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SHERIDAN — The barn on West Fifth Street began its journey to a new location Sunday. The structure, roughly 90 years old, was the last telltale landmark of a ranch that once existed near the fairgrounds, and is now privately owned.
While several interest groups, including the Sheridan Community Land Trust, had expressed interest in acquiring the historic barn and relocating it to either the Sheridan County Fairgrounds or another site to be used as a public facility, none of those plans ever materialized. State officials put the barn up for public auction last fall, and the building only received one bid — for $10. Thus, a deal was made, and the barn became the property of local rancher Carey Sampson.
The beehive barn began its career as a staple structure of the North Heights Ranch, which was purchased in the late 1950s by Donald Hudson Roberts. It’s listed on the city of Sheridan’s Register of Historic Landmarks and served as a community gathering place in the 1930s and 1940s.
The “beehive” architecture of the structure is also unique in that the process of shaping the curved ribs is uniquely more time intensive than other structural possibilities for a barn, but the result is more storage space on the upper level.
The barn served its intended function until approximately 15 years ago, when the land and building were purchased by Rockwell Petroleum. At that time, Rockwell agreed to incorporate a historic easement for the barn after the purchase, and had discussed plans to use the building for an oil and gas library.
However, Rockwell went bankrupt and the state of Wyoming bought the land roughly five years ago without the historic easement agreement.
The Rockwell building and improvements were converted into the existing DEQ office, but the barn went undesignated.
The barn’s designation on the city’s historic register is largely an idealogical suggestion that adds to its fanfare, but carries no real weight in terms of mandating historic preservation or consideration. A conservation easement, like the one discussed when Rockwell bought the property, offered more leverage. When the property fell under the state’s control, administrators quickly identified the barn as a liability and indicated it would need to be torn down or relocated.
Project Manager with the State of Wyoming Construction Management Office Ian Catellier said the barn was in need of significant upkeep, to include a new roof and paint. The maintenance, he said, would not be worth the investment of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the building was no longer being used for anything.
That’s why, last fall, the barn was advertised for sale in a sealed bidding process. The proposed deal was whoever got the barn by bidding the highest would also be responsible for expenses associated with moving the building and reclaiming the land where the barn stood.
“The reason for the state disposing of the property this way was we wanted to be respectful of the original owners’ wishes and not demolish it,” Catellier said, adding he was happy to see the historic barn taken under the wing of a new family.
When the barn was sold, there were no guarantees it was in any condition to be relocated. The building was first lifted off the ground and observed for several days to ensure it would likely hold together while being trucked to a new location.
The transport of the barn from its historic site to its new patch of land on the Sampson family’s property past the gun range on the west end of Keystone Road is approximately six miles. Because of the barn’s stature, several sets of power lines will have to be raised to allow the 38-foot building to pass underneath.
The first such endeavor was less than 50 feet from the beginning of the barn’s journey, when the lines cross over Mydland Road at the intersection with Fifth Street.
Montana-Dakota Utilities Spokesman Mark Hanson said no customers were affected by the required electrical outage for that crossing, but there are a few more scheduled for Thursday and approximately 97 customers along West Fifth Street, Soldier Creek Road and Keystone Road will experience a power outage between 9 a.m. and noon. Hanson said those customers will be notified via telephone of the scheduled outage in their area.
The county also noted that travelers heading in that direction should proceed with caution and be aware that the barn may inhibit travel while it is en route.