By Carol McIntire
Exterior siding boards on the racehorse barn at the north end of the county fair racetrack show the wear and tear of nearly 90 years. Many of the weathered boards are missing. Some were replaced over the years, often by odds and ends pieces of lumber. Most of the windows are missing and thick cobwebs hang from the ceiling.
Hail and wind storms over the years took a toll on the roof, beating against the metal until the nail holes were loosened and pieces of roofing found their way to the ground below, exposing the original boards underneath.
There is a lot of history inside of the barn. In its heyday, the stalls were filled with horses; the smell of hay and liniment filled the air and harness hung from hooks suspended from the rafters. There was a constant flow of horses in and out of the barn in the early morning and evening hours as trainers and owners jogged horses on the half-mile track and locals sat on the bank by the barn observing the activity, sharing stories.
Stall doors and fronts (the ones that remain) bear chew marks from the horses stalled in them over the years. Many interior stall walls are decorated with imprints of shoes from horses that were feeling frisky or, maybe even angry, on a particular day.
The days when the barn was filled with activity are long past.
The Agricultural Society (fair board) stopped its longtime practice of renting stalls years ago. The empty barns fell into disrepair as groundhogs and other varmints moved in. The barns slowly began to deteriorate.
Over the few several years, the fair board held discussions about the need to replace the barn and one located beside it that was built in 1957.
Since the fair board works on a tight budget, funds were not available to replace the barns so they were “patched up as best as they could be” and used only on race days during the county fair.
It was no secret that the barn built in 1957 was located on an American Electric Power (AEP) easement that crosses the fairgrounds and county highway department property. The easement was signed in 1916 and a transmission line was built across the property. For years the barn quietly sat below the line with no consequences.
Dave Wheeler, community and customer experience manager for AEP, said a few years ago, it became apparent something had to change.
“AEP doesn’t like any permanent structure under a line for safety reasons and access to the line, but the metal roofed structure sitting there was sufficient for a number of years. As the fair grew and traffic increased, it became apparent something had to change,” Wheeler explained.
AEP and the fair board held discussions about the situation, but nothing materialized.
That all changed during the 2017 county fair and resulted in a collaborative effort that is benefitting both AEP and the fair board and giving new life to the barns.
During the 2017 fair, a youngster was lightly shocked by stray voltage from the transmission line that carried from the sagging line to the barn roof and down the spouting.
“We immediately dispatched an employee to the site, the barn was roped off and the line was de-energized. The next day our transmission people grounded the barn and we kept the line de-energized until well after the fair,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said a former fair board member who works for AEP brought the two sides together for a serious discussion.
Both parties realized the barn constructed in 1957 would have to be razed.
“This was a very unique set of circumstances,” said Wheeler. “For safety reasons, the barn had to come down. We also realize ag societies don’t have a lot of money to build a new barn so we talked to the folks in our transmission department about the situation. AEP plans to replace the line in 2019 with steel poles folks likely see around the county. It is a hardened, more reliable system that provides us with options to feed it and bring additional capacity to the area for economic development purposes.”
Wheeler said the two sides sat down for some serious negotiation and formed a collaboration that will prevent any future incidents, allow the fair board to build a new barn and, as a result, is giving new life to the both barns.
AEP is providing the fair board $400,000 in two payments of $200,000 each to remove the barns, build one new structure outside of the easement and purchase portable stalls, which will allow the barn to be used for other purposes during the off season.
“We negotiated a price based on today’s economy,” said Wheeler. “It’s about making a permanent solution in a collaborate way that eliminates safety concerns and allows the fair to continue.”
AEP is also narrowing the easement to allow the fair board to keep most of the building known as the open class sheep barn, which was also partially located within the easement.
By signing a contract with Marshall Land Co. to raze the buildings, the fair board is giving new life to the buildings.
James Marshall, owner of Marshall Land Company, also owns Marshall’s Antique Warehouse in Canton. His company is dismantling the barns a board at a time and hauling it to the their warehouse, where it is being offered for sale.
“You can buy it by the piece or buy it all,” Marshall said last week. “People are building head boards, doors and a variety of other furniture from it. People use architectural lumber for accent walls in their homes and a variety of others purposes. We have siding board, ruff-sawn lumber, Dutch doors and sliding doors with track. There are even feed boxes with chew marks in them.”
He is inviting anyone who would like to add a piece of Carroll County Fair history to his or her home or barn, to visit the warehouse, located at 1712 Ira Turpin Way NE. Canton.
Once the barns are removed excavation of the site will begin for a new barn.
A contract was signed at the April meeting with Milla Construction of Minerva to build a new 40x100x16 foot barn with a cement floor and overhead garage doors prior to the 2018 county fair at a cost of $143,530.
Thirty new portable box stalls are on order from Deseck Welding of Applecreek for the new barn. Thirty-one new box stalls are on order for the 4-H horse barn. The fair board is adjusting for the loss of stalls on harness racing day (Tuesday) by utilizing the 4-H horse barn and scheduling 4-H horses to arrive at the fair Wednesday.
Any funds remaining from the project will be earmarked for a renovation/replacement project of the metal barn.
“AEP was very gracious in their offer,” said Mike Lozier, fair board president. “We appreciate their efforts and cooperation in this project.”