It took 30 gallons of red paint, a new foundation, three years of hard work, and great expense, but Clark Kolsrud was dedicated to restoring the family's fifth generation Norwegian barn near Waukon.
The 30x50 foot barn, hidden on a scenic back road, was built by his maternal great-great grandfather Jacobsson who had immigrated from Norway. He had bought the land for his dairy farm in 1862. The barn was built using rocks from a quarry on the farm.
There was a time a few years ago when the family started discussing what to do with the barn. "There was even a discussion about bulldozing it," said Clark, who drives to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, every week - leaving at 4:40 in the morning - to pick up a Wal-Mart truck which he drives in a 300 mile radius in the Upper Midwest - six days on. three off. But, Clark had the Iowa work ethic engrained in him and realized the barn had sentimental value to him. He took on the very large project of restoring it.
"If were not in our family, I'm not sure I would have had the passion for it," he said. His mother, Eunice, was "was not thrilled at first" but started seeing the interest in pursuing.
While he was mulling over saving the barn, Clark attended a meeting where Marlene Fensterman, Winneshiek County representative to the Iowa Barn Foundation, talked about the importance of barn preservation. After the meeting, he walked Marlene to her car and heard more about barn preservation. That was it.
Clark started a several year project to bring the barn back to how it was when it was built. It has been meticulously restored. He wasn't sure where to start. "Dad had a good idea. Get started and change ideas on how you want to do things."
His interest in barns accompanies him to work. He started talking to others about their barns. "Once I got into it, I started looking at other barns. They're in good shape and they want to get rid of them to put up machine sheds or free up more land. Over the years I see barns missing. Too many put metal on them."
Clark's barn is a good example of how a historic barn can be restored and cherished for years to come.
The article below was written for the IBF Magazine, September 2014.
No Shortcuts in Restoring This Beloved Barn
Red paint on a meticulously restored historic, oh-so-proud barn in northeast Iowa may still be drying when the all-state barn tour begins. But, no one will want to miss seeing this barn.
Restoration of this beloved barn has been a four-year project that will preserve the barn for decades. It will be shown to the world for the first time on the all-state tour the last weekend of September.
The story of the barn began when Jacob Johnson immigrated from Norway and purchased 80 acres, near Waukon, in 1862 for $500.
With oxen for help and rock and timber from the farm, he built the barn for his dairy cattle in 1870. The barn has been handed down from generation to generation until it is now owned by Clark Kolsrud, great-great grandson of Jacob Johnson. Clark bought the farm from his father, Robert Kolsrud, and mother, Eunice Thorstenson, who is the direct descendent of Johnson.
The barn was showing its age when Clark purchased it. The limestone rock foundation was crumbling. . Clark, always frugal, drives a truck for Walmart and does some investing on the side. He heard Marlene Fenstermann, Winneshiek County representative to the Iowa Barn Foundation, give a lecture about the importance of barn preservation in America.
The seed was planted. Clark decided he would restore the barn and do it right--not cutting any corners . He hired some Amish men to help with some of the work.
In the summer of 2010 the barn was lifted off its foundation. The rock was disassembled, cleaned, and put back in place. Then the barn was put back on its foundation. And, finally, five years of painting and carpentry work began. The roof was replaced, the cupola repaired, a new floor installed, and double bi-pole doors hung. They needed 28-foot long 2x12--foot boards. Eunice researched, found these in Oregon, and had them shipped.
The project became bigger (the cost was in the six figures) than Clark expected, but he is very proud of it. "It's going to be used. We can't wait to show it off," said Eunice.
Eunice is already contemplating how tall a Christmas tree should be for the barn.
Photographs by Marlene Fenstermann, IBF Representative for Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties
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