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John Braun
South Haven, MI

A Barn Turns Into a Home

OK, just in case you were wondering, Sam & Peggy Stitt are the real deal!

Last July I got a call from friends of mine who told me about a 20 acre parcel that was going on the market just a ¼ mile down the road from them.  They didn’t want the property to fall into the hands of developers, who might put too many houses on the property or worse yet……build “McMansions”.  They asked me to let anyone I knew know about the property.  So, I thought I’d drive over and take a look, just so I would be
able to give an accurate description.  That’s when it happened.  There, back toward the middle of the property and partially hidden from the road was this amazing barn.  Now it had seen better days, but all in all still looked like it was in great shape.  Then and there I
decided it would be mine.  Long story short, I got the property and most importantly the barn.

My dad and his 13 brothers and sisters were raised on a farm and throughout my childhood we would visit family and friends farms.  The best part for me was always the
barn.  I always felt safe in a barn and I loved the animals who seemed happy and at peace there.  As teen I worked on a horse farm and spent many hours in the barn.  I cleaned and mucked stalls, filled the loft with hay after the first cutting and even helped to paint the
exterior.  I loved it.  It was there that I began to imagine what it would be like to live in a barn and here was an opportunity to make my dream a reality.  Now the question was where would I find someone with the expertise and knowledge to help me fulfill my
dream.  So, I got on my computer and for countless hours tried to find an answer, and as I searched I found myself coming back to the same website over and over again.  That site was Great Lakes Barn Preservation.

Enter Sam and Peggy.  Sam came out to the property on a Saturday so we could meet and talk about the possibility of working together and also to see if the barn was worth salvaging.  I showed him some rough drawings of how I envisioned the conversion and
shared some of my ideas of making the barn as “green as possible”.  After about an hour and a half Sam turned to me and said, “well I’m going to have to talk with my wife Peggy, but I think we’d really like to work with you on this project”.  The timber frame is still in really good shape.  I’ll talk to her and get back to you early next week”.  Well, I got a call from Sam the following week and he said that he and Peggy would love to work on the project, and by the way……..they’d be able to start in two weeks.  AAAIIIIIEEEEEE!!!  Not something I was expecting to hear, but in my gut I knew it was right so I started getting everything in line and we started immediately.  Permits were pulled, designs were drawn and subs were lined up.

Working with Sam, Peggy, Pat and the rest of their crew has been a dream.  They walk the walk and talk the talk.  First and foremost they want to work in a way that leaves everyone happy (and friends) at the end of the project.  Secondly, they focus on keeping and enhancing the overall integrity of the barn.  Their passion, creativity, integrity, sense of humor and willingness to communicate has made it possible for me to have the home that I imagined.  As an example:  I needed to re-site the barn, (oh and by the way, I wanted it turned 180 degrees).  Rather than saying that it was impossible, or that it would be too much work, they took the challenge and found a way to lift the entire frame (by some estimates several tons) in one piece, turn it 180 degrees, and place it on a new foundation without incident.  Granted, we were all holding our collective breath when the crane began to lift the frame off the old foundation, but everything they said would happen, did.  Aside from the crane set-up, the original barn timber frame, from 1910, was moved in under 10 minutes.  That happened the first week of December 2007.

It’s January as I write this.  As this is a work in progress, I will tell you where we are today.  By Christmas the entire barn frame had rough sawn siding attached to it, than an exterior skin of structural insulated paneling (SIPS) was put in place, after which the metal roof was installed.  Sealed in before Christmas as I had hoped.  Right now we’re working on getting tubing laid for the hydronic heat so we can pour the concrete floors.  After that Pat and crew will start on the interior, which will turn it into a home.  If all goes well, and it will, the entire project should be completed sometime in March.

I have always loved barns.  They are a part of our heritage and history and deserve the right to be preserved; whatever form they may take.  If you have had the same dream, or you want to preserve a piece of our collective history, you owe it to yourself to give these wonderful artists and craftsmen a call.

John Braun
Jack Pine Farms
South Havcn, Michigan

Click here to view the actual letter


Removed Siding and Roof

Frame of Barn

Moving Day December 5th 2007

Crane Picking up the Barn Frame

Moved over 6 Feet and Turned a 180 Degrees and set back down on New Foundation

New Rafters and Roof Boards

Installed New Pine Siding

Installing SIP’s (Structured Insulated Panels) on Sidewalls

Installing SIP’s on the Roof

Installed Windows and New Metal Roof on Structure

Will update after Completion