barn renovation

Breathing New Life into the Historic Star Barn

Not every project starts from the ground up, some come with a lot of history. At B&D Builders we’re known for our custom designed bank barns, horse barns, and equestrian facilities. But, every once in a while, we get an opportunity to make history come alive, like we did with the Star Barn restoration

Over the past two years, we’ve worked as General Contractor, alongside David and Tierney Abel, to bring the historic Star Barn back to life. The majestic Gothic-Revival Star Barn has been a Central Pennsylvania landmark since 1877. Its unique star-shaped ventilators, designed by Daniel Reichert, are what give this barn its notoriety. Its many high-styled smaller outbuildings were also created in the Gothic Revival architecture style, complete with rare features that make this farmstead a historic treasure.

Originally located in Middletown, PA, this memorable barn now has a new home at Stone Gables Estate in Elizabethtown, PA where it will be used as a wedding, corporate, and private events venue. Under the direction of the Abel’s, B&D Builders carefully dismantled, reassembled, and restored the many Star Barn structures to almost entirely historically accurate specifications.

Main Star Barn

The most famous of the Star Barn structures is the main Star Barn. Complete with its five-pointed star louver and twenty-five horse stalls, the barn spans a total of 26,000 square feet. The ground floor was restored using 90% of the original flooring and siding timbers, along with a secondary exterior “cocoon” which was built around the structure to protect the wood. All original limestone walls were used to rebuild the ground level, high-arched tunnel.

The second floor was restored with its twenty-four thousand pound cupola and cedar roof. Both floors were reconstructed to be completely climate controlled and a separate structure called Star Barn 2 was built to include modern amenities including code compliant restrooms, a commercial kitchen, and a museum.

Hog Barn

The Hog Barn was initially on the verge of collapse before being carefully dismantled. It was then completely rebuilt inside our workshop to exact specifications including seven doors, seven windows, and the star louvered vent. Each piece of rotted wood was replaced with original time-sensitive wood and authentic limestone was used for the foundation and barnyard wall.

Chicken Coop

Using a 1920’s photo of the original farm, we were able to embark on a massive restoration process for the neglected chicken coop. Reclaimed barn wood from the correct time period was used in the reconstruction process, along with rebuilt original windows using single-pane restoration glass. What makes this reconstructed chicken coop so unique is its octagonal cupola topped with 13-foot fleur-de-lis spire and period-correct rooster weathervane. Creative license was taken to add heart-warming flower boxes below the coop’s windows. This Gothic-Revival treasure will transport you back in time.

Loafing Shed

The loafing shed was no longer standing when the new owners, David and Tierney Abel, acquired the property, so the shed was recreated to what was thought to be the original design. Using only a site plan that depicted line dimensions, along with a mixture of old and new barn wood, we were able to recreate this building, which originally provided shelter for horses, dairy cattle, and house farm equipment. Points of pride include the timber frame cupola made from Mahogany wood and the engineered doors, which were constructed with Mahogany on the exterior and reclaimed Hemlock on the interior. The facility now houses restrooms and serves as an additional storage area.

Corn Crib

The original Star Barn Corn Crib was located on the opposite side of Route 283, where it was once used to store corn for livestock. It was carefully dismantled and rebuilt with as much of its original wood as possible. The carriage house style doors boast hand-forged iron strap hinges. The building is now used to store additional restrooms, as well as a bridal party changing room. A unique addition to this building, are the murals painted on the outside walls showcasing how the original Corn Crib would have appeared. They serve as a beautiful photo backdrop for the many events that will be held on the property.

Carriage House

One of the more structurally sound buildings found on the original Star Barn site, the Carriage house, was initially used as a wagon and saddle repair shop with a hand-operated elevator system. All of its barn doors and hinges had to be rebuilt to historic specifications along with its limestone foundation, while almost all of its exterior wood was re-used. A hand-laid tumbled brick floor was also installed to replace the dirt floor. Restoration glass and old wood were used to rebuild authentic windows. The reconstructed building will serve as a “living” Star Barn museum where it will house period-correct tools, equipment, parts, and wagons.

Spring House

The Star Barn’s limestone Spring House was originally built over a spring, where it kept food products cool as spring water flowed beneath. With only a rendering of its appearance, the structure was re-created with authentic hand-cut limestone salvaged from a 19th century home torn down in Carlisle, PA. The oversized Gothic style windows were fashioned using old, wavy glass and reclaimed shutters from a Reading, PA home. The Spring House now resides by the Star Barn Village Lake where it serves as sleeping quarters for overnight guests.

Interested in taking a look at this historic property for yourself? The Star Barn Village’s Grand Opening will take place in Elizabethtown, PA from July 3rd – 4th, 2018. They have invited the entire community to this ticketed event where they will be celebrating the completion of this beautiful and historic site.

No minor detail or expense was spared in restoring the Star Barn Village to its original beauty. This project holds a special place in our hearts because of the work involved in truly saving a piece of history and the ability to work on an 1800’s architectural masterpiece. If you’ve got a piece of history you’d like to try and save, contact us today, we’d love to share our expertise.