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Our property is part of one of Snohomish’s first homestead parcels, the claim was originally staked by the Elling Hoem family in the late 1800’s. In 1902, they built a big barn on this parcel to serve their dairy operation. The above (painted B&W) photo shows what it looked like in that timeframe. The front said “Glenwood Farm”-its name when it was a dairy. It had a smaller building off the front, which I believe was where the milk processing equipment resided. 

I have been lucky to have made the acquaintance of a Hoem descendent, Eric, who is passionate about genealogy and has  an amazing collection of records from his grandparents’ eras. Many of these he’s duplicated for the Historical Society archives. He shared with me the old photos in this post, and also this meticulously-recorded ledger sheet detailing the cost to build the barn and silo.

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Here’s the breakdown:

Materials…………… $429.67

Marsh Mills $2.25
Northern Mills $184.00
Morgan Mills $67.07
Shingles $56.00
Nails $2.45
Thedinger (?) Hdw. $29.25
Windows & hdw. $17.75
Track $18.00
Hdw. in Everett $1.70
”” (Stanchion hooks) $2.15
Stanchions $37.40
Fit (?) on “” $11.65

Labor…………… $153.50

Homer $2.50 x 6 = $15.00
Hoooker $4 x 10.5 = $42.00
Victor $3.50 x 19 = $66.50
Will $30.00

Cost of silo…………… $34.00

Labor for roof $18.00
oil $5.75
shingles $4.25
cement $6.00

Extra lumber $23.00
Extra shingles $6.50
Cr. by $29.50 (I think this was a credit for unused materials)

Total: $587.67

You can get some sense of the scope of the investment noting that on the opposing ledger page, there is a record “Received of Mrs. E. Hoem $43.50 for two heifers.” So, the barn and silo addition were worth about 27 heifers; not a bad ROI compared to nowadays!

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This property has changed hands four times since the Hoem family last owned it in the sixties (though another Hoem descendent, Judy, is still our neighbor on a different section of the original homestead). Two other local dairy farmers owned this parcel, and the Mormon Church also farmed the place for a while. The barn was never re-roofed, not even once. It still had its original layer of cedar shingles, now turned rubbery from age and NW weather. The barn’s design lacked any diagonal bracing in the “short” direction, and that direction was being pushed on by an eroding and wet hillside. And, a lot of the structural beams were rotting and had beetle damage.

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So, the barn structure eventually started to fail, and sections on either end collapsed. Originally, I had researched what it might take to save the barn. No contractor would set foot inside it, however. And though there is a county commission that’s very concerned about the loss of historic barns in our area, they had no advice to offer on what to do to save this one, or how to pay for it, even if it could be done. Even the fire department said “no way!” when I inquired if a practice burn was an option.

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As the months went by, the main barn section leaned more, millimeter by millimeter. And it became more and more clear that it was nearing the end of its lifetime. Getting equipment in there to knock it down was questionable, it was precarious and tall, and there was no safe distance at which an excavator could sit, with steep slopes on either side. (Where were those radio tower knockers-down when we needed them? :-D). So, we just watched it lean, and tried to pick away at the already-fallen mess.

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It was poignant to watch, knowing the time for saving it was past, reflecting on the labors that went into its immense construction, and all the people who had farmed inside it for nearly a century. Some might think, it’s just an old building, but when you walked inside it, it had an aura that felt like much more than that. It was an icon of a bygone era, an original piece of a newly-forming logging town, and of the go west trend of immigrants seeking a living and maybe even a fortune. Seeing its demise brought to mind all the realities of life hardships, change and loss. It was sad. So, I tried to capture lots of photos of it, how it was put together, and what it looked like; if not to save the barn in physicality, to save it in spirit and memory. And maybe someday, to try to build something like it.

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A small roof section off the back collapsed in early 2006. That winter, one half of a 24’ front section fell down under a heavy, wet snow. That section was made of different, weaker construction, so it wasn’t surprising that it cleaved off the main building. Later, the second half of that section went.

And then, in the spring of 2008 on a dry, windless night, the rest of the barn just set down, so quiet we didn’t hear a thing. 106 years after its creation from the labor of four guys for an investment equivalent to 27 cows. The loss of it truly changed the landscape of the hillside.

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R.I.P. Glenwood Farm’s cow barn….

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