torn down to make way for a levee that will be going through the farm on which it sits. I hate this. Do you know why I hate this? I hate this because the Dvorak barn has an intriguing history.

Dvorak Barn - from front

The Dvorak Barn on 22274 Russell Rd in Kent, WA

One of the earliest settlers of the Kent Valley, David A. Neely, was the recipient of a Homestead Land Grant for the area that became a 320-acre farm. Built in 1906, the Neely’s home preceded the barn, which was built in 1925. This is interesting because the house acted as the first post office for the first postmaster in Kent. Not only did they deliver the mail, they helped Kent become the lettuce capital of Washington State. Pretty cool, huh?

The farm flourished due to their lead in hops, corn, lettuce and onions – until eventually modern times caught up with them. The Neelys were doing well with their farm and post office, until the postmaster, David A. Neely, passed away. He passed his farm onto one of his eight children, James Neely.

2000_005HopFarm

A hops farming family in early Kent

Interstate 5 eventually had to be built. As it expanded, it ran through Kent Valley, eliminating a lot of the farming land in the area. The barn closed because of the new highway. The result: an awesome little bit of history fell into disrepair.  Now with the levee needing to run through the farm, all buildings on that stretch of land will need to be torn down or moved.

Over time, all the farms in the Kent Valley have disappeared as warehouses have sprung up over the past 50 years. This started with the construction of the Boeing Space Center in the 60s. Within the past few months, Amazon.com opened a massive distribution center. Kent, once known for agriculture, has become the 4th-largest warehouse distribution center in the United States.

Amazon Distribution Center - Kent

Amazon’s new Kent distribution warehouse, less than a half-mile away from the Dvorak Barn

As a former 4H-er I am proud of the farm lands in Washington State. All Washingtonians are proud of our farm lands. It’s a big disappointment to all of the local farm owners to see this barn be condemned.

One way of saving the barn would be to move it. Sharon Bersaas, long-time Kent resident, has advocated for this option in order to preserve this legacy. “Our history has a wonderful story and using the Barn for an interpretive center we would be able to tell our story to future generations,” said Bersaas.

Bersaas and others have lobbied to get the barn moved to a preserved property, but the isolated area – along with the lack of funding – has made this venture a nonstarter.

One way to move the barn would be through crowd-sourced fundraisers such as gofundme, kickstarter or indiegogo. These could help raise funds to relocate the barn. The Greater Kent Historical Society’s Facebook page has a lot of information about the barn.  It could be used to make a Kent Historical Museum or an art gallery, or something along those lines. I think it would be neat if they were to make it into a restaurant. It would be awesome if they were to put up pictures of the barn, Kent and the community back in the 1920s, up on the walls around in the barn. Not only would you be eating, you would also be learning about some of the history of Kent, which, in my opinion, is pretty dang cool.

I hope that this story is meaningful to you and you want to help raise funds for the barn. Help support awareness by downloading the Washington State Insider App (available mid-June) and visiting the Dvorak Barn in Kent!

Dvorak Barn - from back

The back of the Dvorak Barn

Advertisements

“Maybe not a gas station… but always a museum.”

Last week I paid a visit to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma to give Erich Ebel a preview of the Washington State Insider app, which is set to launch by mid-June. Erich is the Marketing and Communications Director for the Washington State Historical Society, who manages the History Museum. They have agreed to give discounted admission to Washington State Insider app users who have collected points by visiting historic places around the state.

Erich had just returned from a whirlwind trip around the state, passing through many of the same places that my family and I plan to visit during our ProjectWA summer tour. After visiting dozens of small towns across Western and Eastern Washington, Erich was struck by the one thing they all had in common. “Every town, no matter how small, has a museum,” he said. “Maybe not a gas station or a stoplight, but always a museum.”

WA State History Museum

Erich is absolutely right about this. My home, Lopez Island, with a population of only 2,400, has no stoplights or sidewalks. But it has a great museum. This phenomenon makes a statement about the priorities of smaller communities; and it is why, according to Erich, “people are gravitating toward heritage tourism.”

