- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) - Nestled between the Muscatine Arboretum and a neighborhood on Harmony Lane off Houser Street, a piece of history opens its doors to Muscatine once a month.

Owned by the county, the Old Barn was built in the late 1920s to replace barns that burned. The arboretum and the neighborhood and the rest of the 160 surrounding acres was originally the land the barn was used in farming, the Muscatine Journal (http://bit.ly/1NrcAzu ) reported.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month during the warmer months of the year, the Friends of the Old Barn host an open house there. The program continues this year through October.

The open house program has been going on for several years, Friends of the Old Barn past president John Haskins explained. Haskins helped save the Old Barn from demolition nearly 10 years ago when he was part of the crew hired to do it. He and 300 community members showed up at a Muscatine County Board of Supervisors meeting in support of the barn and the Friends of the Old Barn nonprofit was granted stewardship of the structure in 2006.

After a couple years of cleanup with numerous volunteers, the barn was ready to be open.

“This is the beauty of this barn, (it) was built in 90 days. … They didn’t have any cranes or anything; they had to do all this by hand,” Haskins described, standing on the upper level of the barn beneath it’s high ceiling on a Saturday.

“I call it a ‘wooden cathedral,’” Haskins said, recalling a wedding which had taken place in that hayloft.

The barn continues to be maintained with donations and the help of volunteers like retired farmers Clarent Toyne and Ray Stange, Haskins said. People can send donations to Friends of the Old Barn.

Visitors to the barn during open houses will get to see the Louden pulley system once used there. William Louden created the system in the mid-1800s for farmers to use to stack hay and would later create a system of moving manure that would eventually be used to move ammunition, according to local historian and Friends of the Old Barn President Paul Carroll.

Louden built a factory in Fairfield, Carroll explained, and while the company which operated it was sold out of the family after World War II, the remnants of the company, now owned by others, remained experts in the field of industrial moving and built the mechanism which moved space shuttles.

“All from an Iowa boy who said, ‘There’s gotta be a better way to put hay in a barn,’” Carroll said.

But it’s not just Iowa history that the old barn houses, Carroll is working on a project to collect local and regional history from old farm families and permanently archive those histories at the barn.

“It’s a wonderful enterprise,” Haskins said of maintaining the barn and its history. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

“I hope the community continues to support it, because when this one goes down there won’t be another. Ever,” he added. “We’ve got to preserve a little history.”

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Information from: Muscatine Journal, http://www.muscatinejournal.com

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