We slid back the huge door on its track and entered the Wilkinson Family Barn.
As the images revealed themselves in the dim light, we felt like we were stepping back in time. The old barn was jam-packed with farming equipment reflecting agricultural advancements of 100 years. From horse-drawn hay rakes, harrows, plows and cultivators to modern rototillers and a rowcrop Allis- Chalmers cultivating tractor, this was a walk down agri-lane.
We carefully made our way down the aisle around a huge pile of old furniture, appliances, oil drums, clothing and whatnot. Pausing in the middle, our guide, Dawn Stanton, former city grant writer and history enthusiast, directed us to look up through a large opening in the floor above. We could see a series of rope and pulleys attached to a track on the ceiling some 40 feet up. This was the “trapeze,” used to bring in the hay from outside the barn. At the far end was a milking parlor complete with feeding bin and stanchions. The Wilkinson family ran the Pioneer Milk Company and delivered milk to area residents via a Nash car.
Even though there was neglect and decay, the idea of preserving this piece of history was captivating — we were HOOKED!
Warren Balfany, Dave Wheeler, Gary Williamson and Jerry Zilkowski made up a group of volunteers. Along with much help from the city public works department, each item was discarded, loaned to the Harbor History Museum or cleaned up for display. It took most of the year 2010 to moving each piece, vacuuming, identifying, documenting and photographing. The result was gratifying and ready for viewing.
A series of open houses brought many visitors. Wilkinson family members, residents, historic preservationists and trail walkers were awed by this piece of history coming alive. Several people told their own stories of playing here as children or staying at the Wilkinson home. One out-of-town family member even had quilts she would donate to the farm for preservation.
The Wilkinson family began farming on this site in 1909, raising holly, corn, hay, peas and other vegetables. The barn was completed in 1915 and housed their dairy herd. Under the leadership of Mayor Gretchen Wilbert, the city purchased the Wilkinson Family barn along with a house, garage, milkhouse, greenhouse, holly shed chicken coop, doghouse, rock garden and 16.3 acres of farmland, in 2004. The barn was placed on the Washington Register for Historic Barns in 2008.
It is envisioned the barn should be preserved for public assemblies, historic tool and agricultural exhibits, operational programs and events such as educational presentations, gatherings, poetry readings, art classes, family reunions and weddings.
Many people deserve recognition for their efforts in working on the barn and farm. The citizen ad hoc committee, the YMCA, “Friends and Servants,” the Community Garden, Park Appreciation volunteers, Rotary and City Public Works Department are a few that come to mind.
The Wilkinson Family Barn door is closed, now awaiting funding for structural updating. The hope is this historic treasure on Rosedale Street will be preserved for future generations to take a walk back in time.
Wilkinson Farm Park is located at 4118 Rosedale Street and offers on-site parking at the 16-acre wildlife park. The property features wetlands, holly grove, meadows, community garden, trails and the historic homestead (private home) and barn.
In August, the barn will celebrate it’s 100th birthday. For more information, visit www.gigharborguide.com.