Save the Clock Tower
I’ll come clean here and tell you I have not paid much attention to what’s been going on with the Thayer Barn. I know where it is. I’ve seen the beautiful art around town. I know Duvall loves the Thayer Barn and citizens have donated a ton of money to hopefully restore it. Remember in Back to the Future, how people would interrupt Marty McFly making out with his girlfriend, and ask him to donate money to, “SAVE THE CLOCK TOWER”? The Thayer Barn is Duvall’s clock tower. Minus the making out. And the time travel.
Everyone talks about Thayer Barn as though we all know about it, so you feel silly asking for details.
For example, I say, “What’s the deal with the Thayer Barn?” and someone else replies, “You don’t know about the Thayer Barn? You must hate Duvall and farmers and all of rural America! And I thought I liked you…”
So, over the past few weeks I researched online and spoke to experts and I think I’m qualified to give a brief introduction to the project and an update on the current status. I’ve included several links in this post so you can read ALL the details of the nearly 30-year saga. I’m giving you the condensed version.
What is the Thayer Barn?
The Thayer Barn, now largely dismantled, rests on Highway 203 diagonally across from the Starbucks complex. It was a kit barn, built in the 1930s by the Thayer Family for their dairy cows. Kit barns are cool. They were ordered by catalog and assembled onsite. This one came from Sears and Roebuck a year before they stopped selling them.
People in Duvall love this barn. As of 2002 it was the last dairy barn still standing within the Duvall City Limits. At that point, the Duvall Arts Commission* had already been dreaming and planning for 10 years to convert the old girl into a community art center.
**Update from Patricia Chapman – “Our red barn was built in 1906. It was a dairy barn for decades, and is still standing. We are in the city limits of Duvall. The big yellow barn is the only dairy barn with the gambel style roof in the city limits. It was a work of art in the day.”**
To the people of Duvall, the barn represents our heritage as an agricultural community and it connects us to our past. It’s a gorgeous reminder of our roots and people are passionate about preserving it.
What Will the Thayer Barn Become?
Duvall Foundation for the Arts is currently working to convert the Thayer Barn into a community art center. This process officially began in 2000 when the developer who owned the land signed an agreement with the City of Duvall, stating that they would donate the building and a parcel of land to create a city art center/parks department in the middle of their new development.
They had 10 years to make it happen.
The city agreed to put up $200,000 toward the project and in just 4 months DFA raised the $100,000 they had committed to contribute.
Then for the next several years, the developer was on-again/off-again about moving forward with the project. All this time, the barn continued to decay. Time was of the essence and the project took a lot of it.
As the development plans fell apart, the project stalled indefinitely. Since the project had taken so long to get off the ground, some of those early donors requested their money back, but all the remaining funds are still set aside for the project.
The Saga Continues
Then, in late 2013 a new developer planned to purchase the property, and Duvall Foundation for the Arts picked up the torch and again began talks with the city and the new developer (Westcott Homes) to restart the community art center project.
And it’s happening. It’s just really slow because there are so many steps that need to happen all in the right order.
In order for DFA to apply for additional grant money to build the center, they need to own the land. In order for Westcott homes to deed the land to DFA/The City of Duvall, they have to separate the land into parcels. They can’t separate the land into parcels until they have water/sewer/other infrastructure in place. In order for Westcott to get the infrastructure built, they need the City of Duvall to approve the plans for their development.
Project Manager Elizabeth Hill hopes the city will approve the plans so they can begin installing the infrastructure this summer because there is a small window when this kind of work can be done successfully. If they don’t get the plans approved in time to do it this summer, they’ll likely have to wait until the summer of 2018.
Fingers crossed, City of Duvall!
But It’s Falling Down!
You may have driven by the barn recently and noticed… it’s not standing anymore. You’re right. The barn continued to decay and in 2015 it had to be dismantled.
“So, how can they turn it into a community art center?” you might ask. Good question. It’s not going to be turned into a community art center so much as it’s going to be honored and partially preserved in a community art center. Plans are currently in place to preserve what remains of the Thayer Barn and pieces of it will be used in the interior structure of the new community art center, which will be built in a similar style.
Specifically, they hope to install the north face of the barn in the upstairs interior of the new building.
DFA Wants to Hear From You
Here’s a link to the preliminary plans. They’re currently seeking community input about how to design the interior of the building to meet the artistic needs of the community. Meetings are from 11-1 most Saturdays at Match Coffee and Wine Bar. You can email DFA with questions or input.
Personally, I’m excited to see a beautiful location for local theater and dance productions and a gallery space for local artists.
To preserve what remains of the barn, plans are moving forward to install a massive cover. The cover needs a moveable ecology block foundation to be built to hold it in place and it will be installed by Dan Cook, the same contractor who disassembled the barn and preserved the north face. When the foundation’s in place, the cover supplier will install the cover.
It’s just a ton of work and I’m amazed at how well it’s all coming together. What a persistent team of volunteers and what an awesome legacy they’re building!
The designs have been created with the developer who’s building the condo development. When it’s completed, the city will own the utilities, road, sidewalks, and parking lot. Duvall Foundation for the Arts will own the land and the building.
You Can Still Donate
If you’d like to contribute to the project, you can do so from their website and, since they’re a 501c3, they’re eligible for corporate matching. They also have a few of these beautiful giclee prints of a painting by Vicki Perry available for $50 each (unframed) or $250 (framed). Anyone interested should contact Deanna.
Currently the best place to go for project updates is this page, last updated in March of 2017. Elizabeth says future updates will be uploaded there.
Here is an excellent explanation of the DFA and the Art Center history
*An explanation of the difference between the Arts Commission, the Cultural Commission, and DFA From Elizabeth Hill
“The Duvall Arts Commission was formed when the barn project was first imagined by Sunny Ruthchild. The idea of the Arts Commission was to support the development of an arts center and the arts in general. I was appointed along with others to that first Art Commission.
Relatively quickly after that it became clear that what we really needed was an Art Foundation because the Commission was not a non-profit and therefore could not give potential donors receipts for tax deductions. Also, the commission was associated with the City and could not actively fundraise for the art center. We looked around to see what other communities had done to address these challenges and then developed Duvall Foundation of the Arts. It was Huston Barclay who did the work to establish DFA as a 501C3 to raise money for the arts center/barn project and for the arts in general.
“Later the City morphed the Arts Commission into the Cultural Commission.
DFA continues to work on the art center project, DFA puts on Sandblast every year as a gift to the community. DFA also puts on Art in Bloom and provides scholarships for people to pursue art and music educational opportunities. The vision we had as a community of having a non-profit foundation for the arts all those years ago has paid off and has contributed to Duvall’s thriving art community.”
As always, if you find any inaccuracies in this post, please tell me in the comments. I love learning about our town.
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I love this! You’re doing a great job of digging out the facts and they are so very interesting. Good job & thank you!!
Thanks Sally! I’m having a great time digging into this stuff. Each post is taking me way longer than I thought it would but I’m learning a lot.
Bill Blaziek says
Hi Kathryn, I was surprised and delighted to “happen onto” your Thayer Barn article particularly given that this was the dairy farm of cousins Otis & Emma Thayer. If so, we visited the farm often in the 1950’s. My sister and I had many enjoyable afternoons playing in that very barn! Keep up the great work!
That’s so fun to hear. It’s a gorgeous barn.