Barn in the City

January 20, 2011

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In the last three weeks, I’ve had barn on the brain. I’ve been called (by my husband) a “barnhugger”. So why all the barn talk? Well, three weeks ago I saw a news article that said Valley High School in West Des Moines was going to tear down a historic barn for parking, green space, area for shot put and discus etc. So I thought, “Well, before it’s gone I should drive by and show it to the boys. Maybe take a picture and blog about it.” And I did.

After I wrote the blog I thought, “Hey, the news mentioned something about a facebook group.” So I found them and then joined. I posted my blog post and was contacted by one of the administrators. I set up a online petition for them the next day and wrote a press release for them over the weekend.

So why should I care about this barn? It’s amazing. The more time I spend working on the barn issue, the more I learn, the more I love the barn. It isn’t the original 1880’s wooden barn (obviously) but it was built in 1932 and served as a Dairy Farm. Yes, West Des Moines was once farm land. Valley West Mall wasn’t always there. Actually, the farmer was approached by the people wanting to build an airport and he said, “I won’t do that to my neighbors.” Can you imagine how different Des Moines would be if the airport was in the area of Valley High School? They’re be no Valley West Mall, 235 wouldn’t be where it is…It’s just amazing to think about. One man’s decision changed the look of a city.

And that’s what I’m trying to teach my boys. Stand up for something you believe in. The barn is more than just a barn. It’s history. And not just history of people who are 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation West Des Moines-ites. I’m not from West Des Moines, but a small farming community in West Central Iowa. The barn reminds me of the summers I spent on my family Century farm (that we still have) throwing hay out of the big barn, working to mow, dodging cow pies while being chased by my brother etc.

History is important to me. That’s obvious if you’ve been following the blog of my Grandfather’s from 1902. My dad discovered his journal and we post every day that he posts. You can read it at

Because I decided to stand up and make a difference, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities. I was asked to go and speak on the Fallon ForumĀ  (you can listen here) and turned it into a learning opportunity for my 5 year old. He was excited to be on the radio. I’ve been interviewed by all of the local media and the newspaper.

The facebook group is now over 2,000 members. The petition has over 850 signatures. We’ve raised around $40,000 in pledges. We have T-shirts and a website. We can be contacted at This grassroots group has taken a life of its own. All to save a piece of history. As I like to say, “I’m not anti-progress, I’m pro-history.” My dad has always said to me about farmland and historical buildings, “Once it’s gone. It’s gone.”

After all of the work I’ve done and time I’ve spent on articles, emails and press releases, the barn has given me more than I’ve given it. I just hope we can save this historic “Barn in the City” for future generations.

[Editor’s note: click on any of the images to see the full size version.]

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kosmo
    Jan 20, 2011 @ 09:34:15

    I like old buildings. Not necessarily grand old buildings that are in great shape. Sometimes just buildings on the verge of collapse that show their age. In fact, I was rather annoyed when an old building in Marion painted over the advertising that had graced its side for decades. They completely destroyed the character of the building.

    When I see one of the run-down buildings, I always stop to think that when the building was built, it was one of the most important days in the life of at least a few people. It makes me wonder what they’d think if they saw the building in disrepair.

    I don’t suppose you were actually THROWING any of the cow pies?


  2. Christina
    May 30, 2011 @ 23:13:04

    Thank you for posting and blogging about this. I am writing from Stow, Massachusetts where a hand built fieldstone apple barn is due to be razed during an elementary school renovation in a few months (probably summer or fall, 2011). I’ve started a little grassroots initiative to try to save it, and finding out about your effort helps to motivate me. I don’t know if we will be successful, but I have to try.

    Facebook: Save the Larsen Stone Apple Barn at Center School in Stow, MA



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