Staff Teams Up to Reconstruct Melchers-Era Farm Building

Thanks to the careful research of former Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the expert carpentry of our Maintenance Manager, Dave Ludeker and Maintenance Assistant, Daniel Carter, the appearance of the grounds and dependencies at Belmont reads more authentically than ever.

In August 2018, the team took the first step in reconstructing a lost farm building at Belmont by pouring the foundation for a replicate of the run-in shed that served as a shelter for the Melcherses’ farm animals. The original structure was long gone, razed due to decay sometime in the early 1970s, not long before the property opened as a memorial to the career of Gari Melchers. Since then, staff have been committed to realizing the most complete restoration possible of the couple’s small farming enterprise. The recreated run-in shed stands in the exact location of the earlier building, directly adjoining the 1921 cow barn.

Archival photographs served as the basis for the precise rebuilding of the wooden frame and metal-roof structure. Even the steel latch and hook on the double Dutch door at the rear of the structure was hand-fashioned by Ludeker.

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The biggest challenge for the team was the shoe-string budget they were given. Happily, most of the wood was acquired through the generosity of Larry Freeman of King George. Freeman provided free lumber from white oak trees on his property, and he worked for two days with Ludeker and Carter to cut the boards at his mill. Erecting the wooden frame had to wait for another year to allow for the proper drying of the oak. Construction resumed this past July and the completion was formally marked by a dedication ceremony with staff in October.

Sadly, there are no resources available to repopulate the barnyard with the chickens, cows and farm horses of the Melcherses’ day, not to mention funding for a caretaker, so picnic tables have been positioned in the shed to provide a sheltered picnic area for staff and visitors.

Buried in the cement foundation are stones which were decorated and signed by staff members, and additional staff signatures are preserved, hidden snugly beneath the structure’s metal roof.

 

 

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