Museums of all sizes are critical to reminding us of our history. If our cultural heritage is to be preserved, though, we need more than museums to curb the advances of shorter-term commercial interests that can be antithetical to historic preservation. In Woodinville, the City Council wants to tear down the town’s original schoolhouse to make room for a parking garage. In Kent, the last barn standing – representing the area’s agricultural roots – will likely be torn down if the City Council’s current plan to widen the Green River is implemented. During my trip last week I visited both the Woodinville Schoolhouse and the Dvorak Barn in Kent. Losing them would be a massive loss for each community.

Endangered_Properties_2016

Left: Rick Chatterton, Board President, Woodinville Heritage Society | Right: Nancy and Chuck Simpson, long-time Kent residents

The groups fighting for the protection of these endangered properties are not necessarily advocating for keeping these old buildings in their original state. They recognize that economies, industries and demographics change. Instead of creating relics that have no apparent use in today’s communities, they would like to see these buildings preserved and used as community gathering places of some kind. History and modern life don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It is this integration of yesterday and today that is driving the development of the Washington State Insider app. 80% of Americans walk around with smartphones today. Let’s find a way to capitalize on that trend in a way that helps raise awareness of and preserves our cultural heritage.

Over the next week, students from Lopez Island Middle School will be posting stories about the Most Endangered Properties of Washington State that they want to see preserved. Those places, along with nearly 70 other locations around the state, will also be found in the Washington State Insider app, available for iPhones and Android devices.

RevitalizeWA

For most Lopez School students, the word “endangered” brings to mind species of plants or animals that live in this fragile ecosystem that is the San Juan Islands: disappearing lichen from rocks on Iceberg Point, diminishing populations of sea birds, or hundreds of other species of concern around the Salish Sea. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned about another endangered list: historic properties around Washington State.

In late April I attended a conference in Chelan, called RevitalizeWA, organized by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. With my summer history trip around the state approaching, I thought this would be a good way to get a sense of some of the communities I’d be visiting in advance of hitting the road to promote the Washington State Insider app. During the opening reception of the conference, Chris Moore, the executive director for Washington Trust, announced the 2016 Most Endangered Properties List for Washington State – seven at-risk properties that embody the cultural heritage of their respective communities and the region overall. I was surprised to see that the #1 Most Endangered Property is Enloe Dam – a location that Ava, one of our ProjectWA students, had identified to put in the Washington State Insider app!

I learned so much at RevitalizeWA – from strategies to “right size” legacy cities to innovative approaches to preserving communities’ Main Streets – that I had to report back to our students upon my return to Lopez. To my surprise and delight, the students suggested that their final ProjectWA projects (a blog post to be published on this site) should be focused on this year’s Most Endangered Properties List. The idea makes so much sense, and I’m thrilled that this was the students’ idea, not mine.

We immediately took action on this idea. Each student picked one of the properties from the 2016 list, reached out to that property’s champion (usually the local Heritage Society), and created a location entry for the Washington State Insider app. We have a small class of just five students, but we’ve created app entries for each of the seven properties. For their blog posts, Ava picked Enloe Dam, given she was already interested in that place; Anna picked Woodinville Schoolhouse; Shayna picked Providence Heights College, Mallory picked the Dvorak Barn; and Sonnette picked the LaCrosse Rock Houses. Every one of the students’ property contacts replied immediately with enthusiasm – answering questions and providing more background information, maps, photos and videos. The students are now in the process of writing their blog posts.

ProjectWA_class_final_projects

Lopez Island Middle School students work on their final projects, Most Endangered Properties

When Mr. Rovente and I came up with the idea for this semester’s ProjectWA class, we had no idea this is where we’d end up. We started with a good cause: raising awareness of the lesser known aspects of Washington State history while raising money for new text books. We’re ending up with an even bigger objective: helping preserve the places that represent Washington State’s cultural heritage.

RevitalizeWA